After a prominently placed sign helped bring AEW’s women’s division back into the discourse last week, independent wrestling veteran LuFisto tweeted some critical comments based on her experience working an Elevation taping in April of last year.
LuFisto said she’d follow-up with more specifics, and in an interview with Fightful this week, she sure did.
• She set up her appearance on Elevation with QT Marshall. It was supposed to be mainly an interview/tryout for a coaching position.
• There was some confusion about medical testing and paperwork (LuFisto is from Quebec and a Canadian citizen, something that will come up multiple times in the story), but everything got sorted out in time for her to be at the April 6 show in Boston.
• She was greeted at the venue by Shawn Dean, then left to wait in the women’s locker room area. It’s there that she said hi to The Bunny, who allegedly responded “What are you doing here?”
• Bunny was seated with Ruby Soho & Toni Storm in the locker room. Jade Cargill was also there seated separately. None of them spoke to her. Mercedes Martinez, who is someone she knew from outside AEW, was said to be happy to see her. She later says Thunder Rosa was there and no one was speaking to her.
• LuFisto’s priority was to talk to Tony Khan about a coaching position, but she never met him. She says she had nice initial conversations with Mark Henry, Christian Cage, and Dustin Rhodes.
• There was confusion about her match, who was working it, if she’d do her entrance, etc.
• At one point while waiting, she came upon Rhodes & Soho and believes they were talking about her. LuFisto claims Rhodes demeanor toward her changed after his conversation with Soho, with his next words to her being, “So, all French Canadian people are fucking assholes eh?”
• Her match ended up being with Bunny & Emi Sakura against Soho, Anna Jay & Skye Blue. LuFisto was going to start with Blue, so she tried to talk to her about what they were going to do but didn’t get much from her. In the interview, LuFisto theorizes the reason was because “either she’s bland as a person or she’s not allowed to talk.”
• Nothing major goes wrong during the match, but there’s some confusion about what LuFisto should do around the finish. When she got backstage afterwards, Rhodes was waiting for her to say she was “terrible”. She claims she had to press him to explain what issues he had, which were mostly about selling more for the contracted talent.
• She asked some male talent she knew for feedback on her match, but no one had watched it. One of them tells her no one watches the matches at AEW. The unnamed person told her wrestlers “pretty much do what we want. I’m not saying that in a good way.” Another got back to LuFisto later after watching her match to say it wasn’t bad and she did what she could with limited time.
• LuFisto described what she observed backstage as “chaotic” and remembers watching people sit in the same area while talking shit about each other and thinking, “I’m with fucking children.”
• After the appearance, LuFisto had issues getting paid. Those were apparently due to more confusion about her work visa & other paperwork. She’s barely heard from Marshall or others she dealt with since appearing.
• Other issues LuFisto says she witnessed or has heard about backstage at AEW include women politicking to protect their positions and setting others up to look bad in the ring (LuFisto didn’t interact with Britt Baker during her visit, but says Baker is one person she’s been told does those things), and men who aren’t invested in women’s wrestling having power over the division. She also generally noted that there wasn’t a defined power structure at the company.
In the interview, she also talked about her history with Soho, which apparently has been bad since at least 2016 when LuFisto was a guest of Pat Patterson’s at WrestleMania and ran into Ruby backstage. She also documented her issues with Jacques Rougeau (fka The Mountie), which she thinks may have poisoned the well for her with QT.
Since the interview went live, Rhodes reacted to it on social media, tweeting then deleting:
Hey @LuFisto, read your story and sometimes as a coach I have to be very honest and won’t ever tell you a lie about how good or bad it was. Sometimes hard love comes out and wouldn’t have it any other way.
I hope you find what you’re looking for. #KeepSteppin
Another pioneering indie women’s wrestler, Nicole Matthews, publicly supported Soho and hinted at a counter-explanation for Ruby’s behavior toward LuFisto:
After not seeing her lovely face in 5 years, the second I saw her at AEW, she ran up and gave me the most giant hug. It was like no time had passed at all.— Nicole Matthews (@nmatthewsninja) August 3, 2023
One thing she said that stuck to me was “you always remember the ones who treated you right on the way up”
LuFisto said in the interview that she expected to be attacked for her story & comments, but was standing up for women’s wrestling. She continued online last night, tweeting:
Had a one hour phone call with a current AEW talent.
The women who actually addressed the problems I did today were the ones sent home by Tony Khan.
There was a meeting to shoot on Thunder Rosa that Khan attended. Before leaving, he reminded them that heir segments were the lowest.
When some girls arranged a meeting to talk about Baker’s crew, one of them ran to Britt to let her know. The girls that wanted to address the problem were the ones punished.
Things didn’t better. They got worst.
As for The legitimate wrestlers believe Tony doesn’t give a damn about women’s wrestling and feel like they are going back to the Divas era.
Ask me who the fuck am I. Tell me I’m irrelevant and that I’m doing this for attention. Call me a liar. Tell me to kill myself. You keep on closing your eyes and supporting human beings with shitty behaviour. With the messages of support and especially this phone call I received from AEW employees.
This nobody did the right thing.
Told you it was a lot.
What to make of it all? Everyone will have their own takes, but mine is that there’s probably a fair amount of truth to LuFisto’s description of the general situation backstage at AEW last spring. It fits with other reports we’ve heard, and sounds like the kind of environment that would lead to all the drama that happened in that company last year. But we’ve also heard that steps have been taken to address the communication and power structure issues, and hopefully the lack of more blow-ups this year is an indication those are helping.
As for the personal issues and allegations? Those are much trickier. Deleted and subtweets aside, we’re only hearing one side of the story at this point. LuFisto is obviously passionate about women’s wrestling, but it’s also easy to see how she might rub people the wrong way (e.g., volunteering that Skye Blue might be “bland” rather than empathizing with a young wrestler in a situation that even she as a veteran found intimidating).
People make friends and enemies in all kinds of work environments. Wrestling’s can seem more dramatic, despite not being all that different.
But right or wrong, and regardless of how you feel they were delivered... perhaps LuFisto’s criticisms will lead to better things for AEW’s current and future women’s roster?
We shall see.