It finally happened – Bayley captured WWE gold on the main roster. Bayley’s victory on last nights Monday Night Raw should have been a monumental moment for the Superstar. It’s a moment fans have been dreaming of for over a year and an occasion that deserved the grandest of stages. It’s the culmination of her story to the main roster, the logical end point of her transition from NXT’s biggest female performer to main event linchpin. So why then does her victory feel so tainted?
Perhaps it’s because, with just over six weeks to go until Wrestlemania, WWE have jumped the gun in an awkward fashion. Rather than save this special moment for the grandest stage in wrestling – the company has opted to roll it out on the main event of Raw. There’s nothing wrong with this – but as it stands there seems to be an awkward disconnect. Why would WWE not want such a much desired story to play out on the biggest stage?
Imagine if the likes of John Cena captured their first WWE Championship six weeks before Wrestlemania, it wouldn’t make sense. WWE loves to play up April’s pay-per-view as the place where memories are born. Yet Bayley’s moment will now forever be relegated to a random Raw pre-Mania. Even in the attitude era, this kind of booking wouldn’t have flown so close to Mania.
It also highlights just how pathetically drawn out Charlotte Flair’s winning streak storyline is. She’s won at every main roster pay-per-view since making the leap to Raw. That’s a monumental achievement, until you look closer at the details. Those victories came at the expense of the newly minted WWE Raw Women’s Championship. Sasha Banks winning the belt constantly on Raw, only to drop it weeks later at the pay-per-view back to Charlotte, became an awkwardly predictable pattern. Already Charlotte is a four-time Women’s Champion – Sasha three. In the latter’s case, she has failed to defend the belt successfully on WWE TV. That’s not good storytelling, that’s wasteful.
Thus Bayley winning on a random Raw mere weeks before Fastlane, the next pay-per-view, creates an awkwardly predictable pattern. It means that if Charlotte wins the belt back, Bayley’s big moment will have been used as fuel to further Charlotte’s PPV streak, arguably at the expense of a much grander moment. If Bayley is an underdog in the story of the women’s division, she’s already overcome the odds by claiming the belt.
All this is made more awkward by the goings on over on Smackdown Live. Naomi winning the Smackdown Live Women’s Championship not 24 hours later felt like a bigger deal because WWE had created the right situation for it. Alexa Bliss had spent weeks underestimating Naomi, and thus her victory was logical. It made sense because the story had built to the point where Alexa’s overconfidence allowed Naomi to have her moment. It also creates a huge story moving forward where Naomi will now be fighting to carry the belt into Florida, her home-state, as the Women’s Champion.
Compare this to Raw, where Charlotte’s defeat felt like another occasion where she couldn’t lose on PPV – so the creative team had her lose it on Raw. Not three weeks ago Charlotte defeated Bayley with little issue at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view – yet was undone last night. If Charlotte knows she can’t defend the title on Raw, why does she allow it to happen so often? There’s no story line logic to Charlotte’s decision to award both Sasha Banks and Bayley constant title shots on Raw. Worse still, Stephanie McMahon has actively been pushing back against Bayley and Sasha in recent weeks – so where was her creative input into all this?
I’m not saying Bayley doesn’t deserve this moment – she’s worked insanely hard to make it happen. But the reality is that winning the belt on Raw last night only made the occasion feel underwhelming. Of course Sasha could turn heel and attack Bayley, but there won’t be a moment quite like her first.
I feel the entire thing serves to underline the bigger issues with the Raw Women’s Division right now. Almost like creative are handcuffed to the idea of Charlotte’s illustrious heritage and the need to give it the utmost importance. If she wins the Championship back in several weeks, I suspect fans may not be so pleased with the outcome.
We’ll just have to wait to see if we’re proven wrong.