From the outset, I am aware that this is not a cure-all for a division marred by substantial issues. Conflicting early reports about who was directly in charge of the booking, coupled with the stop-start promotion of prominent figures such as Brandi Rhodes, injuries and COVID-19 travel restrictions has left the division lacking top card talent. The belief is that given the AEW Women’s Division is largely populated by performers with little experience. There are not enough experienced performers to sufficiently fill time on an episode of Dynamite.
Adding more characters to the mix is not going to rectify these problems. But there are athletes that can contribute to the product. Whether it’s developing the divisions’ future prospects backstage or providing a steady hand in ring, these five names have a significant upside to All Elite Wrestling.
Not Officially on this List, but Needs to be Addressed – Tessa Blanchard
Some people consider Tessa Blanchard to be the best women’s wrestler on the planet. The discourse since she left IMPACT! Wrestling last year has been a sense of toxicity in the locker room. She’s been accused of racism, holding others back, and not working to help the company that’s helped put her on the map. (For those that want an alternative to this reporting, look here.)
With an impressive list of accomplishments, many believe she’s the level of star power that is needed to lead the AEW Women’s division. However, based on the aforementioned accusations, and a company that seems geared towards building the young competitors they’ve signed, it appears her employment would not be beneficial. Additionally, it appears as though there is no return interest.
Just to get that out of the way. Now, the full list.
The aforementioned common fault of the division thus far is an overall lack of television experience by the members of the roster. Thea Trinidad could bolster the experience within the company when her WWE non-compete clause elapses around February 11th.
The former Zelina Vega, given her journey from TNA, to NXT, eventually to the main roster, has spent around ten years involved in some manner with a televised wrestling product. Her experience means that she can be plugged straight into television appearances alongside the top of the card, whether it be competing regularly in the ring with the title holders, or on the mic with Britt Baker. Some criticise her in-ring performance, although others praise her development throughout her time spent within the WWE developmental system. Universally, it appears her strong suit is during promos, being labelled by some as the reason for Andrade’s success within NXT, as his spokesperson.
AEW fail to give its Women’s Division significant Dynamite programming time – with the prevailing hope being that their new show in 2021 will feature these talents more prominently. When you’re presented with an experienced performer in and out of the ring, she’s sure to be a benefit to the division. If the future of the AEW Women’s division is Britt Baker as an entertaining heel champion, an equally entertaining challenger would be a babyface by circumstance, Thea Trinidad. What other endorsement of charisma on screen do you need?
Jamie Hayter competed twice for All Elite Wrestling in late 2019. Personally, she was immediately someone who exuded a different form of charisma within the company. In a full-time capacity, she would bring a sense of size and aggression absent from the division outside of Nyla Rose. Additionally, she and Kris Statlander are both 25, and as potential career rivals could present a bright future for AEW’s Women’s Division.
The above is all very surface level, based on personal engagement with the product, and the discourse surrounding Hayter as a performer online. However, there are additional reasons for suggesting her. She currently appears stranded in the UK, unable to return to her home promotion of STARDOM due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions (however, personal decision-making may be a greater factor, as opposed to travel restrictions. The reasoning is unknown at this time.) As a result, she has only been able to work five matches since returning to the UK in March and is clearly frustrated with the situation.
AEW has had similar experiences during the ongoing global pandemic with PAC staying home in Newcastle between March and November of last year. Somehow, they have been able to return him to the US. The precedent is set that they are willing to do this for performers. But I’d expect that this process is reserved for current stars and not future prospects.
An additional concern would be the perceived breakdown in the relationship between AEW and STARDOM in Japan, surrounding the contract stipulations for shared talent. Discussed on Stardom Quest Episode 20, it appears as though former AEW Women’s Champion Riho is leaving STARDOM due to being unable to take a visual loss as part of her contract. STARDOM is interested in predominantly using exclusively signed talent, avoiding talent on a freelance/shared contract. Hayter performing with AEW would be unlikely if this is true; but depending on her own contract status, this may not be a relevant concern.
Much like Jamie Hayter, Trish Adora is frustrated with the way of the world. Unlike Jamie Hayter, she has the benefit of being based in the US.
The Washington born US Army vet was already being named in similar articles a year ago as an individual to watch. Understandable, given her hard-hitting style – finishing off opponents with a wicked clothesline named “Lariat Tubman”.
With the goal to inspire people across the world to start wrestling, like WWF’s Jacqueline did for her, a position on international television would aid Adora in her goal. AEW has also not been afraid to allow the title belts and title accomplishments from other companies to be shown/mentioned on their programme. The inaugural and current Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Wrestling Champion would be able to remain proud of her roots, displaying a very important title belt in the diversity of this sport to the world. Something AEW is already invested in doing, from the top down.
Taya Valkyrie was contracted to IMPACT! Wrestling, with her deal expiring in January 2021. It’s anticipated that the former longest-running Knockout and current Reina De Reainas Champion wrestled her final match for the company she’s worked with since 2017, losing to Deonna Purrazzo at Hard to Kill.
To the AEW locker room, Taya would present a veteran presence, both within the industry as a whole and on television due to her time at IMPACT!. She would present an immediate injection into the main event scene, while also being able to assist younger talents.
Additionally, depending on how the storyline between AEW and IMPACT develops, the timing of this is particularly fortuitous. Taya can be presented as the first full-time defection of the war, a major part of the story, potentially leading to a more prominent role on screen. Valkyries position as AAA’s current Reina De Reinas bodes well for an AEW move also, given the existing partnership between the two promotions. Depending on when it’s scheduled, I’d love to see her debut as a surprise entrant in the Women’s Title Eliminator Tournament.
The expectation from some however is that given Taya’s husband currently works for WWE, she may be more likely to sign a contract there. Although there is no reporting as of yet, whether she is being pursued by WWE or is expecting to resign with her current promotion, although a move appears likely. (Nor, is there reporting that she’s been in conversation with AEW, but then my article wouldn’t exist.)
So first, f*ck WWE.
Originally, this list featured Priscilla Kelly, and it was all nice and written up in advance, so I could focus on other stuff. And then, she was signed to an NXT contract, changed her name to GiGi, and will ultimately have a wonderful career. But god-damn, it’s messed with my list.
Instead, we’ll touch on Rosemary, who has a very similar position in terms of contract situation to Taya Valkyrie.
Rosemary signed a two-year contract extension in 2019, expiring sometime in February, but there has yet to be any news of negotiations in 2021. She is the same age as Valkyrie, and much like her, Rosemary has spent 4+ years with IMPACT! in an on-screen capacity. Again, Rosemary presents the prospect of veteran leadership that can stabilise in-ring performance dor less experienced members of the roster. Unlike Valkyrie, Rosemary doesn’t appear to have any sort of personal relationship that may impact her choice. (Ha, didn’t mean that).
However, there are a couple of reasons that she didn’t make the list initially. Firstly, she doesn’t have the same relationship with AAA. Additionally, Rosemary doesn’t present a character that melds well with the All Elite system. In 2020, we’ve seen complex, supernatural adjacent performers such as Abadon and “Broken” Matt Hardy, flounder when they’ve been presented alongside the more reality-based elements of the AEW show.
Would that sticking point stop Rosemary from accepting a contract? Or, is it still the common prevailing opinion that AEW remains a distinct third when it comes to Women’s wrestling in North America. Why would talent sign for a substandard brand if they could instead compete with the best in WWE or the well represented in IMPACT? Only time will tell.