AEW is changing the look of mainstream women’s wrestling
Five months ago, the Elite change the landscape of wrestling when they announced the formation of their very own promotion, All Elite Wrestling (AEW). Their first pay-per-view event, Double or Nothing, will air this weekend. Since the announcement on New Year’s Day, AEW has gained considerable traction as a legitimate alternative to WWE.
Given all this talk of change, will their up-and-coming women’s division actually offer a strong alternative? Considering there was only one match featuring women at All In, many women’s wrestling fans had concerns.
Chief Branding Officer, Brandi Rhodes, alleviated some of them at the Double Or Nothing rally when she assured fans, “Absolutely there will be a women’s division. But not only that, we want it to be a strong women’s division with the best female wrestlers in the entire world. In order to do that, you got to cast a wide net, right? You can’t just say that and sit still, there’s work to be done.”
It is refreshing to see an African American woman in an executive position at a professional wrestling promotion. With Rhodes at the helm, their fledgling women’s division already feels intrinsically progressive, but as she said, they have their work cut out for them.
Their official women’s roster consists of Allie, Bea Priestley, Brandi, Britt Baker, Hikaru Shida, Kylie Rae, Leva Bates, Nyla Rose, and Penelope Ford. In addition, they signed 21-year-old Japanese wrestler, Riho, to a five-show deal. Back in Match, Dave Meltzer reported Sadie Gibbs also signed with the promotion, but neither has confirmed it yet.
That makes nine confirmed signees, with two more still in question. At first glance, that’s an impressive group of women, who don’t look like the standard superstars that fans would usually expect to see on WWE, Impact, or Ring of Honor. It’s a nice mix of the best independent performers available, with a strong Joshi puroresu presence as well.
It will be a treat to see puroresu wrestling on an American wrestling show. Most fans may not know all of the competitors in the six-woman tag match, but they will undoubtedly bring a new style wrestling to the forefront, which will help make AEW unique.
Admittedly, their official roster could be more diverse because it’s still predominantly white American women. AEW should sign some female Lucha Libre stars or budding black women. With that said, Nyla Rose is a promising acquisition, who proves Rhodes cares about making the roster inclusive.
Rose will make history as the first transgender woman signed to a major American wrestling promotion. Moreover, as her ring gear and moniker, “The Native Beast,” suggests she’s a proud Native American. She belongs to an indigenous group called the Oneida.
In terms of name recognition, former IMPACT Knockout, Allie, is probably the biggest star among the group. However, that could work in AEW’s favor because it will give them the chance to build someone who isn’t as established into a household name. With Kylie Rae and Britt Baker, they have two viable options who are primed to become superstars.
At the start of the year, Kylie was one of the hottest free agents on the indie circuit. The Chicago native boasts quite the resume in only four years as an active wrestler, with several high-profile matches under her belt. At one point, she was the reigning CWA, AAW Women’s, Zelo Pro Women’s, and FW Champion.
The promotion seems to be positioning Baker, the current Zelo Pro Women’s Champion, as the face of the division. She was the first AEW signee outside of the Elite. Also, she has been present at every major press event so far and highlighted on a few episodes of Being the Elite. Baker will make a capable top face and a competitive rivalry with Rae could put them both on the map.
AEW also managed to grab “top gaijin,” Bea Priestley, right before she started her career-making run earlier this year. The current World of Stardom Champion is still a relative newcomer for fans here in the US, but she could be a steal for the promotion. Given her experience working in Japan, she will be a perfect fit in the ring with Joshi performers like Shida or Sakazaki.
There are only two women’s matches on the card for Double or Nothing but it’s safe to assume there will be some surprise appearances. The show will also be a gauge of how the promotion plans to utilize their female talent going forward.
However, there are still more questions than answers for now. We still don’t know how they will decide their first women’s champion or if there will be more talent sharing agreements in the future. At any rate, AEW has a good group of young and talented women to build their division around.
Of course, there are a few flaws. Hopefully, Brandi Rhodes will take steps to address them in due time, but they’re off to a good start. Indeed, the future looks bright.
What do you think of AEW’s women’s division? Drop a comment below and check back with Bell to Belles for more news