Bayley: Best of the Rest

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It has been almost four months since Bayley defeated her fellow Four Horsewomen Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn to become NXT Women’s Champion. Since that time Bayley has become the most popular star in NXT. The idea of a woman wrestler being the most popular star in the company had not been heard of since the days of Sable during the Attitude Era of World Wrestling Entertainment.

It’s easy to sit back and applaud Bayley for her accomplishments, after all, she did work very hard to get where she is. It is also to be commended that she is currently carrying the NXT Women’s Division on her shoulders. With that being said, there is a question that looms over the head of Bayley and her legacy. How light is the load she is carrying now that Banks, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch have left?

WWE wanted to make an impact with their Divas Revolution, and one sure fire way to do that was to bring in three of the women who helped revolutionize things in NXT. It is amazing that WWE has yet to learn from their own history. Vince McMahon has said that he sometimes wonders if he made the right call in putting World Championship Wrestling and other territories out of business by raiding their talent pools, yet once again his company strip mines the roster of a smaller, some would say more successful product.

By doing so, NXT was left only one star to shine brightly and continue what they had all worked so hard to build. Bayley has been left with the unenviable task to do on her own what four of them had been doing for the past year. Looking at things from that perspective, then Bayley has been doing an exceptional job. The bigger issue here is that Bayley and the NXT Women’s Division has run the risk of looking like the majority of independent promotions. One woman on top, miles ahead of anyone else she faces, relegated to the popcorn match.

If it hadn’t been for Bayley’s popularity keeping the division afloat, the NXT Women’s Division might have run the risk of withering away, and everything that had been built, lost. Now the question remains how long can Bayley’s popularity last before fans realize that every fans’ best friend is a paper champion?

Outside of her spectacular rematch with Banks at NXT Takeover: Respect, Bayley’s opponents haven’t exactly been the cream of the crop in NXT. Alexa Bliss, while very good, just isn’t at the same level as Bayley, and certainly nowhere close to competing with Banks, Charlotte, and Lynch. While her championship match against Eva Marie was one of the best demonstrations of dramatic storytelling I saw all year, there is no doubt that it will be forgotten by the time her latest opponent, Nia Jax, steps into the ring with her at NXT Takeover: London.

Some might say that it’s impressive to have gone through that many opponents in four months. The only problem with going through the competition so quickly is not only will fans quickly tire of seeing Bayley face flavor of the month challengers, but it could also wear down Bayley and maybe even burn her out the same way WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hitman” Hart did during his first reign as World Wrestling Federation Champion. Right now, she’s riding high because she’s facing girls in the middle of the pack. What happens when she gets in the ring with someone like Emma who has twice as much experience and isn’t exhausted? How will she handle herself when she steps in the ring with Asuka, a woman who came into NXT ready to go and hungry to be the best?

Bayley is very good. Unquestionably she is the best in the NXT Woman’s Division. Eventually she will be called up to WWE’s main roster, but what kind of division and legacy will she be leaving behind in NXT? She has an uphill battle in front of her because unlike her Four Horsewomen friends, she not only needs to put on great matches that steal the show, but she needs to elevate her competition and get them to the spot she was in only four short months ago. In order to do that, she’ll need to remain on top for a long time. Of course, Bayley has shown us that she’s no quitter, but in the end, it’s the NXT Universe that decides your legacy. If they don’t choose to remember her fondly, no amount of hugging will heal those wounds.