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Regardless of the outcome at AEW Full Gear, Saraya has already won

AEW

There’s no shortage of intrigue when it comes to AEW Full Gear tomorrow night (Nov. 19). The headlining story, of course, is MJF and his rise to to the top of the mountain in All Elite Wrestling. Many expect him to best Jon Moxley and capture his first World Championship, but will he keep his promise and truly earn it? Or does the Devil has something nefarious up his sleeve?

A loss for Moxley could cap off a disastrous night for the Blackpool Combat Club, especially if William Regal turns out to be the Darth Sidious to MJF’s Lord Vader as some conspiracy theorists have predicted. Then there’s the return of The Elite and all the built in drama from All Out that comes in tow. Are Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks simply going to walk back into AEW and take back the Trios Championships they never had a chance to defend? Mostly likely — yes.

There are also three women’s matches on the card tomorrow night and on any other night, it’s the two title matches that would take center stage. Toni Storm is hoping to avoid being wiped from the AEW Women’s Championship lineage when she defends her interim crown against a white hot Jamie Hayter. Jade Cargill is looking to stay undefeated and retrieve her TBS Championship belt from the thieving Nyla Rose.

Both are marquee match-ups that are sure to deliver, regardless of whoever walks out on top. Once again Tony Khan has delivered an absolutely stacked card for an AEW PPV. Top to bottom, there’s something for everyone on this show. That said, there’s one match that has captured my attention more than the rest. A match literally five years in the making - Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D vs. Saraya.

Whether you love her or hate her, you cannot deny the positive impact that Saraya has had on the world of professional wrestling. It was absolutely heartbreaking that her career (seemingly) ended the way that it did, and her return to the ring is something that should be celebrated.

But after five years away from the business, Saraya would be lying if she said this return match wasn’t weighing heavily on her. She was very open about all the thoughts that have been running through her head during a recent conversation with Chris Van Vliet.

“I’m going to be under a microscope that day. Everything I’m going to be doing is going to be scrutinized. I’m fully expecting, at this point after the match, I’m not going to look at social media or have it on my phone. I’m already too much in my head to the point where I just want it to be good and I have to focus on making sure that I keep myself safe and make sure Britt is safe, and the pressure of having a match is wild to me. It’s a beautiful story, but it makes me nervous.”

The saving grace for Saraya may be that Twitter could very well be 404 not found by the time her match with the good doctor comes to an end, but that doesn’t stop her from being absolutely right.

People are going to tune in for this match for a multitude of reasons, many of them she highlighted in her conversation with CVV. First and foremost, people are going to be curious. Can Saraya still perform at the level we’re accustomed to seeing? And it’s a fair question.

Back when WWE was her house, the woman we all knew as Paige was one of the best in the business. A true game-changer for women’s wrestling and that’s who many of us hope we see in the ring on Saturday.

We are lucky enough to live in an age of medical miracles. Look no further than Edge. A world class talent cut down in the prime of his career, forced to retire as World Heavyweight Champion due to degenerative neck injury. One that carried the risk of neck-down paralysis or even death if he took a hard enough blow.

Not long after his retirement Edge would undergo a procedure on his neck, which immediately fueled speculation that he could be making a play at an in-ring return. Speculation that the Rated R Superstar quickly shot down.

At the time, even the idea of working as a full time on-screen authority figure for the WWE was off the table because the company’s travel schedule was too much for his neck to handle. A decade of rest and rehabilitation later, the WWE Hall of Famer was back to winning the Royal Rumble and wrestling in the main event of WrestleMania.

For many of us who grew up as Edgeheads, the last three years have been sublime. Never did we believe we’d see the Rated R Superstar in action again, let alone performing at such a high level. The same can be said for Bryan Danielson and Christian Cage, who were both forced into retirement due to concussion issues before making their returns years later.

None of these men missed a beat. They stepped right back into the ring and it was like they never left. While their comeback stories may have inspired hope for someone like Saraya, they have subsequently set the bar extremely high for her own return to action.

While it’s been half a decade since her final match in WWE, it’s been even longer since she’s been a full-time solo competitor. The only one-on-one match that Saraya has had since June 2016, came on an episode of Monday Night Raw on December 4, 2017 against Sasha Banks. Her last five matches, including the unfortunate night at a Madison Square Garden house show when she was injured, were all tag team contests.

And it’s not like Saraya is sticking her toe in the water with this comeback. No, tomorrow night she is jumping right back into the deep end.

Not to say that it was their choice or a necessity what-so-ever, but the three men I mentioned before all made their returns in multi-man contests. Bryan Danielson was booked in a tag match at WrestleMania 34 against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Edge and Christian were surprise entrants in the 2020 and 2021 Royal Rumble matches respectively. Matches where the sole focus wasn’t always on them.

All eyes are going to be on Saraya and Dr. Britt Baker at Full Gear, in what some are calling the biggest women’s match in the history of AEW. That’s an incredible amount of pressure for both competitors.

For this writer though, the result of the match and its quality are inconsequential. Do I want to see these ladies go out there and absolutely tear the house down? Of course I do, and I have the utmost confidence that they will do just that. But here’s the thing folks. It would be very understandable for anyone wrestling their first match in five years, let alone someone who has had to adjust their in-ring style, to look at bit off. Especially during those first few minutes.

In fact, the entire story of the match could be built around Sayara trying to shake the rust off. She’s going up against a woman who’s dominated the entire AEW Women’s Division for the better part of the last two years. I know she’s great, but it should be a struggle for Saraya to beat Dr. Britt Baker if we want to follow the No. 1 rule in pro wrestling, which is make it believable.

All that said, and at the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, I really just want both competitors to go out there and have fun.

Regardless of the outcome of the match tomorrow night, Saraya has already won. She’s back in professional wrestling. She gets to go out in front of the thousands of fans in Newark, New Jersey and do the thing she loves the most in this world. Something that was a very real possibility she would never do again. Saraya has earned the right to enjoy every single second of tomorrow night.

At an incredibly young age, Saraya helped set the standard for what women’s could and should be. Turning casual fans like myself into advocates for change. And as the women’s revolution was really starting to flourish across the business, Saraya was unjustly removed from the playing field.

Her story is well documented — she’s even recapped it herself on live television in recent weeks, so there’s no need for me to dive into it here. But it truly is inspiring to see where she is today.

In a world full of negativity and hate, much of which is often pointed in her direction, Saraya has crawled out of her own personal darkness to emerge as a shining beacon of hope for so many. A glimmering example of no matter how down you are, you can always find your way back to the top.

Tomorrow night is not the be-all and end-all of her return to professional wrestling. It’s simply the first step in what will hopefully be a very long, very healthy and successful continuation of her in-ring career. It’s time to turn the page on the past and move forward will all the confidence of the exceptional talent we all know her to be.

Welcome back Saraya. Let the nerves wash away and go remind everyone why this is your house.

What do you all think about Saraya’s return to pro wrestling? Let us know in the comment section below. You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more of his work.

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