With the way Tony Khan signs people, this number could change, but as of right now, there are 35 women on AEW’s current roster.
Let’s trim that number down, though.
Even though she has wrestled here and there, I wouldn’t exactly consider Rebel an active in-ring performer for the company. Come to think of it, even when she’s wrestling, I don’t consider her a wrestler, because she is awful. Absolutely atrocious. That leaves 34 names.
Maria Kanellis-Bennett is one of the newest members of the roster, but she is definitely more of a manager and overall on-screen presence than an actual wrestler. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure she hasn’t wrestled a match since the all-time classic Steel Cage Match she had against Wendi Richter at the Baltimore Civic Center in 1985. There’s not a lot of reason to believe she’s suddenly going to become a wrestler that has matches every week. Let’s count her out. That leaves 33 names.
Paige VanZant got a lot of attention when she arrived in AEW from the world of MMA. It probably wasn’t fair, but people immediately made the lazy comparison and said she could be AEW’s version of Ronda Rousey one day. She would make a handful of appearances for the company, and it would lead to a match at Double Or Nothing earlier this year, when she teamed with Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky to defeat Frankie Kazarian, Sammy Guevara, and Tay Conti. Then… nothing. Earlier this month, we heard from none other than Gangrel, who had been part of PVZ’s pro wrestling training, and he said she has basically walked away from the sport. He would say that she stopped training, and that he pretty much stopped hearing from her after Double Or Nothing. That doesn’t sound promising. Let’s take her off the list. That leaves 32 names.
Leva Bates is someone that has been with AEW damn near from day one, signing with the promotion leading up to their first pay-per-view, Double Or Nothing, in 2019. She had a lot of momentum and buzz after her run as Blue Pants in NXT, but changing to The Librarian was a difficult move for her, as the character didn’t really work right away. That’s not her fault, mind you. It’s just the way things go sometimes. Pretty quickly, her role within the company changed, and she began doing more and more in a backstage role. She was working closely with Brandi Rhodes for a while, almost as an assistant, of sorts, being handed jobs and duties that Brandi felt she didn’t have enough time to take care of. While Leva very occasionally wrestles on AEW’s YouTube shows, she hasn’t wrestled on television since March 4th, 2020. I’m pretty sure you can take her off the list. That leaves 31 names.
AQA signed with the company in February of this year, and then spent the next six months wrestling sparingly on the YouTube shows before surprisingly stepping away from the wrestling business, stating that she had “not been in a great place” with wrestling, mentally or physically. While she’s still with the company, at least as far as anyone knows, it has been four months since she went on hiatus, with zero word on any sort of return date, if that’s coming at all. For the time being, let’s take her off the list. That leaves 30 names.
Now… let’s begin.
A couple weeks ago, we hit the two-year anniversary of Jade Cargill’s AEW debut. It was one of the weirdest debuts in recent history, with her walking out and interrupting a Cody Rhodes promo to absolute silence because nobody knew who the fuck she was, even if she looked like someone we all needed to know. She proceeded to cut a terrible promo that ended up being to hype up a match involving Shaquille O’Neal, but then she got interrupted herself, as a storming mad Brandi Rhodes walked out with her fake-ass “blaccent” and tried to audition for Flavor Of Love or whatever the fuck she thought she was doing that night. It was a ridiculous segment overall, and there was no reason to think that Jade would become a big star for AEW other than thinking that she was an attractive woman in incredible physical condition.
Fast forward two years, and Jade Cargill is the reigning AEW TBS Champion, with a record of 42-0. Well, that’s her announced record, anyway. There’s a minor issue that people have with that number, though. The issue is that she was a participant in the Casino Battle Royale at All Out 2021, where she was eliminated by Nyla Rose. Some people feel that not winning any sort of Battle Royal counts as a loss, while others don’t count those matches, win or lose, in someone’s record. 42-0 or 42-1… either way, that’s pretty impressive, especially coming from someone who made her pro wrestling debut in the aforementioned match that featured Shaquille O’Neal.
