If you read the previous edition of Nylons, you know that I am taking a little break from WWE programming. It has been refreshing for the most part to simply not care what has been going on at Titan Towers for a few weeks. And yet, ironically, the second I stop watching WWE TV, AEW dries up in women’s wrestling content. Sometimes the universe laughs at you.
Nevertheless, true to my word we will only talk about All Elite here today: Good, Bad, and Thorny. Because there were no women’s matches on either week of Dynamite in the last two weeks (oh, we’ll get to that), I had to watch some matches on AEW Dark. Even so, I had to cheat a little by going back further than two weeks to find more than one women’s match to review here.
With that prelude, let us start with the Good.
On the whole, all of the women’s content I saw from the past two weeks (and beyond) I’ve enjoyed. Britt Baker is once again a highlight; her vignette in her “office” on last week’s Dynamite was hilarious. All of it was cringe-worthy heel goodness: her assistant quietly crying out for help, Britt dictating her assistant’s every word “off camera,” and of course her lessons on being a role model.
I will say it may be teetering on “too far” territory to have her fat-shame Tony Schiavone. I say teetering because I do think AEW has the self-awareness to not make fatness itself the punchline (as WWE tends to do). Britt is playing a heel, and it is plausible that a conceited woman like Britt would exclude fat/curvy people from the description of a role model. The punchline for Britt is the fact that she is a delusional heel that believes she is giving the world sound advice on model behavior. As long as AEW keeps this characterization isolated with Britt, I think we are in safe territory.
All of that said, it is clear that Britt is really leaning into this character and earning her heat in creative ways. When All Elite does return to arena shows, the heat for Britt will be epic.
As for matches, I enjoyed Anna Jay vs. Penelope Ford from AEW Dark. My impression of this matchup was that Anna Jay is a promising talent. Cody Rhodes remarked on commentary that she is very green in her career, and yet she held her own against Penelope. She of course needs work; some of her offense came off as stiff or a little sloppy. With additional training, she will gain the crispness and personality that leads a good wrestler to quality matches.
I am also intrigued by Anna Jay’s look and gimmick. All Elite’s women remind me of the ladies of the Golden Era (the aughts) in WWE. Generally back in the 2000s, the women’s looks, gimmicks, and performances seemed to be extensions of themselves. There was an authenticity and uniqueness to each woman’s identity that felt autonomous, as in WWE didn’t own their gimmicks as much as they do now. It felt a lot more hands-off. I believe this is the approach that AEW has taken with its roster: go out there and be yourself or who you want to be, and let people gravitate to that. I hope Anna Jay grows into such a character as those I grew up watching.
I was disappointed to discover that the last women’s match on AEW Dark was back on March 17. I loved the match that I saw between Riho and Penelope Ford. Such creative spots between these two, including Riho’s stomp to a bridged Penelope, Riho’s crucifix bomb, and Penelope’s handspring springboard stunner. I found much of Penelope’s offense to be innovative, albeit a little clumsy; for example, her Rib Breaker to Riho. If she can sharpen her flashier offensive moves, she can be the star of the women’s division that AEW seems to be grooming her to be.
Riho, as always, impressed in this matchup. I continue to be blown away by what she can do in such a small package. Her Northern Lights suplex to Penelope and her snap dragon suplex to Kip Sabian were amazing! In the end, Penelope came out with the win, with a picture perfect bridge pin (pointed toes and all!). If you haven’t, seek this one out on YouTube.
To wrap up, I am very happy that additional wrestling content is available for free on AEW’s YouTube page. We’re living in the future, pals! This is likely a strategy by executives to entice more casual fans into watching their weekly TV product, so who knows how long this will last. But with so many viewers moving away from cable TV packages altogether in favor of streaming, it is a smart move nonetheless.
The only real critique I have of All Elite from the content I consumed is that I wish Penelope Ford hadn’t gone over Riho, a former women’s world champion. Particularly since Riho is not featured prominently on TV, it would have made more sense to keep her looking strong. There were other women on the roster that Penelope could have gone over that wouldn’t have been damaged by the loss. Not to say Riho was buried or anything, I simply feel there were other options.
On another note, where is Nyla Rose? Is she okay? She’s the champion and she’s gone missing! Which leads me to…
As I mentioned casually at the beginning, there were no women’s matches on either week of Dynamite since my last post. Whew. That’s just….bad. Did they think that we wouldn’t notice??
Now, before any of you come after me about this critique, let me nuance the possible reasons for the absence of the women’s division, given the context.
I noticed while searching back through episodes of Dark on YouTube that the last women’s match before Anna and Penelope’s was on March 17. For those of you somehow still keeping track of calendar days, weeks, and months, you may recall that it was around that time that many states were beginning to shelter-in-place. It was also one of the last arena shows that AEW had. Looking at several episodes of Dark side-by-side, it is apparent that it is typically 45-50 minutes long, and since the pandemic worsened, the episodes are about less than half that length. Thus, it is clear that they are condensing the product.
There have of course been women’s matches on Dynamite between March 17 and April 22 — I’ve written about them in Nylons. So, even if women have been missing from Dark, they were still being featured on the main show. That complicates things.
Fans of AEW also know that many of the women on the roster are Japanese. Pure speculation on my part, but is it possible that many of these women opted to go home to be with their families during the pandemic? if so, this would leave a dearth in All Elite’s division for the time being.
Could it be that the women of AEW, socialized to be more caring and family-oriented than men, have largely chosen to not wrestle in favor of protecting their families from infection? The pandemic has made more apparent that women are still the primary caregivers or keepers of the home for their families, even if they do not have children. Men are still seen as “breadwinners” and thus feel more pressured to perform loyalty to their professions to advance and provide for their families. Could this explain why very few men seem to be missing from AEW every week compared to women?
Or is it — and yes, we must accept that this is plausible — that AEW is not focused on the women right now? With the unveiling of the TV title, the tournament to crown the first champion has dominated each episode of Dynamite the last two weeks. Perhaps they chose to focus on this to provide straightforward content that would involve fewer wrestlers, writers, and general personnel. Still, you could argue that some of the men not involved in the tournament that are on the show could be swapped for women that we haven’t seen in a month. Why can’t we give Jon Moxley a break for one week, and develop something with Nyla instead?
I do understand that it could be counterproductive to have women on the show without a clear direction for their characters. If the writers have nothing for them, sure, keep them off TV. And yet, that rarely happens for the men. The writers can always find a way to feature them, carry their stories along. The surest way to guarantee that nothing develops in the women’s division is to believe that their inclusion is optional.
The truth is, now is an awkward time. None of us can know for sure why this has happened not one, but two weeks in a row. Yet, given the information that we have, I can only assume that it is not in AEW’s agenda to focus on the women right now. I do think that under normal circumstances, women would be on TV every week; I believe in AEW enough at this point to say that.
Because of that feeling, I also think they owe us some sort of explanation for excluding an entire division from TV two weeks running. The fact that they have said nothing publicly makes me suspicious of their reasoning for doing so. It could also be possible that the women do want to be on TV and they aren’t being given the chance to be. As long as that possibility still exists, and until it is proven untrue, we have to remain vigilant about women’s visibility.
Hopefully the next two weeks bring more AEW women’s wrestling. We’ll see if I tune back into WWE, too.
Stay legit bossy,