On the heels of what was one of the most memorable matches I’ve ever seen, I find myself examining the emotions such a magnificent performance from two of the top girls in the industry. It’s a match that might typically have fallen into that prototypical “landscape-altering” category some of us like to use when things give us that little bit extra that we crave so vehemently. I’d argue that this match wasn’t that at all though. If you’ve been watching closely enough, the landscape of All Elite Wrestling’s women’s division changed long ago.
What Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa gave us on Wednesday wasn’t landscape-altering, not because it wasn’t brilliant but because the landscape had already changed. They helped to make sure it did by serving as two pillars of a division finding its way and putting in the work. Their lights out match might have served as the culmination of that journey, but it should not be remembered as only that. As far as women’s matches on live free television go, show me one better. As far as main events on AEW Dynamite go, this was easily top three, and the argument can easily be made for that top spot. As far as wrestling matches go, with genders pushed aside after acknowledging the tremendous accomplishments of both women, this was an overall match of the year candidate. Deservingly so.
We’ll look back on this match and remember.
Rewinding life a couple of years, I wonder if Britt Baker had an idea that she’d be anywhere near a moment like this not even two years into the history of All Elite Wrestling? Being power bombed onto a pile of tacks, wearing a crimson mask (not her first!) in the main event of Dynamite, curb stomping Thunder Rosa into oblivion, and for one night, captivating the world with the culmination of a story masterfully told over the course of months…that’s what dreams are made of, right? Wrestling dreams anyway. They’re a very different wonderful breed, aren’t they?
Signed in the early days of All Elite Wrestling, Britt was instantly recognized as the face of the women’s division. Expectations were both rightfully and unfairly high. Wrestling fans are notoriously difficult to please. We expect greatness immediately and have less patience than a hungry infant. My mind harkens back to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. WE WANT IT NOW! I say this with humor and love for my fellow fans, but we’re insufferable at times.
The expectations levied at Britt might have only been eclipsed by her own expectations for herself. I don’t think one becomes a legitimate doctor – let alone one who is also a professional wrestler – without constantly raising the bar for herself and what she expects to accomplish. I think that she understood the landscape and the inevitable uphill battles she would face over somewhat unexplored terrain. What she perhaps didn’t expect to face were the hurdles no one can predict, of which there have been plenty.
Those are the moments that can either define someone’s journey or propel it forward. Admirably, as difficult as some of Britt’s memorable moments have been in the last 24 months or so, she’s never let one pass her by without taking full advantage of it, whether using it to further develop an amazing character or simply learning and building story further. That is what stars do. This early in her televised career, her ability to adapt and evolve on the fly is otherworldly.
A concussion can derail a career. We’ve seen it time and time again. They’re shoot scary and are not to be taken lightly. It was hard to watch her in 2019’s Fight for the Fallen after an errant Bea Priestley kick left her wobbly and visibly shaken. Luckily, she recovered and faces no lingering effects, but it helped build a feud and led to a payoff worth watching. Though ill for the match at Full Gear – after a long build, Britt made sure the show went on anyway. Again, that’s what stars do.
Wrestling is unpredictable. I was onboard and behind Britt as a babyface. I admired her for many reasons, and I found it easy to push and hope for her success. Most fans didn’t agree. Heel Daniel Bryan from days gone by called us fickle, and he wasn’t wrong. As AEW realized that a babyface Britt might not be their best foot forward into solidifying her as the face of the women’s division – something I don’t think they’ve ever stopped pushing for – her heel turn began to take shape and gave us memorable moment after memorable moment. Tony Schiavone. Starbucks. Whataburger faces. Reba. It’s endless.
What was wonderful to witness above all was her confidence noticeably growing from week to week. We ate it up. Honestly, as much of a sweetheart as I without doubt believe her to be outside of the ring, she walks the heel walk like she was made to do just that. Listening to her condescending tone as she rails on fans or her entitled conspiracy theories for opportunities not given, it’s impossible not to give her that side-eye filled mostly with abhorrence but also with a little bit of respect. Because her talent and commitment is undeniable.
Taking more unpredictable opportunities to “get over,” Britt has since made the most out of being busted open on live television, being out of action for months after a leg injury, and surgery to repair a deviated septum. Sometimes the heart does grow fonder when it comes to those we miss seeing, but in the wrestling business this same sentiment can be both a blessing and a curse. What she accomplished while sidelined served to bring us fans – all struggling to navigate a worldwide pandemic, just like the talent themselves – one of the most memorable feuds of 2020 in AEW, along with Big Swole. When all was uncertain and the world was hurting, Britt kept working. She kept being the nasty heel we needed to hate so we didn’t hate life for those couple of hours a week on TNT. She delivered smiles when the world was crying.
