Wrestling

The Sad Case of WWE’s Bayley – Why Are Fans Turning Against Her?

ScreenCritics Shaun explores the curious case of WWE’s Bayley, and why fans are increasingly turning against the former darling of the NXT Division.

When Bayley arrived on Monday Night Raw in 2016 – it was a moment fans had been waiting to see for a long time. The former NXT Women’s Champion was a darling of the internet wrestling community and had the gimmick to get herself over with all sections of the crowd. Fast forward to April 2017 and Bayley only wishes she could get that kind of reaction. Constantly met with fan indifference, poor booking and an increasing frustration at her characters direction – where did it all go wrong for the current Raw Women’s Champion?

The worst part in all this is just how far she’s fallen in the fans eyes. If she’s not being constantly saved by Sasha Banks, she’s awkwardly dropping promos and delivering one liners that would have Superman cringing. She’s become the very thing fans feared, and live audiences are reacting accordingly.

What’s more frustrating is that WWE actively had a good thing here. Fans were begging for Bayley to be promoted to the main roster – months ahead of her eventual arrival. Her hard work down in NXT had paid off – audiences wanted to see the hugger make her way to the main roster. It’s why when Mick Foley introduced her way back in the Fall of 2016 – it was a great moment. Fans wanted to see her rewarded for her hard work and the long journey to the main roster – surely WWE Creative couldn’t mess it up?

Yet since then, WWE Creative have halted her progression. No longer connecting with the majority of fans, Bayley’s character has regressed to a one-dimensional after-thought that might as well spew catchphrases on command. A lot of what she says sounds forced, awkward and poorly delivered. On top of this, she hasn’t been allowed to have the top-tier matches that we know she can have. To the casual viewer, the buzz around Bayley has all but disappeared. If I didn’t watch NXT – I’d be hard pressed to understand why fans loved this female Superstar so much.

There are numerous reasons for this – chief among them the fact that Stephanie McMahon insists on being viewed as the top female in the company; a move that cripples any tension. She picks on faces and heels – anyone she fancies. We’ve seen her knock Charlotte down to size, despite being the best heel in the Raw Women’s Division at the time. We’ve seen her bully Sasha Banks, reducing her character to a shadow of her former glory. Perhaps the most damaging use of Stephanie’s character was on Bayley, whom Stephanie’s character took a particular dislike too.

The initial sense I got was that WWE wanted fans to see Bayley as a Daniel Bryan underdog – the kind of Superstar Stephanie would work against to stop her getting a title shot. Numerous backstage segments saw Stephanie cut Bayley off at the knees, only for the Superstar to end up winning the Raw Women’s Championship anyway. The segment that followed this – with Stephanie demanding the Championship back – was so ill-advised that I’m hard pressed not to assume it was some form of character assassination. Fans hated it, and they’ve never forgiven Bayley as a character.

Since then, fans have been cold to Bayley. The cheers haven’t been all that loud and the indifference to her presence in the ring has become obvious. Her character has been tarnished beyond repair – leaving WWE in an awkward bind. Bayley is Champion – but many fans want to see a strong heel run right through her. It’s why people are clamouring to see Sasha turn heel, to inject some much-needed momentum into Bayley’s character. It’s why fans want to see Alexa Bliss take the belt home at Payback. Bayley’s become the insufferable face fans want to see anywhere but with the Championship. When the biggest face on your brands division is struggling to get over, something’s gone terribly wrong.

Can WWE fix her? For me, Bayley’s current character needs to be revamped and given a new lease of life. She needs Sasha to turn heel, and WWE need to recreate the long-road back the Championship that made her NXT run so memorable. Bayley needs to be transformed into a likeable character, one fans will desperately cheer as her story turns to desperation. We need to see Bayley lose, and we need to see her lose hard.

What made Bayley so likeable on NXT was her story, her struggle and her passion to overcome the odds. On Raw she’s practically been handed everything – despite people running the brand saying they don’t want her to have it. It feels forced, and if its forced – fans won’t buy into it.

I am hoping that this Sunday at WWE Payback, Bayley loses and Sasha turns heel doing so. For me, this is the only way that the company can save Bayley’s character from outright rejection. There’s nothing wrong with Bayley as a performer, but when the people booking the show fail to understand what made her so great in the first place – it only serves to damage the character long-term.

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