Bayley has been on the main roster for less than an entire year, and somehow WWE has managed to make the impossible possible. One of the simplest babyfaces on the entire roster has been thrashed and mangled to the point where fans are genuinely turning on her.
Luckily for Bayley — in a sense — she is being forced to take time off to recuperate from a shoulder injury. Time away is exactly what Bayley needs not only to hit the proverbial reset button, but to hope that WWE finally looks in the mirror and makes big changes to the way she is booked.
The question is whether that is even a real option at this point — just how dramatic a change is it going to take?
Bayley was slated to challenge Alex Bliss at SummerSlam for the Raw Women’s Championship. A week ago, in a match against Nia Jax, Bayley suffered a separated shoulder.
Being a babyface, WWE set up the obligatory in-ring promo segment for Bayley on Raw, where she would — presumably — address the situation, build crowd sympathy, and promise she would be back to claim her title shot. It was, in theory, business as usual for a character whose persona is so heavily built on connecting with the fans.
However, when Bayley started speaking, rumblings in the crowd could be heard. Moans and groans got louder and louder.
Meanwhile, Bayley was trying to cut a babyface promo, thanking the fans for their support and expressing how much she enjoyed the well wishes from fans about her injury. Yet the moment she acknowledged the boos, assuring the crowd she was only thanking the fans who were not booing, the real controversy began.
Neither Bayley nor WWE were ready for that reaction, and it was plainly obvious. WWE being WWE, Bayley’s promo was scripted strictly for the occasion. A promo which heavily relied on thanking the fans and getting support in return did not consider the possibility of a backlash.
As soon as Corey Graves threw out the classic Vince McMahon line, “bizarro world,” to try to cover for the unexpected reaction, it was plainly obvious WWE was not only unprepared for this reaction, but unhappy about it.
Bayley too was clearly thrown off as she tried to salvage the promo and find some way to work around the negative reaction while still staying on the general course. She was stuck and essentially unable to budge from the path given to her.
Anyone with access to the original airing can simply take a look at WWE’s YouTube clip of the promo to see how heavily edited the segment was, with the entire sequence of Bayley jawing with the crowd now missing. WWE’s editing team did a great job of seamlessly removing it from the recording to the point you would never be the wiser if you had not seen it live.
The descent of Bayley’s character has been an ongoing topic for some time. Ironically enough, the first sign of real trouble was when WWE put the title on Bayley less than six months after her main roster signing — worse yet, Bayley had been in the title picture barely more than a month.
What had made Bayley so popular in NXT was largely missing on the main roster from the get go. The title victory was a major blow because it completely undermined her entire persona as the underdog character constantly working against adversity. That it took place on a random episode of Raw has been an ongoing concern with WWE as a whole, but it especially hurt Bayley because her character is meant for those climactic moments of winning on the grand stage after a long story of struggle.
Her title reign was flat from the start, lasting only through WrestleMania before losing it to Bliss in the first post-Mania event. Bayley was already in rough shape heading into the Bliss feud, but the hole became deeper as a result of it, ending in a dreadful kendo stick match.
Still, it is not so much the winning or losing, the title or no title. It is the presentation.
WWE has had a problem with booking babyfaces for some time, but even then people said it would be impossible to screw up Bayley’s character.
Sometimes making the impossible possible is not something to be proud of.
Bayley’s character has been reduced to a goofy, weak, childish shell of herself. She no longer represents strength and determination in the face of adversity. She is not a likable character.
Sure, a lot of fans are still holding on, as the cheers she still receives and all the fan-made signs clearly show, but more and more are turning as time goes on.
She knows it’s not working, as she explained in her recent newsworthy appearance on Steve Austin’s podcast, saying she felt she needed a new direction in WWE. She even presented the idea of a heel turn.
Imagine that. Even considering the idea of a Bayley heel turn shows how desperate this situation has become. Of course, Austin shot down the idea, because characters like Bayley, or Sami Zayn or John Cena, are not meant to be a heel ever.
Bayley can be aware all she wants, but it ultimately comes down to whether WWE is willing to look itself in the mirror or not — McMahon, that is. We all know how Bayley got to be Bayley. The formula is simple and already laid out. Bayley is no quick fix at this point, and if changes don’t emerge pretty soon, we will reach the point of no return.