Tay Conti and the nuanced conversation on the WWE PC

All Elite Wrestling
All Elite Wrestling /

The rise of Tay Conti in All Elite Wrestling has been an enjoyable ride. It culminated with her getting a shot at Hikaru Shida and the AEW women’s title on Dynamite in what was a great match. There has been a growing conversation about Conti and whether she is an example of the “failure” that is the WWE Performance Center because of the lack of utilization she saw while in the promotion. The social media space does not allow for the nuance needed to have the conversation, but it is something that should be looked at as it is an intriguing discussion.

In one year, 25-year-old Conti has impressed with her performances in AEW. Everything about her presentation looks 180 degrees different than when she was in WWE. That has translated to increased support from fans who recognize that she is talented and put in the work to improve in this business. Conti is a star in AEW and there are some that believe she can be champion within the year.

Compare this to her run in WWE and you can see why some of her new fans and fans of AEW are using her as an example to criticize the organization’s format of talent development. After joining the WWE in 2016, she debuted for the promotion in 2017. She came into the promotion without any experience on the independent scene and was expected to develop within the style that WWE demands. That translated into Conti becoming an enhancement talent to the likes of women like Mia Yim, Bianca Belair, Candice LeRae, Tegan Nox, and others.

Does this mean that Conti did not have the potential she is shown in AEW? Not at all. AEW has allowed her to embrace her own style that we see in the ring, particularly a different style of attack based around her Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu experience. This has translated into enjoyable matches that fans want to see. At the same time, this does not mean that the WWE “missed” on her while she was within the WWE.

Conti was a part of the NXT brand from 2017 through 2019. During this time, she was in the locker room that included many of the names above and others like Io Shirai and Kairi Sane – those that came in with a wealth of experience and others who were immediately pegged as “future stars.” While current struggles abound, the NXT women’s division has consistently been featured much better than those on the main roster, helping elevate some of the best performers to the top of the card. Unfortunately for Conti, she was not able to receive that same type of elevation while a part of the WWE brand. Xia Li is an example of someone who was in a remarkably similar position and only thanks to time and opportunity has she become someone that fans are slowly getting invested in.

This is a situation that happens frequently in professional sports. Player A may be stuck on the bench behind another player who the organization has invested in or has established themselves as a star. Once said player leaves for another organization, they are given the opportunity to prosper. There are times when this speaks ill of the previous organization, and times when it is an unfortunate cost of business. Conti is more of the latter than the former when it comes to the Performance Center.

It goes without saying that WWE does miss on talent and how they are featured, especially among the women on the roster. The list of people that the promotion has overlooked throughout the years is long and continuing to grow. What is even more frustrating is the reasoning behind why some of those individuals are overlooked. Especially when you look at the hours upon hours of content that WWE can use to better build characters and leverage that full roster. Unfortunately, everyone does not get that same opportunity, nor is the company pushed to make any shifts toward that style of character creation and development.

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For every wrestler, being in the WWE may not be the best for their career. Deonna Purrazzo is a prime example of this development as she was released in the same timeframe as Conti and has quickly become one of the best women in wrestling, widely because of the experience and talent that she brought with her when she first landed in the WWE. Time will tell if the same is said of Conti. But right now, she is enjoying an exceptional run in AEW that should be celebrated by everyone involved.