Over the last year-and-a-half, Bayley has become spiritually linked to the WWE SmackDown Women's Championship over two reigns that have a combined length of over 500 Days.
As Bayley prepares to step inside Hell in a Cell with her former best friend, Sasha Banks, she reflected on her year-and-a-half in the SmackDown Women's Championship picture and how her on-screen character changes reflect her real-life desire for change and a necessity for evolution in order to continue to further the growth and progression of WWE's women's division while advancing her own career.
On WWE Chronicle, Bayley looked back on the night it all began, WWE Money in the Bank 2019, revealing that for her, this time with the championship, despite the brief separation between title reigns, feels like one long Money in the Bank victory that she won't truly be able to soak in until it's all come to an end.
“When I look back on it, that's when it's really going to hit me. But when you're in the midst of it all, it's kind of hard,” Bayley admitted. “When I first won the SmackDown title at Money in the Bank, I ran it through all the fans. That was one of those special moments that I would never, ever, ever forget. Like, that stuff is like real-life stuff that you can't get anywhere else,” said Bayley.
“Winning Money in the Bank is a big deal for anybody, winning a championship is a big deal for anybody doing this and then. For a kid like me able to do it all in one night, it was so, so cool. That whole night was a big freaking night. This is one of those things that feels like a long 500-day Money in the Bank night where I'm going to go back one day when I get to my hotel room when it's all over, and just break down, like a complete [exhales] that I did that. But I just hope that I can keep continuing to surprise everyone, surprise myself, and do cool things.”
Bayley would briefly lose the SmackDown Women's Championship at Hell in a Cell 2019 leading to a rematch on the October 11, 2019 episode of SmackDown. This moment would go down in history as the day that Bayley officially cut ties with her former “hugger” self.
Bayley explained that she felt this change was a necessary move that opened a path for the growth of her on-screen character, a character that better represents who she is in her personal life today. While she would admit that she was concerned about how the drastic change would be received, Bayley wanted to show a large audience that growth and change are a part of life and can be beneficial.
“It was like a part of me growing up, it is like, you know, I was like 30 years old and still going around looking like a 12-year-old,” said Bayley. “Not that I had any problem with it because I had fun, but it was time to evolve. It really was like growing up and cutting part of my childhood and just like moving on. I wasn't expecting that message to get across, but like it's okay to move on and to grow up and to evolve. It's okay to change. I guess this was like a way of doing it and kind of being able to match my style in the ring and kind of being able to grow up in front of the audience.”
She continued, “I literally grew up in front of them for the past eight years as a person. What they see is really me. Cutting my hair literally felt like shedding old, dead skin off, and it's crazy. I didn't know how powerful it would feel. It was symbolic, you know? Being able to slice all that stuff, being able to chop off my hair and just finally evolve into what I've been holding off for so long and what I've been trying to shut down and trying to shut up. Now, I was just trying to please myself.”
So much of Bayley’s career is linked to her Hell in a Cell opponent, Sasha Banks. From co-headlining NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn in 2015 to becoming the first WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions at Elimination Chamber in 2019, for better or worse, Bayley and Sasha are linked together forever.
For Bayley, she knows that Sasha's impact on her life is irreplaceable, but she feels ready to genuinely strike out on her own, saying that she needs to find closure in her on-screen relationship with Sasha because after that, maybe, her career can truly begin.
“Since the moment we stepped into the ring together, it was like we found each other and I've never felt like that with anybody in the ring ever,” said Bayley. “You hear a couple say, 'love at first sight.' It was like that's what it was and inside of the wrestling ring, it was like my wrestling soul was found. She grew up the same way as me, just loving wrestling, and I couldn't believe there's another girl who loved wrestling as much as me because I used to get made fun of all the time for it. We leaned on each other and for a long time, I needed her. When I finally got on the road, she was there holding my hand, guiding me, helping me book my cars, helping me book my hotel, showing me all the discount codes, all that stuff. These days, I don't want anyone's help. I don't need anyone to hold my hand anymore. As much as I love her for it and as much as I'm grateful for it, it is really time for me to prove that I can do this by myself.
“I don't want to look back at my career and be like, ‘Bayley needed Sasha Banks,’ or ‘Bayley would have been nothing without Sasha Banks,’ [or] ‘Bayley's never had a good match without Sasha.’ I just don't want that hanging over my head forever. So it really is like evolving, getting my wings, and finally, just being like, ‘I love you, but I don't need you anymore. Thank you very much. It's time to move on.’”
Bayley and Sasha will move on. They will move on to Hell in a Cell on October 25 where they will meet inside of the namesake structure in only the third women's match to ever take place inside of "The Devil's Playground." Bayley knows that Sasha has the experience advantage, having been in the previous two women’s Hell in a Cell matches, but she wants to make sure that this is the best one of the trio.
“Hell in a Cell is freakin' huge. I remember seeing those as a kid on TV and just being in awe of what it was, I've never been inside Hell in a Cell, but I've always wanted to [be inside the cage]. I'm not too scared just yet,” Bayley admitted. “That's just another thing I can mark off, you know, my little list that I've been able to do. The Iron Man Match, Elimination Chamber matches, a Kendo Stick Match, all this weird stuff, but Hell in a Cell is a big one. There's only been two others in the women's division and [Sasha Banks] has been in both of them.”
She continued, “I want this to be the best one, and it's going to be the best one. I don't care where it is on the show. I don't care if it's the opening match, the main event, the third match, the fourth match. I don't care where it is. It's going to be the best Hell in a Cell. She's just going to lose again, so that kind of sucks. She should probably stop doing them.”
Whether or not Bayley wins her debut inside Hell in a Cell remains to be seen, but win, lose, or draw, Bayley has set her sights on her next evolution and the spotlight is centered solely on her this time.
Fightful will have live coverage of WWE Hell in a Cell beginning tonight at 7 p.m. ET.
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