Bayley was the first-ever WWE Women's Triple Crown Champion, the first-ever Grand Slam Champion, and has held six different titles during her time with the company. She got her WWE start late in 2012 after four years wrestling on the indie scene, and all of those aforementioned accomplishments wouldn't have been possible had Bayley tried to have been something that she's not.
She discussed always being herself throughout her wrestling career, as well as reminiscing about her WWE beginnings, when she joined The New Day: Feel the Power.
"So, my tryout was in LA - they had a warehouse out there. It was a three-day tryout, so I hadn't even seen FCW; I hadn't been there. I've only seen it in pictures or short videos. On my first day, I just remember seeing that all the walls were black and it was a little grungy. I liked it. There were three rings, and I was in so much awe," recalled Bayley.
"There were so many people because it was kind of small. We're passing all these people and I was already intimidated. I would say the main thing I realized throughout the years was to be comfortable in your skin and just realizing I didn't have to be this big old diva or model, which was what I was really scared of.
"[The writers] said, 'Wear something presentable' and I bought this dress that I thought was going to get me noticed. They made me go change because I was showing way too much cleavage. I was not me at all. I just thought that's what they wanted."
When Bayley joined WWE late in 2012, the company had not yet had its 'Diva's Revolution'. The company was still hiring models and converting them into Divas, as at that time, they were placing more of an emphasis on looks rather than wrestling ability. Bayley fell victim to WWE's line of thinking at the time and admittedly wasn't herself when she met with WWE.
"I remember them pulling me aside and they're like, 'You need to change. What you're wearing is unacceptable.' I'm like, 'What do you guys want from me?!' I was so unsure of where I was going to fit and how it was going to happen. I was pretty sure I was going to get fired," admitted Bayley.
"In that first month too, AJ [Lee] and Dolph [Ziggler] were on one of our shows. She pulled me aside and gave me this long talk about being myself, meeting the company halfway, and somewhere in the middle you're going to find who you are and how it's going to work. So, that's when I had the whole epiphany of letting me just be me, figure out the best that I can, and wrestle. That was kind of how the transition went.
"It took a long while for me to feel comfortable with being there and not trying to put on a show. Now when I look back, I just wish that I was me from the beginning, because it took a long time. I don't know. I would just say it's been a long trial and error of me just being-- just be yourself and you're going to be okay. If you're not, at least you had fun being you instead of being under pressure and feeling weird this whole time."
The original Bayley character didn't have a bad bone in her body and was this sweet and innocent girl. When WWE presented the idea of that character to Bayley, she was at first skeptical and wasn't sure it would work. But she revealed who was fully supportive of it, and how she took the character and ran with it.
"Everybody always talks about Dusty [Rhodes], but he just had that eye for finding what's special inside for everybody and blowing that up when it wasn't even something I thought could work. One of the first promos he had me do was with Summer [Rae]. It was literally just going up there and talking about Summer Rae - just stare at her and talk about her. So I just started talking about her and putting her over basically, and that was kind of how it came about," said Bayley.
About one year ago, Bayley turned heel for the first time in her career and the "Hugger" Bayley with inflatable tube men was a thing of the past. She talked about that transition and why she felt it was time to make a change.
"I think because I did that whole character for so long, and as much as it was me, it all felt kind of reality with my age, what I was doing with my life, and where I was with my career. I started as a super bubbly babyface; I was in awe to be there. I felt myself growing up from having these championship matches at NXT, to winning the title in Brooklyn, to kind of being the leader of the locker room once Sasha, Charlotte, and Becky got called up. It was a real gradual growth," stated Bayley.
"It took a couple of years but I kept feeling like it was time for a change, and I just didn't want to be the same character for the rest of my career. I had felt like I had more to give. I didn't think they were ever going to give me that chance until I had this random thing where I hit Becky with a chair. The last Hell in a Cell [in 2019], I cried when I lost the title, and I was like, 'I can't come back the same person.' So I really fought for the change and for everything to kind of take my career in a different direction."
Some character changes work and some don't. Bayley's turn is in the former category, but she admits that it was a decision she wrestled with.
"Honestly, it was the scariest but the best decision that I ever made. I'm so happy they allowed me to do that. In the first years of my WWE career, I dedicated it to the fans and gave them – I gave back to the little-kid-me in what I wanted and how I believed in my heroes. I wanted to be that for the kids. I feel like this end of my career is now about me," stated Bayley.
"Now, I'm going to do what I need to do to get to that next level. I can't be down here anymore, I need to get to the next level. In a way, I kind of feel like I don't care about them. I care about me and what I'm going to do to succeed. It kind of just fit perfectly in a crazy pandemic world that we're living in with no fans. It just fit perfectly for me when I shut off the fans. It was like, 'I don't need you guys anymore. I did everything I could.' Now, I need to focus on me, because now, I didn't have to pay attention to them. It was a focus on me because there's nobody in the arenas, just focus on my opponents, my character.
"So it kind of felt like the perfect time, and it worked out for me this year where I could focus in on what I need to do to become a different performer, but also, make sure people see I'm up here."
You can't bring up Bayley without also bringing up Sasha Banks, as the two have been intertwined since their NXT days. They've been the best of friends and twice won the Women's Tag Titles, and also the worst of enemies, as they've had several grudge matches.
Bayley was asked if the two clicked instantaneously, both working together in the ring and being friends outside of it.
"Well actually, as far as our personal friendship, that took longer than anything because we're such different people. When we first had our match, FCW literally threw us in the ring but they gave us five minutes. It was in front of all the coaches, and luckily, none of my peers were here yet. It was just the empty arena but with coaches," recalled Bayley.
"We say this story all the time - it was literally five minutes on the fly to have a match and it was with her. I think that was the best match I ever had. I was on the indies for four-and-a-half years, but I'm pretty sure that was the best match I ever had, and I just couldn't believe we pulled it off in five minutes. I was like, 'Man, she's going to help me get better.' I can friggin' wrestle this girl! She was never out of place. A lot of the girls I worked with, not in a bad way, but I felt like I was better than them already. So I'm like, 'This girl is awesome! She's someone I can push myself with.' But in the ring, we always feel like that.
"We were working matches all the time, whether it was in tag matches or against each other. We had a million dark matches in NXT before we started getting on TV. It took a while for us to realize that we could be friends. I think we were both standoffish with each other - it was weird. I think she didn't want to be my friend or she already had friends there, because she was there before me.
"Once we started learning that we're both dorks who loved wrestling since we were 10 years old, and the way we grew up together, that's when it started being, 'Alright, she's kind of cool.' We kind of found our characters at the same time, so that was very helpful. When we had promos, we could use each other. We can be in each other's promos and help find each other, so, I'm so lucky. I couldn't have done that whole pandemic without anybody else."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The New Day: Feel the Power with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.