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Winning TBS Championship a new beginning for Kris Statlander [Exclusive]

Nine months away from the ring was more than enough for Kris Statlander. AEW’s new, and second ever, TBS Champion wasn’t about to dip her toe into the pool and gradually get acclimated to the feel of the water.

Nope. Upon her return to action, she cannonballed right into the deep end.

Statlander’s shocking victory over Jade Cargill at Double or Nothing was just the running leap off the diving board. The precursor to two successful title defenses on AEW Dynamite, sandwiched around a couple of house rules appearances, which gave the former resident of the Andromeda Galaxy an average of one match every other day heading into our conversation:

“I’m so tired and I am so sore.” Statlander said. “It was my decision to kind of just jump right into it. I wanted to do the house shows or the house rules over the weekend. And then I wasn’t sure if I’d be wrestling on Dynamite two weeks in a row, but I did.”

Cageside Seats had the pleasure of sitting down with Kris Statlander for nearly a half hour this past week, for the second edition of our new “Going Over” interview series.

Getting in the ring with Nyla Rose, Lady Frost and Anna Jay, twice, may have taken it’s toll, but that stretch of matches was not without it’s rewards.

“Doing five matches [Including her victory over Jade Cargill] in less than two weeks, not my best idea, but I’m just so happy to be back and to be a part of things again. So, it’s worth it.”

Statlander was given a bit of rest this week. She did not wrestle, nor did she make an appearance on Dynamite Wednesday night (June 14) at the Capital One Arena in Washington D.C..

A much deserved and, most likely, an extremely needed night away from the ring. Five matches in eight days is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the work that Kris has been putting over the past few months.

In addition to any remaining physical therapy and rehab, Kris told Cageside Seats that she was in the ring running weekly practice matches in the lead up to her return. An all out effort to get her skills sharpened once again, and maybe loosen up some muscles she hadn’t worked since tearing her ACL last August — her second major ACL injury less than 18 months after returning to action from the first.

Ring rust is a very real thing folks, and it’s something that can only be shaken off by getting in as many reps as possible. All the practice matches in the world, however, are not enough to prepare a talent for the added energy and pressure of performing in front of a live audience.

“I was very nervous about it, because it was in front of the live crowd. During my first return, we didn’t have a crowd yet. So, I was able to like, be a little bit more relaxed about it. Like, these are just other wrestlers that are around the ring watching. They know. They understand what it’s like to get back into the swing of things after being off for so long. But yeah, I was very, very nervous about having ring rust and I feel like I’m doing an okay job covering it up so far.”

Speaking candidly, she more than “covered up” for any ring rust at Double or Nothing. It may have only been a matter of minutes from the time her music hit to when referee Stephon Smith handed her the TBS Championship, but Kris Statlander delivered a match and moment that will live on forever in AEW history.

755 days. Two years and some change. That’s how long Jade Cargill’s undefeated streak lasted before she was planted with a Friday Night Fever and pinned in the center of the ring.

There’s only one first ever. And no matter what she does for the rest of her career, Statlander will always be remembered as being the woman who finally put “That Bitch” down for a three count. The magnitude of that moment, hasn’t quite hit the Champion yet.

“It takes me a while to really process moments that have happened for me in wrestling.” Statlander said. “Like we talked about, just diving right back in and just being so busy the past two weeks. I haven’t really had time to like, sit down and relax and just think about everything that’s happened. So, it’s still wild... I just like, look in my suitcase and I have a belt now.”

Jade’s streak ending in the fashion that it did, as does anything else in wrestling nowadays, was bound to met with some criticism. For one reason or another, some AEW faithful just could not get on board with Cargill defeating Taya Valkyrie to move to 60-0, just to immediately lose to Kris Statlander in 50 seconds.

However you feel about the decision that was made, Statlander fully supports you having your own thoughts on the matter.

“I don’t know, it’s hard to really say what is the right or wrong thing to do when wrestling is an art form and everything is subjective. Everyone’s gonna have opinions on it. On what was the best way to do it or not. And that’s fine. It’s fine to have your opinions on it.”

As this author wrote about in the days after Double or Nothing, the story of Jade Cargill’s sudden downfall was one of her own pride and ego doing her a massive disservice.

No one would have thought less of Jade Cargill had she simply held up her TBS Championship in front of the Las Vegas crowd, soaked in the moment of her 60th victory and then left the arena. She had just gone through an absolute war with Valkyrie, coming closer to defeat in that match than she ever had before — at that point in time.

