Big Swole’s departure was a major story that caught a lot of attention. Fans and media personalities wondered why she left All Elite Wrestling in November, but the full story wasn’t there. Swole spoke very candidly about her exit from AEW and her comments speak directly to issues that has produced the company, especially in the space of diversity and inclusion.
In November, Swole and AEW mutually parted ways. She has spoken very highly of her time with the company, but that doesn’t mean the situation wasn’t without its drawbacks as she noted on her show “Call In.” During this discussion, she referenced everything from the structure of the company to challenges with diversity, or the lack thereof on television.
“I explained to TK [Tony Khan] that I didn’t want to re-sign because my peace was being disrupted,” Swole said during the show. “If anybody knows me or knows myself, if anything is disrupting your peace, it’s time to let it go. My heart just stopped being in it as the reason why I left AEW. I felt like there were a lot of things, and I told them in my exit interview, there are a lot of things that need to change.”
One of those things highlighted is the representation of women and others in marginalized groups on television. Many voices across wrestling media continue to point out that while AEW does have a diverse roster, inclusion, and placement at the top of the card continue to fall short. This is even more apparent as the company continues to bring in more free agents.
“I felt like the women shouldn’t have gone through everything they went through just to get on TV or get time,” Swole said. “You’re signed to this big company; you should get time. All of these men are getting time, but the women weren’t getting anything or you’re not putting people on TV because more people are coming in.”
Again, her comments speak directly to the concerns that people continue to express about the AEW roster. This group has a wealth of talent, but there’s still concern about how they are utilized. AEW Dark and Dark Elevation are good platforms to help talent get experience, but it’s hard to believe that space can’t be made on AEW Dynamite or Rampage.
Look at Hikaru Shida, for example. After carrying the AEW Women’s World Championship for 372 days, she dropped the title to Britt Baker at AEW Double or Nothing in May and wasn’t seen on television until October. Only to immediately go back to putting on excellent matches with Serena Deeb. She’s just one example of talented performers of color that can’t make it to television consistently including Scorpio Sky, Sonny Kiss, Red Velvet, and others.
“Outside of [lack of structure] their biggest issue, which is diversity,” Swole echoed. “I do not beat around the bust when it comes to diversity and my people. There is no representation, truly and where there is, it does not come across in the Black community as genuine. At all,” Swole added. “I don’t know why everybody is so afraid to accept it or say it, but it’s not a good look. What happens is, you have this wonderful company that treats people like family, but there is nobody that looks like me that is represented at the top and in the room with them. They are not helping to necessarily influence decisions, but to explain why certain slang and certain word shouldn’t be said. There is no one else who can explain our culture and experience except for us”
That’s perhaps the most powerful statement on the topic to date. To hear from a Black woman who has first-hand experience in AEW cannot be ignored. This is the same Swole that fans pushed the company to sign when she continued to perform on the brand without a deal much longer than some others. This is the same Swole that was a vital partner in the development of Britt Baker as a star, even when she was injured. This is the same Big Swole that got fans behind her match series with Diamante, elevating AEW Dark and Elevation at the same time. Her words bring an immediate impact to the conversation that cannot be ignored.
All Elite Wrestling is doing a lot of things right in the world of wrestling. There’s a lot that the company has done to get people recharged about the industry. But at the same time, there’s a lot that needs to be worked on. The representation of women and lack of diversity go together as two of the biggest problems this company must fix in 2022 to continue to build its foothold as a mainstream wrestling organization.