In those two years, she has seen a lot of improvements as a pro wrestler. While I wouldn’t say she’s going to be in the running for any Promo Of The Year awards, she has gotten more comfortable on the mic and it shows. As far as her in-ring work goes, she is in a very tricky place and those in charge of putting her matches together need to pay very close attention to what they do. Most of her matches to this point have basically been short squash matches. That made sense for a while, but it’s tough to truly improve in the ring when your matches last for two minutes and all you did was hit two or three moves. At the same time, she’s still too “green” to be involved in matches that regularly go 10-20 minutes in big spots. That’s you how expose people in the wrestling business. If Tony Khan and/or the AEW coaching team can find that sweet spot between short squash matches and longer pay-per-view style matches, she’s going to benefit tremendously.
So, where does Jade go from here? Let’s go back to the beginning of this column for a moment. There are 30 women in AEW that you can say are at least part-time competitors. That’s Jade Cargill and 29 others. Of those 29 others, Jade has already beaten 16 of them. Obviously, just because Jade has defeated someone in the past, that doesn’t mean they can’t come back to beat her at some point down the road. I just think the smart booking decision is to have a “new” name be the one to finally knock her from her pedestal. Creating a new star is such an important thing in professional wrestling, and there’s a chance to make that happen here with the right decision making.
Just for fun, here’s a list of the names in the division that Jade has not beaten as of yet:
– Britt Baker
– Emi Sakura
– Hikaru Shida
– Jamie Hayter
– Kris Statlander
– Mercedes Martinez
– Penelope Ford
– Serena Deeb
– Toni Storm
– Yuka Sakazaki
The first thing I notice from that list is that, outside of the Casino Battle Royale at All Out 2021, Jade hasn’t been in the ring with a Japanese woman yet. I’m 137% sure that means absolutely nothing. It’s just something I found interesting as I was doing research for this column.
The next thing I notice is that there are probably some names you can immediately remove from the conversation if we’re talking about who is, and who should be, the person to end Jade’s undefeated streak.
Emi Sakura and Yuka Sakazaki have never received consistent television time in AEW, let alone big pushes that would lead people to believe they’re going to be anything special with the company.
Abadon has the type of character that makes you pay attention when they’re on television. Unfortunately, Abadon simply isn’t on television very often for one reason or another. It has been over a year now since they were on television, going all the way back to the Halloween week (of course) episode of Rampage, where they lost to Britt Baker. With word that Abadon may have broken their collarbone a couple weeks back, you might need to remove them from this discussion whether you want to or not, at least for a while.
Penelope Ford is someone who has never had any sort of real push in AEW at all. In fact, in the entire time she has been with the company, she has never won consecutive matches on television. Ever. Not even in tag or six-woman tags or anything like that. She’s not going from that to knocking off Jade Cargill all of a sudden.
Who does that leave?
– Britt Baker
– Hikaru Shida
– Jamie Hayter
– Kris Statlander
– Mercedes Martinez
– Serena Deeb
– Toni Storm
The field has really narrowed now. If we’re going to remove some more names, I think you can start with Serena Deeb. Nothing against her, as she might be the best actual wrestler in the division. However, the push she once had seems to have come to an end, as she hasn’t wrestled a match for AEW in over a month now, and hasn’t wrestled on television in almost two months, with her last televised singles win coming almost three months ago. Deeb is definitely someone that should have a match with Jade with some point, as she could help Jade look even better in the ring, but that’s about as far as it should go.
Kris Statlander was a very popular pick to be the one to finally beat Jade at some point. Then she blew her knee out. Again. It was a different knee this time, so that’s the good news. However, her last knee injury kept her out of action for almost ten months. If she follows that timeline this time around, she won’t be back in action until May or June of next year. While I suppose it’s possible that Jade Cargill will still be the undefeated TBS Champion by that point, the odds probably aren’t very good there. Before the injury, Statlander was my overwhelming choice for who SHOULD be the person to take the TBS Championship from Jade. She was becoming one of the most popular acts on the entire roster, and her combination of size and strength allow her to match up with Jade very well, unlike anyone else AEW could throw at the champ. If, for some reason, Jade Cargill is still the TBS Champion in May or June 2023, hook a feud between her and Statlander up to my veins, please.
While double champions seems to be all the rage right now, the AEW women damn sure don’t need to continue that trend. That means, for the time being, you can take Jamie Hayter and Mercedes Martinez off of the list. They’ve got their own things going on right now.
