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Nice Girls Finish Last: Bayley's WWE Career Explained

Bayley has had one of the most unique careers in WWE history en route to collecting countless championships!

By Chris Phelan
Bayley walks to the ring.

For more than ten years, Bayley has captivated the WWE Universe – no matter how she aligns her morals and ideals. 

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Experts and fans alike often say the best WWE Superstars have the uncanny ability to constantly reinvent themselves. Having the ability to adjust on the fly and adapt their personas for a continually evolving professional wrestling industry is a trait only the all-time greats possess – just ask the likes of Chris Jericho, the current World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins, and one of the most polarizing Superstars of all time, Bayley.

It doesn't matter if Bayley aligns herself with fan favorites or villains; she has blazed a trail throughout her WWE career to the point where, only a decade into her career, the WWE Universe acknowledges her as a future Hall of Famer. Today, we're taking a brief look at the captivating career arc of Bayley!

Bayley's "Just a Fan" Era

Making an inauspicious debut on NXT during a throwaway match against a debuting Charlotte Flair in 2013, Bayley's initial appearances on NXT were ultimately forgettable. While she demonstrated impressive ability in the ring, her persona was as bland as vanilla ice cream. 

They say that the best characters in WWE history are simply extensions of the real-life persons portraying them – and Bayley proved this when she created a truly unique character a few months after debuting in NXT. Using her real-life fandom as fuel, she tweaked her persona to be, well, thrilled that she was a professional Superstar. Any backstage interview segment with her fellow Superstars would undoubtedly end with a huge hug from Bayley and a smile three miles wide. Unsurprisingly, the WWE Universe loved every part of Bayley's new "I can't believe I'm living my dream" persona. 

Little by little, fans latched on to Bayley's infectious attitude. While some critics derided Bayley's character as pandering, others praised it as revolutionary and never-before-seen. In the end, she won over a lot of skeptical fans by sheer force of will. Armed with a side ponytail and boundless energy, she became iconic in her own way despite always being in the shadow of the more prominent "names" of the division, like Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair, who seemed earmarked for success from day one.

Bayley's Journey to the NXT Women's Championship

Bayley is proof that with enough hard work and dedication, anything is possible. She ascended up the ranks of the NXT women's division in the most organic way possible: One victory at a time. After some impressive wins, she quietly discarded her happy-go-lucky demeanor and instead focused on being the best wrestler she could be. Armed with a devastating finishing move (the appropriately named Bayley to Belly), she began amassing wins over established NXT mainstays like Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and other future Hall of Famers

For Bayley, everything came to a head at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn in 2015 when she captured the NXT Women's Championship for the first time in an impressive victory against Sasha Banks.

Widely regarded as not only the best women's match of 2015 but the best match overall regardless of gender by wrestling critics, Bayley and Sasha put on a five-star classic. As a result, they reignited worldwide interest in women's wrestling. After cementing her title reign with another victory over Sasha a few months later, she enjoyed a lengthy 200-plus-day run with the championship, ultimately succumbing to the overpowering NXT force known as Asuka.

However, as successful as Bayley's career had been up to that point, even brighter days were on the horizon. 

Bayley's Ascent to Monday Night Raw

With most successful Superstars who begin their careers in NXT, there comes a time when you simply outgrow your peers. In the summer of 2016, the rumor mill was working overtime with speculation that Bayley would be imminently promoted to the main roster. In August 2016, the WWE Universe saw one of the biggest success stories in NXT history make her debut on Monday Night Raw.

By this time on the main roster, NXT mainstays like Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks had already beaten Bayley to Raw and SmackDown. After the initial buzz from her Raw debut died down, Bayley actually experienced something similar to her situation in NXT – she was once again caught in the shadows of her more established colleagues. 

However, for the second time in her career, she put her head down and grinded her way to the top, powered by the endless support of her fans. Predictably, the same fervent supporters in the WWE Universe who cheered her on in NXT followed her to the main roster, and Bayley expertly used that momentum to eventually propel her to the top of the division. Bayley captured the WWE Raw Women's Championship in 2017 and once again proved the naysayers wrong.

Of course, by the late 2010s, even Bayley knew she was due for a reinvention.

Turning Her Back on the Fans

On one fateful episode of Monday Night Raw in 2019, something inside of Bayley snapped. Maybe she was fearful of being pushed down the pecking order in favor of emerging Superstars like Becky Lynch. Perhaps she was just having an off night. 

Or maybe she was just tired of being so darn nice all the time.

After her shocking betrayal of Becky Lynch (courtesy of a few well-placed chair shots to Becky's back), Bayley wasted no time aligning herself with her longtime frenemy, Sasha Banks. It was a disturbing moment made even more sad by how she turned her back on the WWE Universe, who supported her unconditionally for the first six years of her career. While her turn was met with many cheers by longtime members of the WWE Universe, it was Bayley's youngest fans who suffered the most. On that episode of Raw, millions of young girls officially lost their hero.

Almost overnight, Bayley ensured her transformation to villain was complete in every aspect of her persona. She cut off her trademark side ponytail, replacing it with a short bob cut usually reserved for America's most stereotypical villains. At that point, there was only one thing left to do: Eliminate the iconic and inflatable "Bayley Buddies" that accompanied her to the ring during her entrances. On an October 2019 episode of SmackDown, she checked that box off her list – and became a new champion to boot.

"Screw all of you," she defiantly told the WWE Universe after winning the SmackDown Women's Championship from Charlotte.

With those words, the WWE Universe knew the old Bayley was gone – and was never coming back. This version of Bayley, who cut off her ponytail and effectively gave her fans the middle finger, is still going strong today. In fact, she's attained unprecedented success, capturing far more championships as a villain than she ever did as a fan-favorite. 

Today, Bayley is the unquestioned leader of the formidable group known as Damage Ctrl, who are currently running roughshod all over the WWE women's division. 

Don't worry. Bayley still believes she's a role model – just not one any self-respecting fan would choose to look up to.

If that's not an impressive WWE career, we don't know what is. And something tells us Bayley has even more tricks up her sleeve in the future. 

You can tune in to Peacock to watch WWE's Crown Jewel on November 4 and Survivor Series on November 25. In the meantime, catch up on all things WWE Universe on Peacock.

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