A joke on Wrestling Twitter has popped up over the past couple months: “it’s 9:24, time for the women’s match”. This has become the standard for AEW, the concept of getting the one obligatory women’s match out of the way. My fellow writers at AIPT have covered the issue extremely well. It’s an issue that has been exaggerated by the pandemic, but is one that still needs to be addressed. However, one solution has stood out for a long time: intergender wrestling.
When you segregate women into their own world, you create two different divisions. And unlike other divisions that can still interact, such as tag teams division and singles division, by making a “women’s division” and “men’s division” you create a barrier. You are essentially saying “these two worlds will never mix.”
And unfortunately, AEW’s women division is extremely weak at the moment due to a collection of issues, one of them being some of their big names are stuck in Japan right now. The women’s division needs more people for more feuds, matches, and interactions. Luckily, there is a whole division that they can use to help them out with this: the men’s division.
Doing so would allow the women to get the exposure time that AEW isn’t giving them, while sacrificing little if any of the time the men’s division gets in those cramped two hours a week. AEW could also use the men’s division to help get people in the women’s division get over, and it allows for more possible storylines, more combinations of matches.
So what is holding them back? The best guess is a fear of backlash. While in some circles in the online wrestling community think it’s crazy to say intergender wrestling is bad, the fact is there is still a large portion of people who would immediately be turned off by it. And while many of those individuals who complain about intergender wrestling are doing so out of sexism, the fact is they’re still views — views that AEW needs to stay afloat.
So just how should AEW approach things?
AEW needs to integrate the idea slowly and carefully. They need to start out with simply having more interactions between the male and female divisions. There is actually one good constant dynamic between the two divisions: Anna Jay, someone who is actually wrestling and actively in matches as a member of the Dark Order.
So let’s start there. Making women a part of a faction not just as a manager but as a wrestler, helps bridge the feeling of divisions being separate. It breaks down barriers that exists between the two separate parts of the show. It’s an easy way to give someone screen time even if they are just running in with others for a beat down. It also just helps give someone a bit more to their gimmick for anyone who needs a little extra for their character.
Another way AEW can try to blend the two divisions in more is work with feuds and plots between divisions. Right now over on WWE Raw, Randy Orton and Alexa Bliss have had a couple weeks playing off of each other. While we know that this is never going to end up in the ring, it’s still a good dynamic and helps blur the lines. Or take Baron Corbin giving Becky Lynch the End of Days last year. Sure, the whole thing was fumbled when The Man just shrugged it off, but it could have gone so well if the follow up had been done properly.
These kinds of exchanges are what AEW needs. The frustrating part is, they started out like this: the first episode of Dynamite saw Nyla Rose powerbombing Michael Nakazawa through a table. She then turned her back to Riho. Kenny Omega ran out to protect Riho, and for a brief moment there was the possibility of Kenny and Nyla going at it. This angle was teased one or two more times in the following weeks before being totally dropped.
We also had the Nightmare Collective. Which, say what you will about the group, I honestly never wanted to see it killed completely. I loved the aesthetic and vibe of the group, as I wrote about a year ago. One of the parts of the group that could have been played up more if they had stayed with it was that they had Luther as part of the faction. There could have been another intergender faction in AEW if they had evolved it instead of just scrapping it completely.
We even had an intergender Dark match on the Jericho Cruise last year: Kenny Omega and Riho vs. Kip Sabian and Penelope Ford. So it’s clear that despite what some have said in AEW, there are others in the organization who want to push for it.
While there may be blowback from certain wrestling fans, we’ve seen intergender wrestling work before in fairly large promotions. Lucha Underground completely embraced it from day one. Impact Wrestling has done a good job slowly integrating it, something that AEW should take notes from. Sure, neither promotion is as large as AEW, and thus can take more risks, but they have shown that it is doable outside of small indies like Bar Wrestling.
AEW needs to take notes from other promotions and take a step forward. If they want to be the new kid on the block, if they want to do things different from WWE, normalizing intergender wrestling is a major way to do so. Do it for the sake of the women’s division. Do it for the sake of more long term creativity. Do it for the sake of Kris Statlander getting her rematch against Brian Cage.
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