Worth the Wait: Bayley, Dakota, and Iyo Usher in a New Women’s Division

Becky's nice again, but Bayley's mean streak is here to stay

SummerSlam marked the first premium live event under the watchful eye of Triple H, with Vince McMahon kicked to the curb faster than you can say “multiple pending lawsuits.” With a whirlwind of company developments churning behind the scenes, the prospect of a HHH-lead WWE was already enticing. His tenure running NXT is regarded as a company high, and general fan reaction towards him tends to skew a bit more positive than the guy who just stepped down because of all the harassment and hush-money allegations.

Vince had taken over control of NXT nearly a year ago, which potentially lead to some of Triple H’s hires being released not long after. It also lead to some very bizarro booking, as NXT 2.0 went in a decidedly different direction than Hunter’s black and gold brand, and the former Cerebral Assassin seemingly exited his creative role.

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No one’s ever gone for good in wrestling, and that includes Trips’ role in WWE creative. Stepping back into his role as EVP of Talent Relations and taking on the new position of Head of Creative, The Game is poised to lead WWE into a brand new era, and (as of right now, with the knowledge that they could mess this up at literally any second) I’m very much looking forward to it.

The SummerSlam

SummerSlam was a very solid show overall, from the opening women’s match right down to Brock Lesnar overturning the ring with a tractor. There were a few dull spots (I can’t find it in me to worry about Dom turning on his dad anymore), but the night started off with a bang, and for me personally, the Raw Women’s Championship match predicted very good things for future Triple H productions.

For one, Becky and Bianca continue to put on classics together, turning out another excellent performance here. There were some very near falls here that felt like Lynch would actually make it happen, but Belair was able to kick out of the Manhandle Slam to land her KOD. The two women shook hands after the match, more respect than we’ve seen from Big Time Becks in a long time.

Bayley Dakota Kai Iyo Sky

While Belair celebrated in the ring, Bayley came out to spoil the fun — we haven’t seen the former Role Model in well over a year, after she was put on the shelf with a town ACL. Bayley’s triumphant return at the biggest party of the summer echoes Becky’s similar appearance at last year’s SummerSlam — but Bayley didn’t show up alone. As she confronted Belair in the ring, she was joined by Dakota Kai and IYO SKY (formerly Io Shirai, a rather inoffensive name change for her main roster debut, even if the caps feels a bit on the nose). Lynch entered the ring to back up Bianca, officially making her a Good Guy once more, as Bayley and her crew stood down.

Bayley’s return was a surprise, but seeing Kai (who was released from the company back in April) and Sky join her was a shock. Both Dakota and Io had been fixtures under Triple H’s helm in the black and gold era, frequently featuring in the main event and holding the NXT Tag Team Championships (although, not with each other). Seeing both women brought up to the main roster — and even back to the company, in Kai’s case — seemed a clear sign that we’re about to see a very different women’s division.

A New Women’s Division

Sure enough, Raw devoted a significant portion of Monday night’s show to establishing this new stable. The show kicked off with Becky cutting a promo on how Bianca helped reminder her who she was — not the entitled mullet wannabe with the terrifying CGI head, but The Man. She also mentioned the shoulder injury she suffered at SummerSlam, which presumably will keep her out of action for a bit of time.

After Becky went full face and invited Belair out to cut a promo of her own, similarly propping up her SummerSlam opponent, Lynch was jumped backstage by the Bayley, Kai, and Sky faction. Bianca ran out to save her (in four inch heels, I might add) but the trio was undeterred.

This luckily served two purposes; to send Lynch away for an indefinite amount of time, and to let us watch Iyo laugh uproariously for several minutes. The group sauntered off for a brief interview and a short interaction with the Usos — can’t remember the last time random men and women just acknowledged each other back stage? — before Sky went one on one with Bianca later in the night.

Bianca Belair Asuka Alexa Bliss WWE

This marked three full segments — two matches and two backstage interviews — dedicated to the same women’s storyline. What a time to be alive. Sky and Belair had a very solid match, although you could have guessed the outcome going into this one. Belair was poised to make the baby face comeback when Bayley and Dakota blocked her from returning to the ring. Asuka and Alexa Bliss (also victims of the group’s attack earlier in the night) came down to even the odds, an interesting but welcome choice of new allies for Belair.

Naturally, this lead to all six women duking it out in the ring when Bliss and Asuka prevented Iyo from scoring a pin with her feet on the ropes. A no-contest here isn’t surprising, as neither woman could really take the loss right now, and this gives Asuka and Bliss something concrete to do. Bliss has been all over the map the past year, so it’s nice to see her given a solid place on the roster and a feud that doesn’t involve exclusively talking to a doll. Seeing Asuka in the mix is always a welcome surprise, and I’m looking forward to her and Belair teaming down the line.

All in all, we had half the entire show devoted to the women’s division, which definitely contributed to how enjoyable the episode was as a whole. Seven women got a good showing in, and Bayley’s group felt like the big deal it needs to be. I can’t give Hunter all the praise just yet, because booking a semi-entertaining episode of Raw feels like about the lowest bar I can set for this company. But the changes we’ve already seen are promising, and implementing someone like Bayley at the helm of this new era is gonna go a long way.

Since it’s been so long since we’ve seen her, and since she’s flanked by two young and generally pretty beloved talents, there’s nothing but potential for the Role Model. She and Bianca had an excellent feud two years ago, I’m more than ready to see it reignited. As a first step towards fixing some of the problems that have plagued WWE for ages, focusing on the women’s division is a very solid way to do it. The company can and should place confidence in talents like Bayley and Belair to bring in the views and put on a damn good show.