Bayley has been a significant part of NXT since 2013 and she’s undoubtedly one of the most popular names in NXT history. Fans have gotten behind her and watched her remarkable journey as the lovable underdog that had her sights set on the NXT Women’s Championship. That dream became a reality on August 22nd at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn when she won the championship for the first time from Sasha Banks, the biggest and most special moment of her career. I spoke with Bayley about finally winning the big one, being a role model, her start on NXT and more.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the breaking news this week that Bayley will defend the NXT Women’s Championship in the main event of NXT TakeOver on October 7th.
You have come up through NXT and much of that has been performing at Full Sail, as well as at armories for the live events. However, the biggest match of your career took place in a massive sold out arena. What was the feeling like to win the NXT Women’s Championship in that kind of a setting?
Going into the match, I thought I was going to be so nervous. The thought of performing in front of that many people freaked me out. But once I got out there, I realized that it was a million times easier because there’s just so much more energy and so much more noise. It helps the match a lot. It turned away all those nerves and just turned it into excitement. I really do love shows in small, intimate settings like Full Sail and the armories and stuff, but there’s really no feeling like being in front of almost sixteen thousand people. Now I just want to do that every week.
A lot of people have been talking about you, Sasha, Becky and Charlotte having an honest moment after the match with an emotional celebration in the ring, despite having just portrayed the story of good versus bad throughout the match. What did it mean to you?
It was really cool and I feel like that was a defining moment in our careers, all four of us. I feel like it’s something a lot of the fans wanted to see because they’ve seen all four of us grow up together in the past couple years. They know how hard we all worked together and what we’ve done for the division. They’ve all seen us grow separately and go our own ways. They saw Sasha and Charlotte win championships and everything. Storylines aside and everything, I know it meant the world to us because we’ve all seen each other training every day and working for the same goal. We all know how important every championship match is, especially that one. We knew that all four of us together, including the other Divas, all of us worked to get to that match where it was Sasha versus myself. If it wasn’t for Becky and Charlotte and everybody else that works hard in the division, we wouldn’t have been able to be in that spot. To us, it was all four of us together until who knows how long. They’re all doing their thing, they’re all busy on RAW and Smackdown. I’m holding it down in NXT, so who knows the next time we’ll all get to be in a ring together. And it was just respect, regardless of how we feel about each other, problems in the past. I think I finally gained Sasha Banks’s respect and showed her that I’m not just giving out high-fives and stuff, I want to take the division as far as she does. It was a really cool moment, personally and professionally. I think that’s what the fans remember most.
What did you think of Stone Cold Steve Austin addressing the match and showing his appreciation on his podcast?
It was really cool. I just listened to it actually. In the past, he’s been a fan of our matches. After the fatal four way, he started following me on Twitter. I was going crazy! Then I started to notice he does watch NXT and he appreciated the women’s matches specifically. So I knew he was a fan, but when I heard that he was gonna review our match, I listened to it and I couldn’t believe how much thought and time he took to talk about our match. He was saying nothing but good things. He was watching it as he was talking about it on the podcast. He called us both stars and he said that match is professional wrestling. There’s no higher compliment that we can get. If we can impress Stone Cold, I feel like we can do anything. It’s the best!
Your character has been over two years in the making and there’s been a lot of growth throughout that time. Those who have followed that journey has gotten behind you and as a result, you are undoubtedly one of the most popular names in NXT history. With that said, it’s very interesting to see that your fanbase runs through both sides of the spectrum, from little girls to adult males.
I was actually just talking about this recently with one of my friends and my dad. I see all these little girls who are dressing up like me and it’s amazing. That used to be me, I was dressing up like Lita or whoever it was that I loved that time. And then I see a grown man in an “I’m A Hugger” shirt and he’s proudly wearing it. I have the moms come up to me and thank me for inspiring their kids. And there’s support from teenagers and stuff. I’m really noticing different varieties of fans that I’m getting whether it’s because they want to cheer for me or be like me or they’re just thankful for me because their kid has a role model. But I think my favorite is a grown man in a Hugger shirt. (laughs) It’s really cool. I never thought that I’d have such an impact in such a short amount of time. I’m happy and excited to see how much bigger it can get.
How do you feel about all the artwork that you’ve received from fans?
I love all the artwork. I think people just have a lot of fun drawing me because I wear a lot of bright colors and they can do the headband and the side pony and they can do little dinosaurs and robots or whatever on the side. They make really cool stuff of me. I have a lot of posters and pictures that people have given me that I keep in my apartment and in my room and stuff. And now we’re getting a lot with the Four Horsewomen. I love seeing how much time fans put into showing us their appreciation.
