On July 19, the WWE announced its draft picks for 2016. Unlike previous years, the picks were divided between two groups: Monday Night Raw, being spearheaded by Stephanie McMahon, and Tuesday's Smackdown! led by her brother Shane. Hoping to draw equal attention to each show, the WWE's existing roster was split, while a handful of other wrestlers were called up from NXT to be made a part of WWE's main lineup.
Call-ups from NXT include Finn Balor, tag team American Alpha, Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, Mojo Rawley, and Carmella. Noticeably absent from this list is Bayley. The high-spirited fan favorite was overlooked in this round of drafting, presumably to remain in NXT for the foreseeable future. There's still a small chance she could make a surprise appearance at an upcoming match, but even if that were the case, overlooking her at the draft seems to be a missed opportunity.
Bayley has been wrestling since 2008, and has been signed with NXT for nearly four years. In that time she has gained a huge fan following, specifically among young girls, and has risen to the top as NXT's Women's Champion (a title she just recently lost to NXT newcomer Asuka).
On a technical level she easily surpasses many of her fellow women wrestlers, and yet she's been relegated to NXT while those around her are called up to the big leagues.
If it was just an issue of skill, there would be more than enough to argue that Bayley deserves her chance on the main roster. What's truly baffling is that WWE is missing out on a prime marketing opportunity.
Like WWE's The New Day, Bayley is an entertaining, fun character who appeals to a broad base and could easily help propel the WWE into its next period of heightened popularity. Given that Raw's viewer rating hit a 20-year low just one month ago, one would think Vince McMahon and company would be seeking out highly marketable talent to help put a little more steam in the flailing show.
Sadly, that was not to be the case. There were six call-ups from NXT, three of whom were women. I'm not saying those wrestlers aren't talented. However, they don't provide the unique branding opportunities that would be readily available with Bayley.
Let's face it: the WWE is notorious for promoting their female wrestlers as "Divas" and amplifying the catty drama between the women on-stage. Yes, over-hyped drama is a typical theme throughout the whole of wrestling, but it seems to be the only type of woman wrestler the WWE knows how to write. The women are tough, sure, but the variances in their personalities are far slimmer than their male counterparts.
What's more, the women dress in incredibly provocative outfits, clearly meant to draw the male gaze, with little concern for how female or kid fans are interpreting these images. With the exception of Becky Lynch, who at least comes out and engages the crowd in an upbeat, exciting way, most of the women wrestlers fit into a specific mold, and are branded to be more appealing to the male fan base than anything else.
It was a big step when the WWE finally changed the outdated (and honestly, somewhat sexist) Divas title to the Women's Championship. This gave hope to fans (especially us women) that the WWE was finally recognizing other facets of their viewership, and were willing to create a show that catered to us as well.
Watch a Bayley match on NXT and see just how positively people respond to her. There are countless pictures of young fans, a large number of them girls, looking incredibly exciting to be meeting their hero.
They dress like her. They promote her, "I'm a hugger" slogan. They genuinely embrace her positive, friendly personality.
Drawing in a larger fan base is surely at the forefront of the WWE management's mind, and yet they're missing a prime opportunity at making use of one of their top talents. Bayley is instantly recognizable. Appearances in the WWE would no doubt be followed by an influx of merchandise sales, making her a profitable investment for the company. More importantly, she would provide WWE fans with a different type of woman wrestler to look up to.
There's nothing wrong with the women currently included in WWE's main lineup. They're great at what they do and they've earned their spots. I'm not arguing that, or saying that they don't deserve to be there. They've cemented their place on the main roster, and they have plenty of fans to back them. It would just be nice to see a new type of personality represented. WWE is missing a prime chance to draw in new fans (specifically women): fans who are either too young to emulate the sexy styling of the current wrestlers, or older fans such as myself who just identify more with the sweet, innocent Bayley than the "legit boss" attitude of Sasha Banks.
Bayley presents a perfect chance for the WWE to branch out into new territory and show fans that they're fully embracing women wrestlers as legitimate athletes and competitors, rather than just eye candy for the male fans. I'm holding out hope that Bayley will be called up to the main lineup soon enough; as it stands though, the WWE has passed up a golden opportunity to make use of one of their most promising and memorably wrestlers.