State of the AEW Women's Division: August 2021

Another month has gone by in the world, and with it another month of things to talk about within AEW. Yes, technically there are still a couple of YouTube shows to happen before we officially roll into September, but if CM Punk doesn't consider those important enough to count as AEW shows why should I?

Oh, because it's where 90-percent of the women's matches in AEW happen, right.

Anyway, my opening ramble for this month actually has to do with AEW's pay-per-view outing coming next week, All Out 2021, and the Women's Casino Battle Royale set to appear on it...'s preshow. Yes, in a time where AEW continues to get criticized for not featuring nearly enough women's wrestling on their flagship shows, where previous women's champion and ostensible top star Hikaru Shida literally has not been on television since losing the belt at the last pay-per-view, and on a show where QT "Literally who is asking for this human tub of plain yogurt to continue to be on TV" Marshall is getting a match against Paul "His best years were likely behind him over a decade ago" Wight, it is a women's match with a shot at the championship on the line which AEW have chosen to look at and go "well, this isn't important enough to be on the main show."

I've seen a lot of bullshit excuses for why this is actually okay and good. Some people are claiming that the Casino Battle Royales are always on the pre-show, when that has not been the case this entire year. There was a Casino Battle Royale for a tag title shot at Revolution, on the main card. There was a Casino Battle Royale for a men's world title shot at Double or Nothing, on the main card. This is the only Casino Battle Royale AEW have booked this year which they decided was not worth a slot on the actual PPV, and I feel it's transparently obvious why. I've also seen people saying it's good because they'll get more time on the pre-show, but why the hell would you just assume they wouldn't get any time if it was on the main card? Why is it always the women's match that has to be shortened or cut to make room for more men's matches when the All Out card apparently has plenty of room for whatever random no-build no-stakes men's matches Tony Khan feels like booking? Why is it the baseline assumption that if something needs to get cut for time, there's no choice but to do it to a women's match? Why do the women always get pushed aside for the sake of men getting a PPV payday? These questions are all rhetorical, I know why, and it's complete bullshit.

It's a shame I have to spend the opening of this piece slamming this decision so hard because while August wasn't quite what I'd call a good month, it was at least better booking-wise than the dismal July. Not that that's saying much. Let's get into it.

- AEW Women's World Champion Dr. Britt Baker, DMD, continues to be treated by AEW like the only person in the women's division worth a damn. Indeed, the only thing AEW seem more interested in with regards to their women's division than giving nobody besides Baker significant time on television is undermining what I still think could be a potentially good heel champion run for Baker by doing everything they can to ensure she'll never be booed. Back in July, Baker was booked in a heel vs heel match against Nyla Rose, a decision which not only lead to one of the worst if not the worst women's title match in AEW history, but also did nothing to help Baker get over as a heel or Rose get over at all. Heel vs heel matchups are at best difficult to do right, and leading out of the gate of this championship run with one was, I think, a pretty bad call.

Now, a good time to do a heel vs heel matchup was when AEW was in Pittsburgh. It's Baker's hometown, so everybody in the crowd would be cheering for her anyway, so you might as well pair her up with another heel so the crowd is at least booing someone you'd want to get booed. If AEW really felt like they had to have Baker vs Rose for whatever reason, the premiere of Rampage in Pittsburgh on Aug. 13 was the place to do it. Failing that, you could have thrown in The Bunny or Penelope Ford to act as a heel opposite Baker in her hometown. Instead, AEW made the baffling decision to pit her against one of the most white-meat babyfaces in the division, Red Velvet, a decision which not only got a rising star in the division booed out of the building for no good reason, but also led to a match which had some good moments but which I would describe as mediocre on balance at best. AEW also made the once-again baffling decision to try and have Baker get some heel heat by attacking Velvet after the match, a decision which I would normally applaud and think was good except again, Baker was performing in front of her home crowd! She could have literally murdered Red Velvet in the middle of the ring and the crowd wouldn't have booed!

