When people first spoke of the women’s revolution in WWE, culminating with the presentation of the women’s championship by Lita at WrestleMania 32 to replace the (thankfully) now defunct Divas title, for a long time it was thought of as nothing more than a catchphrase. Undeniably this was a huge step forward in the companies direction and treatment of its female counterparts, looking to further themselves from a history that had not been in line with how women should be represented, and quite frankly – respected in today’s society.
Sure, we had this new outlook, but nothing of substance.
Fast forward to 2018, and it’s thanks to wrestlers like Bayley that the movement is now well and truly cemented in the annals of history. It’s no longer just a catchphrase; it’s a mantra that every woman in the locker room carries on their back, constantly fighting for the next opportunity to prove their worth.
We had the opportunity to talk with the Huggable one just a day removed from the first-ever women’s Elimination Chamber to ask what it was like to make history once again, what it was like working in NXT, and the ups and downs that come with being a WWE superstar.
For Bayley, to be a part of the WWE was always her dream. It’s common knowledge that the real-life Pamela Martinez is regarded as a ‘superfan’ outside of the ring, fondly recalling that from the age of 12 she’d envisioned herself one day competing in the main event of WrestleMania. To share a locker room with the likes of Kurt Angle, Matt Hardy and beyond in Bayley’s own words is still ‘So crazy’.
“I’m still not used to it. I was walking up the ramp before doors at a show one time and Kurt (Kurt Angle) was coming down the ramp toward me and just said ‘hey’ – it’s so mad knowing that he knows who I am. Being with the WWE means that I’ve gotten to know his daughter too, she’s a huge fan of mine – again it’s crazy! I’ve also gotten to know Matt (Matt Hardy), I was obsessed with the Hardy Boyz (Matt & Jeff Hardy) growing up. He has so many stories to tell, he’s such a great locker room leader and person to be around.”
To move from the independents having started out in 2008, putting pen to paper signing with NXT in 2012, and to the main roster in 2016 being drafted to Raw by then general manager Mick Foley, it’s clear to those watching that it’s not just a job. It’s something that is loved and treasured both as memories had, and memories to be made now that she is a key component of the company she loves.
Her break on the independent scene came in the form of a chance meeting with Serena Deeb (best remembered as Serena in the Straight Edge Society alongside alumni CM Punk, and current superstar Luke Gallows) back in 2010, joining forces in a tag match. It was from there that former ‘Davina Rose’ debuted for Shimmer Women’s Athletes in 2011, locking up with the likes of Mia Yim, Mercedes Martinez, Cherry Bomb and Ireland’s own Rhia O’Reilly. Bayley recalled her time on the independent scene briefly, with a glimmer of longing for times past, but mostly of thanks for where it positioned her for the future.
“I got to meet so many women from all over the world, and there are still people I talk with to this day. I learnt so much from all of the women that I got to work with in those matches (in Shimmer) – one time we spent a weekend together but none of us really slept, we just ended up spending all that time getting to know each other and learning the business. If there’s one thing I miss, it’s being able to be a part of those kinds of shows where everything is so intimate.”
For the now Austin, Texas residing hugger, NXT was where the learning curve began again. To many, the halls of the WWE Performance Centre will be the pinnacle of their burgeoning career, and a place where the reset button is constantly pressed in a quest to discover who they truly are as a performer. For Bayley, this was no different. Promo class was where everything ‘clicked’ – and for this there is no greater man to give credit to for aiding Bayley in finding herself – the American Dream, Dusty Rhodes.
“He just told us to be ourselves. Everyone tried to be someone else. He (Dusty) would stop everything we were doing just to remind us of that. You can feel it in your heart and see it in your eyes when you’re not being genuine, the fans will know and you’ll lose them. I took my hair down once after a match, I’ll always remember Dusty pulling me to the side and telling me never to take it down again – it was my thing, it was me. I owe that part of my character to him.”
To the avid viewer of NXT, you’ll come to realise that it’s akin to family. A small, impassioned group of hardcore fans watching tomorrow’s superstars grow every step of the way. Bayley takes a familiar view to this outlook, recalling on the growth of the brand from performing in front of 20 something people, to the growth of the Full Sail shows, to growing outside of Florida and beyond culminating with the huge growth in popularity of the Takeover shows. Their fans are loyal and were so to Bayley throughout, her body of work as thanks for their unwavering support.
“Once you get to the main roster, there are people who are watching from all over the globe so in a way, you have to re-introduce yourself “
Moving forward from NXT, Bayley has received her fair share of detractors, as many others have faced since stepping out from between the famed yellow ropes. Speculation has always been rife since dropping the Raw women’s championship that management has lost faith in her abilities to help carry the division. Contrary to this, it’s clear that this faith is still instilled, having competed in the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match (being eliminated by long-time friend Sasha Banks), and having just competed in the first-ever women’s Elimination Chamber match. There’s a feeling shared amongst the locker room of hope for the future of women’s wrestling in the WWE, one that Bayley hopes to spearhead. It’s a goal that keeps the women of WWE going, with Bayley’s prediction that one day we will see women main event WrestleMania, fulfilling the dreams of a 12-year-old watching from home.
“It’s possible (women main eventing WrestleMania) and it will happen one day. If I’m in it or not, just the fact that a women’s match could main event WrestleMania makes my heart happy, we’ve come so far. But we’re not where we want to be yet. We want to main event on a regular basis. The Elimination Chamber was a huge step towards our shared goal, and I don’t feel like WrestleMania is too far away from what we want to accomplish.
The Elimination Chamber was a huge part of making this dream a reality, but for Bayley, it wasn’t without controversy. Sasha Banks looked as if she was to aid Bayley in the structure, only to seemingly turn on her friend. It seems now is the time to strike whilst the iron is hot, a rivalry renewed between two of the best in the business with WrestleMania fast approaching.
“It’s been weird between us since the Royal Rumble, she eliminated me and I just took it as being an every woman for herself situation, so I understood as she needed to do what was best for her. It seemed more aggressive from Sasha (at the Elimination Chamber), I feel like it didn’t have to go that way. It’s a hard situation for me – we’ve never had issues outside of the ring. If she really does have a problem with me then it’s something that we’ll have to solve.”
Bayley also spoke about Ronda Rousey joining the ranks of WWE, giving props to the 16-second knockout queen of the UFC for bringing new viewers who have known her previously for her near flawless work in the octagon. It’s made clear however that no matter what, she’s not taking anyone’s spot. We also spoke about her involvement in the Mixed Match Challenge with Elias, a time that was ‘so much fun’. Bayley noted that she’s a fan of inter-gender matches, most notably watching her friend and NXT’s own Candice LeRae whilst performing on the independents as part of the World’s Cutest Tag Team with Joey Ryan.
Perhaps more importantly though is what Bayley has become. In a world where the rights of women are still not on par with that of men in many respects, she stands with the weight of the world on her shoulders to show young women that you can accomplish anything that you set out to do regardless of your gender.
“I always wanted to make people feel how I felt as a fan in the crowd – to feel connected and inspired to do whatever they set out to do. It’s weird but when I have signings I’ll have young women come up to me and say that my match with Sasha at Takeover: Brooklyn is what inspired them to get into wrestling training. To hear that at this stage in my career is insane, but it motivates me to keep going and its reassuring to hear. We’re doing something special. I feel a responsibility from parents too they’ll thank us for helping their children to get through hard times, that watching our matches makes them happy. But it’s a good responsibility to have.”
Speaking with Bayley left me full of optimism for the future of women in the WWE. It’s 2018 and the higher-ups are finally realising that in the words of Beyoncé;
Who run the world?