Bayley's rebirth must begin at WWE SummerSlam by way of a slash-and-burn approach.
It's too soon to tell the story of her rising back to her feet against Alexa Bliss. It would be a mistake to carry on the status quo with one of Raw's most endearing Superstars. Instead, sending her into a tailspin with her heart ripped out on the canvas is the best way to pave the way for Bayley's success.
On Monday's Raw, Bayley survived a slugfest against her good friend Sasha Banks to earn the No. 1 Contender's spot.
The victory over The Boss will net her the chance to regain the title she lost in April. At the Aug. 20 pay-per-view, Bayley will take on Bliss for the Raw women's title.
That title match can't be the climax of her comeback story, though.
The timing is strange here. Bayley getting the nod was "a surprising decision considering they ran this program just a couple months ago," as Geno Mrosko of Cageside Seats pointed out.
It's only been three months since Bayley lost the crown. And only a month has passed since Bayley hit rock bottom when she failed to give Bliss much of a fight at Extreme Rules in a Kendo Stick on a Pole match.
Bayley went into that battle looking to prove she could be violent and aggressive enough to survive in a match with few rules. She failed. Bliss pounded a hesitant Bayley into the mat.
It felt then like Bayley's character hit a wall.
WWE was portraying her as too nice to cut it at the top. She was the dreamer out of her element.
Not surprisingly, many critics like Wrestling Inc believed that Extreme Rules defeat to be a major blow to Bayley:
Goodnight to the Bayley character. Couple kendo stick shots gets it done. That was dreadful. #ExtremeRules2017-6-5 01:06:02
If WWE fast-tracks her tale of redemption by having her win at SummerSlam, it will have given away a money moment in a hurried narrative. It will be a triumph, but not an earned one. It will feel hollow.
Bayley is better off giving Bliss the fight of her life only to come up short, to kneel at ringside after the final bell overcome with disappointment.
She must create more sympathy before she holds gold again. WWE has to take advantage of her inherent underdog appeal.
Then it will be time to build her momentum, to give her the ideal storyline to showcase her heart.
The blueprint for that already exists—Sami Zayn's rise to the NXT Championship in 2014.
After failing in his biggest matches again and again, Zayn determinedly marched toward the title. Tyson Kidd, Titus O'Neil and Adrian Neville (now simply Neville) all knocked off Zayn at one point. The babyface had to soul search, to figure out if he belonged with the best.
One by one, he redeemed those losses, culminating with a victory over Neville for the NXT title at TakeOver: R Evolution in a match in which his career was on the line.
A gut-wrenching loss to Bliss at SummerSlam would be a great start to a retelling of this story for Bayley.
After a series of losses, The Huggable could display the focus and fight Zayn showed in his climb up the ladder. She could talk of believing in her self, refusing to give up. Wins over Banks, Nia Jax and eventually Bliss would allow her to catch fire with the crowd.
There's a chance here to build her back up as a compelling babyface star.
She could scratch her way back to the title scene by the time WrestleMania 34 rolled around. Going with a victory there would be far more powerful, the apex of a well-developed narrative. It would be a moment that cemented Bayley as a top-tier underdog character.
That's what she needs—not some hot-shotted journey back to the mountaintop. She needs a trek that allows fans to invest in her, to believe in her, much like Zayn saw at NXT and Daniel Bryan got en route to WrestleMania XXX.
The road to Bayley's peak, though, is best started with heartbreak at SummerSlam, failure serving as fuel.