The last six weeks have been a really interesting time period for AEW's Women's Division;- with talk of frustrations over screen time, the return of a number of the Joshi wrestlers for the Owen Hart Cup, issues between the originals versus the newer arrivals, an appearance by TJPW's ace on 'Dark: Elevation' and a tournament which delivered to a similar (or arguably higher) in-ring standard compared to the accompanying men's bracket but still had a predictable winner.
How have these factors and events effected the on screen presentation of the division across AEW television and moreover, how have they impacted our top 10?
Let's find out.
#1 Jade Cargill (Up 1 Place).
It never really felt in doubt that Jade Cargill would be anywhere but number one in the Rankings this month. Her TBS title run has continued to progress in a dominant format and her on screen presentation has once more been stepped up with her Baddies group now complete with the additions of Keira Hogan and Red Velvet and Stokely Hathaway now acting as her representation.
Jade's promos and work outside of the ring have remained strong whilst her PPV title defense against Anna Jay was not the weakest women's match on the show- with them being able to put together a decent effort despite the lack of experience for each competitor. It's a credit to the work both have put in that this was the case in such a high pressure environment.
The likelihood of her next defenses occurring against Athena and Kris Statlander can only be seen as a further positive; both are strong workers who will only give Cargill valuable advice and experience in big match situations and it will also allow her to demonstrate herself against a greater variation of in-ring styles.
At this point, it might be hard to argue against that Jade is AEW's biggest homegrown success story. She is a huge source of interest in the division and her technical improvements have matched the investment the company has made in her.
#2 Thunder Rosa (Down 1 Place)
It feels somewhat strange to the put the AEW Women's Champion at anywhere below Number One in a set of rankings but quite honestly, if it hadn't been for the strong PPV defense against Serena Deeb, she could have been placed even lower.
Rosa has swiftly found herself in a similar place to what Hangman Adam Page did in his recent title reign-being given title matches with little more then an hour's build, highlighted solely in short segments distributed during Dynamite's second hour and barely advertised outside of them. The key difference between the two reigns though is that in this case the performer's frustrations have seemingly become public and the fanbase is definitely noticing the issues on this occasion.
With the TBS Championship held by a dominant heel who has been presented in a much stronger fashion to herself and her previous title programs very much convoluted in nature; it's clear that her next ventures need to follow a somewhat different path in order to get her back on track. Facing a popular newcomer may not be ideal but at least the match should be at a strong standard and therefore, play to her strengths. Page was able to overcome some of the challenges which threatened his time at Champion by delivering exceptional title matches as well as exciting TV matches and it feels the best chance Rosa has in finding success in this run is to do more of the same.
A recently announced July match in Japan opposite TJPW ace Miyu Yamashita has created a significant amount of buzz in recent days and wasn't the only challenge received; with AAA Reina de Reignas Champion Taya Valakyrie also setting her sights on 'La Mera Mera'. These extra curricular travels are another way to generate interest and are exciting, but they should be a accompaniment to what is presented across AEW television rather then instead of. I very much hope this will prove to be the case.
#3 Toni Storm (Up 4 Places)
The vibrant Australian found herself in the AEW version of Groundhog Day in the early part of May, executing what felt like the same promo for consecutive weeks opposite Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter and then wrestling in repetitions of the same tag match correlation alongside Ruby Soho against those previously mentioned. Combined with a shocking semi final loss to Baker in the Owen and it almost felt like Storm's momentum since her March arrival had stalled. Thankfully though, her fortunes have changed as the calendar has switched over to June and she now feels somewhat back on track.
A clean victory over Britt Baker this past week showed signs of Storm finding an essence of the form which made such an exciting prospect during her Stardom tours before she found herself self-exiled down in Florida. Her promo's in the build up were improved as well; indicating that she may be coming to an end of her post WWE adjustment period and just in time as well- with her now the Number One Contender before her first PPV match at Forbidden Door. Could Toni win the title on Sunday? It's not out of the realm of possibility.
#4 Athena (New Entry)
It felt fans had been waiting a fair while for Athena's arrival into AEW. Perhaps the best in-ring performer made available by the recent block of WWE releases remained somewhat of a question mark when shows in Texas (including in her hometown) had come and gone without her emerging onto the AEW stage and her independent bookings looked to be on the increase. Some may have wondered if it was ever going to happen at all. That moment, though, finally arrive at Double or Nothing as the "Fallen Goddess" began her AEW journey by becoming immediately involved with TBS Champion Jade Cargill and swiftly followed it up by defeating a "baddie" in Keira Hogan in her match debut on Rampage.
