WWE's Bayley on returning to Saudi Arabia, joys of working with Triple H and 'NXT' pride

The wrestler will challenge Bianca Belair for the WWE Raw Women's Championship as part of a 'Crown Jewel' bout in Riyadh

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It’s been almost 10 years since Bayley signed her contract with WWE.

Since then, she has held almost every WWE Women’s Championship belt, but will now challenge Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair in a Last Woman Standing match as part of Crown Jewel, taking place at Mrsool Park in Riyadh on Saturday. It’s the first time a women’s match with such a stipulation will take place in Saudi Arabia.

Bayley says she’s excited to return to the kingdom after remembering how well received her match against Naomi was at Super ShowDown in February 2020.

“The first time, I wasn't really sure how much the fans actually knew us or how much they watched the product,” she tells The National. “I was pleasantly surprised that they had signs with our names on and were super into the match. So I'm looking forward to that, to see how much it's grown since the last time I was here.”

The journey from the US to Saudi Arabia can often be challenging because of the time zone differences and long-haul flights, however, she says she’s learnt the key to overcoming jetlag is “sleeping a lot” on the way over. She also tries to adapt to the time zone of her whereabouts — something she’s adapted to having spent much of her career on the road.

And while things may feel fast-paced now, it'll surely be something Bayley is welcoming, having recently recovered from a torn ACL, which she sustained during training. The knee injury kept her from programming for almost a year, until she returned for Summerslam in late July.

But she says she is grateful for the downtime it allowed her, and that it helped her realise the need to be more protective of her body.

“It was a very humbling experience because I've never had surgery. I've never been away from wrestling aside for maybe a couple months for a shoulder injury. But it was super-humbling because my body wasn't as strong as I thought it would be,” she says.

“I really did enjoy the time off and because it's been almost nine or 10 years since I've had any time off with this WWE schedule as a performer. So I enjoyed it as much as I could with my family and my friends and just tried to see the plus side of it.”

Although now she’s back to being on television, teaming up with returning stars Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky at Summerslam to form a new villainous stable called Damage Ctrl. Kai and Sky compete as a tag team, while Bayley is the leader of the group. They’ve already won and lost the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship since returning.

“I feel like Dakota, Iyo and I haven't really been able to slow down at all. We’ve just kind of been thrown right into it. We've been on Raw and SmackDown and we've been on the pay-per-views and travelling everywhere and just non-stop, so it's been amazing, but it's also super-new to them because they're not used to this road life,” she says.

While NXT is filmed weekly in the same venue in Florida and helps to develop wrestlers for Raw and SmackDown, the last two take place in different cities each week, which can lead to a gruelling on-the-road schedule. "I've just been happy to travel again and be around all the people I love to work with," Bayley says. "It's like a new kind of company in a way just having Triple H as our boss and having Stephanie [McMahon] around, so it's a little bit of a new learning experience.”

In June, the WWE underwent a major leadership change after long-time chief executive and chairman Vince McMahon retired amid an internal investigation. His daughter, Stephanie, was promoted to chairwoman and co-chief executive while his son-in-law, Paul Levesque, formerly known as wrestler Triple H, took control of the creative side of the business as chief content officer.

Bayley doesn’t hold back her praise when it comes to being reunited with Levesque, whom she worked with during her days in NXT. Working with him “is the best”, she says, as he knows what people are capable of and what their goals are.

“He’s super-easy to talk to and to just have a conversation with whenever you feel the need to. You can always reach out to him or he's always around. It’s super-easy to see where you want to go with stories, careers or within the show or even within the next month.”

Bayley says she is excited by the growing women’s division, especially knowing that Levesque is there to help guide them, and commends him for bringing back female talent who “deserve a little bit more of a spotlight or deserve another chance.”

“It just shows me that we're going in the right direction. We're just going to keep growing bigger and bigger and just continue to be the best women's division in all of sport.”

Bayley's decade-long stint with WWE has been quite the journey, she says, but her ultimate goal is to one day headline WrestleMania, although she'd also love to help mentor the next generation of female wrestlers in NXT.

“I have a very strong interest in a lot of the girls in NXT and I would just want to see them keep getting opportunities and continuing to come up here and being able to contribute to what we already have as a stack division.”

She cites Indi Hartwell, Cora Jade and Roxanne Perez as some of the NXT wrestlers who have impressed her. But it’s former NXT UK Women’s Champion Meiko Satomura whom she would love to have a dream match with, calling her “incredible” and “a legend.”

As she looks back on the first decade of her career, she says it’s been a whirlwind adventure, but one she’s been very happy with.

“It’s not what I expected it to be but in the best way," she says. "I can't believe I've been here this long. I remember my first month I thought I was not going to be able to handle it because it's just not what I expected. But now it's even better.

“I have life-long friendships. I can talk to people I meet on the streets about places I've travelled to because of wrestling and things that I've got to see and experience. For me personally, to continue to keep doing things that are brand-new to me, to be able to evolve and grow after being here for almost 10 years, I’m proud of myself for that.”

Updated: November 04, 2022, 4:06 PM