AEW maven Tony Khan had his pre-All Out media call yesterday. These can be fascinating encounters, where he’s there basically to promote a show, and most of the people asking him questions are throwing hanging curveballs so he can do so. However, every so often someone asks him something that doesn’t keep his preferred train a-rollin’, and you can almost hear the brakes screech and the figurative craning of necks to see who would dare interrupt the process. If you’re a wrestling fan and familiar with the backstage interview, it’s akin to when a wrestler throws up his or her catchphrase and pose seemingly ending the interview, only to be asked another question and watching him or her go into brain freeze. This isn’t how this works!
It was no different yesterday when Samantha Schipman of DailyDDT.com asked Khan why Thunder Rosa had been given barely an inhale and an exhale to announce she was injured, wouldn’t be able to appear at All Out on Sunday, and there would have to be an interim champion, and had to do it backstage in a pre-taped segment. It was curious because previous champs who had been injured and could not defend their titles were given five to 10 minutes and an in-ring segment in front of a crowd. Thunder Rosa was very much not.
To say Khan’s response was gruff would be a little too dead-on balls accurate:
On the surface, this isn’t wrong. Rosa can be a wonky promo at times, and it’s hardly her strength. She would not draw the same as CM Punk getting eight minutes on the mic in the ring, but then again that’s a standard akin to comparing someone’s axe-wielding skills to Ares. There are some no one can touch. The AEW women’s division as a whole lacks really good promos, aside from Baker and occasionally Jade Cargill.
But the question has to be asked… how does Khan think any of the women in his company are going to achieve must-see status no matter what they’re doing if they’re not given the reps? Thunder Rosa’s strength may be in the matches she puts on (though some of her coworkers might disagree), but she wasn’t even given time every week to do that. If there can be a primetime player made simply through ring-work, then they should be putting their ring-work on TV regularly and building buzz and momentum through good matches. Rosa, nor really anyone else, has never been given even that opportunity.
If Baker is the only true plus on the mic for the company, she only got that way because Khan allowed her on TV every week when she was nursing a leg injury during their pandemic stay at Daley’s Place. Her taped segments with Tony Schiavone during her “rehab” were hilarious, but she was allowed to grow into it. It’s hard to remember that Baker’s first foray into AEW, at the company’s dawn, was as a babyface and it very much did not work. Baker was allowed trial and error. Who else has been?
Khan is more than happy to let his male wrestlers find their feet, if they ever do. Jungle Boy has been given multiple promo segments, and his promos would be politely described as, “sucking ass.” Darby Allin keeps ending up on PPV shows, even though his act for over a year has consisted of nothing more than standing next to Sting and occasionally diving into a coffin. We have been served a heap of The Ass Boys for months, even though it’s still not clear what they are good at [Editor’s note: Good fodder for The Acclaimed and Danhausen]. But through repetition and practice, they’ve carved out a niche amongst AEW fans.
Who has been afforded that in the women’s division? Who has been allowed to settle into a niche after weeks on TV? Not even their champion has. Creating the kind of personalities that get people to tune in takes time and patience and work, and Khan quite simply hasn’t put that in with any of the women. It’s not like they lack talent. Fans would be delighted to see Athena or Ruby Soho or Kris Statlander (when healthy) or Hikaru Shida or Toni Storm every week. They never get to, and when they do they’re shoved into the pre-main event time slot that seems to be where the misfit toys go.
If Khan’s claim is that these women aren’t the stars that the likes of Punk or Moxley or MJF are, how does he plan on getting them there? Sasha Banks isn’t going to walk through that door, not now, and the women’s division in WWE has been heavily featured if not anchoring at least Monday Night Raw. It is not just a coincidence that Raw’s TV ratings have jumped since HHH took over and made the women’s division fresh and galvanizing.
It’s an easy out for Khan to just point to the ratings and throw his hands up. If he were truly interested in creating a genuine star out of his women’s division, we’d know by now, and certainly, the extra five to 10 minutes of TV time it would take is hardly a grand sacrifice. Sunday is yet another chance to kickstart the division, with a four-way match between Storm, Shida, Baker, and Jamie Hayter that could be a highlight of the show if given time to breathe. Any of the four could win and spearhead a gear change in the division. But I’ve written that more than a few times, and so have many others. If Khan desires a true female star, he should at least demonstrate he has a roadmap to get there. Mostly it seems like he’s not even interested in getting in the car.