Riho has been a highlight in AEW’s up-and-coming division

AEW’s women’s division had some well-documented setbacks in its first year. Nevertheless, the inaugural AEW Women’s World Champion, Riho, has been one of its bright spots. So, it’s curious to see some fans, and the company itself, spin this idea that she has been an absentee champion.

The Japanese star rose to popularity in the US when she defeated Hikaru Shida at All Out to earn a spot in the company’s first women’s championship match. On the series premiere of AEW Dynamite, she defeated Nyla Rose in an action-packed match to become the inaugural AEW Women’s Champion.

Last night, she successfully defended the title in an impromptu fatal four-way match against Rose, Britt Baker, and Hikaru Shida. The champion narrowly escaped, pinning Baker with a bridging roll-up for the win.

Riho AEW
Photo credit: All Elite Wrestling

“The Mayor of Brittsburgh” was clearly frustrated. Later, she interrupted Riho’s interview about her next title defense to cut a promo. “Riho, nice to see you here,” she said. “How have you been cause I’ve been here every week working my ass off being the face of this division. You do not deserve that championship.”

Baker went on to say “Whenever you’re not here, I am and I’m also able to have my dental practice on the side. Imagine balancing that but not you. You come right in and steal the wins and head back out.”

Now, this makes for an interesting potential feud between Riho and Baker. After all, most people assumed Britt would be the face of the division and the first champion. However, it’s questionable to play up the idea that Riho isn’t a deserving titleholder. Baker’s frustrations with her struggle to win the title are understandable, but Riho isn’t exactly an absentee placeholder.

As a matter of fact, the current Stardom High Speed Champion has represented the company in Japan, effectively giving the new women’s title more exposure. So, Baker’s claim is a tad myopic.

What she’s doing when she isn’t on Dynamite is no different than Kenny Omega making appearances for AAA or DDT.  For whatever reason, AEW doesn’t highlight Riho’s work with Stardom the same way, which has helped to create this narrative.

Riho AEW
Photo credit: Stardom

It’s sort of a disservice to the great year that Riho had in 2019. With that said, we don’t know the backstage politics involved here. AEW has a working relationship with AAA so it’s easy for them to highlight Omega’s Mega Championship win.

They may not be able to use Stardom’s content or mention their titles. But even so, this isn’t the first time they didn’t give their fans vital information that would help them invest in Riho.

During the build for Full Gear, there was barely any mention of her relationship with Emi Sakura or their history together in Japan. Sakura had to take to Twitter to connect the dots herself. The two had an excellent match but AEW could’ve done a much better job giving the fans a backstory for their title feud.

Riho Emi Sakura
Credit: AEW

For all we know, this could be an ingenious way to indirectly encourage Riho’s fans to come to her defense. It could also lead to a compelling storyline or heel turn for Britt Baker. Regardless, it’s an odd decision to cause a portion of their audience to doubt their champion, especially when she consistently gets such a great reaction from the live crowd.

If some viewer already felt it was a mistake to make Riho the first AEW Women’s World Champion, the company is partially to blame for that. They haven’t given her the necessary screen time to connect with everyone. Even when she’s not available, there is no reason why they can’t air promos or vignettes focused on her.

Riho has delivered when given big matches. All that’s missing is the right storylines. Painting her as someone who is intentionally missing in action will have the opposite effect.

What do you think? Have you been enjoying Riho’s reign as AEW Women’s World Champion? Drop a comment below and let us know.  

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