Athena is a strong signing that offers a level of experience that the division badly needs. It can only help with the development of their younger talent and the prospect of her facing some of AEW's Joshi talent, including a potential rematch with Hikaru Shida, could see for some exciting non-title TV matches across television in the near future.
As we now enter a time period where a number of the members of the women's roster are looking to further establish themselves or to regenerate, Athena will know the importance of ensuring her entry program into AEW is successful. For others, finding their feet outside of the WWE environment has taken a fair few months, but this is one individual where such a elongated process is unlikely to be required.
#5 Britt Baker (<->)
Whilst you may be able to take the Championship away from Britt Baker it has been very much clear since her Pittsburgh return that she will never be far away. It has also been very apparent that the title loss does not equal a loss in screen time or prominence for the the D.M.D. Baker has remained a permanent focus across both Dynamite and Rampage in the run up to 'Double or Nothing' and capped it off by winning the first edition of the Owen Hart Cup tournament during a passable final with Ruby Soho (after a ridiculously long entrance (featuring some fantastic unintentional air guitar).
With Thunder Rosa not receiving the same level of time and /or attention as Baker across the six weeks running up to it, many may have feared the worst when the former champion acknowledged her ambition to regain the title in the PPV's aftermath. It was somewhat surprising, therefore (and others may say refreshing) to see Baker defeated somewhat cleanly on this past week's Dynamite against Toni Storm- in what was a much improved effort compared to their first outing in the Cup a month prior.
Now seemingly removed from title contention for the foreseeable future, Baker's character is vulnerable for the first time in two years. Will that see her lash out in retaliation? Will her stumbling relationship with Jamie Hayter finally blow up into a full blown dispute? These are untried grounds for the focal point of the women's division as we see if she can help to elevate another with the same levels of success as she had whilst on top and an opportunity for her character to develop as the story progresses.
#6 Kris Statlander (Up 4 Places)
The abrupt change to Kris Statlander's character got off to somewhat of a strange start. Having ditched a lot of her alien character as well as the presence of the Best Friends for her matches, Kris found herself exploring her new character away from TV and often wrestling with somewhat heel mannerisms despite being labelled as a face. It felt like a rather confusing situation as well as a step back from her previous levels of usage. Sometimes in wrestling though it is unforeseen circumstances that help to make someone else's path much clearer and that was exactly what happened on this occasion.
With Hikaru Shida unable to take her place in the Owen Hart Cup, Kris found herself added to the the tournament as a first alternate. Often competitors who join such a competition late on are easy removals, but this was not the case here. Statlander used her showings against Red Velvet (in which she was victorious) and Ruby Soho to illustrate just how much she has improved in the ring since her return from injury just over a year ago. She centered her offense around her immense strength and put together sequences not only to display but also to gain the support of the crowd.
Statlander's impassioned promo before the semi final on Rampage felt like an even more pivotal moment. The crowd brought into her emotion as well as her frustrations in being there from the company's origin and not having climbed as high up the ladder as others who arrived much later on; or indeed been given the opportunity to. It meant that for the match they were firmly in her corner and actually became molten towards the finish when she was defeated. It may have been the first time in AEW's history where a live crowd felt so massively in dispute with a match result.
When these sort of events occur the most important factor is how they are followed up on, and this case the results were somewhat mixed. Kris' next appearance came in an angle after the TBS title match at the PPV, where she faced off against Jade Cargill and the 'Baddies' to support her fallen friend in Anna Jay. What happened next was straight out of the TNA playbook though, as a crowd vocally in support of a homegrown babyface immediately had its attention diverted to a debut by an ex-WWE star meaning Kris now finds herself a step back behind the new arrival in the chase for the title. It's a habit you would hope AEW would look to avoid but has definitely creeped in to a larger degree across the last 12 months.
It looks like for now that Kris Statlander will play the supporting role in this next series, but, listening to the audience reactions as of late, this shouldn't be for too lengthy of a period and should end with a TBS Championship program of her own which you could make every argument that she should come out of victorious. Having already given Britt Baker the best match of her AEW title reign; a championship reign of her own could help to move the division further forward in-ring, even as she continues to develop. Her progression and increase in move-set feels similar in a lot of ways to that of 'Hangman' Adam Page in the first year of AEW and there's no reason why Kris can't ascertain a similar level of success if given the correct level of support.