All of this seems to have been in service of Kris Statlander coming out to make the save, followed by Jamie Hayter reappearing in AEW to drive off Statlander and serve as Baker's new bodyguard. Except Baker only did a single additional move to Velvet so it wasn't exactly a beatdown, and the crowd still cheered. So when Statlander came out to "make the save" when only a single additional move was performed, the crowd booed her. And when Jamie Hayter came out to reveal herself as Baker's new bodyguard, nobody in the crowd cared because none of them knew who Jamie Hayter was. Besides the lackluster appearance of Hayter, this segment likely would have done well and gotten what I imagine is the desired reaction (Baker gets booed, Statlander gets cheered) if A) Baker wasn't so lackluster in her "beatdown" of Velvet after the match, and B) it was done literally anywhere besides Pittsburgh. Instead, it was done in Baker's home town, which means Statlander got to join Velvet in the list of faces that looked like complete tools for trying to take down a hometown hero. Booker of the Year Tony Khan, everybody.

Outside of this, and officially unveiling Jamie Hayter as her new bodyguard and being ringside for Hayter's first official match as a signed AEW wrestler against Red Velvet on the Aug. 25 episode of Dynamite, Baker spent August doing the same things she's always done -- getting an inordinate amount of TV time compared to the rest of the division, and cutting promos talking about how everyone in the division sucks compared to her. The further we get into the Era of DMD, the more apparent it becomes to me that Baker is all sizzle, no steak. Every match she has with someone who is not a famously good worker (which is all but like, two matches I've ever seen her in) is a reminder that all of Baker's improvements since AEW started have not been enough to actually make her a good wrestler. It would be foolish of me to suggest someone as over as Baker doesn't have a place in the division, and I'm absolutely not saying that. But ultimately, Baker as champion specifically has done nothing for anyone in the division besides herself, and in fact the number of people I'm seeing saying the women's division is bad based on the quality of her matches, after they were mostly silent for the duration of Shida's reign as champion as far as I saw, indicates to me Baker's reign as champion may be actively harmful to the rest of the women in AEW. The obvious person to take the belt off is still Thunder Rosa in my mind, and given that I doubt Baker will really lose much from losing the belt (lord knows she's gotten elevated after every major loss she's had in AEW so far) I think the sooner Rosa gets her hands on the belt, the better.

-The dentist's opponent at All Out will be Kris Statlander, Ranked 1st, who started off her somewhat lackluster push towards a championship match on PPV during the Leyla Hirsch VS The Bunny on the Aug. 4 episode of Dynamite. She was ringside along with the rest of the Best Friends to counteract any potential numbers advantage The Bunny would get from the HFO. Nyla Rose, for some reason, was also nearby and sort of crept up towards the ring during the match for the sole purpose of having what some generously called a "staredown" with Statlander, teasing a match so exciting that nobody in Daily's Place at the time seemed to notice it even happening amidst the actual match happening. Still, it was some amount of setup for a match in the women's division, and while I'm disappointed the resulting match on the Aug. 11 episode of Dynamite barely passed the 3 minute mark, it was a fun enough 3 minutes that put Statlander over Rose to establish herself as a capital-R capital-D Real Deal in the women's division after mostly beating jobbers since her return from injury.

Otherwise, Statlander has spent August attempting to curb Baker's shittier tendencies. There was the aforementioned poor booking decision of trying to have Statlander save Velvet from a very weak beatdown from Baker in front of Baker's hometown on the debut of Rampage which only got Statlander booed, but on the Aug. 25 episode of Dynamite they made the much more sensible decision of having Statlander save Velvet from an actual beatdown in front of a crowd that would actually cheer for her over Baker. Statlander took out Rebel and Hayter before attempting to DDT Baker onto the championship, but Baker managed to worm away while Statlander held the belt up high. Not the most incredible build to a championship match, but certainly better than I expected coming out of July.

Overall, I'm not sure I believe Statlander really has a chance at the belt. I'd certainly prefer her as champion over Baker, but ultimately the lackluster build to this one, combined with my aforementioned assumption that Rosa will ultimately be the one to take the belt, makes me think Statlander's streak of wins since returning from injury is going to be sacrificed to legitimize a title reign for a heel who doesn't really need to have their title reign legitimized. Can't say I'm thrilled about it, to be honest.