Okay, now who is left?
– Britt Baker
– Hikaru Shida
– Toni Storm
Ooh, now we’re talking. Things are very interesting at this point. Look at that list. Four of the five have won the AEW Women’s Title, and the other is one of the biggest female signings in company history who just so happens to have one of the better “feel good” comeback stories in wrestling.
Picture in your head, if you will, a stare down between Jade Cargill and Riho. It’s a funny visual, isn’t it? Riho is one of the tiniest women on the roster, while Jade is the tallest. It’s not like we haven’t seen that type of craziness before, though. Riho is listed as being 5’1″ tall, which is the same height as Red Velvet, who Jade has faced before, and two inches taller than Kiera Hogan, who Jade has also faced before. It’s also two inches taller than Leyla Hirsch, who… say it with me… Jade has faced before. The underdog story of Riho defeating a woman that is nearly a foot taller than she is could be something fun, but how much “juice” is there? Riho is, for all intents and purposes, a part-time wrestler in AEW. She spends a lot of time in Japan between stints in AEW. Is that who you want to hitch this particular wagon to? Someone who defeats Jade Cargill should probably build that to some sort of major run with the title, shouldn’t they? Riho has yet to spend more than two months at a time in AEW. What happens if Riho defeats Jade, only to drop the title to someone four weeks later because Riho has to go back to Japan for a while?
To a lesser extent, a lot of that can be said about Hikaru Shida, too. Her frame is a lot bigger than Riho, and she has shown that she does very well against the larger members of the division, but she has stretches of time when she’s gone for a bit, too. Are we due for another one of those stretches? We might be. She’s been a near-weekly wrestler for AEW over the last few months. If we’re being honest with each other, I think Shida could get a pretty entertaining match out of Jade. As I said, she has shown that she does well against those who are larger than her, whether its someone like Kris Statlander, Nyla Rose, or Jamie Hayter, so that won’t be an issue at all. In the end, those “fears” of Shida going back to Japan swayed me a bit. I’m weird like that sometimes.
As long as Britt Baker is employed by AEW, she is going to be competing for championships and involved in the top storylines that the women’s division gets. I think that’s pretty clear to everyone by now, whether you’re a fan of hers or not. If Britt and Jade were to feud, it would be treated as a huge deal in AEW, and it would get more television time than your average women’s feud that we see there. The one thing that prevents this matchup from truly jumping out is the fact that both women are heels. Sure, they’re “cool” heels that can get different levels of face reactions, depending on where they are and who they’re facing, but they’re heels nonetheless. I think some promo battles between these two could be a lot of fun. Britt likes to hit below the belt in those type of “shoot” promos that get fans talking, and Jade seems like the kind of woman who would l-o-v-e to fire back in a similar fashion if she should be pushed to do so. I think this one is inevitable, but I also don’t think it will happen just yet, because the even more inevitable feud between Jamie Hayter and Britt Baker is coming, and could very well put the Women’s Title back around Doc Smiley’s waist.
Toni Storm is a lot better in the ring than she often gets credit for. She has been placed in some strange situations, both in WWE and now in AEW, but she has continued to shine. Tony Khan has noticed it, as well, recently saying that Storm was not only one of AEW’s MVP’s this year, but that she was also one of the best signings in AEW history. Yeah, yeah… promoters love their hyperbole, but I think it’s true. The MVP part, for sure, but it does remain to be seen if she ends up as one of the best signings that AEW has ever made. Toni could be a great opponent for Jade, and could definitely help take the TBS Champion to higher levels of in-ring work. In any other normal situation, I think Toni would be my pick for who will end up being the woman to dethrone Jade. Unfortunately for her, though, we’re not in a normal situation in AEW these days. There’s another story that has to be making Tony Khan salivate right now…
That’s it. That’s the story.
Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of hers or not. The fact that she returned from a career-ending injury that forced her to retire at the tender age of 25 is a big, big deal. It will continue to be presented as such for a while, so you should get used to it. Pro wrestling is at its best when it builds on special moments. The ones that can be turned into YouTube clips that gain millions of views, and can be used in video packages for decades to come. AEW has a chance to create something like that here. Saraya returning from that injury and beating what seemed to be an unbeatable machine could make for a fantastic “moment” for a long, long time. If you close your eyes and try to envision it in your head, you can probably already see her crying as the bell rings to end the match. You can see the crowd going nuts, and you can hear whatever combination of the 412 members of the commentary team will be doing the call really putting it over.
