All good things, as they, must come to an end.
There was a major shift in women’s professional wrestling this past week. Five major championships changed hands between the industry’s top two companies, but it’s the victories for Asuka and Kris Statlander that stand out as the most significant.
No slight meant against Toni Storm becoming the first two-time AEW Women’s Champion, Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler finally getting their hands on WWE’s Women’s Tag Team Titles, or the Tiffy Time era getting underway in NXT.
The weight of each moment created in Jeddah and Las Vegas respectively had more to do with the two competitors who lost and the shocking manners in which they were defeated.
When Kris Statlander pinned Jade Cargill’s shoulders to the mat at AEW Double or Nothing Sunday night, it marked the first time in Cargill’s impressive young career that anyone was able to keep her down for three seconds. Proving that it was always going to take more than a woman to end Big Jade’s TBS Championship reign.
The booking of Cargill’s first loss has been met with some criticism from the AEW faithful and it’s certainly understandable to see how someone could view losing in under a minute negatively under any circumstances, let alone when there was a two year long undefeated streak on the line.
When you take a step back and really look at Cargill’s run from highly touted prospect to the face of AEW promotional materials, there was really no better way for Jade to finally get knocked off her high horse.
After her 60th title defense, TBS Champion @Jade_Cargill's open challenge has just been answered by none other than @callmekrisstat!!!— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) May 29, 2023
Order #AEWDoN LIVE on PPV right now!
: https://t.co/RLL4ZBJoGf pic.twitter.com/hEcsEbxQl8
Jade Cargill had megastar written all over her from the moment she stepped foot in an AEW ring. We all saw it. The raw strength and athleticism. The physique and awe-inspiring presence that could only be rivaled by a Greek goddess.
All she needed was the proper booking and a little time to fully develop her in-ring skills and get them to the same level as the confidence she already exuded on screen.
Tony Khan has often shown that he’s willing to be patient and play the long game with certain wrestlers and storylines, on some occasions, almost to a fault. But with Cargill, Khan slow played his hand perfectly. Showing flashes of Jade’s in-ring potential while still showcasing her as the diamond she hadn’t fully formed into yet.
When she was ready, Tony booked her to win the TBS Championship and didn’t regret it for one second. For 508 days Cargill ran roughshod over a majority of the women’s division. It didn’t matter the caliber of opponent or what they brought to the table. At no point did you ever truly believe that the undefeated streak was in danger of being broken.
One by one, they all fell at the feet of Jade Cargill. The diamond had fully formed. The megastar had arrived.
With each passing week, Cargill’s already sky high confidence grew stronger. Both as a performer and on screen character. And for the character, that confidence would prove to be her undoing.
The arrival of Taya Valkyrie in AEW back in April gave Cargill’s run the shot in the arm it needed at that time. After defeating Athena at All Out last September, everything seemed to slow down to a crawl for Jade creatively. With stars like Dr. Britt Baker, Jamie Hayter and the Outcasts wrapped up in their own storylines and title feuds, and Kris Statlander on the shelf, Cargill was left without a marquee sparring partner.
Statlander was building momentum last summer and really started to emerge as a potential threat to Jade. At the very least, it appeared Kris was going to be put in a program with the TBS Champion even if she didn’t end up winning the title.
Any and all potential plans were derailed in August when Statlander completely tore her ACL and required surgery and months of grueling rehab. With the exception of Kris herself, no one suffered more from her injury than Jade Cargill as she was left hanging without an apparent Plan B.
It has been a long road to recovery for @callmekrisstat with back-to-back injuries. But, mama is home, she’s stronger than ever and she is your newly crowned TBS champion!— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) May 31, 2023
Watch #AEWDynamite TONIGHT at 8pm ET/7pm CT on @TBSNetwork. pic.twitter.com/4uNYoNMHC6
Cargill had beaten nearly every opponent available to her, and with the exception of an emerging Willow Nightingale, there really didn’t seem to be a viable option to take the TBS Championship from her — even with it clear that Jade was in dire need of a new direction.
By the time this spring rolled around, Jade was in a bit of rut. She had reverted back to mostly enhancement matches that saw her squash her opponents in under three minutes. On the very rare occasion, this writer’s opinion, you could see boredom in her eyes.
In character she was still the cocky, bad ass bitch she claimed herself to be - begging for real competition. She got it in former Impact Knockouts Champion Taya Valkyrie.
The 13-year vet took Cargill to the limit, twice, giving Jade her best match in sometime at Double or Nothing. The result remained the same however - Cargill wins. Her impressive streak stretched to 60-0 with many of us wondering what was next. We would not have to wonder long.
For the last few months on the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast, we’ve been wondering what Tony Khan could possibly be waiting for in regards to Jade Cargill, who was now in a position to make a new star simply by putting them over. Often, we would jokingly ask if he was really waiting for Kris Statlander to return to action.
Turns out, that was exactly what he was waiting for. Never underestimate the patience of Tony Khan.
When Smart Mark Sterling took the mic this past Sunday to put over his client as this unstoppable force that can overcome any challenger, any time, any where, under any circumstances, it was clear that those in attendance and the viewers at home were about to witness something special.
The T-Mobile Arena erupted when Statlander’s music hit. She marched down to the ring with every intention on getting the match with Jade that she missed out on months ago. Despite having just gone through a war with Taya Valkyrie, which included the closest two-count in Jade’s career following a Road to Valhalla, the battered and winded Cargill accepted the challenge right then and there.
Ego. Pride. Confidence. Eventually, they get the better of even the best. And it was the perfect story for Jade’s sudden downfall.
Jade Cargill thought she was invincible. She was not. And a more than game Kris Statlander took her down in seconds.