-Thunder Rosa, Ranked 2nd, was one of the most hotly anticipated signings in AEW women's division history. So how have AEW used her? A single televised match with no stakes, and a bunch of appearances on YouTube. Great job guys. Rosa's sole TV match was against Penelope Ford, a match set up on Dark when Ford took the boots to Masha Slamovich, a member of the Mission Pro Wrestling promotion that Thunder Rosa helps run, leading to Rosa running in to help Slamovich and ultimately get a TV match on the Aug. 18 episode of Dynamite which ultimately served no purpose besides a token TV appearance and win for Thunder Rosa. Also, Penelope Ford reportedly lost her luggage at the airport and had to wrestle in her regular clothes, which makes it somewhat impressive the match was as good as it was given that her outfit was not designed for heavy physical activity. It still ultimately kind of hurt the match, but what are you gonna do I guess. Admittedly, though, Thunder Rosa getting a kind of nothing match just for the sake of being on TV and having a match sort of close to her hometown is better than what some other equally great members of the AEW women's division get, so y'know.

Outside of beating Penelope Ford on TV for the purpose of making some Texans happy, Thunder Rosa's August was, say it with me everyone, a bunch of squash matches on YouTube. Rosa padded her win count with YouTube matches against the likes of Zeda Zhang, Ray Lin, and Heather Reckless, with an additional match against Laynie Luck scheduled for the Aug. 30 episode of AEW Dark: Elevation. They're all kind of just standard YouTube show fare, worth checking out if you like Thunder Rosa but not really worth going out of your way to watch.

Even without doing much of anything on TV, Thunder Rosa's presence is still very much felt in AEW. I don't want to speculate too much, but based on how much more setup and decent booking happens in the women's division whenever Rosa is around, I feel like she's probably influencing the booking to some degree whether that's just people higher up wanting her to be happy or her going out of her way to try and make things better. In any case, it's clear having Thunder Rosa around improves and uplifts the women's division as a whole. Here's hoping she's given more to do in September, ideally building to a title shot sooner rather than later.

-Tay Conti, Ranked 3rd, is very likely not on this list anymore or at least is lower in the rankings after losing to The Bunny on the Aug. 27 episode of AEW Rampage. Set up the Wednesday before by Conti refusing an offer from the Bunny to join the HFO, her undoing was a Penelope Ford distraction that allowed The Bunny to knock her out with a pair of brass knuckles. The optimistic view of this, supported by Anna Jay tweeting "TayJay" after the match and Conti replying that she wanted Jay back, was that this is going to be setting up an Anna Jay return and a tag feud between the two pairs of women. The pessimistic view of this, supported by...the way AEW have booked this division for the last two years, is that AEW decided to end Conti's 14 match win streak to set up that Bunny and Ford are going to be allied during the Casino Battle Royale on the All Out pre-show when even working together I'd say they have a papers chance in a house fire of winning. I'm certainly hoping for the former, but won't be shocked if it ends up being the latter.

Outside of her sole televised appearance this month (and her first televised appearance since losing a title shot to Hikaru Shida back in April, which is certainly a choice AEW have made), Tay Conti was involved in YouTube matches against Kenzie Page, Robyn Renegade, Rebecca Scott, and Promise Braxton, none of which are especially noteworthy outside of being perfectly fine squash matches. Tay Conti is another member of the women's division who, in a perfect world, would be featured on Dynamite and Rampage far more often given her impressive in-ring skills and the fact that she's quite over with the crowd even with what little she's been given to work with. Instead, AEW have opted to keep her on the YouTube shows, where the smaller audience ensures any attempts at getting her over will be needlessly slow and difficult for someone of her caliber. Speaking of someone who deserves to get TV time,

-I still haven't heard any good explanation for why Hikaru Shida, Ranked 4th, hasn't been given any televised matches since losing the belt literally 3 months ago. It was getting to a point where I thought she was maybe opting to take a break from Dynamite, but she's since tweeted that she does in fact want to be on TV, which begs the question of why AEW aren't using one of the best wrestlers in the division. It is utterly maddening, and very frustrating, that after spending a year as champ with everything she did being treated as second fiddle to whatever Baker was doing, even when Baker was injured, AEW can't even be bothered to keep her on television or give her something worthwhile to do, squandering one of their best and most over workers on nothing internet squash matches. Wasteful.

