Nope…not this one. Although it was a good movie, if the movie was a touch of WWE propaganda. We will come back to it.
It’s rare that after an AEW show, the women’s division creates the most buzz. It’s even rarer after a big AEW show, which is definitely the Grand Slam, as it’s probably their biggest non-PPV show on the schedule. In fact, you would find it hard to believe this ever happened. The only other contender was the first match between Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa, which took place during the pandemic and is getting a little small in the rearview mirror now. Maybe you could discuss the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding Rosa, but of course that got drowned out by the behind-the-scenes drama of the dudes.
But that’s about all. Like every other failure of AEW’s management of the Women’s Division, not being able, or willing, to create flash or snap might be its biggest. Because all the other problems become much easier to solve when people really want to see what happens next. AEW has rarely provided the “coming” or the “next”.
It’s no longer the case now.
The biggest story to come out of the Grand Slam last night was the return of Saraya (Paige to WWE). Saraya is a powerhouse that the AEW Women’s Division has never come close to having. Ruby Soho was a valuable asset when she arrived, but in the style of “underutilized talent in New York”. She has never been an NXT or WWE champion. Athena was in the same mold, although she held the NXT title for a while. Toni Storm, same case. Unquestionably talented, all of them could have AEW’s Women’s Division built around them with a little time, a little patience, and a little hard work. But those are three things that Tony Khan never showed he was going to push for women.
Saraya is as plug and play as it gets…at least we hope so. Because the big matzo ball hanging out there, and one of the big reasons her appearance last night was so surprising, it’s her neck. There was a time when it was not thought to have much more stability than jack cheese. And yet, no one is really sure, except that we assume (hope?) Saraya herself, Khan, and all the doctors who examined her. She certainly seems to be coming back as a wrestler. She’s said many times in the past that’s what she wants to do, and here we are. It might have fans watching his first matches through their fingers, but it’s no different than what fans had to do with Bryan Danielson, Edge or Christian Cage. And she’s significantly younger than any of them when they came back from their injuries.
Saraya comes with a pedigree unmatched by anyone on the AEW women’s roster, and honestly, there are few men who could claim as much as she can. Because they didn’t flip the industry, which Saraya (then Paige) did. Most fans will tell you that the female revolution in WWE and NXT started with Saraya’s matches with Emma in NXT, showing everyone what the women of the division were capable of. The Four Horsewomen came after. These four may have opened the way, but the opening was created by Saraya.
She brought that to the main roster, winning the women’s title the night after WrestleMania in New Orleans in her very first WWE match. She is still considered WWE’s linchpin in taking the women’s division as seriously as the men’s. She came from a family of wrestlers, after all. You may have heard of it. A year later, Sasha, Becky and Charlotte were up and running, and you know the rest.
To add to the depth and feeling of Saraya’s return, she’s never reached the heights of Sasha, Charlotte, or Becky, and a lot of that is up to her. There is a redemption story that AEW has nothing to do with and could just let it unfold. Prior to her retirement, Saraya’s history was messy, with drug and alcohol abuse, abusive boyfriends (which could always be a problem), leaked sex tapes and a wavering commitment to the company. It’s kind of hard to believe she’s still only 30 with all she’s done, both good and bad, in her career.
And AEW certainly isn’t afraid of a redemption arc. We need look no further than current champion Jon Moxley, who has had the best year of his career fresh out of rehab for a drinking problem. Saraya physically returning to the ring is a story in itself. Pile everything else on top of it and it couldn’t be easier to get fans on his side (which, judging by the massive pop when she appeared last night, they already are).
Saraya has this connection with the fans because unlike most female wrestlers at the time of her rise, she didn’t feel built from anything else. She was a real wrestler, brought up there, who loved it, not imported from another place and wearing makeup. Everything that’s happened since, and now her hope of overcoming it all, only makes her more human. He’s someone you can build a division around.
All AEW has to do is want. What the Women’s Division badly needs are storylines that aren’t just a title match – and they’ve so rarely gotten them. It was from that first match between Rosa and Baker that any female feud not over a title seemed vital. While Saraya shouldn’t be used to dismiss Storm, the current champion, she certainly provides a second line of narrative as she restarts her career, and could buy time for others like Storm or Athena or whoever. either to really nail their character.
There are myriad possibilities here, including the hard-to-miss one of Saraya finally creating the permanent rift between Jamie Hayter and Baker that should have already happened. It would be a godsend if Saraya was a complete mic ace, which she isn’t quite. But her star power will cover most if not all of what she lacks, which no other woman on the AEW roster can say. Fans will appreciate having Saraya on screen no matter what, she’s just so magnetic.
This isn’t the first time fans have been hoping for a new dawn in the women’s division. And it never was. But they really never had someone like Saraya to work with before. And the room can open. For weeks, rumors have been circulating that AEW is going to have another show on TV. It could be the long-awaited show Ring of Honor, which would free up all the TV time on Dynamite and Rampage. It could be a female-exclusive show, as we whispered. Anyway, there is an opening here.
It’s not that difficult. All it takes is just to send Saraya regularly. If she is like before, she will do the rest.