WWE NXT’s Bayley – “Rock Music And Wrestling Have A Lot In Common”
Bayley (left) with Sasha Banks
Words: Ryan Cooper
Of course you’ve all heard of WWE. You know the likes of Triple H, The Rock, The Undertaker. But just like Bring Me The Horizon were, not so long ago, a band playing small venues, touring their arses off to get noticed; just as Metallica weren’t born the festival conquering titans they are – in 2012, Triple H founded NXT, the developmental branch of WWE, so that the wrestling world can have more Kanes, more Paiges (herself a former NXT Women’s Champion) and more Stone Colds. That’s caught your interest, right? Not surprised in the slightest.
Just so happens that NXT is currently on tour around the UK, finally making their way to The SSE Arena, Wembley, in London (NXT TakeOver: London) on December 16 for a – wait for it – SOLD-OUT SHOW!
So, we caught up with current NXT Women’s Champion Bayley to let her tell you all why NXT is fast-becoming WWE’s equal, who she tips for WWE future stardom – as well as revealing her love for Paramore (especially Hayley Williams!) and Pierce The Veil, and why you might have seen her out of the ring and moshing at Warped Tour…
So, WWE NXT Women’s Champion… that’s some achievement! How important has NXT been for you?
“It’s really important. Like, even when I first started to where it is now, it’s kind of like a whole different place. If you look at the roster now and WWE, its kind of everybody who’s come from NXT and there’s such huge stars, and it has a lot to do with where they come from and how we’ve been coached and trained and the Performance Center and everything we have there. It’s all the tools we need to have everyone succeed up here, and it’s obvious that NXT works.”
Yourself vs Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Championship was the main event at NXT TakeOver: Respect, in a 30-minute WWE Iron Man match. Women’s wrestling has been championed so much by NXT, how does that feel to you?
“It was amazing, especially to be in front of Full Sail [University in Florida]. When we had our big match in Brooklyn [NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn], it was awesome. To be in Full Sail… Sasha and I both started there. We kinda just had to work our way up, work our way up and work our way up. And to be able to main event at TakeOver was just such an honour. With the fans, it’s like we’re all family and friends, and they’re all proud of us. It was such a cool night. But to be the first-ever women’s main event on a special night and first-ever Iron Man – Woman – match, or whatever it was, I don’t know… I’m still weirded out by it, kinda (laughs). But we were saying, no matter what happens, or tomorrow if something were to happen – if we’re not with the company or whatever – whatever happens, we’re gonna be able to look back 15 years from now and we’re always gonna be a part of history. So, it’s really something that we’ve both always wanted since we were kids and it’s such a cool thing.”
The support from WWE fans has helped it grow to what it is now, but we imagine it wasn’t that simple to get them to just check out, essentially, ‘newbies’…
“Yeah, it’s amazing just to see how much, not just in Florida, that it’s grown. When I first started in FCW, we had 12 people there and I wasn’t even used to that. I came from independent wrestling and I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy! How many people out there?’ And then to see it grow and grow and grow, and then just in Florida we’d have sell-out armouries and that was a huge deal. And we used to have to bring people into Full Sail, names, to just draw an attraction just to have fans there, and now we don’t even have anybody from the main roster. It’s just us. And now we’re outside of Florida and to see how many people actually show up and sell out buildings of, like, 1,200 people, and the Barclays Center [in Brooklyn], it’s great – it’s kind of like that ECW feeling and it’s really special.”
As you said earlier, we’re seeing a lot of superstars breaking into the main WWE roster – Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt, Paige, Seth Rollins etc… – who are your top picks from the current NXT roster to make the jump next? Who should people going to this UK tour keep an eye on?
“Man, there’s so many. For the women, there’s a few that haven’t debuted on TV or anything that have just gotten there, just training, so I’ll think we’ll save that until they get to make their TV debut. I’m a fan of Carmella, and Alexa Bliss, even with this new character she’s developed and everything. The new side of her has really taken her to a different level and it’s really cool to see. I think she’ll be really good. Then you have Peyton Royce and Billy Kay, who I’ve known from before this, and I just know how much they love it and what they’re willing to do to be the best. I think they’re gonna be amazing. As for the guys? It’s really hard, because NXT is stacked with so many greats, so many great performers, like Finn Bálor. And right now I love Jason Jordan and Chad Gable – oh gosh, I’ve loved them since before, and now they’re just getting on a roll and being amazing. The new [NXT Tag Team] Champions, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder… Man, there’s so many, it’s so hard to think right now.”
Right then, what can we all expect from the NXT UK tour?
