There’s a picture of Kris Statlander and Adam Cole from last week’s Dynamite that’s been the basis for a lot of chatter on Twitter lately. It’s led to a lot of fans calling for something simple, something totally possible, and yet something not ever considered by the company itself:
Or, if you’re truly unhinged:
Last night, AEW ran a mixed tag match with Cole pairing up with real-life girlfriend Britt Baker against Orange Cassidy and Statlander, who both are part of the Best Friends faction. And the match was… fine. It had some good moments, and some moments where they definitely teased going full-out intergender tag match instead of the mixed variety. But the mixed tag rules always become too much of an interference, as one tag causes both teams to have to change participants, and the constant “will the guy wrestle the other side’s woman?” teases were just a bit too much.
And, in this particular match, it didn’t really serve the women well at all. Statlander’s distanced dances with Cole only made her look like a mug when Baker would attack her from the blindside. The match climaxed after Britt took a through-the-table spot, as clean and easy as one of those could be, and it was treated as if she fell off a 10-story building through a greenhouse and into a pool of badgers. This caused Cole to go utterly apeshit, punch Cassidy in the balls for the injustice of accidentally bumping Britt off the apron, and win the match. Even Cassidy acted concerned.
But this is Britt Baker, whose run to the top of the company started with a lights out match with Thunder Rosa where she profusely bled, got suplexed onto a bed of thumbtacks, and then took a table spot from the top rope. She made a T-shirt out of it! How exactly does suddenly putting her as the damsel in distress, after what is barely a moderate bump compared to what we’ve seen her do, forward her character? Why does she have to be “avenged” by an unhinged boyfriend? It’s wrestling, and Britt can fight her own battles (yes, part of Cole’s character is being unhinged, and part of Baker’s character is that she rarely fights her own battles as a heel, preferring to throw her henchmen Rebel or Jamie Hayter in the way first, but you know what I’m getting at).
Why not just give people what they want to see: Statlander vs. Cole and/or Baker vs. Cassidy?
We know that intergender matches have been anathema to the two big companies, because TV execs would probably defenestrate themselves at the image of a female wrestler being power-bombed by a male one. But such pairings are hardly rare on the indie scene, where most of AEW’s wrestlers come from. In fact, intergender matches are not even new to Statlander.
Or to Cassidy:
It’s not like Cole and Cassidy are just huge people where not even in kayfabe could we believe that a woman would have a chance. Statlander is bigger than Cole! And because the AEW roster skews pretty small, there are a host of other wrestlers who could get in a ring with anyone else on the roster and have it look right, size-wise. Shida v. Darby, anyone? Serena Deeb vs…well, honestly anyone? Nyla Rose can only play the heavy in one division?
This isn’t a call to just merge the divisions, but it is a feature that AEW could go to on occasion. If women are going to be part of the company’s various factions, as some are, then they’re part of the factions. They should be all in as part of those factions’ feuds, the run-ins, the promos. If you’re going to put Britt Baker in the same feud as the men, what makes her look better? Being fawned over after a nice simple table spot, or going toe-to-toe with Cassidy and proving she’s every bit the wrestler, if not better?
We know that AEW head honcho Tony Khan is against it, which pretty much ends the possibility. But Khan is wrong to link it to domestic abuse, because intergender wrestling has nothing to do with domestic abuse. Participants enter willingly and are trained for it. It’s an equal playing field. And also, obviously, it’s a collaborative performance.
We know that TV execs would probably also be reluctant to host such matches on their airwaves, fearing that audiences would be turned off by the prospect. But why not give it a trial run on one of AEW’s YouTube shows, either Dark or Elevation? Those two could probably use the bump in interest, as they’re mostly just filled with enhancement or squash matches between talent we don’t really see much on TV. Certainly the wrestlers on those undercards would enjoy the greater attention brought by a Statlander-Cole match on those shows. And what if such a test run really generated some buzz? Isn’t that a ratings charge for TV just waiting in the holster?
Yes, there’s a risk. But AEW didn’t get here by being risk-averse. They’ve demonstrated all the ways they are not “New York.” But they have a roster full of wrestlers, both women and men, who have been doing intergender matches their whole career. They know how to make it look good. So what’s another risk?