WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon is a big fan of three rising superstars, and they all just so happen to be in the women’s division.
According to a report from the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingNews.co), McMahon singled out Bayley, Bianca Belair and Peyton Royce of The IIconics with high praise at a recent company meeting: “There was another meeting on 7/31 that lasted four hours and Vince reportedly talked forever about how much he loves Bayley’s new persona. Vince also talked about how he sees Peyton Royce and Bianca Belair as singles stars…Bianca Belair is also getting more TV and she has begun a feud with Zelina Vega. People have been praising her behind-the-scenes even when she was in NXT.”
McMahon recently expressed—both privately and publicly—that WWE needed to create new stars and initiate a “youth” movement in the company, which hasn’t exactly been reflected in the creative team’s on-screen booking. One of the major bright spots on both Raw and SmackDown in recent months, however, has been the portrayal of the women’s division, with a renewed focus on stars like Bayley, Sasha Banks, Asuka, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville establishing the women’s division as arguably the most entertaining aspect of all of WWE’s programming.
That represents a marked change from where the women’s division was just over a year ago, when WWE reportedly pumped the brakes on pushing female stars at the top of the card due to concerns over poor viewership and “business declining” during the WrestleMania 35 main event push of Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. With all three of those names—easily WWE’s top three female stars—currently off TV for various reasons, WWE has put a lot of effort into building up new stars to take their place. Ranking among the most impressive performers during that span is Bayley, who has effectively transitioned to a heel role despite the previously widespread belief that she would be a babyface for life.
The duo of Bayley and Banks has undoubtedly been the glue that has held the women’s together while Flair, Lynch and Rousey are gone, so it’s no surprise that McMahon has been singing her praises. What is a little more surprising, however, is his reported support of both Belair and Royce. While Bayley has long been booked as a top star, the same hasn’t been true of Belair and Royce on the main roster. Belair has done remarkably little on Raw after WWE reportedly chose to keep her off TV because she didn’t “fit in” with the storyline that The Street Profits—who she’d been paired with on TV—were involved in at the time. There has been concern—and rightfully so—that Belair would be the latest former NXT stalwart to fizzle out on the main roster, joining a long list of superstars that have suffered a similar fate.
Arguably the most naturally gifted athlete in all of WWE, Belair is also incredibly charismatic and should be featured much more heavily than she has been on the red brand. McMahon’s reported support of the standout star, however, is an encouraging sign that her main roster career could get back on track after it was temporarily derailed immediately upon her Raw debut. The same is true of Royce, who plays her character alongside Billie Kay in the The IIconics incredibly well but is, like Belair, one of many NXT stars who has been plagued by the main roster’s up-and-down booking.
The IIconics were reportedly set to be repackaged with a new gimmick earlier this year, but that never came to fruition. The duo of Royce and Kay have largely been used to put over Raw’s top female babyfaces, which has been frustrating because both have shown flashes of serious potential. Of the two, Royce has demonstrated that she could be a breakout star if given a proper singles push, but with a limited number of long-term tag teams in the tag team division, it would be premature to split up The IIconics just yet.
It is, however, a good idea for WWE to start giving The IIconics—and Royce in a particular—more TV time and more significant storylines, while the same is true of Belair.
If and when that happens, those two stars could join the likes of Bayley not just as personal favorites of McMahon but as top star and perennial world champions while also ensuring that the women’s division remains the shining star of WWE programming.