Bayley was the closest thing WWE had to America’s Sweetheart. Hair in a side ponytail, like Tina Majorino in Napoleon Dynamite, Bayley endeared herself to the crowds by hugging people. Her T-shirts proclaim, “I’m a hugger!” Her sashay down the entrance ramp is flanked by wacky waving inflatable tube people. Kids love Bayley. She is a living Funko Pop figure. Whatever your opinion is of the person, you have to admit one thing: Bayley is adorable.
Then, this past Monday on RAW, Bayley beat the living shit out of Becky Lynch with a chair.
It was awesome.
The crowd was hot for it, screaming for Bayley to smack The Man again and again. It wasn’t an anti-Bex chant. Fans were glad to see Bayley do something besides grinning and just being glad to be there. Even Bayley seemed like she was enjoying herself.
Bayley, wrestling’s walking, talking chibi, had turned heel.
And it was about time.
We saw the signs. After tapping into her aggressive side, Bayley finally snagged the SmackDown Live women’s championship title. No longer was she simply the good sport, eating pins like a tailor with hiccups. Bayley was on a winning streak. Her confidence grew with each match. She was even better on the microphone, nailing promos and heavily scripted interview spots. It was a personal renaissance for Bayley. Watching her grow as a performer was delightful.
So, why did Bayley smack Becky (formerly) Two Belts with a steel chair?
Blame Sasha Banks.
The Legit Boss had been gone from television for months. Let’s be honest: I didn’t miss her a single bit. I had grown weary of her posturing, her awkwardness on the mic, and the terrible storylines they stuck her in. I was also tired of hearing Michael Cole scream, “It’s Boss Time!” like a rabid baboon every time her music hit.
Banks was tired of all that, too. If the story is to be believed, Banks walked out on WWE after WrestleMania 35. She was angry about not main eventing the show, so she bailed. That’s such a Sasha thing to do. She also studied joshi puroresu in Japan and changed her hair color. Once back in the fold, Banks also became a student of Paul Heyman. Reportedly, he has been helping Sasha Banks with her character, and it has been working.
Banks has already fully inhabited her villainous character, wreaking havoc on the bodies of Natalya, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair. She’s been calling people bitches. Sasha even frightened backstage reporter Sarah Schrieber so badly, she walked into a wall.
It was awesome.
Before Sasha hit the bricks on her Vince-less vision quest, her best friend on television was Bayley. She did just fine for herself in Sasha’s absence. But with Banks’ return, Bayley once again finds herself by the Boss’s side. This time, that relationship involves weaponizing fellowship hall furniture.
Sasha’s style of heelery (is that a word?) is classic wrestling material. She has been wronged by everyone, including the bookers. So, she has returned to beat the snot out of everyone and get that belt. It’s entitlement taken to its worst extreme. And even though Sasha is milking that motivation for all it’s worth, we’ve seen it before, and recently (see: Ziggler, Dolph).
Bayley, though, is exemplifying one of the best antagonist traits in the business. She believes she’s right. Everything she does is borne from a deep-seated loyalty to her best friend, Sasha Banks. Don’t you want your children to learn loyalty? And don’t your kids already love Bayley? It is wonderfully subversive. Bayley doesn’t need to pretend to be the host of a kid’s show in Carcosa, like Bray Wyatt. She’s selling kids snap bracelets, stick-on bindis, and beginning lessons in delinquency. Bayley may have become a sidekick again, but at least she’s an empowered one.
She and Banks are also a much-needed vitamin cocktail in the glutes of the women’s division. With a Prozac-infused Nikki Cross topping the tag teams with Alexa Bliss, Bayley and Banks could add a dollop of grounded villainy. Don’t be surprised if they rip through the division with impunity and swiftness until they regain those tag team belts. And don’t be shocked if your kids are cheering their willfully misguided hero, Bayley, the whole time.