All Elite (women’s) Wrestling.
AEW is constant its spectacular romp via the wrestling world, however not with out tripping on just a few drop-downs alongside the way in which. The COVID-19 pandemic largely threw a wrench into the corporate’s finest laid plans, however boss Tony Khan would not essentially pin that as a adverse.
While the corporate’s reserving choices, feuds and matches have been largely top-tier during the last 12 months, a vocal minority of critics has additionally pegged the corporate’s women’s division as a weak level of the promotion. Khan would not title that as a detriment both, and with honest cause: The fledgling promotion, in simply its third functioning 12 months, has continued to develop its ranks of ladies rivals over the previous 12 months, with “Legit” Leyla Hirsch the newest signing for the corporate.
The firm has seen particular growth within the women’s division, however perhaps that growth has come slower than some would have favored. Still, there have been particular brilliant spots within the women’s ranks: Hikaru Shida is the corporate’s longest-reigning champion, the division performs host to 1 of the corporate’s prime feuds and they’ve continued rising their roster with proficient wrestlers.
Shida, Hirsch, Red Velvet, Abadon, Serena Deeb and Jade Cargill are just a few of the ladies making waves over the previous 12 months, with the corporate airing a multi-continent women’s championship eliminator event simply final month, showcasing a number of Japanese wrestling stars on its airwaves, as nicely.
The women’s momentum carries into Wednesday, with AEW’s Dr. Britt Baker (DMD) and NWA’s Thunder Rosa set to conflict yet one more time on “Dynamite,” penning the newest chapter of their white-hot feud. This time, the stakes could not be increased, with the rivals going through off in a Lights Out match.
Khan spoke with Sporting News in regards to the improvement of the women’s division, the growth of Baker, the feud between Baker and Thunder Rosa, and extra.
(Editor’s word: The interview has been edited for size and readability.)
Sporting News (SN): One of the most important criticisms of AEW over the previous 12 months or so has been a perceived lack of deal with the women’s division. Given the pandemic, it is clearly a troublesome setting to develop the product. How do you’re feeling the women’s division has grown prior to now 12 months or so?
Tony Khan (TK): I believe we have seen nice improvement of the women’s roster since AEW launched. Wrestling followers voted Dr. Britt Baker probably the most improved wrestler on this planet final 12 months for 2020, within the Wrestling Observer awards, and she’s been an incredible chief within the women’s division. She’s been an incredible chief within the women’s division and we have added nice expertise internally.
I believe Red Velvet’s are available in and executed a very good job for us, and Serena Deeb has are available in and not solely been nice for us, however then as a full-time AEW contract wrestler, went out and gained the NWA women’s title. Serena, Red Velvet and Leyla Hirsch are nice examples of individuals who weren’t right here in the beginning, who I believe have upgraded our expertise, and stepped in and develop into actually nice additions.
Tay Conti is any individual who I’ve at all times thought had super potential — she has vastly improved and I believe she could possibly be a front-runner this 12 months, doubtlessly, to interrupt out and be one of probably the most improved wrestlers on this planet. I believe she had all of the instruments and all the private charisma that it takes to be an incredible wrestler. She at all times had every part it took, and now with extra expertise, extra reps and nice teaching, we’re seeing that.
SN: Sounds such as you’re very proud of the roster that you have helped put collectively.
TK: It’s only a very totally different roster. I assume we benefited from beginning with a roster with some of the nice wrestling stars on this planet, with Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley, and of course Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks on our first pay-per-view, and nice stars who would construct a global status like Hangman Page. We had so much of actually high-upside younger wrestlers coming in in the beginning and earlier than we launched our TV present, like MJF and Darby Allin, Jungle Boy and a number of others. We’ve additionally had so much of breakout stars which have come, like Orange Cassidy, who’ve been with us, actually, from our inception and broke out.
The women’s division, we signed so much of nice wrestlers and we have seen some improvement however we have additionally had so much of large motion in free company since then. Hikaru Shida is a superb wrestler, she’s a nice champion, and has executed so much of work to get us to the place we might do a event for the primary ever eliminator that occurred on two continents, and she was instrumental in getting that executed and serving to to supply the exhibits in Japan. She wished to have one of the best competitors to wrestle, and that was an incredible event for us — it did nice viewership.
