Bayley won her first WWE championship in what was a great and emotional WWE moment, main-eventing Monday Night Raw. The audience was completely invested in the match — a match that despite not being a blow-away contest technically, was crafted so well as to make the fans shift with every ebb and flow, culminating in the climax which saw the audience erupt in genuine elation of the sort you do not often see produced in professional wrestling.
It was truly a special moment and a landmark one in Bayley’s career. But that only begs the question: Why now, and why on Raw? Everything about the situation stinks of WWE cashing in early for a cheap pop and some short-term profit over the potential to have a long-term story with a hugely climactic finish line — like settling for grape Kool-Aid over the finely aged wine.
The Feb. 13 Raw was not a particularly special episode. There was nothing landmark about it. It was just a routine Monday episode, and WWE gave away what could have been a genuine WrestleMania moment so people one day can reminisce about Bayley’s first title victory on that one episode of Raw.
There was really something to be made of Bayley’s struggle to become champion. The story almost writes itself. No one better fits that mold than Bayley. Yet she has only been on the main roster for a little over five months, where she got one quick title shot early on in a triple threat match, and then just got back in the title picture at the start of 2017, losing at Royal Rumble, only to get a rematch two weeks later and voila.
On July 6, 1998, WCW decided to give away its premier blockbuster matchup between Goldberg and Hulk Hogan on free television — a moment considered one of WCW’s biggest blunders. It would be foolish to insist the two scenarios are equal in stature or impact, but the principles are the same. WCW rushed a storyline, had a match with little buildup, and gave it away on Monday Nitro essentially all for a TV rating, costing the company millions of dollars in the process compared to what could have been on PPV with a proper buildup for such a gigantic match.
Again, no one is insisting a negative impact anywhere in the same sphere due to Bayley’s title win, but the whole situation shows the same kind of impatience and shortsighted mindset in the payoff. It is tough to say whether it makes it better or worse, but at least WCW can say it got it right the first time around. After all, WCW did manage to make the utmost of its giant program between Hogan and Sting, leading to its biggest and most profitable PPV in the company’s history at Starrcade 1997. Whereas with WWE, Bayley’s title win is just a continuation of what was already being done.
Sasha Banks too captured her first WWE title on a random episode of Raw — another great, emotional moment, but how many people could actually remember which episode it took place on? If that was not bad enough, Banks has already been Women’s Champion three times, and only in a time span of four months. All three title victories — yeah, they happened on arbitrary episodes of Raw. And how memorable do they remain, only about half a year removed from the initial?
Perhaps the rushed feud with Charlotte and Banks was a means to jumpstart the division and give it credibility with the two top stars. The argument is certainly there. But in the case of Bayley, there is just no excuse. WWE absolutely jumped the gun. Sure, Bayley can always wind up in another storyline down the road to recapture the title, but it will be to recapture it. You only get one first time, and WWE used it already. None of the subsequent attempts will have the same meaning behind them.
What’s more, much like John Cena’s recent historical title victory at Royal Rumble, it is hard to imagine Bayley’s title win is going to have much meaning overall. Cena lost the title just two weeks later, after what was supposed to be a grand victory matching WWE’s revisionist-history 16 titles of Ric Flair, ultimately making it futile. With WrestleMania only two months away, the odds are stacked against Bayley still being the champ going into the big event, and even worse on the idea of her coming out of the event as champion. And when you look at the picture as a whole in that sense, you can only sit back reflecting on Bayley’s title victory and wonder, why?