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Saraya Is AEW’s Finest Likelihood To Repair Its Ladies’s Division

FLUSHING, N.Y. — All Elite Wrestling is having a hell of a September, with the emphasis on hell. The corporate has navigated away from the chaotic fallout to its Labor Day weekend present, one which noticed a number of high-profile wrestlers brawl backstage and catch suspensions for it in addition to attainable, all whereas placing on a few of its higher weekly tv within the course of. It was all constructing to Wednesday night time’s Grand Slam, its marquee yearly episode of Dynamite, now in its second yr at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens.

Although the present had some unusual pacing and reserving choices, the second most certainly to reverberate by the corporate within the coming months was completely executed. Following a purposeless if competent ladies’s title match, the villainous steady of Britt Baker, Jamie Hayter, and Insurgent have been beating down the babyfaces Toni Storm and Athena, as wrestling villains are wont to do. It was all arrange for somebody to both return or debut to save lots of the heroes, and that’s precisely what occurred, as Saraya made her AEW debut to thunderous cheers:

Previously generally known as Paige in WWE, the 30-year-old Brit was one of many forebears of that firm’s “Ladies’s Revolution,” a brand-massaged however nonetheless essential period during which ladies’s matches started to maneuver away from the sexualized presentation of the late ’90s and 2000s and into precise storylines and matches given time to breathe. Earlier than the 4 Horsewomen of WWE (Charlotte Aptitude, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Bayley) actually took off, there was Paige, having nice matches in NXT, often with Emma, and turning that girls’s division into the place to be. AEW must be hoping that, 9 years later, Saraya can have the identical impact by itself division.

To be clear, the ladies’s division in AEW is miles forward of the place WWE was on the time of Paige’s first ascension, however that solely makes it extra of a disappointment. There may be a lot potential for the bookers to work with, and but the corporate has repeatedly did not construct a lot momentum past the golden interval of Britt Baker’s title chase and preliminary defenses in 2020 and 2021.

The ladies’s division has been the weakest a part of AEW programming since its inception, one thing that this website has famous multiple times. The issues are straightforward to determine: the ladies don’t get sufficient time; the division is each bloated and centered virtually singularly by itself homegrown and bankable star (Baker); and storyline for the title bought obliterated by an harm layoff for its former champion, Thunder Rosa.

A minimum of in concept, AEW now has a star in Saraya to construct round, a reputation wrestler who has each a historical past and the expertise to be a marquee participant, and a salve for AEW’s self-inflicted wounds. Saraya’s debut marks a brand new period for the corporate, a lot in the best way CM Punk’s debut did in the summer of 2021. (A comparability that ought to spotlight that nothing here’s a certain factor.)

It’s by no means easy for AEW’s ladies division, nonetheless. There’s a large elephant within the room with regards to Saraya: her neck. The explanation she is just not nonetheless an enormous a part of WWE’s plans is that she needed to step away from wrestling on account of a neck harm that required surgical procedure in 2016. She tried a comeback the next yr, however after a kick to the again from Sasha Banks at a home present in 2017, she reported that she misplaced feeling in her legs. She by no means wrestled for WWE once more, formally saying her in-ring retirement in 2018.

It seems that each Saraya and AEW assume she’s prepared for an additional comeback. That’s a probably scary thought, given how severe her neck harm was, however stranger issues have occurred in wrestling in recent times. Edge got here again to WWE after 9 years away on account of a neck harm of his personal, one which seemed to be as career-ending as an harm may be. Bryan Danielson referred to as it quits after a sequence of post-concussion seizures, and now he’s an enormous a part of AEW’s roster. Saraya’s actions on Wednesday—taunting the heelish steady of Baker, Jamie Hayter, and Insurgent—and the truth that she’s been added to the AEW roster page as a wrestler, with a clean slate of wins and losses, makes it appear like the corporate has cleared her for motion.

Let’s simply assume and hope that Saraya is really OK to go within the ring. If that’s the case, then that is AEW’s second to untangle the mess it has created with its ladies’s division. Although there have been ex-WWE wrestlers who’ve joined the division because the begin of AEW—Ruby Soho, Athena, and Toni Storm—none have ever reached the heights that the previous Paige did. She’s not the world’s greatest mic employee, however she has a charisma that has at all times engaged crowds, one thing that was evident in her debut: With out saying a phrase on the mic, she had your entire stadium wilding out.

The place Saraya goes from right here will outline ladies’s wrestling in AEW for the close to future. Pitting her towards Baker and her cronies as a primary feud is a good choice, however the execution must be equally impressed. Saraya is a can’t-miss expertise, or as a lot as one may be when coming again to wrestling after 5 years away and with a surgically rebuilt neck. Baker is likely one of the few ladies within the division who has been given the time and power to recover from, and followers appropriately hate her guts. Handled proper, the pair may kickstart the division.

Contemplate me skeptical. There’s nothing that the corporate has performed over its first three years to make me imagine that it will possibly or will deal with this appropriately. However this can be a golden probability, perhaps the very best probability AEW will ever have, to take its ladies’s division points severely. It might be among the many greatest disappointments within the firm’s historical past if, six months from now, Saraya is simply one other girl on the roster, struggling to get the time she must construct one thing higher than she discovered. However it might not be a shock.

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