I believe now for our women’s division, for us to have nice new stars with buzz who’ve actually added to the present prior to now six months or a 12 months, it actually helped us so much. I’m so excited for the principle occasion this week of the Lights Out match with Dr. Britt Baker versus Thunder Rosa, which is one of my favourite tales we have ever advised on all of AEW, actually.
SN: Why is that?
TK: Thunder Rosa, prime unbiased wrestler, one of probably the most revered unbiased wrestlers on this planet, coming into AEW, and the locker room saying, “Hey just because AEW says they’re open to everybody, we don’t want it to be open to everybody, we’re very protective of our territory.” The chief and bully of this locker room, the highest heel, is Dr. Britt Baker, and she says, “You know we don’t want you here, top independent wrestler, stay out, go back to wrestling on the internet and stay off TNT. This is our sandbox.” They’ve clashed and it has been an incredible story.
They’ve helped “AEW Dynamite” generally by being one of the nice tales on the present total for the final a number of months. This is a fruits of an incredible story — the primary ever Lights Out match we have executed on “Dynamite.” We’ve had Lights Out matches important occasion pay-per-views and the “Fyter Fest” streaming particular however by no means on “Dynamite.” It’s actually cool, it is one of our large matches, and Dr. Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa are two of our prime wrestlers. They signify completely totally different facets of AEW: Dr. Britt Baker being a lifer, contract, long-term, locked-in wrestler, who’s the face of the corporate, and Thunder Rosa represents an out of doors firm, who got here in and exhibits that, we’re for exterior expertise to return in and be handled nicely, and we do enterprise with different wrestling firms. Treat them respectfully however nonetheless make certain we get taken care of.
SN: How spectacular is it to you to see the feud that these two have had? They’ve clicked since Day 1.
TK: They’ve been so spectacular, and I deliberate this for six months to repay on this Lights Out match. It’s been a six-month story, nevertheless it does not work if you do not have individuals that may pull it off. Everything they’ve executed has stayed scorching. If you do not have individuals who can pull it off, they would not have made it to 6 months, we might have needed to do it sooner or not do it in any respect, or name an audible. Sometimes issues do not work and you do not simply follow your plan if it isn’t working. In this case, it is labored.
Everything they’ve executed has clicked, and it is a credit score to to Britt and to Thunder Rosa, and all of the individuals who’ve been a component of the presentation. Rebel has been an incredible supervisor and instigator. It’s simply actually robust stuff and it is one of our greatest packages.
SN: I’m assuming the pandemic has modified some of your best-laid plans; now we’re seeing a light-weight on the finish of the tunnel. When you have a look at the challenges you have needed to face whereas attempting to develop the women’s division and perhaps the product as an entire, what’s that been like for you?
TK: It’s been a blended bag. There’s been some challenges, undoubtedly, in phrases of all people attending to work in entrance of the massive, reside crowds at first. But now we have had actually good crowds at Daily’s Place. The finest place in America and on tv to get to expertise wrestling in entrance of giant crowds has been “Dynamite” for the final a number of months. It’s been completely secure — out of doors exhibits with socially distanced followers, in pods with masks. We’ve had zero identified transmissions in months and months of doing these exhibits and dozens of occasions and 1000’s of followers.
There had been 1,300 followers on the pay-per-view — we have had over 1,000 followers for “Dynamite” over lots of and lots of of followers, not less than, for these exhibits and it is the one likelihood you are gonna get on tv proper now wrestling in entrance of that sort of crowd. So we have made one of the best of it, nevertheless it actually is one of the best you are gonna get in wrestling, so by coping with the identical difficult circumstances everybody’s handled and coping with them in all probability, truthfully, higher than anyone else handled them, I believe that is been a constructive greater than a adverse.
Everyone’s coping with the identical horrible circumstances within the pandemic, however we tried to be artistic and use it to our benefit. By increasing “Dark” and now extending “Dark” into “Dark: Elevation,” we have discovered our developmental system and developed so much of nice, younger wrestlers. Tay Conti’s come a great distance and will proceed to return a great distance wrestling so much of matches on “Dark” and “Elevation.” Red Velvet has actually come up and has been very invaluable for us, and she received established on “Dark.” Leyla Hirsch is any individual now who’s doing an incredible job for us and is now signed.
