After years of bearing the brunt of bad booking on the main roster, Bayley reached the pinnacle her WWE career at Money in the Bank 2019 on Sunday, when she successfully cashed in her newly won Money in the Bank briefcase to become the SmackDown women's champion.
There was no telling whether she would recover from her failed feud with Alexa Bliss in 2017, as well as her short-lived reign with the Raw Women's Championship. Despite showing so much potential in NXT, WWE was never able to tap into what made her character click with audiences once she was called up.
By early 2018, Bayley had faded into obscurity and was an afterthought on the Raw roster. Although she and Sasha Banks had a fun run as WWE women's tag team champions, it wasn't until she branched off on her own following the Superstar Shake-up in April that she started to find her footing.
Even upon her arrival on the blue brand, it was unknown how she would fare in a division filled with so much star power. In addition to Ember Moon's move over to SmackDown, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair also remained on the roster, making it difficult for Bayley to break through the proverbial glass ceiling.
Speaking of her fellow Four Horsewomen, Bayley lost to them in singles action on back-to-back episodes of SmackDown. Not only did she look credible in defeat on both occasions, but she also came across as more aggressive than she had in the past.
Her wins in the women's Money in the Bank ladder match on Sunday and against Flair later on in the night were long overdue, and now that she's in possession of the gold, it should be many months before she loses it.
With Lynch officially a full-time member of the Raw roster as of Monday, Bayley should be positioned as the lead female face on Tuesday nights. In order for her to maintain this momentum, however, she must continue to put the Hugger persona aside and stay as serious as she has been lately.
Her win over Flair and Lacey Evans in tag team action alongside Becky Lynch on Tuesday's SmackDown was a step in the right direction. She cut a great, heartfelt promo beforehand that gave viewers a glimpse of what made her such a popular act in NXT.
Her run as Raw women's champion was mostly hurt by how frequently she lost, so WWE should aim to avoid that this time around by booking her to be as dominant as possible.
There are ways to allow her to be the same underdog she's always been without having her feel vulnerable.
For example, she shouldn't be playing second fiddle to Flair. And on that, it would be the wrong call for Bayley to feud with Flair right out of the gate. As excellent as their chemistry is together, Bayley doesn't have much to gain from beating the woman she pinned to win the title from in the first place.
Flair would benefit from taking a step away from the title picture for the time being and possibly joining the tag team ranks. That would all but ensure that Bayley has a lengthy reign as SmackDown women's champion ahead of her.
There are plenty of people in the SmackDown women's division not named Charlotte Flair with whom Bayley could have fun feuds. Mickie James, Liv Morgan and Kairi Sane would all be fresh faces in the title scene, though Ember Moon would probably have the best chance of beating Bayley for the belt eventually.
Before she and Bayley joined forces on Tuesday's SmackDown, Lynch teased going back after her SmackDown women's title at some point. That would be an encounter for the ages if WWE were to save it for a major event such as SummerSlam. But it would also be wise to keep the titles on separate shows for the foreseeable future.
Regardless of the identity of Bayley's first challenger, it's imperative she gets the meaningful title reign she should have received years ago. Then again, given the depth of the division, that will be easier said than done.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.