Not to bring the joy down, but it all depends on Saraya being able to return to pre-injury form, or at least being able to come close to it. Her match at Full Gear wasn’t the smoothest in the world, but I don’t think even her biggest fans were expecting a five-star classic in her first match back. She had some ring rust, but one has to assume that will be shaken off with time and repetition. If, for whatever reason, she can’t shake that rust, none of this matters, and it would hurt the moment by being a lot less believable.
So, to clarify…
If Jade Cargill is still the TBS Champion when Kris Statlander returns from her knee injury, then Statlander SHOULD be the one who beats Jade.
If AEW doesn’t want to, or can’t, wait long enough for Statlander to return, I feel that Toni Storm SHOULD be the one who beats Jade.
In the end, though, healthy Statlander or not, I think Saraya WILL be the one who beats Jade.
This is a very important moment in AEW history, and there could be consequences and repercussions moving forward if the wrong choice is made.
Your turn, folks. Who do you think WILL be the person to eventually dethrone Jade Cargill? If it’s someone different, you can also mention who you think SHOULD be the person to dethrone her. As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
Men’s War Games: Storytelling, storytelling, storytelling. Roman Reigns and the entire Bloodline group have been involved in some fantastic storytelling over the last two-plus years, and this continues that streak very nicely. It was built up that we were about to see the group “turn” on Sami Zayn and kick him out of the group, but by the end of the night, they were stronger than ever, and the WWE Universe is still eating it all up. Proof of that is the fact that Jey Uso finally letting his guard down and giving Sami a huge hug after the match got one of the biggest face pops of the night.
Kevin Owens vs Jey Uso: Not a bad in-ring week for Jey Uso, but more on that later. This was a great television main event match. Hell, this would’ve been a great pay-per-view main event match. There’s so much in-ring chemistry between the Usos and numerous members of the roster, and you can always count on something good when you put them out there against a wide variety of opponents. Singles, tag, six-man, eight-man, whatever… it doesn’t matter. This one went out of its way to make Kevin Owens look like the legitimate main event player that he is. Early rumors are that he’s a leading candidate to face Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble, so that would make a lot of sense. You want Owens to look as strong as possible, especially since he has already lost to Roman three times during this epic title reign. Admittedly, the last of those three matches came nearly two years ago at the 2021 Royal Rumble, so an entirely new script can be written now, so this could be a lot of fun if it ends up happening.
Seth Rollins vs Bobby Lashley vs Austin Theory: WWE does Triple Threats really well, and this was no exception. All three men got a ton of time to shine in their own ways, and the title switch makes sense to me, especially with the way it happened. The new, more serious version of the Austin Theory character could, and should, have a lot of mileage that the company can get out of it.
Death Triangle vs The Elite: Six of the best that pro wrestling has to offer. 15 minutes from bell-to-bell. 30 minutes of action packed into said 15 minutes. You know the routine by now. Can they keep it up for what will absolutely, positively reach the seventh and final match of their series? I believe they can. It’s just a matter of keeping things fresh. This one was different than the first match of the series, as The Elite really leaned in and took multiple shots at CM Punk and the happenings after All Out. I know some people didn’t like the Punk stuff in this match, but I didn’t mind it. The match was happening in Chicago, and the strong pro-Punk crowd was already showering The Elite with heel heat, so pissing the crowd off even more is just fine. Do I want to see more of it in future matches? No, I do not, even if this whooooollllleeeee thing is a work and Punk will be returning to AEW soon. For now, though, knock yourselves out.
Women’s War Games: It wasn’t a banner night for Iyo Sky, but she was able to rebound from some ugly spots to look strong in the match. Everyone in the match had chances to look strong. I don’t think the outcome of the match was in doubt from the moment Becky Lynch returned as the final member of Bianca Belair’s team, but that didn’t exactly drag the match down.