Hikaru Shida's cadre of opponents this month included Madi Maxx, Tesha Price, and Kiera Hogan, with a match against Heather Reckless scheduled for the Aug. 30 episode of AEW Dark: Elevation. The Hogan match is the one worth watching, as it is a rare instance of Shida getting a match against someone who is more than capable of working with her towards a good match, rather than be carried to one. However, they didn't even get a full 5 minutes, which considering this was a match against the longest reigning AEW Women's World Champion in history and a very well-respected worker who is a former two time Impact Knockouts Tag Team Champion, says a lot about how much AEW care about putting on good matches in the women's division. I'm not saying you need to give them 30 minutes for a pay-per-view quality barnburner, but at least let two skilled workers break the 10 minute mark, jeez.

Shida is the sole person in this top 5 who hasn't been on television this entire month, and I reiterate that considering her popularity and workrate, that is a baffling decision on the part of AEW booking. If you can't find anything worthwhile for someone of Shida's caliber to do, then you need to find someone who can. I can't imagine it'd be a particularly difficult position to fill, and your show will be better for it.

-Nyla Rose, Ranked 5th, is back on this list despite losing to Kris Statlander earlier in the month because Red Velvet got the shit kicked out of her twice this month and no one else has been given the "constant wins on YouTube for no reason" treatment so Nyla Rose is back on the list I guess. Nyla Rose lost a match towards the beginning of the month to set up Statlander for her upcoming title shot. Soon afterwards she was on AEW Dark on Aug. 17, where she beat Tina San Antonio in less than a minute...before Vickie Guerrero announced Rose's intention to go after the AEW Women's World Championship. Less than a month after losing a shot at the AEW Women's World Championship. Honestly, I'm a fan of Nyla Rose, I think she gets a lot more flak than she deserves even discounting the amount of awful transphobia she's subjected to, but like. She just lost a match for the title. In a division where there are at least half a dozen other people who are either at a level where they could challenge for the title or could easily be built up to that level with minimal effort, there's literally no reason to not have Nyla Rose maybe take a short break away from the title scene before having Vickie Guerrero scream about how she wants another shot. I can't help but feel like it just makes her look kind of foolish and desperate.

Outside of that, Nyla Rose is also set to become a minor part of the ongoing Big Swole VS Diamante feud on Dark, with Diamante choosing her as partner in a tag team match on the Aug. 30 episode of AEW Dark: Elevation against Big Swole and her chosen partner...Julia Hart. Gee, wonder who's getting pinned in that match. In any case, Rose has certainly had a bit of a down month compared to July, but I don't think that's a bad idea after ending July with a title challenge loss.

-Now, for the rest of the division:

