For those of us hoping that Saraya’s arrival in the AEW women’s division would signal an instant uptick in the time allotted, a dedication to new stories and feuds, and just an overall feeling of momentum, well…we’re still kind of waiting.
Saraya’s appearance on Wednesday night’s Dynamite was certainly hyped throughout the week, which is a good thing, and something that’s been rarely done for the AEW women. Normally it’s just a match thrown together that we only hear about during the show, and maybe one backstage segment that also feels thrown together. But Saraya is a star, is a name, and is the biggest addition to the company in some time. So having the first time she speaks, and what was hoped would be an indication of what it is she’ll be doing in AEW, getting the full hype was exciting.
But we didn’t get direction or buzz or…anything, really. Saraya isn’t an MJF-level promo, or really anything close, but she also wasn’t given anything to say. We still don’t know if she’ll be wrestling or acting as a GM figure. Whichever it is, we don’t know where she’s inserting herself. All we got was a horribly awkward collection of words from both her and Britt Baker that told us nothing. We didn’t need the women’s roster, and especially not its champion, “reintroduced” to us. The fans’ frustration with the inert state of the division stems from knowing exactly who these women are and what they’re capable of and not seeing it. If anything, Saraya should have been reintroducing these wrestlers to Tony Khan, not us.
Still, we did learn one thing, even if we knew it already. And that’s Jamie Hayter is the most over wrestler in the division, one of the most over in the company, and Tony needs to stop navel-gazing long enough to push her to the goddamn moon.
Britt Baker’s meandering, stale promo that we’ve heard 10 times before about being the face of the division was spiced, if not outright hijacked, by chants from the crowd for Hayter. She is clearly the darling of the fans. She’s aces in the ring, she’s got the look, and she’s got a story, which is her emergence out from underneath Baker’s thumb to become a bigger star. It’s the Wardlow story over again, except this one can be done even better because there are more dance partners for Hayter than Wardlow and she doesn’t need to stall out like Wardlow sort of has since winning the TNT championship.
Fans have flocked to Hayter because of her matches. She can go with anyone, as she’s a powerhouse who can fling smaller wrestlers like Athena or Ruby or even Toni around, but she’s nimble enough to not be one-dimensional and could do anything with someone like Nyla Rose, or Kris Statlander, or, gasp, TBS champion Jade Cargill. She has connected with fans as being the underappreciated henchman of Baker, whom she has clearly now outgrown. The fans know that Hayter needs to break free from Baker, and there’s a sense that both Hayter and especially Baker know it now too. That only draws more yearning from the crowd. Baker has fed off that and showed her insecurity at times in the less and less control she has over Hayter, but not enough.
And AEW has pawed at this in the recent past, with Baker costing Hayter the AEW women’s championship at All Out. It was the moment that Baker made it clear she now knows that Hayter’s star can no longer be corralled and merely used to do the dentist’s bidding. Hayter has been cheated out of something, only burnishing the cred her face turn will have.
Khan backed away from Hayter’s full turn on Baker at Grand Slam, which made sense when Saraya made her debut. You wouldn’t want to dilute that with another moment that fans have been waiting for months for. But we know it’s coming.
And you can’t miss these windows. AEW now has a few examples of wrestlers whose momentum was stunted while waiting around for something. Malakai Black and his House of Black’s energy was completely drained by a combination of having to wait around to get Cody Rhodes a win back (and then he fucked off anyway), or waiting for everyone in Death Triangle to be healthy for a trios match that lost its charm through that wait, or whatever else. You could say the same for Andrade. Brody King has had to waste some weeks doing the Darby Allin cycle (beat Allin once, then a coffin match Allin wins, then a gimmick tag match with Sting that Sting and Allin win, rot) after looking like a true beast after his first match with him. These openings don’t last forever. Look at The Acclaimed to see the other side of the coin, when you simply surrender to an energy and excitement that can’t be ignored.
It would only take a few weeks of work to make Hayter a true rival for Cargill, who has yet to have any kind of long-term story or real challenge. Or Tony could press go on the split from Baker. Or some combination thereof.
You have to whisper it, but there is some Becky Lynch-like groundswell working for Hayter now. She’s not the promo that Lynch is (though do we know? Has she been allowed to try?), but the organic growth of the fans’ affection and desire to see her charge up the card simply because she’s put on great matches, has magnetism, and keeps getting passed over by the usual characters are there. All Lynch did was capitalize and weaponize what the fans had spent months screaming for to become the industry’s biggest star. Hayter is at the beginning of that road now. She has earned the fans’ backing without the company’s help. Even if she can’t do the mic work anywhere near Lynch’s level, all fans need are a series of good matches to wildly jump on the bandwagon.
And the division has moved beyond Baker. She was the guiding light for so long, and rightly so. But it’s been obvious of late that with the additions to and development of the division, how much matches slow down when Baker gets involved. The four-way at Grand Slam was the perfect example, where Athena, Storm, and Serena Deeb ripped through all sorts of moves and counters, and then when Baker would get involved it felt like the match hit a patch of mud. It was the same story at All Out with Hayter, Storm, and Hikaru Shida. Baker is a far better performer in the ring than she was when the company started, but she still lacks the worker chops of her colleagues.
The crowd is telling Khan that Hayter has the chance to be that kind of rare catch, the one that just happens simply out of its own force. It would be the first one for the women’s division, and is the kind of thing that raises the profile of the whole division.
Pull the fucking trigger, Tony. These things don’t wait forever.