William Regal/Bryan Danielson/Jon Moxley Promo Segment: Fans waited several days to hear from William Regal about why he turned his back on Jon Moxley and helped MJF win the AEW World Title at Full Gear, but he never really got a chance to do much explaining. This entire segment was really good. Bryan Danielson was great in trying to play mediator, and Moxley was pitch perfect in his “the only reason I haven’t murdered you in the center of this ring is because I owe a lot of my career to you” role. It made everyone anticipate the next verbal showdown, especially once MJF gets involved.
Chris Jericho vs Tomohiro Ishii: I’ve been critical of some things that Chris Jericho has done in his time with AEW, and even going back further than that. He’s certainly not the same performer that he was in his prime, and that shows from time-to-time. As I said on Twitter as this match was going on, though, I give him a ton of credit for having matches like this, and matches like the one he had with Nick Gage. He clearly doesn’t have to participate in matches like that at this stage of his career, but there he is, bleeding buckets, getting the ever-loving fuck chopped out of his chest, getting sliced up with weapons, and so on. This was b-r-u-t-a-l. Ishii was every bit of the Ishii that fans know and love, and he went to town on Jericho. It was a lot of fun to watch, honestly.
Becky Lynch: I’m glad that she’s back. The WWE product is better when she’s around.
The Street Profits vs Alpha Academy: We’ve seen these teams face each other a million times, but hey, it’s always a quality match. On top of that, we haven’t seen them square off on television or pay-per-view for three months, so that definitely helps the freshness level.
FTR vs Top Flight: It was the first straight-up tag match we’ve seen from Top Flight in eight months, and only the second one they’ve had since DECEMBER 2020, thanks to some really bad injury luck for Darius Martin. Another crazy stat… this was only the FIFTH straight up tag match that Top Flight has ever had on AEW television. Five. That’s it. Obviously, this match was a lot of fun, as it made these rankings. I just wanted to take the time to point those stats out. That’s incredible.
Drew McIntyre & Sheamus vs The Usos: As I said, this was quite the week for Jey Uso. For various reasons, it’s crazy difficult to make my rankings three different times in the same week, but here’s Jey’s third appearance. Really good clash of styles in this match. As an added bonus, the face team won, surprising a lot of folks because the heel team almost always gets the odds advantage before War Games. That was refreshing.
House Of Black: I know that a lot of folks were really looking forward to the return of Aleister Black on WWE programming, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The entire House Of Black made their return to AEW, and it was really good to see them again. The only reason I don’t have this ranked a little higher is that I don’t have total confidence in Tony Khan to do right by them and book them properly. There’s just not enough opportunities to go around in AEW with that roster of theirs. We’ll see, I guess.
AJ Styles vs Finn Balor: I thought it would be a lot more fast-paced and would see a lot more high-flying action. Nope. They decided to slow the pace down and just beat the shit out of each other for a bit. I can respect that.
Ricky Starks vs Ethan Page: Good stuff from both men, but more importantly, it puts Ricky Starks one step closer to being the AEW World Champion. I feel he deserves it, and I feel he’s ready for it. The only problem is that the Winter Is Coming episode of Dynamite, where Starks will receive his World Title shot, will be the 25th day of MJF’s title reign. After everything that went into getting MJF to the top of the mountain, and everything that was necessary in making it happen, would AEW really have him drop the title to someone else less than four weeks later? Stranger things have happened, but man, it would be a really big surprise. Unless, of course, William Regal turns on MJF, too, and helps Starks win the title. Then, a month or two later, Regal can turn on Starks to help Powerhouse Hobbs win the title. Then, Regal turns on Hobbs to help Bryan Danielson win the title. Then, Regal turns on Danielson to help Jon Moxley win the title, revealing the entire thing was simply Regal and Moxley playing the long con to play all of you marks, yo.
Julius Creed vs JD McDonagh: McDonagh is on a roll in NXT, having some really entertaining matches with people up and down the card. Of course, the same thing can be said about Julius Creed. I like giving them a chance to face each other here. I didn’t mind the disqualification finish, as it kept the door open for anything in the future, but it also added to the upcoming match between the Creeds and Indus Sher, which is going to be a banger.
The O.C. vs The Judgment Day: After Styles vs Balor at Survivor Series, you could just tell that the feud between these two groups wasn’t over. Sure enough, it wasn’t. After this match, as good as it was, you could just tell that the feud between these two groups wasn’t over. Clearly, the solution is to bring back War Games and do it again. Duh.