  • As mentioned above, Red Velvet was unfortunately forced to be the face challenger against a heel champion in said champion's hometown, meaning despite showing some great babyface and underdog fire both leading to and in the championship match itself, Velvet was mercilessly booed by a crowd she had absolutely no chance of getting on her side. After losing that match, she was then fed to Jamie Hayter about a week and a half later to put over how strong and tough Hayter was. Not only that, but neither match was especially good; I mentioned the championship match being kind of mediocre at best, and the match against Hayter was awkward all around and capped off with an ending where Velvet completely whiffed a standing moonsault before Hayter got a win with a clothesline. It felt a lot like an impromptu finish because Velvet might have gotten legitimately injured, but Red Velvet wrestled at NWA Empowerrr three nights later on Aug. 28, so it seems like she was okay, thankfully. I have really come around to liking Red Velvet a lot after she was pretty clearly only elevated to a higher spot on the card in March to fill in for a pregnant Brandi Rhodes during the initial introduction of Jade Cargill. In my opinion, it kind of sucks that AEW decided she needed to eat two losses in short succession, but hopefully she'll be able to bounce back from both the losses and the lackluster quality of the matches.
  • After spending the better part of a year and a half getting Britt Baker over, AEW decided it was time to work on getting a second women's wrestler to that same white-hot spot that Baker is currently enjoying. You'd think they'd pick someone great, or at least good, at wrestling to counterbalance Baker being fairly unskilled and more over for her mic work. Instead, they've decided on Jade Cargill, who remains potentially the most unexciting member of the entire division. Sure, her abs are impressive, but it takes more than abs to be worth a damn in wrestling, and Cargill's lackluster in-ring, mic, and crowd working skills make her unique in AEW in that she doesn't seem to be in any way Elite at any part of professional wrestling besides some people thinking she's maybe got a chance at being worthwhile someday potentially. Nowhere was this more clear than on the Aug. 20 episode of AEW Rampage, where Kiera Hogan (who gets her own section later) was fed to Cargill in under a minute after not even getting a proper entrance. Not only did it feel somewhat insulting to the very good Kiera Hogan, a former champion in Impact and all-around well-respected worker whose skills were clear even in squash losses against actually good AEW wrestlers Shida and Statlander, it also exposed the degree to which 6 months after her in-ring debut, despite being plastered all over advertisements and posters, people just do not seem to give any sort of a shit about Jade Cargill, with Chicago's United Center almost silent during everything she did. You can blame that on Punk's debut earlier in the night wearing the crowd out, but they still reacted to things in the tag match so I'm not sure I buy that excuse. Hell, Hogan's relatively meager offense got more of a crowd reaction than either of the "here's a moment for the crowd to react" spots that Cargill had. The feeling I get is that she's being pushed too hard, too soon, and despite some people defending it as a "Goldberg-esque push" where Cargill only has to do a single move to win a match, it really doesn't seem to be doing her any favors. Cargill needs more time in the oven, so to speak, and putting her in the forefront of the division before she's fully baked is not helping her at all.
  • Jamie Hayter made her big return to AEW, revealing herself to be Dr. Britt Baker DMD's new bodyguard. Well, I say "Big Return" but nobody besides commentary seemed to know who she was, and her meager two appearances on AEW before this "return" were both in 2019, a loss to a pre-heel turn Baker, and teaming with Emi Sakura in a tag match against then-women's champion Riho and Shanna. After fending off Kris Statlander attempting to stop Baker from beating up Red Velvet, Hayter got a match against Red Velvet about a week and a half afterwards, which was, again, kind of awkward. Certainly not a great first impression for someone AEW are impressed enough with to immediately sign her to a long-term deal, but given it was a single iffy match I'm more than willing to wait to pass judgement, especially considering the praise some people give her.
  • The Bunny somehow managed to get two televised matches in August despite being a firmly mid-tier women's wrestler in a division that isn't deep enough have much room for anyone in-between the ranks of Jobber and Title Shot Worthy. It's basically just her and Julia Hart (who didn't really do anything in August), and maybe Leyla Hirsch in there. First, she lost a pretty good singles match against Leyla Hirsch for a shot at the NWA Women's World Championship (a match Hirsch had at NWA Empowerrr on Aug. 28, which I wasn't able to watch live but seemed to be received quite well and I hope to watch it soon). Near the end of the month, on the Aug. 27 episode of Rampage, she faced off against Tay Conti where she got the win thanks to a distraction from new friend Penelope Ford, a partnership which as I noted earlier, is hopefully intended for more than just making it seem like two people who are almost certainly not winning a battle royal for a title shot are slightly more likely to win a battle royal for a title shot. We'll see what, if anything, comes out of that partnership. Those were incidentally The Bunny's only wrestling matches this entire month, so I have nothing else to talk about with her.