Instead, she had to display her dominance once again by issuing an open challenge. Jade Cargill was ready for any woman to walk down to the ring, but at the same time, was completely unprepared for More Than a Woman to answer the bell.

“Jade fell because of her overconfidence and it’s not my fault that she put out the open challenge and then I took advantage of that. And also, sure, I was fresh because I didn’t just have the match and she did. But I also haven’t wrestled in nine months. So, how fair of a battle for me is that?”

Statlander told us that she understands why her win against Jade came off as a bit fluky to a portion of AEW fans. Some speculation here, but maybe certain fans feel as though Kris’ win over Jade has an asterisk hanging over it and didn’t do enough to put her over.

Regardless, the TBS Champion is ready to give Jade Cargill an opportunity to win her title back anytime she wants one. But while she waits for Jade to finish up her hiatus from the company and return for that rematch, Statlander is going to do everything she can to make her own mark with the belt — building off the impeccable legacy left by her predecessor.

It’s with that in mind that Kris says she’s not in the market for a new look TBS title belt. If AEW wants to create a custom design just for her, like the ones crafted for some of the TNT Champions of the past, she’ll happily pick out a spot at her home to put it on display. But carry it to the ring? Not if she has any say in the matter.

“It would be really cool to have that, but I also think that it’s important to kind of keep it [the current belt].” Statlander said. “It really does show that you beat one person and it doesn’t look like a belt was just made just for you. I feel like it’s important to show that you actually did win it from someone.”

Like Predator making off with the skull of its fallen prey, Statlander is proud to hoist the trophy she claimed at Double or Nothing. Holding on to the exact belt that Jade Cargill became synonymous with after carrying it for well over a year, only makes Kris’ victory over her mean that much more.

Statlander also hopes as the years move on and new Champions are crowned, that the title belt itself will hold a proud lineage and carry with it a certain mystic. Similar to that of Lord Stanley’s Cup, which as fate would have it, was just awarded to the Las Vegas Golden Knights this week. Won in the very same arena where Kris captured her first Championship in AEW.

“Obviously, all of AEW is still very new, but it’s almost like a nostalgic feel with the fact that you’re holding a piece of history, every single time it gets passed on. And I think that’s important. So, as cool as the customized belts are, I do think that there’s something really special about just the one, that gets won over by others.”

Building upon strong foundations is a company wide theme for AEW this week. All Elite Wrestling CEO and President Tony Khan is launching his third nationally televised program on Saturday. The debut episode of AEW Collision will emanate live from the United Center in Chicago at 8pm EST.

Tony Khan, coming out of the gate strong with the card that he has set up for the show - which features several prominent returns. Both Miro and Andrade will be in action for the first time since All Out last September. Fittingly enough, an event that also took place in Chicago, or at least in nearby Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

That same night, was also the last in-ring appearance for Saturday’s headliner — CM Punk. The two-time AEW Champion makes his highly intriguing return to the company after the controversial events that unfolded in the mere hours after he defeated Jon Moxley in the All Out main event.

The addition of Collision to the AEW weekly schedule sprouted rumors of a brand split. With certain talent being featured exclusively on Dynamite, Rampage, Collision, and ROH respectively.

In an interview earlier this week, Tony Khan confirmed that certain wrestlers will have set homes but a hard roster split has not been put in place.

Up until this week, Khan had been relatively tight-lipped on his plans for the roster ahead of Collision’s debut. Many of the talent had not been told if they would be featured on one show or the other on a regular basis. Kris Statlander was one of the wrestler’s left in the dark on whether she would be involved in the new Saturday show, but is not opposed to wrestling on the weekends.

Tony Khan could book a random house show on a Tuesday afternoon and the TBS Champion would jump at the opportunity to get in the ring.

“I’d be willing to help out wherever I’m needed to, and if I need to do both [Dynamite and Collision] for a little bit, I’d be more than happy to. Especially after taking as much time off as I had to because of my two knee injuries. I’m willing to participate as much as possible. So, hopefully you’ll see me on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.”

Kris Statlander has not been announced for this Saturday’s card, but you can see more of her right now but checking out our entire conversation with her in the video at the top of the page.

Statlander talked about her journey to AEW, including her time as a stunt double and how that did or did not prepare her for pro wrestling. Also, she reluctantly had to give credit to a certain AEW talent for helping her get to where she is today - before taking it back at the last second.

We also asked the big question. Does Kris Statlander really believe in aliens? Hear her answer by watching the video above.

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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