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Writers’ Choice Awards 2015: NXT Diva of the Year – Bayley

Diva Dirt presents its fifth annual Writers’ Choice Awards, as decided by the Diva Dirt team. As we come to the end of 2015, we have picked the best of the best to be awarded our Writers’ Choice trophies.

NXT Diva of the Year: Bayley

For all the claims of a Diva Revolution taking place this year, most WWE fans recognize that the real revolutionary change – the kind that is substantial and lasting – was happening in NXT’s Divas division.

Boundaries were pushed, glass ceilings were lifted and new stars were born, all within the confines of the WWE’s “developmental” brand. Ironically, the women preparing for the bright lights of the main roster became the ones inspiring the more established stars. Everything, from the content of their matches and the spots they got on the card to the connections they built with the fans, was something the main roster Divas could aspire to.

That fact became even clearer when the same women setting the world on fire in NXT became main roster Divas and were promptly swept up in the usual mediocrity. Surely, if there is to be a true Diva Revolution, it’s going to be a groundswell movement, with the waves of changes building in NXT until the main roster can resist it no longer. But who will be at the front of that movement? Why, it’s Bayley!

Sure, Bayley didn’t spend all of 2015 at the front of the pack, but she was always there. While Sasha Banks reigned as Women’s Champion, she took time to build up her underdog persona, feuding with the returning Emma in a rivalry that served to enhance both Divas’ characters and prepare them for bigger challenges later in the year.

When summertime came and Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Sasha departed for the main roster, Bayley didn’t waste time lamenting being “left behind”; she took the ball and ran with it, continuing the legacy she built with them while adapting it for a brand new era. Soon, she was at the top of the mountain no longer by default, but officially, winning the NXT Women’s Championship at TakeOver: Brooklyn in a match with Sasha Banks that has topped many a year-end list.

Some fans feared that the prestigious division would lose its luster without the three departing Divas, but little did they know the power of Bayley. As it turned out, she didn’t need to be passed the torch – she already had it. All the fire she displayed in that match signified that the division was in good hands. The combination of her unique connection with the audience and her pure talent made her well suited to serve as the ambassador of the division, welcoming in new faces and carving out a path for them going forward. The division didn’t adapt to survive – it adapted to thrive.

A big part of that adaptation took place at TakeOver: RESPECT, where Bayley and Sasha Banks made history as the first women to main event a Pay-Per-View, wrestling in the first ever Divas Iron Man match. The 30 minute match dropped jaws and inspired all who watched it, including front row observers Lita and Stephanie McMahon. At the end of the night, as the NXT roster assembled at the top of the entrance ramp and Triple H embraced the Women’s Champion, handing her a celebratory bouquet, the legend of Bayley was cemented. Before, four women embodied the renegade spirit of NXT’s Divas division, but now it was housed in the heart of just one. From that point on, it became her duty to share that spirit with every other woman on the roster.

That mission commenced quickly. In the two months that have followed that moment, Bayley has defended the Women’s Title against three women, employing unique strategies to defeat each of them. Along the way, she’s gotten the opportunity to show off different parts of herself.

With Alexa Bliss, Bayley displayed her earnestness, countering Alexa’s mockery with pure talent. With Eva Marie, Bayley let her inner underdog come out, overcoming not only Eva but the will of the “Powers That Be” to hang on to her belt. Lastly, at TakeOver: London, Bayley’s ingenuity was put to the test, as she used trial and error – along with a big helping of heart – to take down the undefeated Nia Jax, forcing her to submit for the first time in her career.

Bayley has been put to the test like no NXT Women’s Champion has been, and so far, she’s passed with flying colors. It says a lot about her abilities – and the WWE’s faith in her – that she was put through this gauntlet. If her success surprises anyone, it’s not those at the helm.

As the division sets out on a new, uncertain path, Bayley will lead them, serving as a bold example of how the definition of a “female wrestling star” – the way she looks, who she appeals to, the matches she can compete in – has changed forever. Really, when it comes down to it, Bayley is a one-woman revolution. In many ways, she is the Diva Revolution.

Stay tuned for more Writers’ Choice Award reveals throughout the day.

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