One of the most popular wrestlers in WWE’s developmental branch NXT, Bayley is the current women’s champion of that organisation and will be appearing in the UK next month as a key member of NXT’s first international tour.
The 26-year-old has established an incredible rapport with her fans, and memorably won her title last August against Sasha Banks in front of over 13,000 fans at the Barclays Center in New York.
Ahead of a busy December which includes a scheduled match at Wembley Arena for NXT TakeOver: London, Bayley spoke to The Independent about all things wrestling.
First things first, just how are you feeling ahead of NXT’s tour of the UK next month?
I’m really excited, I was just there with the main roster doing the European tour and I had the best time ever. I’m especially excited to go with NXT because I’m with all my friends here and it will be great for them to experience what I got to as well.
I think it’s going to be amazing, our European fans have always been so loyal and I realised that during Wrestlemania weekend because they all fly over and it’s so great to have the support from them. They’re some of our most loyal and hardcore fans.
Do you feel more pressure this time around because NXT are the headline act rather than WWE?
I wouldn’t say there is added pressure because in NXT we always feel that we need to bring it and step it up because we want to outshine everyone. Last time there was an amazing atmosphere as the crowds were so passionate.
As soon as we got in the ring there they started chanting NXT, so we’re ready to take on the challenge especially because the fans want to see us as a brand. We’re not going to let them down and we will give them a great show.
How did you enjoy your time over here last time, did you manage to see anything of interest?
I really enjoyed it, and I explored as much as I could last time. It’s so beautiful there, although I was a little bit cold walking around! I tried to see some landmarks, when I was in Liverpool I went to the Beatles museum. We were really busy, but we also saw the Nottingham Castle and lot’s of different stuff. I’m a huge coffee nerd so I went to a lot of different coffee spots as well.
I have to ask then, in your opinion what makes the perfect cup of coffee?
When I was younger I just wanted it really sweet, but now I’m a little bit older if I can just have a black coffee and it’s super smooth and crisp, then I love that. If the coffee can taste so good with nothing else in it, then that’s a good cup of coffee.
While the NXT fans are incredibly passionate especially at your base at Full Sail University, there have been some voices in wrestling - including Mick Foley - who have felt that they distract from the overall product. As someone who is adored by the NXT audience, do you agree with those thoughts?
I haven’t read any articles about that, but I don’t know if there is such a thing that fans can get involved too much. They’re a lot louder nowadays but I think that’s because they see us every month so they know us and we have a cool bond and get to see the fans after shows.
They’re just a little extra excited these days because they know us so well.Wherever we go, NXT fans are extremely loud and it’s not like a normal WWE live event. Also, NXT is going to places for the first time and it’s the first chance for the fans to see us.
There was also the case with Eva Marie where the fans were very rude to her on NXT, beyond the point of treating a heel character with disdain. Do you think the fans respect all talent?
I think fans are like that all over the world. We’re in the public eye and people are going to criticise no matter what and say what they want to say about us. If they want to boo Eva then that’s great, she can have more to feed off. I don’t know if it’s a personal thing where they don’t really respect her, but she’s doing her job.
How has life changed for you personally since you finally became NXT Women’s Champion?
I’ve noticed a change in things like doing more interviews and more people wanting to talk to me because i’m the champion. I’m at the forefront of the NXT women’s division and it’s really humbling to think that I’m not just a part of this new era, but that I’m the leader of it.
Even at the WWE Performance Center, I’ve noticed a lot of people coming to me for advice, and I take a leadership role now as the champion and as somebody who has been in the locker room the longest. It’s a huge responsibility to work with these newer girls and try to help them, while also keeping the division strong and the same thing that the NXT fans fell in love with.
It’s a challenge and it’s a lot of fun, so I’m very proud to be a part of it.
Although you’re very successful in NXT, you must look at your friends and former foes who are now on the main WWE roster and want to be involved in that mix?
I definitely want to be a part of it but I’m not in any rush right now. NXT is so huge and we’re already doing something very special here, so if I was on the main roster right now I’d feel that I was missing out with what’s going on in NXT.
We have Asuka, Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Carmella and all these girls who are just waiting to change the division even more than it already has. They’re going to take it to a different level so selfishly I still want to be part of that.
I’m glad I still get to be here and experience it with them but ultimately I want to join Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch in WWE. What they’re doing right now is amazing and I know how much it means to them. I’m super proud of them and everything they’re going through to change women’s wrestling.
How big do you think NXT can grow to?
I’ve been saying this a lot recently, I always think we can’t get any better, I mean we’re going to be at Wembley Arena for NXT:Takeover in London and I’m going to think it can’t get bigger, but something next year is going to happen that is even bigger and then something else will as well!
It’s just going to keep growing and I don’t know if there are any limits to NXT. We keep getting more and more fans and everyone is so driven here. We’re not going to stop.
Finally, you’re known as a hugely approachable star and always have a lot of time for your fans. What is your main advice for anybody who wants to succeed in life like you have?
It always sounds so cheesy when I say it, but whatever it is you want to do, just go for it. I don’t care what it is, find a reputable school or if you need to go to college or get the right training, just go do it and take little steps.
Don’t feel like you have to get to it right away or give yourself deadlines like ‘I need to be this by the time I’m 25’. It’s going to get stressful and there will be times when you doubt yourself, but keep going, keep moving forward and it’ll happen for you if you keep fighting for it.
The NXT UK TakeOver Tour will be arriving this December with tickets on sale now at
WWE NXT comes to the UK for the first time on the UK TakeOver Tour on the following dates:
December 10th: Newcastle, England
December 11th: Glasgow, Scotland
December 12th: Sheffield, England
December 13th: Blackpool, England
December 14th: Nottingham, England
December 15th: Cardiff, Wales
December 16th: London, England
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