Decoding Mercedes Mone: A Critical Analysis of AEW’s Ambiguous CEO

At the risk of sounding like a complete and total boomer, I have to come clean. I don’t get Mercedes Mone. Before the firing squad comes down to dispatch me, the hater, let me clarify a few things. I am a supporter of Mercedes Varnado. I took a liking to Mercedes back in her NXT days and have cheered her on ever since. I was very vocally supportive of her exit from WWE and was hyped to see her choosing the road less traveled to go for what she feels she deserves. And when the news broke that she was AEW bound, I was skeptical but resolved to tune in to support. The issue is, I don’t know what it is I am supposed to be supporting at this point.

Like so many women’s wrestling fans, I made sure to tune in to AEW on the night they were doing “Big Business” in Boston. To the surprise of very few, Mone opened the show. Her promo was more or less what we have come to expect from moments like these in AEW. Mercedes poured her heart out to the cheers of local fans, friends, and family. She looked beautiful, she carried herself with poise, and you could tell that she put a lot of effort into this package… so why did I feel so confused by it?

After a few more weeks of watching, I think I am able to articulate what seems off with the character. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is the over-the-top push of the term CEO. I understand the need for branding, but just what am I meant to feel when she talks about being the CEO? Obviously, it is a way to tie her current work back into her “Boss” days, but I can’t help but note how forced it feels. What are you the CEO of, Mercedes? AEW? Your life? What circumstances have led you to become a CEO? I am not against the moniker, but I can’t help feeling that it needs more fleshing out than what we have experienced so far. In a company that already has EVPs on the active roster, it feels very cluttered to have an ambiguous CEO character.

Another part of the gimmick I am having a hard time with is the constant catchphrase drops. They all have felt overly rehearsed and just as forced as the CEO title. While a catchphrase is something that fans love to grab onto, Mone’s promos seemed to be oversaturated with them. I would much prefer less of them being used than this Madlib attempt at getting something over with the fans. Next, we add the crowd chant-baiting entrance theme to the mix and it just becomes a recipe for what has come across as an exceptionally cheesy caricature of the Sasha Banks character.

AEW has gone out of its way to make sure we as the viewer know that we are supposed to perceive her as a star. She has had ample interviews and TV time since her debut. But, as a fan, I am still just as confused as the first night. I have found myself watching YouTube clips trying to put together missing pieces and am coming up short.

Mercedes Mone looks like a million bucks. Her hair is always immaculate and interesting. Her outfits are beautiful and fit the role of a high-value character. However, the story to sell me on why she is the CEO has not been there. While it has been nice to hear Mercedes speak on her injury and how she feels about joining AEW, it has been to the detriment of setting up important parts of her character. I also am having a hard time with a character claiming to be a CEO and going to “bankrupt” opponents being pushed as a babyface. When you think of “good guy” jobs, a CEO is usually nowhere on that list. In honesty, the CEO title just does not have the same flexibility as “the Boss” had.

I have faith in Varnado’s ability in the ring, but I think we are beginning to see that when it comes to creative, she needs help steering the ship. As a fan wanting to see her succeed wherever she goes, I hope someone in AEW remembers that wrestling is just as much storytelling as it is in-ring competition. I eagerly await her in-ring debut and have high hopes that with time, the CEO character will make more sense.

Brandie Scott