You can talk about whether cracks exist in The Bloodline all you want, but when it comes to the story of Damage CTRL, we may as well be watching foundational splits like the ones that brought down the house in Encanto.
As was made evident this past week on Raw, IYO SKY and Dakota Kai are clearly upset with where they’ve ended up after several months of Bayley’s leadership. Almost like they heard what Becky Lynch had to say prior to WrestleMania 39, and are starting to realize that The Man was spot on with her assessment.
Damage CTRL simply hasn’t lived up to the expectations that many had for the trio when they burst onto the scene.
The Triple H regime kicked off with a bang last year at SummerSlam. After Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch tore the house down for the second time at a major Premium Live Event, the sound of Deliverance rang out across Nissan Stadium.
Bayley was back after missing over a year of action with a significant knee injury. An injury she suffered while training for a match against Belair, who was the SmackDown Women’s Champion at the time. The Role Model was keen on picking up right where she left off as she approached the now Raw Women’s Champion in the seconds after her victory over Big Time Becks — and she wasn’t alone.
Flanked by a re-hired Dakota Kai and a re-signed & elevated IYO SKY, the group that would later be dubbed Damage CTRL strutted to the ring with all the confidence that they were about to accomplish great things together in WWE.
Expectations and reality, unfortunately, very rarely travel the same path. Triple H and his creative team deserve credit for giving Bayley the chance to form the all-female faction she had long dreamed of, but outside of a few shining moments, the company never really got fully behind them.
The proof is in the booking.
Important to note that Becky Lynch separated her shoulder the same night that Damage CTRL arrived and wasn’t able to return to the ring for over four months. It’s possible that her injury completely rearranged the creative direction for her colleagues, but regardless, we can only judge the evidence that’s been presented on screen.
The group started out hot with a win over Alexa Bliss, Asuka & Bianca Belair at Clash at the Castle. The packed crowd in Cardiff, Wales expressed their love for Bayley through song, and the Role Model was barely able to contain her heel demeanor while inside the ring. The match would end with IYO SKY hitting one of her insane moonsaults on Belair allowing Bayley to pin the E-S-T’s shoulders to the mat — a very rare occurrence these days.
A spectacular showing for Damage CTRL and a firm foundation to start building their legacy. Except, it was mostly down hill from there.
Every chance that the trio has had in the months that have followed to win a big match and gain the upper hand on their opponents, they’ve lost.
Bayley had two golden opportunities to capture the Raw Women’s Championship against Bianca Belair at Extreme Rules and Crown Jewel, but the E-S-T was able to overcome the odds and retain her title both times - even singlehandedly fighting off all three members of Damage CTRL during a ladder match that should have handed the gold to Bayley on a silver platter.
It’s obvious now that WWE had no plans of taking the Raw Women’s Championship off of Bianca then and they may not have plans to take it off of her any time soon.
Okay, fine. There should have been no issue with letting Damage CTRL get a big win that didn’t involve a World Title change, right?
Survivor Series: WarGames would have been the time and place for that, but The Man came back around just in time to help Team Belair get the victory, sending Damage CTRL back to the drawing board with another loss.
As the group’s focus turned from Belair to Becky Lynch, that’s when the losses really began to pile up as Bayley and company found the Big Time a bit too much to handle — Bayley in particular.
She won her first contest against Lynch back on the Dec. 19 edition of Monday Night Raw, but since then, has gone 1-5 in televised matches without collecting a single victory so far in 2023.
The results for Dakota and IYO have not been much better. Despite holding on to the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships for a majority of the last six months, their last win as a team came on the Jan. 2 Raw when they beat Becky Lynch and Michin.
Those Women’s Tag Team Championships are the only successful highlights on Damage CTRL’s resume to date and neither reign was anything to write home about — through no fault of either Dakota Kai or IYO SKY.
They both simply fell victim to the same circumstances as the titleholders that came before them — a lack of competition. It was great that WWE brought the tag belts back last year, and ultimately, they made the right choice by putting them around the waists of Dakota and IYO. But the creative team put forth very little effort in building and establishing a division of challengers around them.
During their combined 162 days as Champions, Dakota Kai and IYO SKY defended the titles only five times on television - losing two of those defenses. They would inexplicably drop the belts to Alexa Bliss and Asuka before winning them back at Crown Jewel just four days later.
Fast forward 114 days and Damage CTRL would lose the titles again, this time to Becky Lynch and Lita, in their first time putting the belts on the line since mid-December.
Don’t let any of this lead you to believe that the group has been an unmitigated disaster. They have not.
Damage CTRL has put forth great work in the time they’ve been together. Bayley is one of the all-time greats and she’s solidified that with both her in-ring and mic work since her return. IYO SKY has dazzled when given the opportunity to showcase what she does best, and anyone who is familiar with my work or followed me on Twitter has read about my admiration for Dakota Kai. She’s mastered all the subtle nuances that make a good performer a great one, and never fails to steal a scene - even when she isn’t the focal point.