What was already a brilliant and rewarding moment for Statlander, who has now overcome two major knee surgeries in her AEW tenure, was made all the more special by what her victory means moving forward.
First and foremost for the immediate future, there’s a fresh TBS Champion and a new window of opportunity for every potential challenger in the women’s locker room.
For Jade Cargill, she’ll reportedly take some time off to recoup and recharge, before returning to AEW with a new story to tell. How will she react to suffering her first defeat? Who is she without the streak and the TBS Championship? Will she have her sights set on Kris Statlander upon her return or could she move on to a program with the AEW Women’s Champion?
Still THAT BITCH.— Jade Cargill (@Jade_Cargill) May 29, 2023
All questions that the audience should be excited to find out the answers to when Cargill decides she’s ready for the ring once again.
Change is inevitable for us all. Even the longest reigning Women’s Champion in modern WWE history.
Jade Cargill’s loss was the second most surprising of the entire weekend. Surprising only in the sense that no one expected her to have a second match. Once the bell rang against Kris Statlander, there was only one clear outcome.
Surely someone reading this is going to hold up their hand and claim they knew Bianca Belair was going to drop the Raw Women’s Championship to Asuka at Night of Champions, but hardly anyone believed the E-S-T’s record breaking run was going to come to end in Saudi Arabia.
Although if you did, hopefully you found a site to put some money down because Belair was the betting favorite. Better odds to win than Brock Lesnar even and he was fighting against a man with a “broken” arm.
Much like Cargill, Belair’s greatest opponent over the last few months became time. A good portion of the WWE Universe was simply growing tired of consistently seeing Bianca find a way to overcome the odds and hold on to her title.
It was not that long ago that Belair was one of WWE’s most popular stars, but following her win over Asuka at WrestleMania 39, the number of fans reacting to her negatively began to grow - kicked into overdrive by a raucous sold out Backlash crowd in Puerto Rico that was firmly in the corner of Belair’s opponent, IYO SKY.
Long title reigns used to be a rarity for babyfaces, and for good reason. Bryan Danielson said it best. Fans are fickle. They love the good guy, or gal, until they are on top of the mountain for too long. Then they are begging to see them fall off a cliff.
So while the Empress’ victory in her rematch with Bianca at NOC may have been unexpected, it was a result that was badly needed. Especially if WWE hopes to stem the tide of Belair’s recent crowd reactions.
There are reports that a big heel turn could be in the works for both Bianca Belair and the Street Profits over on SmackDown, but there’s evidence to suggest otherwise.
If the plan was to turn Bianca heel, at least in the near future, then stay the course. Keep the Women’s Championship on her and let the fans turn on her naturally.
There are also reasons beyond the ring to consider. Including Bianca’s upcoming reality show with her husband, real name Kenneth Crawford, Montez Ford. Sure, Miz and Mrs. pulls in ratings despite the heel status of the It Couple, but keeping the Crawford family as babyfaces might be the safer bet for at least the first season of their new show.
Before turning Belair heel, WWE also has to take into account that she has become the face of their community outreach initiatives. For her entire run as Raw Women’s Champion and beyond, Bianca Belair was seen everywhere representing WWE. Boys and Girls Clubs, the Special Olympics, Be a Star events, you name it, there was Belair with a smile on her face for a good cause.
First event of the week: Bianca Belair, Liv Morgan, Street Profits, Titus and Doudrop are playing with kids at the Be A Star Rally. pic.twitter.com/jjrJJ10GJN— Denise 'Hollywood' Salcedo (@_denisesalcedo) January 26, 2023
People have often compared Belair to John Cena due to her booking during these past 18 months, but the comparison can also be made for her community work. She’s a true Champion by every definition of the word.
The Street Profits, to their credit, are no slouches in the community outreach department themselves.
Granted, a heel power couple of Bianca Belair and Montez Ford would print money and should be discussed by WWE creative, but there’s more than just a television show to take into consideration.
But going back to the TV show for just a second, let’s just say they do turn Bianca heel here soon. Who steps in as the top babyface on SmackDown in her place? There are options, but it’s something else for WWE to consider.
In the meantime, Asuka reigns supreme as the Raw Women’s Champion and Belair is back on the chase where the money resides for the fan favorites. A welcomed disruption of the status quo of one half of the women’s title picture.
We’ll get better understanding of where Belair currently stands in the pecking order tonight on SmackDown, and one has to assume it’s still pretty high. She has a major gripe after Asuka unconventionally used her mist to beat her in Saudi Arabia and a rematch is all but guaranteed to be on the horizon - most likely at Money in the Bank.
For the time being though, neither Bianca Belair or Jade Cargill have gold around their waist. Which hasn’t been the case since early January of last year. They both will again one day, rest assured. Right now, it’s time for new Champions to shine and new challengers to emerge.
Also, it needs to be said. Now that Belair’s record reign has ended, WWE can go ahead with a belt swap between Asuka and SmackDown Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley any time now. As I’ve already written about, ending Belair’s reign by her handing the belt over to someone else would have been egregious.
With that problem no longer on the table, assuming WWE has no intentions of introducing what could be the company’s third and fourth new World Title belts in just over a month, please go ahead and send each brand’s Women’s Championship belt back to the appropriate home.
Thinking long-term, the best solution is still renaming each belt to make them non-brand specific. Frankly though, its tiresome hearing people complain about the SmackDown Women’s Champion being on Raw and vice versa. And to the point of those critics, which I have been one, it makes no sense keeping things the way they’ve been these past several weeks. It’s a simple fix... now.
Go ahead and fix it. Tonight if possible.