How Hugs Could Be Greater Than Hustle, Loyalty and Respect
Let’s get this out of the way: I’ve never been a fan of women’s wrestling. In fact I have not been a fan of most women’s sports outside of the Olympic sports. I can watch a woman run or swim with equal enjoyment as man doing it (which is very little as track isn’t something I’m ever excited to watch). I also include Soccer and Tennis into the Olympic bracket as well. I’ve always enjoyed women’s tennis for one. But basketball, softball, women’s hockey etc. I can’t do it. It’s usually too slow. That was normally my big complaint in women’s wrestling as well. Watch the tag team match from the recent Royal Rumble show as proof of this. The Bella Twins are soft, slow and lack a lot of the basics. Those are often matches that don’t belong on independent wrestling shows. Trish Stratus and the “Divas” that came after her usually fell into this mold. Good looking women, but really lacked serious ability. Any women with actual ability were left to salvage the rest of a division; trying to pull a passable match from models and playboy bunnies. It would be like putting Daniel Bryan and Sami Zayn on Podunk independent shows and asking them to save it. That’s exactly what the WWE had done for years with Victoria, Molly Holly, Jazz etc.
So over the years women’s wrestling has become a joke. It’s been more of a launching pad to minor celebrity status and modeling gigs than it has to superstardom. Probably the best know female wrestlers in the mainstream are Trish Stratus and Stacey Kiebler, the first mostly for fitness modeling and the second for Dancing with the Stars and dating George Clooney. Wrestling has given us models and playboy bunnies in order to serve the 18-34-year-old male demo. But that is all changing. Triple H recently talked about this on the Steve Austin Podcast. WWE goes across generational, gender and racial lines, more than they ever have before. We’ve seen many strides in the addition of better female wrestlers, notably Paige, AJ, Charlotte, and Emma. But there is one female wrestler still hanging around NXT that is about to break the mold: Bayley.
In 2015, we now live in a culture of increased awareness of the female plight. For those that follow politics, the nation has been shifting dramatically over the past 8-10 years over the role of females in society, and how to achieve a nation where women truly are equal. Society has shifted and we see more and more women in prominent roles in entertainment and business. Today’s society is much different than what WWE dealt with in their boom years. During the recession, WWE smartly changed their marketing to a more family friendly model. The idea is that while some of us may go without a new t-shirt, parents won’t be able to say no to their kids and spend a little extra.
This model has worked very well for an entertainment company to survive when more and more people were out of work and those who still had steady work chose to save. The main issue that WWE did not deal with was the emerging market of young females. Younger females, ages 6-10, have been starved for real marketing. There is a great market for older girls, but young girls have essentially been ignored. Wrestling, in general, has ignored not just young females, but all females as a source for practical marketing. WWE still markets to them as an afterthought. If the WWE wants to get on par with the NFL (whose gender gap has nearly been erased), it needs to embrace its female fan base. It has done a great job recently, but what it needs to do is broaden that base to younger females. It needs to grow lifetime female fans that will someday grow up to be moms, and will control the purchasing power in their households.
Enter in Bayley. She is the little girl’s gateway drug to professional wrestling. Bayley’s character and ability market her extremely well to little girls all over the world. What Bayley can do is be the role model for young girls. She is a wrestler that moms everywhere can look at as a wholesome figure that their daughters can emulate. You can be proud of your daughter to look up to Bayley. She isn’t over-sexualized or there to be arm candy for a male wrestler. Bayley is there to be here own wrestler. She is an underdog that will always be picked on, but she continues to tell us all that there’s nothing wrong with being you, and loving yourself. There isn’t a mom or dad that doesn’t want their daughter to hear that message every day. In a world of Kim Kardashians and sexting scandals, Bayley stands out as a model for young girls. Someone who worked hard to achieve what she has, and appreciates it.
What WWE has always lacked is that break out female star, the one that you put on par with Hulk Hogan or John Cena. They’ve always had women that made money, but never a girl that can really push merchandise and market herself to the world. Bayley’s merchandise creates itself. T-shirts, headbands, snap bracelets, friendship bracelets…there is no end to the Bayley movement. In a world of anti-bullying campaigns and feminine equality, it would be nice to have a female star that you can send out. Someone who isn’t a model, who can tell girls that the way of the world isn’t to get more attractive, it’s to be more positive. This is something the WWE has lacked, which is a big female merchandise seller. Over the summer, AJ Lee was number 6 in online sales, and Brie Bella was number 8. But no female cracked the top 10 in live event sales. AJ Lee has laid the groundwork for a credible female character, and the WWE has continued to try to embrace that, and I feel most of that is coming from the top in Stephanie McMahon. It’s just time to take that strategy and amp it up.
So when a 6 year old girl watches Bayley and falls in love with her new hero, expect her to keep watching when she’s 13 and thinks Finn Balor is cute. Expect her to keep watching through high school and college as she makes friends that are also into what she’s into. And expect her to let her daughter watch some day, as she looks fondly back on the best times of her life in her favorite Bayley Tshirt. That’s not just creating a lifetime fan, that’s creating second generation fans. That’s how the WWE will continue to grow in the future.