Exclusive: Bayley on Ember Moon Critique, Sasha Banks, Next WWE Feud and More

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2020

Exclusive: Bayley on Ember Moon Critique, Sasha Banks, Next WWE Feud and More

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    Bayley, the longest-reigning SmackDown Women's champion in WWE history, has just begun to scratch the surface.
    Bayley, the longest-reigning SmackDown Women's champion in WWE history, has just begun to scratch the surface.Credit: WWE.com

    For almost 300 days, Bayley has ruled the WWE SmackDown women's division as its champion and is still in possession of the gold coming off her successful title defense against Nikki Cross on Friday's SmackDown.

    Having beaten the Scot twice since Extreme Rules, she and Sasha Banks remain the most dominant force in WWE.

    With all of the women's gold in their possession (except for the NXT Women's Championship), the duo don't see anyone posing a legitimate threat to them from Raw, SmackDown or NXT. Additionally, they have arguably been the best thing going during the empty-arena era of WWE and made the most of the circumstances better than anyone.

    While they are guaranteed to go one-on-one at some point, it doesn't look like a breakup is imminent. Rather, they are enjoying their time together while they have it and look forward to elevating the women's division as much as possible.

    Their booking and constant TV time has been a point of contention for some, with fellow SmackDown Superstar Ember Moon going so far as to criticize the company's decision to put all its eggs in the Bayley-Banks basket. Despite that, they have been one of the bright spots on the blue brand this year and continue to make everything they are involved in must-see.

    In a phone interview conducted on Thursday, Bayley reflected on her historic reign as champion and discussed embracing the dark side, Banks bringing out the best of her, Moon's recent comments regarding her domination of the women's division and more.

Who's Left for Her to Face? What's Left for Her to Accomplish?

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    After knocking off Nikki Cross (again) on SmackDown, there aren't many women waiting in the wings to challenge her on the blue brand she hasn't already beaten before.

    Alexa Bliss, Carmella, Dana Brooke, Naomi, Tamina and Lacey Evans have all fallen short against The Role Model this past year.

    Her storyline with Sasha Banks would seem to suggest one will turn on the other eventually and lead to them clashing for the title, but at the rate things are going, that highly anticipated bout likely won't be happening anytime soon.

    Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville are the only two women on SmackDown who have not fought Bayley for the brand's title. Outside of SmackDown, the titleholder has her sights set on facing Raw's Liv Morgan.

    "Even though it's Raw, I would love to have Liv Morgan come over," she said. "I don't know how many times I have to say Liv Morgan and have her come to SmackDown. Mandy Rose and Sonya would be awesome. Even anyone in the NXT crowd. We've got the NXT crowd out there. Some of the girls watching us every week, I'd love to welcome them into the ring just to keep my skills sharp."

    As for what more Bayley wants to accomplish in WWE, one would assume there isn't a lot left on the list. She's the company's first-ever female Grand Slam champion and a former Money in the Bank winner, yet her pursuit of greatness is far from over.

    "I've never won a Royal Rumble match," Bayley said. "I would love to main-event WrestleMania. Sasha and I haven't had as many tag title matches as we'd like to have. I would love to have the tag titles represented on WrestleMania or SummerSlam as one of the marquee matches. I'd like to build up those tag titles because I think they're going to be very important, now and in the future, for women coming in.

    "Honestly, I want to just keep getting better and better and be one of the top stars in WWE as the years go on."

Responding to Ember Moon's Criticism That She and Sasha Are Hoarding the Gold

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    While Bayley and Sasha Banks have done some stellar character work during this empty-arena era at the WWE Performance Center, not everyone is in agreement with the decision for them to hold all the gold.

    Ember Moon, who has been out injured with an Achilles tear since September, was very vocal during a recent Twitch stream about the ending to the Raw Women's Championship match on Monday's Raw. Although she praised the duo for a doing a great job with a limited roster, she said that "there are too many people sitting at home to tie up all the titles with two people."

    In response to those comments, Bayley feels she can relate to where Moon is coming from.

    "That's my first time hearing it, but I can understand the frustration on the outside," she said. "Number one, Ember Moon's not even there and seeing everything going on. She knows how good we are, she's been in the ring with us, she's teamed with us. But someone's got to do it. If not us, then who?"

    Of course, Bayley and Banks are the wrong people to be directing blame at, as they are merely taking the opportunity to be the best and making the most of it. It's imperative WWE builds up more talent outside of the Four Horsewomen. But for now, at least they're holding up their end of the bargain.

