Yeah, I’m a little miffed that WWE rejected my genius in favor of another idea. That’s half-joking, but only half, because quite frankly, what ended up happening at the Staples Center last night bothered me on a number of levels. This was so easy to get right, but of all the things the company could have done, it picked the worst.
Bayley is a pure babyface, and always has been. She’s been presented in a manner reflective of a hero fully stocked with innocence and passion. She’s worked for everything she’s ever received. She was the last of the Four Horsewomen to reach the main roster, and she helped carry the division once Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch ascended from Full Sail University. She’s the most likable performer in the entire company, whether you buy into the childish parts of her character or not.
Her on-screen purity and her unquestioned integrity need to be protected at all costs. If that means she loses far more matches, because she’s unwilling to take even the slightest of low-roads, that’s what it should mean. I’ve railed for years on Cageside about the extremes on both sides being notably absent from WWE television. The real asswipes aren’t there, and the real knights in shining armor aren’t there. Now we have Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe on one side, both doing the extreme, selfish, venomous evil roles. And we have Sami Zayn, Bayley, and a select few others on the opposite side.
Thus, Bayley needs to keep that character, because it’s such a rarity. What WWE did last night in the Women’s Championship segment was to place her in a lose-lose situation, instead of a net win. Allow me to explain.
Stephanie McMahon comes out first and shames Bayley, who just cut an imperfect promo (which meant it came across beautifully), where the emotion took over and her words eased out awkwardly. She sounded like a kid who just got Castle Grayskull for Christmas. Actually that was me, but I digress. This was a wonderful moment, done in front of a California crowd, which meant even more to her and more to them, and it translated well across the world. This was a connection between audience and performer.
Rather than have Charlotte come out with attorneys and demand both the title and an erasure of the match from the official record, Stephanie comes out and tells us the truth. It’s an ugly truth, one that makes Bayley out to be a false-champion and one that disappoints her fans by taking the shortcut to get what she wants. She invokes Bayley’s father, saying how could he be proud of her after the finish of the title bout one week prior. She took all the joy out of the moment, but the problem was, it went on for such a long period of time that it lost its entertainment value. It started to suck. It was overkill.
And, worst of all, it was all true. Bayley, though unwittingly, did indeed cheat to win the Championship. Sure, Charlotte had help from Dana Brooke to set up a reason for Sasha’s involvement, but we live in a wrestling world where the heels always get the advantage in Wargames, where the babyface is always in peril, where the hero has to overcome unbelievable odds, so this is acceptable in our minds as wrestling fans.
Bayley, forced to make a choice, shows the pain of the situation in her face. Her eyes droop as she becomes Eeyore right in front of the world. Then comes Sasha, who tells her not to give in to Stephanie, who by the way could have just taken the title from her, as she’s the commissioner and no doubt has the authority. Even if she didn’t at that second, she could have rewritten the rules on the fly. Who would check her? She’s Stephanie Freaking McMahon.
Finally, our hero teases giving the title back, before screaming “HELL NO,” which isn’t something the Bayley character should ever say. For her, it was the equivalent of saying “Nah-nah-na boo boo.” It wasn’t endearing, and again, she’s denying what actually happened. But, the crowd pops, because she’s defying authority. The problem is she’s entirely wrong, and she gives up her purity with those two words. She’s willing to keep the title she won via underhanded means, and she’s then prepared to lie about it or skirt the truth when she jumps on commentary a few minutes later.
This was a lose-lose for Bayley, because if she hands the title away, she’s weak and pathetic, but if she keeps it, she’s revealing she’s not above being selfish to stay on top. Neither one of these is good for a babyface, so the answer for WWE was right in front of them. You don’t ever ASK her to give back the title, because no answer would paint her in the proper light. That is nowhere to be found in the script. You never give her a choice. You FORCE her to give it back from the get-go, only showing video footage of the crutch to the chest, and inform her she either hands the title over like a grown woman, or she’s fired on the spot.
She keeps her innocence and she looks like the total victim as a result. WWE can still get to a Charlotte vs. Bayley match at FastLane either way, but it puts all the heat on Charlotte to be such a scoundrel, and because we know the circumstances of the match and the things Flair has done to hold onto the championship, Bayley stays snow white. Yes, she won a match she didn’t deserve to win, but it was such an innocuous thing, and she had nothing to do with it. Plus, Dana Brooke!
It’s WWE placing her in a spot where she had to choose between two options that weren’t true to what Bayley is as a character - deep down at its essence - that made this a failure. I may be in the minority, and you might have loved every breath of that segment, but to me it showed that those writing for Bayley don’t understand what they have in her. Last night, Vince McMahon put the smallest shade of grey into her, and someone needs to tell him, black and white work just fine. The good vs. evil philosophy has worked for centuries in fiction. Bayley was depicted as a woman untrue to herself and her fanbase, for very little payoff.
Last night, she became like everyone else, even if it’s a blip and not a trend. “Hell no” she didn’t give up that title, but “hell yes” she lost a little of what made her special. That’s a big misstep from WWE, and it didn’t have to be that way. Whatever the endgame, that segment first pushed Stephanie as a jerk when we already know this, then put a blemish on Bayley’s innocence, and finally got us to a match that didn’t need bad judgment to sell it.
Nope. They got this wrong. The WrestleMania moment is now gone for all eternity. It was right in front of them, but they elected to go another way. They missed the exit. It may require a U-turn to get back where they need to be. This doesn’t spell doom for Bayley, but it was a C- or a D that could have been an A.