“I think everybody’s so pumped, everybody keeps talking about it. I’m texting everyone back home like, ‘I can’t wait until we get to come out here!’ because once Sasha and I are in the ring, just doing this stuff, once we’re both in the ring, everybody here watches NXT. I expect nobody to know who I am when I’m coming out on this tour. But everybody knows who we are when they watch NXT. And I’m just so excited for everybody else to be able to share that, because it’s gonna be crazy. It’s the first time ever that we have the special there, and it’s sold out at Wembley Arena. It’s gonna be amazing.”
Wrestling and alternative music have always had a fantastic relationship, why do you think that connection exists?
“It’s kind of like rock music and wrestling have a lot of things in common. Wrestling fans are so hardcore and so passionate. They’ll push themselves to the front of a barricade just to touch you. They wanna scream, they wanna yell – they don’t care about getting sweaty and getting so close to other people, they just wanna be close to the action and the show. I used to go to rock shows all the time, like Warped Tour and stuff. That’s kind of the same atmosphere. When we did these shows [at Aftershock Festival] in Louisville, Kentucky, and Sacramento, you could tell people who weren’t NXT fans were coming from the concerts and stuff, just kind of peeking in. It’s kind of a similar lifestyle, I feel, for wrestlers and musicians, too.”
You said you used to go to rock shows and Warped Tour – so how’s your relationship with rock music now, then?
“In high school I was into a lot of rock. I was into screamo stuff – that was the thing in high school. So, I listened to Chiodos and Pierce The Veil, and then I got into Saves the Day and Taking Back Sunday. So, it’s all kind of like different rock, and I go to Warped Tour all the time. I try to go as much as I can in San Francisco, and it’s so fun. But I’m a huge huge fan of Paramore. Oh man, I love Hayley Williams, she’s just so good! I’ll go on YouTube and just listen to their acoustic stuff. I love acoustic music, any song that I really like in rock, I’ll go on YouTube and try to find an acoustic version. Yeah, so, if you ever hook up with Hayley, tell her I said hi (laughs).”
So, how did you feel when Bring Me The Horizon were the NXT: LOUD band for NXT TakeOver: Respect? Fans of those guys?
“I’d heard of them, but once they started adding it into the little commercials and stuff, I got really into it. And I was listening to my iHeartRadio one day and I was like, ‘Yeah! This is a good song.’ Then it just makes me think of TakeOver and all that stuff. I didn’t get to meet them at one of the festivals we were at, but I could hear them while I was getting ready for a match or whatever. I could hear them live, and they sound awesome!”
And you’ve got Motörhead’s Ace Of Spades as the theme song for NXT TakeOver: London. Now that’s rock’n’roll!
“Well, just growing up watching them doing Triple H’s stuff. I was always just all wrestling, so everything I learnt was just anything that was on WWE and stuff. So, that’s really cool.”
You could have any band play live while you walked down to the ring… who’d it be? Paramore, we’re guessing?
“I would say Paramore. So, on the independents, I used to come out to Misery Business because it starts out with the slow ‘dun nu, du nu nu nu nu’ and then once it hits I would jump out the curtain, and it felt so cool! So, I would play that one. Yeah, Misery Business would be great.”
Talking of entrance tunes, which are your favourite of all time?
“Do I have to go in order? No? Steve Blackman, I don’t know why, I just thought it was so cool the way it started out. It doesn’t even have any lyrics, but I just loved it. This is embarrassing because he’s right there (motioning to Michael Hayes, ex-manager of The Hardy Boyz], but The Hardy Boyz. I was just a huge Hardy Boyz fan – and that didn’t have any lyrics, either – but just the guitar in it and everything, it’s just… ahh, it felt so cool. The Rock’s, because right when it’s like, ‘If you smell…’ you just get out of your seat! [Stone Cold Steve] Austin’s, Glass Shatters. I guess it’s how it always starts out, and it’s always unexpected. You don’t know when he’s gonna come out and it just hits and you’re like, ‘Ahh!’ This was never a favourite growing up, but just recently… The Undertaker. I started to really appreciate him. I was like, ‘Man, this song!’ It’s like watching a movie – watching him come down the ramp and watching him get into the ring. Everything he does goes with the entrance song, and he’s had it forever.”
Catch it at the following:
10 Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
11 Glasgow The SSE Hydro
12 Sheffield Arena
13 Blackpool Empress Ballroom
14 Nottingham Capital FM Arena
15 Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
16 London The SSE Arena, Wembley
NXT TakeOver: London is available to watch on Wednesday, December 16 exclusively on the WWE Network!