I get to the point in my features sometimes when I inevitably talk about the power of smiling and the amazing gift some special wrestlers have to deliver those to us every single week. They do this without knowing, without trying, and oftentimes without gratitude from us, but it’s a very real and exceedingly impactful action. Wrestling exists as an escape for many, and with people like Britt Baker steering this ship into the next decade, it makes me so happy to know those smiles are safe in her hands. Because at the end of the day, who doesn’t love a good smile? In an age where the negative is focused on more than ever, a smile is more important today that it ever has been.
Speaking of smiles, the feud with Thunder Rosa that led us to the magical match that set the basis for this whole feature. The work these two put in to assure us the payoff we desired is incalculable. I’ll be the first to admit I was not happy that Britt didn’t win the tournament to face Shida at Revolution. I was of the belief it was far past time for her to ascend to the throne of the AEW women’s division. I’m a patient fan with an abundance of trust in her heart for the business that has saved her life more than once, but my patience was running out. I had ideas and thoughts for how it could go, like many of us, and I simply wanted to see her crowned after such a brilliant year leading up to the ultimate victory.
As much as I will admit that I wanted things to go differently even mere weeks ago, I’ll also be the first to admit that I was wrong. They knew what they were doing, and to be quite honest, as much as others throughout this space wish the belt had been involved in the match, I don’t think it needed to be at all. What Britt and Rosa endured in the culmination of a blood feud unmatched in AEW history will only serve to cement the both of them as warriors in line to stare down Shida in the future. I cannot wait for that day.
Perhaps more beautiful than anything, though she ate a pinfall, Britt walks away from this match a bigger star than ever. Fans respect sacrifice. On Wednesday, she left literal pieces of herself behind in that ring, and though still very much a heel, I dare anyone to look at her as anything BUT the face of the AEW women’s division. The face of blood and pain, but the face none the less. This could be the end of such a fantastic feud, or this could be the beginning of something truly special. Chemistry like Rosa and Britt have is rare and could easily be revisited next year or as many times as good stories allow.
I sobbed watching this match. My heart overflowed with pride for a division that had been shit on for two years and for two women who had taken every careful step in their journey against a mountain of reasons to fail. They owned their time in that ring and proved to every single person watching that they belonged, that women belonged, and that when wrestling is good, gender doesn’t matter even a little. Main eventers are main eventers. Period. These two are.
I admire Britt Baker for the person she is above all. I look at what she’s accomplished at an age just older than my own and I’m blown away. Ironically, she is one of the few reasons I’m even writing about wrestling in the first place. I had a crazy idea in my head for a time that I wouldn’t ever be able to do anything with my writing because I couldn’t give it the focus that I needed due to a real job and life being what it was. Britt is a dentist AND a professional wrestler. Why couldn’t I work AND write?
Look, there is no real comparison between the two of us, but I acknowledge her inspiration regardless. I’m happier than I ever have been in my life because I get to do two things I love. I get to have a career that I love, and I get to write about what I love, which has been a dream for years. Following Britt’s example, if you don’t have the time? Make it. If you think like I did, and believe life just “is what it is,” make it something else. People like her are special in ways that I can’t even explain because they impact you in ways hard to understand until after.
For all of you who didn’t believe, and for all of us that did, I don’t think there is any room to deny the trajectory of Britt Baker any longer. She has done the work, arguably more than any other, to revel in the shine she’s now enjoying after a moment to remember forever. A probable sore and throbbing shine, sure, but a shine none the less. I’m just so incredibly proud to be her fan and am ridiculously happy for her monumental accomplishment.
She didn’t get her hand raised Wednesday. But you can make the argument that it wasn’t about her either, but about so much more than that. She didn’t win. We all did. Because of her. That’s a star, y’all. Stars shine forever.
When it comes to the rest of the AEW women’s division, I’d best hope everyone is on notice. The game has been stepped up yet again. As another personal hero and a Fightful legend in her own right, Taylor Swift, claims hauntingly on her album Reputation, “Maybe I got mine, but you’ll all get yours…”
Damn right. The doctor is in.