    "Somebody's got to take control of this division," Bayley added. "Someone's got to take control of the company because no one's stepping up to the plate, and Sasha and I have been up to bat for years and years and years. We're knocking it out of the park. Sorry, Ember Moon, but if you want to do something about it, come do something about it."

    Had there been fans in attendance at WrestlleMania 36 and had the pandemic not struck, it's possible WWE would have gone ahead with splitting up Bayley and Banks months ago.

    However, The Role Model doesn't believe the circumstances have had anything to do with their recent success and that things would have unfolded the same no matter what.

    "I don't know why it makes a difference if there's fans or not," she said. "If anything, it's only harder without the fans, so honestly, I think we're just on a different wavelength than everybody else right now.

    "We just think so much differently and we're taking advantage of everybody slacking because of the pandemic era or the PC era, whatever everyone's calling it. We're picking up everyone's slack, and now we're reaping all the benefits."

Working Extensively with Sasha Banks and Her Other Favorite Opponents

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    Since Bayley's move to the main roster in August 2016, she and Sasha Banks have practically been inseparable.

    Interestingly enough, WWE has teased them turning on each other several times in the past four years, but nothing has yet come from it. Instead, they have almost always been slotted on the same show and in the same storylines, usually side-by-side.

    Their friendship is every bit as strong off screen as it is on screen. They have been incredibly close since their early days in NXT, and having a best friend by her side like Banks has made life on the road infinitely more enjoyable for Bayley.

    "She inspires me and pushes me to be better professionally," The Role Model said. "She's always constantly trying to reinvent herself and constantly trying to have the best match, which makes me want to have a better match or just as good. We always want to give 110 percent.

    "If I'm not feeling well or feeling like crap, she's there to lift me up. It's great to have your best friend by your side. Taking wrestling out, we're able to talk to each other about our lives and stuff like that."

    Bayley added that her least favorite thing about traveling with The Legit Boss is how early she gets up in the morning. They're polar opposites in that respect, as she would rather rest and recuperate after a rough night in the ring.

    "When we travel, we share rooms together, and she's an early bird," she said. "She's a '6 a.m., let's wake up, let's work out' [type of person], and I'm like, 'No. Let's relax and ease into the morning because I'm freaking sore.'"

    It's no secret Bayley considers Banks to be her favorite opponent because of the amazing matches they had together in NXT, but when asked about who else would be in that elite group of competitors, she didn't hesitate to mention Asuka.

    "Asuka is probably everybody's favorite," Bayley said. "She's unbelievable. Even though we have to whoop her from time to time, we have to put her in her place and her friend, Kairi Sane, she's just the most consistent. She's been wrestling for so long. She's a mother.

    "She never has a bad match. She's a different animal, and [I'm] lucky to have been in the ring with her. She's probably my other favorite. The toughest or the hardest is definitely Nia Jax."

Comparisons to 2-Man Power Trip and D-Generation X

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    Bayley and Sasha Banks are officially the most decorated female pairing in WWE history coming off Monday's Raw.

    In addition to being SmackDown women's champion for the better part of the past 18 months, Bayley joined Banks in securing their second WWE Women's Tag Team Championship on June 5. Thus, The Boss regaining the Raw Women's Championship from Asuka was only inevitable.

    When asked how she and Banks celebrated her huge title victory, Bayley said: "We ran around the Performance Center like wild animals, yelling at everybody. And then we go up in the locker room and take a deep breath and kind of lay on the floor because, wow, we have been working hard every freaking show. Maybe celebrate with some red wine and then we relax."

    With the win, Banks and Bayley are essentially the modern-day Power Trip a la "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Triple H in 2001. It wasn't until The Role Model was tagged in tweets about it on Twitter that she was aware of the similarities between the two teams.

    "Obviously, I was a huge fan of The Two-Man Power Trip," she said. "They're two of the greatest separately, but when they were together, because they had fought against each other so many times in the past, seeing them together was something unbelievable.

    "I was actually there when Triple H tore his quad in the ring. I was there as a fan, so it's really cool to know now that we're doing it and we are the first women's duo to be holding all the gold."

    Fans have also drawn comparisons between Bayley and Banks and D-Generation X's Triple H and Shawn Michaels for their over-the-top mannerisms and brash personalities, although the SmackDown women's champion likes to look at it as being a cool coincidence.