Back in 2013, who was it that helped you to shape and mold the character?
Dusty, The American Dream. Since we had promo classes every week, he was seeing the material I was coming up with and the ideas I had. Every week he was like “Oh you should do this. You should start out with the yearbook and have all these pictures of the Divas and the Superstars. Just have them come out and sign it!” So much material and so much knowledge. He just kept telling me “Just reach back to when you were actually eleven years old or twelve years old as a fan. Just bring that out of you.” Once he said that, it was so easy because this is literally how I was when I was ten or twelve years old. In my first match as Bayley against Alicia Fox, I put my hair in a side ponytail. But if you watch it back, once I got in the ring, I took it out. I was like “Well I need to have my hair down. This is a wrestling match.” I normally had my hair down for matches. When I got to the back, the first person waiting there was Dusty. And he said “Why did you take your hair out?” “Because I don’t want it to get messed up.” I didn’t want it to get all crazy. He was like “You wear a ponytail forever now. You go out there with the ponytail, you wrestle with the ponytail. I don’t care how it looks when you get back, that’s your thing.” And I was like “Okay, cool.” So then I always wore the ponytail and I was so happy he gave me that word of advice.
How was the name Bayley decided upon?
It was one of my choices. There was a small list of names and Bayley was one of them, but it was spelled the other way. B-a-i-l-e-y. So I asked them if it was possible that we could change it to B-a-y-l-e-y. I wanted it to mean something to me, not just a random name. I’m from the Bay Area and so I asked them to spell it that way. I had to wait I think another week to make sure it was clear with legal and stuff. But yeah, they were able to spell it that way and it represents something.
What is your opinion of your current entrance theme?
I really like it. I really liked my old song. I’ll be honest, when I got this new song, I wasn’t a huge fan of it. I started listening to it more and more. I started playing it over my song as I would watch my matches on my laptop. I would watch myself come out with the new music and I started really liking it. That’s when I thought it could be cool. When it played for the first time at Takeover, it just seemed like people really got with it right away. They started clapping and going with the beat. Because of that, I knew it was going to be good. Now I really like it, it just seems like one of those fun songs that could always put me in a good mood.
I saw photos on Twitter this year of a very notable and unique match at a live event, it was you and Sami Zayn against Sasha Banks and Tyler Breeze. What was that night like for you?
That was so cool. Being a longtime fan and growing up on the independents, Sami Zayn was somebody that I always looked up to. You can’t deny how amazing he is. Tyler Breeze, my boyfriend knew him from back in Canada. So he was someone that I always knew about. And Sasha Banks is my favorite opponent ever. I was in the ring with three of the best wrestlers and three of my favorite people. To team with Sami Zayn and seeing him come out with a Hugger shirt, it was just so cool. And it was the main event, which I felt honored about. I was also honored to be in a match with Tyler Breeze and Sami Zayn. It was so good all around. I wish we could do that more often.
Touching briefly on music, what might one find on your iPod?
I listen to a lot of Paramore. I grew up loving them and I hope I can meet Hayley Williams someday because she’s my favorite! I’m into all kinds of rock. I started listening to country recently, but I don’t know any of the names or anything. I’m into Taking Back Sunday. There’s this band called Pierce The Veil, I used to listen to them in high school and go to all their shows. They’ve actually gotten bigger throughout the years. That’s pretty much it right now.
Before we wrap up, who do you feel will be the next breakout star on NXT?
Jason Jordan and Chad Gable, who are just getting started in the tag team division. Jason Jordan’s been a hidden gem for a while, so I’m glad he’s finally got something going. And Chad Gable is just amazing, he has so much charisma and he can move like nobody else in the ring. Riddick Moss and Elias Samson have so much potential and I hope they get their opportunity soon because they’re working so hard. In my opinion, they’re so good. Some of the Divas too. I feel like Carmella is gonna be a huge star one day. We have girls such as Peyton Royce and Billie Kay. I think there’s going to be a lot of stars soon, even within the next six months.
In closing, how do you feel about going into the next TakeOver as the champion, rather than your familiar role as the underdog and challenger?
I feel more pressure now than I felt before at the last TakeOver because now that I’m the champion, I’m the frontwoman. I’m holding the torch and I’m the target now. I need to be twice as prepared as I was before I was the champion. I want to show the world that it’s wasn’t a fluke. This is something that I’m going to hold onto for a long time with pride. This is my legacy now and it’s time for me to write my story.
I look forward to seeing where it all takes you. I’d love to thank you so much for your time and an insightful interview.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.