All Elite’s “inclusivity” promise has been empty and shallow so far

AEW, Nyla Rose (Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
AEW, Nyla Rose (Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images) /

All Elite Wrestling’s flagship show, AEW Dynamite, aired it’s fourth episode this past Wednesday night, and has drawn rave reviews, both for the episode itself and for the promotion in general over the course of their brief, explosive existence.

These early plaudits don’t come as a surprise in the slightest; before AEW Dynamite aired (hell before they even held their first PPV as a real promotion), All Elite proved to be experts at building themselves up on social media as a new, progressive, babyface promotion. One of the main things that Cody especially championed on Twitter was the idea of “inclusivity.”

The impression was that All Elite Wrestling was going to be a genuinely inclusive company where as long as you’re good at what you do, you’ll be given the chance to prove yourself as a megastar, regardless of trivial matters such as upbringing, gender, sexuality etc.

As they fleshed out their roster, All Elite seemed set to follow up this claim with genuine action. The announcement of the openly gay Sonny Kiss to the roster was quickly followed by the much-publicized addition of Nyla Rose, who is the first openly transgender wrestler to be signed by a ‘major’ American wrestling promotion.

Since putting pen to paper, Rose has been used heavily on All Elite advertising, especially in the build up to Dynamite‘s airing as a weekly show. Sonny Kiss went on to debut with the company against ‘The Librarian’ Peter Avalon during the ‘Buy In’ pre-show at Fight For the Fallen,while Rose made her debut a month beforehand at Double or Nothing.

This reads wonderfully and, so far at least, very much like All Elite have come good on their promise of inclusiveness within the promotion.

Pay attention, though, and things start to look decidedly less rosy than they do on the outside.

Since Dynamite premiered, Nyla Rose’s record on the promotion’s flagship weekly product reads 0-1, having lost to Riho in the match to determine the company’s first ever Women’s Champion.

After the defeat, Rose attacked Riho, and was only stopped from doing further damage by Kenny Omega. Since then, though, Rose has been completely absent from Dynamite, with her revenge attack on Riho completely ditched from a creative standpoint.

Things read even less promising for Sonny Kiss; we’ve had four episodes of Dynamite so far, and Kiss is yet to be seen in any way, shape or form. In fact, since Fight For the Fallen, the only place he’s been watchable in All Elite has been on AEW Darkwhich is hosted entirely on YouTube.

These misuses are particularly galling when, as mentioned above, Nyla Rose has been featured so heavily and prominently in AEW’s advertising to date. It threatens to speak large volumes when a company seems more than willing to use an LGBTQ+ wrestler in adverts and to appear as ‘The Good Guys’ to fans on social media, but when crunch time hits and it’s time to give said wrestler a push and a spotlight, she’s quickly and quietly taken off TV with no explanation.

The message of inclusivity and tolerance got, again, murkier and more difficult to take seriously when All Elite announced their marquee signing Jake Hager; even in the short time since his debut, the former Jack Swagger has courted controversy due to his rather unfortunate habit of displaying apparent agreement with transphobic ideals on social media. Further instances of this behavior have seen the tweets taken down shortly after, possibly either by Hager’s own volition or via instruction from All Elite management.

Here’s the thing; if All Elite are responsible for Hager removing these likes and retweets, the fact remains that instructing a member of your staff to remove transphobic content isn’t the sign of a “babyface” or “good guy” promotion. It’s the sign of any company with a modicum of self awareness. Since Hager’s debut, Nyla Rose has been seen on Dynamite precisely zero times. Coincidence or not, that isn’t the booking of someone All Elite have interest in pushing.

Which is fine, in itself; Nyla Rose absolutely shouldn’t receive a push purely due to the fact she’s transgender. What isn’t fine, though, is the sudden removal of her from TV having used her image and her story so blatantly and prominently in the build-up to the company’s big launch.

If All Elite Wrestling want to be known as “inclusive,” they’re showing it in a very peculiar way. Using talent like Nyla Rose and Sonny Kiss to further credibility on social media only to blatantly deny them opportunities on the stage that they helped set up isn’t being inclusive. It’s being cynical and callous.

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Who knows? Maybe next week on Dynamite, we’ll get to actually see Sonny Kiss wrestle on live TV, or get to see Nyla Rose begin her slow march back towards the Women’s Championship.

Or maybe we’ll get to see Jake Hager some more and see the “inclusivity” promise continue to be shown for what, so far, has been all too apparent for what it was; false promises, empty platitudes and a cynical cash grab aimed at an LGBTQ+ demographic that remains rightly desperate for consistent representation.