For the past 198 days, Bayley has been reigning as WWE’s SmackDown Women’s Champion. Since her 2013 debut, she has played an integral role in the on-screen product for NXT, Raw and SmackDown, elevating the women’s division to heights previously unreached in WWE.
Bayley, who is California-raised Pam Martinez, is representing WWE on the new short-form video platform Quibi. Along with Sasha Banks, she appears on Gone Mental, a show where the host reads his guests’ minds and tries to climb inside their head.
The Bayley-Sasha Banks storyline is one of WWE’s best pieces of content. They remain the best of friends, but a match between the two is brewing, perhaps as soon as SummerSlam this August.
Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Bayley discussed her experience on Gone Mental, the current storyline with Tamina, potentially building the program with Banks all the way to WrestleMania 37, and “The Last Dance” documentary featuring Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Justin Barrasso: Gone Mental is a show featuring Lior Suchard, who claims to be the world’s best mentalist. Was he able to read your mind or Sasha’s, or put you through some outrageous mental stunts?
Bayley: He was able to do it. We had a lot of fun–he was such an easy person to talk to, and he was very open and had a very inviting personality. Sasha and I were doing all the stunts together, and we had no idea what to expect. We were kind of nervous about him reading our minds, but he did some easier stuff at the beginning just so we could get a feel of how powerful he really was.
JB: In addition to you and Sasha, the show also features episodes with Kate Hudson, Ben Stiller, Zooey Deschanel, as well as The Miz and Big E. Why does it mean for you to represent WWE outside of the ring?
Bayley: That’s so important to me. It’s pretty cool that WWE has this platform. You see the superstars on MTV, movies, and reaching out to different audiences. I feel like I haven’t had a chance to do much of that, but this was something I had a lot of fun doing and I would like to do more of. It was so different from what we always do, and we’d never met anyone like this guy. He’s worked with Zac Efron, he’s worked with Ellen DeGeneres, so it was pretty exciting to be part of that and have WWE put us with him.
JB: You’d be open to doing more in the acting realm?
Bayley: I’ve never wanted to be a movie star or an actress or anything like that, but I think it would be cool to be involved in certain TV shows and get that experience. Going from one character to a completely opposite character, changing my range of emotions, that’s really fun and challenging. I’d be open to that.
JB: Though I would have much preferred the moment took place at Raymond James Stadium, I enjoyed your work in the elimination match at WrestleMania. It was especially fun to see you wrestle for close to 20 minutes, and hopefully we see more of that. What was your biggest takeaway from WrestleMania 36?
Bayley: Man, WWE can do anything. It was such a crazy day, the whole week was pretty crazy. Just the thought that we were actually going to do it with no fans. I remember thinking, ‘Can we pull this off? How are we going to feel with no adrenaline? With no energy from the fans?’ But once we got into the match, I felt so in it, so emotionally into it. It was a short build, but the story we were able to put together worked.
After the match was done, I was really proud of it. That may have been my proudest WrestleMania moment, to be honest, just because of how different it was and how much of a disadvantage it was without fans. I was pretty proud of it, and I was proud of all the girls involved.
JB: It hasn’t been done in some time, and perhaps we last saw this in WWE following WrestleMania 28 when a rematch of Rock-Cena was announced for WrestleMania 29—could you and Sasha continue your build for a match until WrestleMania 37?
Bayley: I think we can. We’ve bounced ideas off each other for as long as we’ve known each other, and we learn from each other so much. With all of our ideas and how much we are trusted by the people backstage, I think it’s possible. It would be challenging, but I think that would be so cool.
Someday, I hope we do get to work together again. She’s my favorite person to be in the ring with, obviously, so I would be down to try.
JB: The next pay-per-view is Money in the Bank, where you starred last year and won the “Money in the Bank” ladder match. This year, your opponent is Tamina Snuka. I feel like she’s the big sister of the WWE roster. For reasons perhaps out of her control, I don’t know if she’ll ever receive the credit she deserves for her career. What makes Tamina so special?
Bayley: We call her “Momma.” She’s the momma of the locker room.
When I had my first experience in WWE, I was still NXT Women’s Champion. I went on a tour of Europe, and it was actually me and Nattie against Team B.A.D. for the whole two-week tour. Tamina was so welcoming, and she really showed me, besides Sasha of course, showed me how to carry myself, how to be the last one in the locker room to clean up and ask the top people if they needed anything, things like that. She also made me feel like one of them. She just has that quality about her.
Even if it’s been a while since she has been involved in a storyline, she’s never had one that’s just about her, especially in the title picture. But she’s literally always there. You don’t see her on TV, but she’s backstage watching all the matches and staying for the whole show and encourages everybody. She is very special and important to the locker room and the whole women’s roster. I’m definitely excited for this match, just because I think she deserves this moment.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in a lot of special moments, so I hope that this is something that can be special for her. But I’m going to have to beat her, so it can’t be too special, but I hope she has fun.
JB: Does having to work during this global pandemic add stress to your life? Or would you be more stressed without wrestling?
Bayley: You always have to be ready for everything, and that’s how it feels right now. My first week home after WrestleMania, I had some anxiety not knowing when we were going back to work or if we were going back to work when everything was still up in the air. It took me a day or two to get a routine and realize it’s going to be OK.
Once we got our schedule down with WWE, it’s been fun. I think it’s keeping me sane.
JB: I know you’re a big basketball fan, especially of the late Kobe Bryant. Have you found time to watch the documentary The Last Dance on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls?
Bayley: I did, I was really excited for that. I went over to one of our referees’ places and we were so excited to watch. I played sports growing up, and sports documentaries are my favorite thing to watch and I always find something inspiring.
I didn’t know what to expect, but everything I watch I compare to wrestling. I was like, ‘Man, this world is just like the wrestling world!’ Everyone wants to be like Jordan, and there’s a little poison in everybody and everybody’s out for themselves, things like that, but Jordan’s the one keeping his head straight. He just wanted to be the best.
I thought it was awesome. Definitely didn’t know a lot of that story or the politics behind the scene, I was just watching basketball. I loved it, and it’s really cool that they’re doing two episodes a week.
JB: Between you and Sasha, who is MJ and who’s Pippen? And who on the WWE roster is Dennis Rodman?
Bayley: [Laughs] Honestly, I don’t know, it’s hard to say that. I always say that Sasha is the greatest of all-time, and I truly believe that, even though I am the champion right now and a Grand Slam women’s champion and I’ve won Money in the Bank. I’ve done a lot of things, but I wouldn’t be able to do all of that without her and learning from her mindset. So if she wants to be Jordan, that’s OK. I was always a Kobe fan, so maybe I can be Kobe and she can be Jordan.
JB: No love for Scottie, but maybe that’s a better fit. I’ll ask one more: WWE has started a bit of an NWO-like takeover of Quibi, which features the Stephanie McMahon-hosted Fight Like A Girl as well as a few different stars on Gone Mental. Why should people start by investing their time in you and your appearance on Gone Mental?
Bayley: Why watch? Because I’m a role model, and what else are you going to do? [Laughs] I think Quibi’s so cool. They’re short, 10-minute episodes. It’s perfect to throw something on. I personally like to watch something short in the morning while I’m having my coffee, so Quibi is a good place to start.
And whenever I watch something like Gone Mental, or magic shows, it’s always hard to believe. You immediately think, ‘They’re in on this,’ but we were in on nothing. I don’t understand how we did these things. So go watch, and know that we were so taken back and so amazed by this guy. It was really special.