Also, it is created an setting the place so much of individuals have come to me trying to work collectively, or eager to work collectively and I believe that is been good for us, too. It’s been partnership with the NWA, to have Serena as their champion for them to have such an incredible star from “Dynamite” as your champion, but additionally for us, Thunder Rosa has been nice right here and continues to be nice right here.
SN: Serena Deeb has been such a brilliant spot for the women’s division throughout her time with AEW. Can you set into phrases simply how a lot she has meant to the division and to the locker room?
TK: One of the actually finest issues that is occurred to us this 12 months has been Serena coming in as a coach. She’s a coach for us and hasn’t simply coached women’s matches, she’s coached males’s matches on “Dynamite” and offered that perception and these concepts, so she works with individuals of all genders. She’s executed large stars’ matches on TV, together with Cody and Dustin and individuals like that and works the headset sitting within the chair subsequent to me, whereas I time and oversee the present, so she’s a very invaluable particular person on display and off. She’s an incredible wrestler.
She’s coping with a knee damage proper now, sadly … however she’s essential to us on display and off, and she’s our wrestler — she went to NWA and gained the title. She’s actually vital, as Thunder Rosa from the NWA has been nice, and been wonderful.
We use Allysin Kay who had been within the NWA, she was a free agent. She’s nice. And they’ve some good actually good individuals there and they’re beginning again up. It’s an incredible relationship for us and Thunder Rosa is one of our nice wrestlers, who’s their wrestler.
SN: When you have a look at Britt Baker, simply how far she’s come from being the pure babyface to being this old-school heel, how loopy is it to see that she has this a lot pure means?
TK: Not that loopy — we knew the true particular person. In this case, there was no one within the firm who had extra presence to them that wasn’t being showcased within the tv present that wanted to have an overhaul to their character. Literally no one who had better alternative to take their actual character and showcase it on the present than Britt. She was initially introduced as a pleasant particular person, babyface who had a fiery character, was extremely smart — a true function mannequin. We had been in a gathering, and Kenny as soon as stated, “I think Britt would benefit from a heel turn.” I utterly agreed, and I put so much of thought into it.
I knew that Tony Schiavone had been a barista at Starbucks, and I believed, one thing that would actually make you look, frankly, like an actual b—, should you condescend to Tony Schiavone, who the followers love, particularly the web followers; we’ll be on the Jericho cruise the place we did this as a result of it was an ideal place. Early on within the early levels of her flip, for her to essentially throw down the gauntlet on the Jericho cruise and say, “Tony was a lowly barista” and attempt and act like she was higher than him and she was belittling him — that received nice warmth.
She simply introduced extra and extra of her character, which is all we requested of her. Every nice wrestler is themselves turned up just a few levels, and that may be very true of Britt. She’s actually charismatic and extremely smart, however she’s very well-suited to play the character she performs on tv. She’s received a giant character, and it was exhausting to showcase it except she actually confirmed this wild aspect as a heel.
SN: Obviously, there is a large important occasion this Wednesday night time pitting Thunder Rosa vs. Britt Baker. What can followers count on on Wednesday and from the women’s division shifting ahead?
TK: You can count on nice matches. We’ve had some actually nice matches, and this will likely be, I consider on the prime of the record of nice matches on the present, generally. This will likely be one of the highest matches we have had. It’s an incredible important occasion.
Lights Out matches have headlined our pay-per-views and the unique Fyter Fest. We’ve had some nice ones, and it is a nice Lights Out match. This program — the Britt Baker vs. Thunder Rosa — they’re two red-hot wrestlers and two of one of the best wrestlers on this planet.
As we proceed to develop nice wrestlers who can carry a narrative like this, I count on extra nice packages and nice matches like this one. We’ve had nice enchancment within the depth of the roster within the final 12 months and I count on that to proceed. This is a big week for positive, and I believe this will likely be one of our nice matches that any of our wrestlers have ever had.