For a moment there, it was beginning to feel like Bayley was in a John Cena-type purgatory where she simply wasn't allowed to shake free of her goody-two-shoes constraints.
Yet that changed at the start of September when WWE decided to pull the trigger on a heel turn—or what sure looks like it. Bayley aligned with Sasha Banks, the woman who, by the way, recently returned and has been beating the tar out of Natalya while bringing up fun topics such as, say, dead relatives.
Bayley did this by getting a steel chair and repeatedly knocking fan favorite and tweener Becky Lynch senseless.
Tasked with explaining her actions, Bayley brought up the fact that kids look up to her while clumsily trying to walk the same tweener line Lynch has had so much success with over the past year and change.
The word "clumsy" was by design, though. Bayley has been a drag on the mic for a while. It just is what it is—some Superstars, Samoa Joe, for example, were built for having a mic in their hands. Bayley isn't one of those, and that's just fine.
What's key is the removal of this sappy, happy hugger and kid-friendly Superstar who walks down the ramp with inflatables floating behind her and a bigger variety of colors than a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Historically speaking, especially since the shift to PG, Superstars have always had an easier time on the mic and making things believable when they are allowed to have a heel turn or at least walk the tweener line.
And this version of Bayley WWE seems intent on going with (at least for now) is perhaps better than a straight evil turn like Banks has had too. It could be incredibly interesting to watch Bayley attempt to convince herself on a weekly basis that she's still a good guy who is simply defending her best friend, not realizing she's becoming a monster in her own right.
Talk about a dynamic the women's title scene required. Bayley is the rightful champion, but the aw-shucks demeanor and feuds to prove her worth left the whole thing lacking. Fans have seen endless Flair-Lynch fights, Flair-Banks encounters and plenty of Bayley mixed in there too, mostly from the same vantage points while they toss a title around like a hot potato.
Call this exactly what SmackDown needs at the top of the division once the switch to Fox happens in October. Dynamic characters with real motivations who are willing to cross the line are relatable and likely more appealing to the broader audience the show will reel in for the first few weeks. It is simply in the best interest of everyone to trend away from the goofy and to tell some interesting, real stories to sell the whole thing.
Yes, it is a little problematic that the majority of the top women on both rosters are heels or habitual toe-steppers on the line. Banks, Lynch, Charlotte and Alexa all fall into this category. But if it's interesting, so what?
On an optimistic note, the overabundance of heels at the top of the women's division can at least be used for good when they aren't squabbling with each other. WWE can use this to build up an Ember Moon, Ruby Riott or somebody else for the long term, as divisional depth has been a problem.
Even if the top four or five women on the card remain in their little bubble and keep feuding with each other, it's nice to see WWE isn't so risk-averse anymore.
Undoubtedly, Bayley's impact with young fans can't be measured, not even in the merchandise numbers she moves. The fact that WWE is willing to risk this, unlike in the past with stars like Cena, could be a good sign for the future, even if it has nothing to do with Paul Heyman's and Eric Bischoff's control of the weekly programming.
Maybe that's the greater point. This is an amazing development for Bayley and the women's title scene. But it also increases the sense of "anything can happen at any time" WWE has so sorely missed for a long time—and at the perfect time too, considering where SmackDown heads in the fall.
Bayley was the hero WWE needed yet the one fans probably didn't think they were going to get. The fact that it happened is exciting on its own, but the possibilities from here are even more so.