AEW: The real problem isn’t fans changing the channel

AEW, Britt Baker Photo: Lee South/AEW
AEW, Britt Baker Photo: Lee South/AEW /

Britt Baker ruffled some feathers with comments about the problem with AEW’s women’s division

If you’ve been following AEW at all over their first year, you know that the women’s division is one of their biggest issues. It’s the most underdeveloped division on their roster. They don’t get enough TV time, not enough character development or storylines.

Fans have been vocal on social media about their dissatisfaction with how AEW has handled the division. There was a women’s tag team tournament that initially brought hope that the tides were finally turning. A majority of the tournament aired only on YouTube. It was barely promoted on social media or on Dynamite during the weeks leading up to it and a couple weeks into the tournament. The tournament finale did air on Saturday Night Dynamite. 

AEW did an excellent job keeping Baker on TV when she was injured. She and Big Swole built one of the best storylines of the summer. The payoff was a HERstoric cinematic match at All Out. Originally, the match was scheduled to be on The Buy In pre-show. That didn’t go over well. The day before the show, Tony Khan announced that the match would be on the main card.

Britt Baker’s comments remove blame from AEW

In an interview with Uproxx, Baker was asked about the women’s division and if AEW is working on it. Baker gave a long answer, but the quote that stands out the most is when she seemingly put the focus on fans not caring enough.

"It’s no secret we’re in a war every Wednesday night with NXT, so we need the ratings up. So for the fans that are so encouraging and saying “We want more women, we want more women!” that’s great, but please don’t turn the channel when the women are on TV then! We want everybody to be watching the segments and cheering us on from home."

It is not the fans fault that the women’s division is the way it is. It is AEW’s job to give the fans a reason to want to watch their one segment and not change the channel. The company has fallen into a pattern of having women’s matches air in the second hour, usually before the main event.

I have been timing women’s matches on Dynamite. Save for a few matches, nearly all of them have been under ten minutes. On this week’s anniversary show, there were four title matches. I timed three of them. The opening match for the Tag Team Championship clocked in at 16:42. The next title match was for the TNT Championship, which went to a time limit draw of 20 minutes. The main event for the AEW World Championship finished at 12:48. The women’s championship match lasted just eight minutes and 53 seconds.

Yes, the show was packed because it was the anniversary show. But, they knew that all four titles would be defended and could have easily given the women at least ten minutes. This is a pattern for their women’s matches. Red Velvet has wrestled mostly on Dark and her longest match was a tag team match that last five minutes and seven seconds. She won her first match this week in 3:21. Red Velvet’s one match on Dynamite was a squash in which Shida beat her in twelve seconds.

AEW needs to put in more effort with the women

This is hardly any time for fans to get to know wrestlers and their styles. They can barely establish characters, let alone storylines. The men make up three divisions: World Champion, Tag/Trios, and TNT Champion. Multi-man matches are frequently shoved onto Dynamite every week. The men are about to have yet another tournament on TV.

Baker also mentions that COVID-19 ravaged the women’s division, which is true.

"Yeah, I definitely think it’s something the company is working on. You know, and we got hit hard—our women’s division, because of the COVID outbreak. Half our roster is international talent, so we immediately didn’t have access to any of those women. Then Kris Statlander got hurt, and I got hurt. And there’s only so much time on AEW Dynamite to start with."

These problems didn’t suddenly exist when the pandemic happened. It has been a problem since Day One. Of course, a global pandemic and injuries made things more difficult and they had to do things on the fly. This would’ve been the perfect time to build up the women they do have. Getting them in front of a crowd of mainly their peers would’ve been an advantage over having an arena full of people. They could get more comfortable working with cameras and doing live promos.

"And I know there are plans to grow the women’s division, but at the same time we need help from the fans at home too!"

Baker doesn’t give any details on what the plan is. AEW brought in women to compete in the AEW Tag Team Championship Cup: The Deadly Draw. Why not sign some of these women? Why not bring in more women for the independent scene? They could’ve used some of the women to help those already signed to build their characters and work on promos.

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The problem isn’t the fans, its that AEW is stunting the growth of the women’s division. They aren’t doing enough to help them flourish. Not enough of the women are being used or given opportunities to grow in front of an audience. Judging by how well they fostered the storyline between Swole and Baker show that when they put in actual effort, they can put the women front and center. There are easy ways to help the division improve.

The fans that support the women’s division and actively call on it to improve are not the ones changing the channel. Fans of women’s wrestling have been through this before with WWE and know how important ratings are for women’s matches. We don’t want to see that play out in another company, especially one that swore they would do things differently. We know what’s at stake. If the women’s matches aren’t keeping other fans from changing the channel, that is on no one but the company.