One of the four horsewomen of NXT.
First triple-crown winner as Raw, SmackDown and NXT women's champion.
First grand-slam winner as one-half of the inaugural WWE women's tag team champions with Sasha Banks.
On first glance, it would appear impossible to take someone with a resume as sparkling and historically significant as Bayley's for granted, yet as 2022 draws to its conclusion, that is exactly what has happened.
Fans of the WWE product tend to overlook The Role Model when talking about the best in the business. She has been left behind the more prominent stars such as Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair, and flashy breakouts like Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair, among others.
Upon further review of Bayley's work, her ability to adapt to her role on a show and her significance to the history of the industry, it's time that trend came to an end.
Bayley Buddies to The Role Model: A History of Underappreciation
Bayley's story begins in NXT, where she adopted an uber-fan gimmick that captivated audiences and led her to become, arguably, the most beloved character in the brand's history.
She then completed her journey to the top of the women's division with a Match of the Year candidate against Sasha Banks at TakeOver: Brooklyn in August 2015 by winning the NXT Women's Championship.
Within a month, though, all the buzz surrounded Banks, who was beginning to make her jump to the main roster.
By the time Bayley followed The Boss to Raw, it was probably six months to a year too late. Sure, she popped the crowd upon winning the Raw Women's Championship from Charlotte Flair, then again when she captured the SmackDown Women's Championship by way of her Money in the Bank cash-in, but over time, it became clear that was more a result of the shock than the undying loyalty to the performer.
Eventually, the character struggled to translate to the main roster audience the way it had the fans in NXT, evidenced by the increase in jeers that ultimately led to a drastic change in character.
A heel turn in September 2019 sent her on a path that saw her emerge as one of the MVPs of the pandemic era of WWE television, thanks to an enormous personality and loudmouth heel persona that exploded through the silence of the empty arenas.
Upon a return from injury at SummerSlam this past August, she served as the first surprise of the Triple H regime, creating a buzz online and general excitement for the new-look product.
Bayley's ability to adapt from being a popular babyface to a detestable heel is a rare trait. Sprinkle in her superb in-ring abilities, and you have a generational talent.
Others, though, have taken precedent among fans.
Lynch and Flair's historic feats are heavily touted on WWE television and thus more widely accepted by fans at large. Belair and Ripley are clearly presented as the future of the promotion via increased wins and heightened stature on shows, so there is an understandable excitement surrounding them.
In touting the division giants and the women who will lead it into the future, WWE has forgotten about the Superstar who was as responsible for the women's revolution as The Man or The Queen.
The company de-emphasizing Bayley and utilizing her as a more one-dimensional heel has only helped to fuel fan forgetfulness and appreciation in regards to her accomplishments and continued excellence.
As both the pony-tailed underdog who took NXT by storm and the loudmouthed villain, she has consistently left fans feeling one way or the other about her.
Yet, when discussing the best of the generation, she is curiously left out.
At least part of the issue here is WWE's creative efforts.
Bayley is prominently featured on television but rarely as the focal point. Yes, she starred during the pandemic era, but even that was as the heel foil for Asuka.
The Role Model has always been the other woman in key storylines, as evidenced by her most recent feud, which saw her return to great fanfare at SummerSlam only to be fed to Belair in consecutive pay-per-views and then see her team beaten at Survivor Series WarGames.
Even projecting forward, a feud with Lynch appears to be more about reestablishing The Man than presenting Bayley, Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky as a formidable heel presence on WWE television.
Of course, if there was greater recognition by fans for her consistent excellence, those in control of the creative direction of the character would have no choice but to push her more consistently.
And therein lies where things must change.
Appreciation for Bayley, her talents and place in WWE history as a revolutionary of women's wrestling begins with the fans. Go back and watch the classics with Banks and rediscover the feelings that feud generated. Check out the underrated pandemic work she did with The Boss and Asuka.
Pay close attention to her ability to manipulate the crowd into reacting how she wants them to, whether on the mic or in the ring. Focus on the small things she does, such as with the fans or commentator Michael Cole.
Odds are, she has captured your attention for something completely unrelated to her actual in-ring performance, something even her fellow Horsewomen cannot always claim.
The Role Model is an apropos nickname in that others should study what she does well and recognize her greatness while she is still an active competitor.
Too often, fans appreciate retrospectively. Look at legends such as Rick Rude, Jake Roberts and Brian Pillman, all of whom were more appreciated after their careers wrapped up than they were when they were active competitors.
Bayley has earned better than that.