How AEW's Women's Eliminator Could Fail Submitted by Damn Fine Wrestling on 01/27/2021 at 03:13 PM
By a man obsessed with Twin Peaks and Professional Wrestling...
I fancy women's wrestling. It's mostly all I talk about...
Announced last week, the AEW Women's Eliminator Tournament will determine the #1 contender for Hikaru Shida's women's championship. While this is something that is greatly needed in a division that feels left behind, this is also something AEW cannot fail to flub up. Graphics can be misleading, and the bracket for the women's tournament raises questions. With one side of the bracket entirely in front of the U.S. flag, and the other side in front of the Japan flag, it seems to motion that the competition will be made up of 8 women from AEW and 8 women from Japan.
This would be a terrible mistake.
I am likely in the minority of wrestling fans who follow Stardom on a weekly basis, as well as keep up with Tokyo Joshi Pro and Ice Ribbon. So this has nothing to do with any grievances towards Japanese women's talent. These promotions are producing some of the best women's wrestling in the universe.
Bringing in 8 Japanese women's wrestlers, either in a bracket on its own -- or mixed with the 16 -- will set the tone for a potentially disappointing tournament. And here's why:
Hikaru Shida is the current AEW women's champion, and she's great. Shida is easily one of the best wrestlers in the company and she's well-deserving of her championship. But in the same way some fans may be tuning out of this year's Super Bowl simply because they're sick of seeing Tom Brady in the big game, fans would do the same for a tournament filled half-way with Japanese talent. A large number of fans can only handle so many foreign wrestlers, and while that sounds awful to say, you know it to be the case. This is an American promotion, after all, so featuring too much Joshi hurts the division.
On some level, any Joshi talent added to this tournament sort of become heels -- and not because they're actually heels (how could Riho ever be a heel?), but because it's likely that fans want to see a local champion. Whether that's Britt Baker, Shanna (from Portugal, but resides in U.S.), Big Swole, or even Tessa Blanchard -- the time is right for that specific change. At some point, fans will start to root against Riho or Yuka simply because they want the likes of Shanna or Britt (or others) as the #1 contender.
Now I can take an educated guess that Emi Sakura (who gleefully tweeted about this tournament), Yuka Sakazaki (who just lost a championship bid in her latest match for Tokyo Joshi Pro) and Riho (rumored to be brought back via Melzter reporting) will all be involved in the tournament. To be honest, this is the only three Japanese talents I wish to see in this eliminator.
It's not for any distaste towards Joshi. I'm a mark for many: Mina Shirakawa, Giulia, Tam Nakano, Reika Saiki, and Risa Sera; all of these wonderful wrestlers deserve your attention. Look them up!
...But that doesn't mean they are a great fit for an AEW tournament. There are so many women on the AEW roster that deserve a spot in this tournament that to leave out 8 just to please Kenny Omega would be a tragedy. I'm not a casual fan, but bringing in 8 from overseas would alienate a lot of the casual fans, or even hardcore fans that just aren't into Joshi Puroresu.
How Revolution Affects the Tournament
Saturday, March 6th marks AEW Revolution. Now Kenny and Tony could be headed in two directions for this show regarding the women's division:
A. Shida faces the winner for the championship
B. Shida faces a featured challenger (Tessa Blanchard/Taya Valkyrie) | Eliminator Tournament Finals on same night
(Shida faces #1 contender in main event of next Dynamite)
The problem here is that the tournament would have to start next week for scenario A to play out, and that's even a stretch. That's 15 women's matches in a span of 5-6 weeks. Even if you do two matches per Dynamite, that's only 12 matches at the most. While I can see part of the first round being aired on AEW Dark, it would be foolish, and a slap in the face to us women's wrestling fans, to NOT hold the Quarterfinals through Semifinals on Dynamite. In reality, advertising something on Dynamite only for a chunk of it to take place on AEW Dark would be another slap in the face.
So I don't see scenario A playing out...
Scenario B is more likely here, especially with Taya Valkyrie. Keep in mind that Taya is still AAA Reina de Reinas Champion, which would be something she would have to quickly drop before moving to WWE. I don't see any scheduled AAA shows on the horizon, and with Mexico City's recent and heightened Covid-19 shutdown (which took place shortly after Triplemania), I don't see an opportunity for Taya to drop the championship, unless it's in another promotion like MLW, which features AAA Championship matches.
While I would love to see Tessa Blanchard, I don't think the likes of Thunder Rosa (La Rosa Negra is on her Mission Pro Wrestling roster) and Ivelisse would be all too happy with that move. Not that I claim to know what happens backstage in AEW locker rooms, but it seems the bulk of AEW Dark talent is coming from Rosa's MPW. Blanchard potentially fractures the Thunder Rosa/AEW relationship unless Blanchard and Rosa (as well as Ivelisse) can squash their beef and do what's best for business.
Does AEW need Tessa Blanchard? Perhaps an article for another time -- there's a solid case for and against it.
Notes from first round of predictions: I did bring back Serena Deeb into the mix, as she is the #1 contender according to recent rankings, so it would be foolish to leave her out -- even if she is current NWA Women's Champion.
Oddly enough, taking the top records in the women's division (personally updated after the 1/26 Dark episode), 16 spots work themselves out.
Updated Predicted Participants:
(Top 5 in Rankings)
-Serena Deeb (2-0)
-Big Swole (1-0)
-Nyla Rose (1-0)
-Penelope Ford (1-0)
-Anna Jay (1-0)
Left out: Diamante (no singles matches, sadly will likely be subbed out for Jade), KiLynn King, Leva Bates, and Madi Wrenkowski.
Finals: Shanna vs. Britt
I still can't help but think we're getting a preview of the finals of this tournament tonight with Shanna and Britt. Time will tell, and I might even have to update this article based on new rankings, which AEW has yet to release as of this afternoon. In conclusion, while I love Joshi Puroresu, too much will dampen this tournament. AEW has a chance to highlight -- ON DYNAMITE -- their surprisingly deep women's division.
As RuPaul would say, "good luck, and don't f*** it up" -- which is my sentiments for this coming tournament.
Next Week's Articles:
-What a Weekly AEW Women's Show would look like
-Is Tessa Worth the Risk?
-A look at WWE's Women's Division (finally)