Last week’s announcement that AEW’s “female-forward community” Heels was adding a $49 annual subscription fee was met with a lot of pushback online. Specific reactions to the program also got tied up in ongoing concerns about how the company booked and presented women’s wrestling on Dark and Dynamite. In the wake of the response, the woman responsible - Chief Brand Officer Brandi Rhodes - deactivated her Twitter account.
Here are some updates on both situations.
On her still-active Instagram, Brandi heralded the success of Heels’ first event since the new price tag was announced, which happened on Friday night (Aug. 7). She also indicated Heels has already hit its initial membership goals. The good news came under a very nice photo which Rhodes has every right to share but that might not help with criticism such as Heels not being overtly welcoming for the entire range of fans who identify as female or non-binary.
View this post on Instagram
AEW Heels was a massive success last night. We exceeded the number of membership sign ups necessary to continue to move the fan club onward and upward. Thank you to every single person that joined last night, and those with memberships that were unable to make it. The best is yet to come! Our call last night allowed users to browse the full capabilities of this website community offering members a dashboard with profiles where they can post pictures, bios, and send and receive private messages, if desired. The Posts section was overwhelmed with chatter about the event with members connecting on various aspects of the zoom session. Members were able to see new exclusive merch items, made aware of pre-order exclusives only for Heels members AND learned about an upcoming contest with an enticing giveaway (of a highly coveted item that people are scurrying to find ). They saw firsthand the ease they will have in attending future events (both virtual, and live when it is safe to do so again). The live chat was an absolute party with both members and AEW women chatting it up all night. Keisha-Ann gave an amazing talk on current topics that I personally learned a lot from, and I know others feel the same. The Q&A was lively and enlightening. The biggest takeaway is that people were happy. Countless posts have been created letting the world know they felt they got more than their money’s worth. That is the whole point. Heels promised a positive space to be yourself, share more, make connections, enjoy exclusive offerings, partake in exclusive events and connect with AEW women from the roster to the executive team...and it delivered. Looking forward to more Heels events to come. Members...keep your eyes peeled for #lilbranbran and her next announcement...which will be on the webpage...for members only!
In a since deleted Tweet, Brandi’s husband and fellow AEW executive Cody said her decision to leave Twitter came when the Heels critiques came along with race-based hate for Rhodes herself:
Leaving a social app because you open your phone to an absurd amount of n bombs is respectfully understandable. No place for that.
— Cody (@CodyRhodes) August 8, 2020
“I applaud anyone who decides to take a break from social media. Especially the toxic world of Twitter specifically. We logged off when threatening messages were sent to us regularly and finally the last straw came when google map images of our homes were being tweeted to us. It’s been a nice break for our mental health. If someone decides to sign off, good for them.”
Based on the 21st century news cycle, this controversy is probably mostly in our rear view.
Overall, it’s a reminder of what a double-edge sword the internet and especially social media can be - an amazing tool for promoting products & services to build a brand, and an easy to exploit means of directing venom & hate at anyone who uses it.