WWE Bayley Bianca Belair Bayley and Bianca Belair will collide again this Friday on Smackdown under the same set of high-stake circumstances.

Rivalries have defined professional wrestling throughout its entire history.

In the 1980s, Ric Flair-Ricky Steamboat and Hulk Hogan-Randy Savage ruled the day. Then in the 1990s, a new generation of rivalries emerged, such as Bret and Owen, Bret and Shawn, Flair and Hogan, and The Undertaker and Mankind. Then later, the nWo vs. WCW, Austin vs. McMahon, and Austin vs. The Rock. In the 2000s, The Great One shined against Triple H. Then others emerged, like Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker, Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels, and Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels. John Cena formed epic rivalries with Angle, CM Punk, Edge, and Randy Orton. 

Things have, by and large, slowed down a bit since then. Rivalries have been harder to come by lately due to many factors. An overall shift in content, questionable writing/repetitiveness, and other instances have slightly lessened the effect. If, for no other reason, we may constantly feel like things are “thrown in our faces.” In some fandom circles, there’s a reaction to maybe being turned off by seeing a match repeat on its own. 

To a point, a criticism of modern-day WWE television is repeated matches. That might have held a more significant weight in the late 2010s and early 2020s. But it has since changed, or at least felt that way at times. Pro wrestling is generally what you make of it. It’s a subjective entertainment form that pulls in acting, athleticism, a touch of the traveling circus, and performance art. But while “repeats” felt that way without anything substantial on WWE TV for a while, there have been added stakes. Ratings and interest suggest as much.

Amid that criticism, one thing is certain: If there is any “genre” that’s been producing wrestling rivalries, it’s women’s wrestling. Two standard-bearing rivalries have emerged over the past ten years: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair. The combinations have composed this era’s most memorable and significant women’s wrestling matches. Bayley and Banks’ memorable TakeOver: Brooklyn match inspired a generation of women’s wrestlers, some of whom currently work for WWE. Lynch and Flair had the best match of the night of the company’s only all-women’s premium live event in history, Evolution. The two fought in an epic Last Woman Standing Match. If Bayley-Banks is #1, then Lynch and Flair is #1a on some days. 

While the next generation really figures itself out, a new rivalry is beginning to really blossom. And this Friday will mark its next chapter. 

Enter: Bayley vs. Bianca Belair

Belair, a former SEC track star at the University of Tennessee, burst on the scene in WWE in 2020. While the company aired shows without a crowd in the Thunderdome, Belair landed on Smackdown after a few months of lying and waiting. She got the full-star treatment, vignettes, and all. Her first big nemesis on the brand was Bayley. 

On the heels of holding the Smackdown Women’s Championship for 500 of 505 days, Bayley was not in the best of moods. So Belair’s presence annoyed The Role Model, and eventually, the two got in the ring. On Dec. 18, Bayley and Belair met in their first match. On this day, the veteran got the better of the upstart as Bayley pulled out a victory. However, This would be the last time Bayley would see a win for a while.

After a hilarious, star-making Obstacle Course segment — arguably the best segment in the entire Thunderdome’s history — Belair and Bayley wrestled before the Royal Rumble. Bianca picked up the victory on the way to the Rumble. In her second-ever Rumble match, Belair nearly went the distance and won the match. She then capped it off with a title win in the main event of WrestleMania against the former Sasha Banks. 

Bayley was right there to wait for her after that. She was Bianca’s first challenger after her historic title victory. There were, admittedly, some issues to this ordeal at first that nobody wanted to really discuss at the time. First and foremost, while Bayley had a reputation, she got left off WrestleMania 37… for inexplicable reasons yet to really make any sense. She wasn’t really working before then, so she didn’t have momentum. Belair also won the championship at WrestleMania. Nobody thought she was going to lose immediately. So, most potential drama was sucked out right away.

To their credit, Bayley and Belair busted out a great match at the formerly-named WrestleMania Backlash. They followed this match with a Hell in a Cell match at the ensuing PLE. This… was, in my opinion, doing too much. The company did have to move Roman Reigns’ Cell match, but whisking this together all quick while doing bare-minimum work wasn’t well thought out. The two had a fun match inside the Cell and the offense was creative, smart, and excellently played. But it felt so… hollow. There’s a reason why WWE is no longer running HIAC PLEs.

After this, they decided that continuing the feud was the best course of action. Despite HIAC being a long-time feud-ender, WWE was hell-bent on keeping it going anyway. In perhaps the silliest way to do it, Bayley and Seth Rollins scored a tag team victory over Belair and Cesaro. Then, they were going to go back to fans at Money in the Bank 2021 and wrestle… an “I Quit” Match. The company seemingly decided that not only were they going to speed-run the first Bayley title challenge with no work – they were just going to speed-run a potential yearslong feud in less than three months. 

Unfortunately, while all of that is arguable, the match never happened. Bayley tore her ACL and missed the next year of her career. But then in 2022, she re-arrived at SummerSlam and targeted Belair with her new friends, Dakota Kai and IYO SKY, and the newly formed Damage CTRL faction. A six-woman tag match occurred at Clash at the Castle, and Bayley and her new friends got a victory. It was notable that they pinned Belair after all hit their finishers. 

Finally, Bayley was back on top over Belair. But Bianca would later remind Bayley just what she was capable of. And also all that she learned while she was gone. Belair fought an onslaught in a Ladder Match at Extreme Rules. But still, Belair maintained her status as the Raw Women’s Champion after winning a thriller. The two then had an absolutely outstanding Last Woman Standing Match at Crown Jewel 2022. In what was easily one of the best LWSes ever, Bianca uniquely defeated Bayley by trapping her in the ladder for the ten count. 

Bayley did score a pinfall victory over Belair during this time period. But that’s the only one that she’s gotten so far. The two met in a high-stakes Triple Threat in February 2023 and then later in another singles match on Smackdown this last fall. The one thing has been consistent: Bianca has Bayley’s number, especially when the title’s on the line. She’s won the last three title matches against her and has only lost twice in singles competition to her. 

But will that script flip now? Bayley appears to be gathering some momentum towards this year’s Royal Rumble. She’s becoming the main character, which is always one of their biggest tells with this deal. In fact, in another tie that bonds the two, this exact scenario played out for Belair two years ago. Bianca was becoming the main character of the division. Bayley was in her way, but she defeated her en route to the Royal Rumble. 

Now, three years later, here we are again. Bayley is wrestling Bianca on Friday’s episode of SmackDown. In two weeks, the Royal Rumble will emanate from Tampa. Fittingly, inside Tropicana Field, where WWE housed the Thunderdome while these two first started etching out their rivalry. It’s a huge match, given the stakes; and not to give anyone potential anxiety, but should Bayley win this, then all signs may point to her winning the Rumble. And if that happens, then she could be poised for a career year unlike others. 

But she has to go through Bianca Belair first. The EST has had her number for over a calendar year and a better part of the last 37 months. It’s awfully fitting that if Bayley wants to achieve her dream, she’ll have to go through her biggest nemesis yet. 

And all of us win from that. There’s nothing better than a rivalry.

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022