Indy wrestling right now is under a huge surge in popularity. There are more wrestlers, more talent, more promotions and enough TV time to drown in. Wrestling is coming back in a big way.
The affect that this has had on the WWE is huge. Not only can WWE essentially snare ready made talent with a good start of drawing power but those WWE talents who get lost in the shuffle have a legitimate avenue of escape. WWE might give you drawing power but the room at the top isn’t infinite. Three members of the class of 2002, the continual returns of the Rock, even names such as Kurt Angle now are being used in favoured spots because they make money.
What they don’t make is new stars and this is where other federations stand to gain from the WWE’s business model. I’ve got fourteen names, two of which are tag teams and I’m going to run them down one a week because I believe that these are people who would do better outside of the WWE.
I’m Tom Colohue and this is Winner Leaves Town.
I’m going to have to break from tradition here. Usually I’ll open with a section on what the performer in question has been doing in WWE and, particularly, what they did well. Bayley got a big win at Wrestlemania. That’s about it.
In June last year I wrote a feature about Bayley and how she had brief moments of activity in between long periods of absolutely nothing. She was featured but not prominently. That hasn’t changed. Since losing the title to Alexa Bliss right after Wrestlemania, Bayley hasn’t done anything. Since returning from injury on September 18th she has been pinned by Bliss, again, and went out first in the Survivor Series team.
At first you have to wonder if she’s injured. Bayley has picked up injuries in her time on Raw. She’s been uninvolved, even in the current climate where the women’s divisions on both shows are treading water until something happens at the Royal Rumble to make things interesting again.
Is Bayley failing? Is WWE failing Bayley? Are the fans failing Bayley? This is a perfect example of someone who could do better elsewhere.
The problem with Bayley right now is that her character simply doesn’t suit a top dog promotion. I don’t mean to say she’d make a bad champion, I mean to say that she doesn’t suit being in the WWE altogether, especially on Raw. You can’t cheer Bayley when she’s on top; it doesn’t work.
In the indy scene there is a lot of tribalism. You support the local talent, the homegrown talent, the talent that don’t need the WWE. When I last saw Matt Hardy live he made a rather large speech about how the “real wrestling” took place in a night club in Preston, not in the big leagues with people on “million dollar contracts.” Why did he say that? To get a pop. The guy had pictures to sell. I bought one. I look horrendous. He hates me. I’m getting off track.
In NXT this was a perfect place for Bayley. The “We are awesome” rabid NXT fan base took her as one of their own, similarly to Tye Dillinger. She was hugely popular as the voice of the fans, the body of the fans and the ponytail of the fans. Why? Because the voice of the fans in NXT was “we’re the little guy. Push the little guy. Push us. We are awesome.”
In WWE, and especially on Raw, that is not the voice of the fans. CM Punk’s enduring legacy was forged on being the voice of the people but he did it using a “you‘ve ignored talent long enough“ approach. Daniel Bryan’s legacy was on being the voice of the people for the same reason. Bayley’s “I love wrestling” bravado is of no interest to the fan base she is in front of. If she doesn’t stand up for herself, why would anyone else stand up for her?
Now I’m not saying she’s beyond saving. A shift to the more indy style Smackdown would be hugely beneficial. They have less beach balls, less Roman Reigns and more Rusev Day. Push a female face until the fans start to hate her and Bayley would be the perfect foe for that. In fact, I would consider Bayley a dark horse to win the Rumble because her feud with Bliss is unfinished and she is definitely owed a win.
The problem of course there is Asuka, and Paige, and Bliss herself, as well as everybody on Smackdown. Bayley is not the focus. Even when she was champion, Charlotte and then Bliss were the focus, not Bayley.
She can definitely do better elsewhere, simply because the mentality is different.
A massive advantage for Bayley is that she is a very marketable person. When she’s relaxed and calm she has good presence. Her Up Up Down Down videos are a perfect example of her getting herself over without WWE’s direct input. While she hasn’t been featured all that prominently she has in fact been featured. She doesn’t have a generic appearance, helping her to be recognisable and she has proven to be able to connect with the common person.
With women’s wrestling the options are more limited. Bayley would not do better in Japan for example. That said, Ring Of Honor have a women’s division on the up that could do well with a lynchpin like Bayley. TNA is always an obvious answer but with Bayley it’s almost the more indy the better.
Unfortunately for Bayley there is one perfect place for her, where she could absolutely thrive and become possibly the most popular and legendary performer there. That would be NXT.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: COLOHUE – Winner Leaves Town: Dolph Ziggler – WWE Talent Who Would Do Better Elsewhere