#7 Serena Deeb (Down 4 Places)
After months of five minute challenges and destructive individual performances, Serena Deeb finally made her play for the AEW Women's Championship, facing Thunder Rosa in a very good technical match at the PPV.
Whilst she didn't wrestle in the build up and some of the exchanges between champion and challenger came across as somewhat convoluted or even confusing at times; she was able to deliver a highly important promo on the May 15th episode of Dynamite which focused on the trials she had endured throughout her career, the asks of a women's wrestler (which are completely unacceptable) and the physical changes she has had to make to her body in order to survive in the industry. It was a massively strong message which looks even more important in view of recent events and shouldn't be lost despite issues with delivery which may well of been caused by time management issues for the episode putting additional pressure on the performer.
The match itself, when it finally came around, was what you would have expected from two of AEW's best in-ring performers and did well to get the crowd invested after a series of bouts had challenged the crowd's enthusiasm during the middle of the card. It was without a shadow of a doubt the best women's match on the show.
An emerging team with Mercedes Martinez on Dark: Elevation in the aftermath is an unexpected development but at least gives the character a focal point to move forward with during this reset period.
#8 Ruby Soho (Up 1 Place)
Nobody on the women's roster has had a more interesting six weeks then Ruby. Having spent most of the year so far plying her trade on Elevation, Soho returned to TV for the Owen as well as resuming her rivalry with Dr. Britt Baker; culminating in tournament final defeat to her Pittsburgh foe at 'Double or Nothing' in a passable match which mainly illustrated that sharpshooters are neither athlete's strong point.
Perhaps the most interesting part of that week though was her semi final match with Kris Statlander. Having been added to the Storm-Baker feud and carried the promo segments for her team; Ruby found herself a victim of Statlander's pre- match promo in Las Vegas, where the later referring to herself as an "AEW Original" ended up putting the crowd firmly in the former alien's corner for the following match. This feeling and the weak finish turned this support into anger directed at Soho in the bouts aftermath, drowning her post match face promo in boos- even when Baker came out to perform the face to face.
Whilst this reaction, thankfully, did not carry over to the PPV and Ruby handled the voraciousness of the crowd as well as she could, her character has seemed to respond to such treatment- displaying a much more aggressive attitude during last week's Elevation match-up. Seeing that their is a response to what she has experienced in this regard as well as another painful tournament final loss is encouraging. What comes next for Ruby Soho might actually be more interesting then what has come before.
#9 Jamie Hayter (Down 5 Places)
A much quieter month for Southampton's Hayter- who went out to Toni Storm early on in the Owen Hart Cup and also ended up on the losing end alongside her 'friend' Dr. Britt Baker on two separate occasions to the team of Toni Storm and Ruby Soho in meetings both pre and post 'Double or Nothing'.
What has continued though is an increase in tension between her and the good doctor; with Hayter no longer willing to participate in the end of promo "DMD" display and some communication issues in matchups now occurring on a regular basis.
With Baker now seemingly removed from World Title contention it definitely feels like that breakup is coming sooner rather then later. It will be the most prominent spot Hayter will have found herself in on this run and should lead to some entertaining segments as well as some fiery matchups between the two.
#10 Nyla Rose (Down 2 Places)
To say I was surprised to see Nyla Rose at the top of AEW's official Women's Rankings was an understatement. Since her loss to Thunder Rosa at Battle of the Belts in Garland the "Native Beast" has not been featured on a single episode of Rampage or Dynamite and has only been victorious in two singles matches on Elevation whilst also racking up six tag team losses. Surely none of these results carry enough weight to see her return to the top of the chasing pack?
Whilst trying to assign logic to the Official Rankings is somewhat of a foolish task and Rose should be leaped by Toni Storm (the now announced number one contender) on the next update; my hope is that her continued presence in the top 5 will lead to her performing There is no profound reason why she can't work with one of the new additions to the roster or perhaps even be put in a short program with the rising Kris Statlander, in what should see a reverse of Revolution 2020.
That may seem like a low bar for Nyla; after all she's a former Women's Champion and has acted as the default first challenger to the last two title holders, but in a crowded field (where a lot of her counterparts are either resetting or trying to establish themselves) it's still an important role for her to operate in for the foreseeable future.