  • Big Swole and Diamante continue to be involved in the only ongoing feud in the women's division outside of the title scene at the moment. Which, despite involving two good workers who aren't nobodies in the division, is being kept entirely to YouTube. While not much has occurred in the ring since Diamante defeated Swole via cheating, the two had a sit-down interview conducted by Mark Henry where Big Swole called out Diamante for...well, cheating to win their match, the two eventually almost came to blows, and now the two are set to meet on the Aug. 30 episode of Dark in a tag match, with Swole partnering with Julia Hart (because I guess her partnership with Red Velvet and KiLynn King just unceremoniously ended) and Diamante partnering with Nyla Rose. While it's not the most complex wrestling storyline ever, I'm still enjoying this feud and both of the people involved in it.
  • I wanna take a moment to talk about Kiera Hogan, specifically about how impressive she was in her appearances in AEW this month, putting on very good squash matches alongside Shida and Statlander before not even getting an entrance in her first televised appearance in AEW in her match against Jade Cargill. She's not officially All Elite yet, and was treated as yet another random jobber despite being a two time Impact Knockouts Tag Team Champion, but if AEW aren't doing whatever they can to convince Hogan to stick around long term, I can tell you without being familiar with any of her work outside of AEW that they are making a huge mistake. She's got legitimate star potential and doesn't need months of training to be presentable, which is more than you can say for the woman she lost to on Rampage, and she would be a huge boon to the women's division.
  • Emi Sakura officially made her way back to AEW this month, where she was put exactly where you'd want an extremely well respected and highly regarded 25-year veteran of the business to be booked: On a YouTube show having extremely short, nothing matches. Okay, I'll be fair, Emi Sakura has only very recently come to America and, based on some tweets she's made the last couple of days, is very much still getting settled in her new home. She had an alright match against Madi Wrenkowski on the Aug. 19 episode of Elevation, and is set to face Ashley D'Amboise on the Aug. 30 episode of Elevation with ChocoPro favorite Lulupencil in her corner. Here's hoping they actually give her something to do once she's all set and ready to go.
  • Abadon only had a single match this month, against Kelsey Heather on the Aug. 6 episode of Dark. I remain a bit confused as to what AEW's intentions are with Abadon if they keep her winstreak up but don't actually use her for anything with substance.
  • Yuka Sakazaki had a single additional match on the Aug. 2 episode of Elevation against Dani Jordyn before returning to Japan. She came in, had a bunch of meaningless matches, then left. So, the typical experience of a woman in AEW. Here's hoping they have her do something with substance if/when she returns.
  • Riho has been absent for quite some time, which is reportedly due to suffering from some nasty side effects from the Covid-19 vaccine. Those same reports also said that she was expected to be able to return "soon", but I saw those rumors mid-month and Riho hasn't done any wrestling for all of August. Hopefully they're just waiting for an all-clear and there aren't any deeper issues going on; in any case, I wish her the best.
  • Serena Deeb continues to be off TV due to a lingering knee injury she was attempting to wrestle through for a while before finally getting it checked out and taking some time off to make sure it's alright. In the meantime, Deeb's been cutting some pretty good heel promos on YouTube complaining about how much harder she works than "girls these days". I recommend checking them out, It's the kind of thing that continues to make me hope for full-on heel Deeb when she returns.
  • KiLynn King did not wrestle in AEW this month. She is also not an official member of the AEW roster, but I'm still taking this moment to say that AEW should sign her because she's great.
  • Finally, I once again salute the many enhancement talents who worked in AEW throughout the month. Thanks to Angelica Risk, Ashley D'Amboise, Heather Reckless, Reka Tehaka, Dani Jordyn, Tesha Price, Amber Nova, Madi Wrenkowski, and the rest of the two dozen women brought on to job on the internet.
So, the title scene still isn't exactly putting on 5-star classics, but otherwise I think the division is in better shape now than a month ago. And this honestly comes down to something I wasn't able to go very deeply into in this piece, which is: matches were, get this, actually set up. A thing would happen on a show, then on a later show a match would happen that made sense following from the thing that happened. This wildly innovative idea, along with matches actually being advertised for future shows more than 24 hours before they go live and the existence of the matches and their place in the wider company being acknowledged during the show beforehand on occasion, has elevated the booking of the women's division to a point where it's not a complete embarrassment to the very idea of professional wrestling. Sarcasm aside, I do think August is something of an improvement over the incredibly bad July. I'd say something about hoping it's the beginning of a wider trend, but I say that every 3 or 4 months and it never pans out so instead I'll just accept that things are better now and wait to see how September actually ends up. So yeah, like I said up top, better than July! Still isn't saying much.


What do you guys think? Will Statlander be able to get Baker to a good match at All Out? Does she have a snowball's chance in hell of actually winning the title? If Baker retains against the Galaxy's Greatest Alien, who do you think eventually takes the title off of her? Who do you think wins the Casino Battle Royale that should really be on the All Out main card? Let me know what you think in the comments!

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.