WWE thought highly enough of the trio to keep them in the limelight and utilize them in key storylines and at major events.
The results however, speak for themselves. You can say wins and losses don’t matter in the world of professional wrestling, but that’s just not the case. Especially when you’re a group that has promised to take over an entire division and have done anything but that since your formation.
Behind the scenes, the love that Damage CTRL has for their fearless leader is endless. I had the chance to chat briefly with Dakota Kai in Los Angeles and she could not speak highly enough about what the Role Model has meant for both her and her tag team partner - truly living up to her nickname.
When the camera is rolling however, both Kai and SKY are no longer eager to buy what Bayley is selling. With the loss at WrestleMania, albeit against two Hall of Famers and future first ballot Hall of Famer, appearing to have been the final straw.
When Bayley failed to obtain a Tag Team Championship opportunity for her protégés in the moments after Raquel Rodriguez and Liv Morgan won the gold, she quickly pivoted to an opportunity presented by Adam Pearce for herself to earn another shot at Bianca Belair and her Raw Women’s Championship.
Kai and SKY firmly objected to that idea, like two daughters who stood up to their Mom for the first time.
“What about us!?”
.@Iyo_SkyWWE and @ImKingKota insist that one of them deserve to be in a Triple Threat Match that could lead to a #WWERaw Women’s Title Match down the road. #WWERaw pic.twitter.com/iQDwNE9aYa— WWE (@WWE) April 12, 2023
Bayley reluctantly retreated back to Adam Pearce’s office to give up her spot in last week’s Raw Women’s Championship Contenders Triple Threat Match. A match that IYO SKY would go on and win later that evening.
In the real world, Bayley would have happily offered up her opportunity to either IYO SKY or Dakota Kai. She’s always been willing to put others over for the sake of building the next generation of stars and it’s with that concept in mind that WWE can accomplish, what should always have been, the main goal for Damage CTRL.
The overall success of this group was always going to hinge on how it was able to elevate its less-decorated members. Bayley etched her place in history a long time ago and if anyone should see what she’s trying to do for IYO and Dakota, it should be Triple H.
It wasn’t too long ago that WWE’s Chief Content Officer was leading his own faction with the goal of creating the next generation of major stars. Evolution took all the potential of Randy Orton and Batista and helped mold them into household names. The group achieved almost unmeasurable success until the Game could no longer contain the monsters that he helped create.
Damage CTRL has not been anywhere close to racking up the amount of accolades that Evolution did — not many groups have or will. But the end game can still be the same.
Here’s a thought. Why not have IYO SKY win the Raw Women’s Championship? I know Bianca Blair is on this historic run, but all good things need to come to an end sometime. If SKY needs to win MITB to do it, then so be it. But Belair has reached the point in her reign where whomever beats her is going to be a made woman, if they aren’t one already.
Make someone WWE.
Put the message out to the main roster audience that IYO SKY is not to be taken lightly. Let her show the world what the NXT faithful already know - that IYO SKY is one of the best performers on the planet.
As for her tag team partner, it’s a shame that WWE has postponed the Queen of the Ring. That crown would have looked damn good on King Kota. She should be a heavy favorite to win it if Triple H decides to hold the tournament at a later date this year.
Regardless, the talent is there. It’s up to WWE to push IYO SKY and Dakota Kai and present them in a way that will make the audience take notice.
Their success over the next several weeks should be the dividing wedge between themselves and their mentor. As Bayley sits by and watches her teammates flourish, she should continue to struggle. Until ultimately, Kai and SKY decide they no longer need her around.
A spilt may be the most beneficial for all parties involved.
Their act of betrayal can serve as both the culmination of their ascension and the beginning of Bayley’s resurrection.
If done correctly, the fans will rally behind the once great Champion and cheer for her redemption story. Secretly, the WWE Universe loves Bayley. They respect her. They want to be able to celebrate her and root for her once again. This is the avenue toward building the big time babyface Bayley that WWE planned to have when she was first brought to the main roster.
I envision a future where IYO SKY successfully defends her Raw Women’s Championship against Bayley, and then leaves the Role Model laying in a heap as the result of a 2-on-1 attack in the match’s aftermath.
Down, out and hopeless... A beacon of light could then appear in the form of an old friend turned bitter rival. Almost taking pity on her, Becky Lynch steps forward like Mufasa’s head in the clouds to remind Bayley who she truly is, not who she’s become.
Bayley and Becky Lynch partnering up to take on the souped-up force of IYO SKY and Dakota Kai would be the perfect end game to the Damage CTRL arc and proof that a split was ultimately the best for everyone involved.
This cannot be written with more emphasis - Do NOT rush this storyline! Do not have Damage CTRL boot Bayley from the group any time soon or let them be separated by the WWE Draft in two weeks.
This arc will take time, patience, and damn good story-telling. We know WWE is surely capable of accomplishing just that. Let’s see what Triple H and his creative team have up their sleeve.
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