Candice LeRae vs Dakota Kai: One of Triple H’s biggest issues since taking his new gig with Creative is that he keeps bringing his personal favorites back from the unemployment line and simply expects them to be super over with the WWE Universe with no questions asked. Candice LeRae is really good in the ring, and she has the career to back that up. However, she remains largely unknown to a huge chunk of the WWE Universe. NXT has regularly pulled in a third or a fourth of what Raw gets as far as television viewers is concerned. Even if every single person who watches NXT also watches Raw, that’s a ton of viewers who aren’t tuning in to watch NXT for one reason or another. WWE simply shoved Candice LeRae out there upon her return and expected WWE crowds to treat her like she was Becky Lynch or Sasha Banks when it comes to popularity. There’s too much of a disconnect. That was clear in this match, where the crowd didn’t really react to some of it. That’s unfortunate, because it was a really good match. Candice deserves more. She just needs to be introduced to a lot of people as someone they should be cheering, or booing, instead of what we’ve seen so far.
Dominik Mysterio & Rhea Ripley: I’m not sure it was meant to be a funny segment, but I laughed a lot at Dominik and Rhea showing up to the Mysterio home for Thanksgiving, only for Rey to try and kick them out, before Rhea busted in. They attacked Rey and the hilarious noises that he always makes when he’s getting beaten up made me laugh and laugh and laugh. The fact that there were little kids at the dinner table made the whole thing even funnier.
Roxanne Perez vs Indi Hartwell: This was Indi’s best match in a long, long time. It might have been Indi’s best match, period. Good stuff that helped both women look strong moving forward. Can’t ask for much more.
Preston Vance: It has been beyond time for The Dark Order to split up. When Brodie Lee passed away, there were only two logical things to do for the group… disband them completely or give at least one member of the group a big push as some kind of “tribute” to Brodie. During the Brodie “Celebration Of Life” episode of Dynamite, I even said that it was time for Colt Cabana to get a huge push. He was already super over, was putting on some really good matches, and the story of him… hand-chosen by Brodie Lee to join the group… making the fallen group leader proud would’ve been super easy to write. Nearly two years after Brodie’s death, the group was just… there. They saw one member after another leave the group, and now, “10” becomes the latest defection. As I said before, I don’t have total faith that Tony Khan is going to do anything to make this worthwhile down the road, but at least it creates an opportunity for the talented Vance. I like that his heel turn also involved him throwing his mask at the feet of his little buddy, -1. Of course, there were some people who felt -1 wasn’t needed here, especially in a situation involving one of his best friends turning heel. Look on the bright side, though. There was a time in wrestling where Vance’s heel turn would’ve seen him walk up to -1 and deliver a big boot right to the 10-year-old’s face. We’ll have to wait and see what happens to Vance’s career now that he has left a group that should’ve stopped existing a long time ago.
This Week’s Playlist: “Tomorrow” by Josh Tatofi… “Free Game” by Mount Westmore… “Ulala” by Myke Towers & Daddy Yankee… “Vengeance” by Currents… “Fight Fire With Gasoline” by Self Deception… “Hell Is Where The Heart Is” by Oceans… “Embers” by Induction… “Crown Of Corruption” by In Sanity… “These Two Sides Are Not Part Of The Same Coin” by Diamonds To Dust… “Dig My Grave” by Beneath My Feet… “Reckoning” by Circles… “Raise Your Glass” by BlackRain… “Better Off Dead” by Bad Situation… “This Life” by Curtis Stigers & The Forest Rangers… “John The Revelator” by Curtis Stigers & The Forest Rangers… “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five… “White Lines” by Melle Mel… “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow… “Wild Wild West” by Kool Moe Dee… “Freaks Come Out At Night” by Whodini… “Friends” by Whodini… “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?” by Schoolly D… “Smooth Operator” by Big Daddy Kane… “South Bronx” by Boogie Down Productions… “9mm Goes Bang” by Boogie Down Productions… “The Bridge Is Over” by Boogie Down Productions… “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick… “Teenage Love” by Slick Rick… “I Got It Made” by Special Ed… “5 O’Clock” by Nonchalant