    "I can totally see that," she said. "To be honest, I'm not good at reading my Twitter anymore, so I don't really see many things, but I think that's cool.

    "I don't like to be compared to other people because I want to be the first us, but I think little splashes of Triple H and Stone Cold or splashes of Triple H and Shawn Michaels or Trish [Stratus] and Lita makes us, with a big old splash of our own personality, our own characteristics and our own everything."

Taking a Risk with Turning Heel and How It Came About

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    Considering how beloved Bayley was during her time in NXT, it would have been malpractice for WWE to turn her heel while with that brand. She was a natural underdog, connected with the crowds exceptionally well and seemed to sell plenty of merchandise.

    She went on to work as a face for her first three years on the main roster but unfortunately floundered in the role, largely for reasons beyond her control. That led her to betraying the audience in a shocking turn of events last fall and developing an all-new side to her character.

    Bayley contemplated turning heel as early as her run in NXT but decided it wasn't necessary until much later into her career.

    "I always wanted to test myself in different areas," she said "I felt like I was the same person, the same character for seven years, and I always wanted to try everything.

    "I didn't want to do the same thing over and over and react the same way and look the same way, though I love that people can dress up like it with toys and video games and all that stuff. I felt if I were to end my career doing the same thing, I would've missed out on things.

    "It was always in the back of my head that I would love to look completely different and throw everyone upside down, like, 'What the hell?'

    "I thought about it in NXT, and obviously it went away, didn't need it. Maybe a couple of years into being on Raw and SmackDown [I thought about doing it]. I'm loving it. At first, I was a little scared thinking, 'OK. I've made a huge mistake.' But I'm having so much fun with it. The same with the past Hugger character to now. I think I could throw a lot of my own personality into both of those."

    The Role Model also made the conscious decision to cut her signature ponytail soon after going rogue to signify her change in character, something that had been on her mind for at least a year before she went through with it.

    "The reason I did the ponytail was because all the girls had extensions, they all had their hair dyed," Bayley said. "I was like, 'I don't want to keep up with that, and I don't even know how to do my hair.' I'm such a tomboy that I don't even know how to do my own hair, so let me just throw it in a side ponytail and that was easy for me.

    "It's kind of the same thing now. I don't want to get extensions. I don't want to dye my hair to stand out. No one has short hair because everyone's afraid of short hair, so let me just chop mine off."

    WWE even had new entrance music made for Bayley upon her heel turn, replacing the upbeat tune that previously accompanied her to the ring. However, the dream for The Role Model remains getting Hayley Williams of Paramore, her favorite band, to perform her song at WrestleMania.

    "I don't know how many times I have to ask, but I actually joined one of their Instagram Lives and asked Hayley," she said. "She kind of misunderstood me. She thought I wanted to use the song, but I need her to know that I want her to perform the song. Hopefully when all of this is done, we can work that out. That would be a dream come true."

Where Her Current Run Ranks Among Her Favorites

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    It wouldn't be a stretch to say Bayley is doing some of the best work of her entire career right now.

    The only portion of her WWE tenure that comes close to topping this heel run alongside Sasha Banks is her time spent atop NXT five years ago, starting with her series of matches against The Boss. It was those wins that solidified her as a star and kicked off her excellent reign as NXT women's champion.

    On the subject of the black-and-gold brand, she said: "NXT was such a special time. I've been looking at a lot of old pictures from the end of 2015 to all of 2016 and my time with those NXT people, our roster, our locker room and traveling were unbelievable times. But maybe it was more fulfilling personally. More professionally, right now, this has to be my favorite."

    She was called up to WWE's main roster in August 2016 and had won the Raw Women's Championship by the following February. She had a solid stint on the red brand for nearly three years, but the former Hugger didn't come into her own until arriving on SmackDown in the 2019 Superstar Shake-Up.

    "I love SmackDown, and I loved SmackDown the second I got drafted over," Bayley said about her bond with the blue brand. "I felt like I was going to a new school and I was by myself, and Sasha wasn't there at the time. I was really afraid, but it just has a different feel, and I've been lucky to lead the locker room for this long."

    The self-proclaimed locker-room leader of SmackDown has shown no signs of slowing down, and with yet another victory over Nikki Cross to her credit following the events of Friday's SmackDown, there's no telling what she will have in store next.

                                 

    Watch Bayley and the rest of the SmackDown Superstars in action every Friday night at 8/7c, only on Fox.

           

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.