AEW must seize the moment with Hikaru Shida as champion

Hikaru Shida celebrates winning a match (photo courtesy of AEW)
Hikaru Shida celebrates winning a match (photo courtesy of AEW) /

A reset for AEW’s women’s division is much needed and it should happen now that Hikaru Shida is the champion.

AEW’s women’s division has needed a reset for a long time, and now that Hikaru Shida is champion, it is time to do it. On the most recent episode of Dynamite, which was also the show’s 200th episode, Shida defeated Toni Storm to win the AEW Women’s Championship in the main event. Shida is now a two-time AEW Women’s Champion and is the second woman to hold the title twice, the first being Storm. Shida’s first reign was 372 days, making her the longest-reigning champion. She held the title throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and never really got the chance to experience being a champion in front of full-capacity crowds. Well, with her recent win, she now has that chance.

The main event match between Storm and Shida, two of AEW’s most accomplished wrestlers, came after a fan was caught holding a “Book the women’s division better” sign on the previous week’s episode. After a match between Britt Baker and Taya Valkyrie, the camera cut to the sign and stayed on the shot for a good few seconds. Screenshots were taken and posted all over social media and thus the discourse began. AEW’s women’s division is a frequent topic of discussion amongst fans, with the discourse mainly being negative towards its booking. In an interview with TVInsider, Baker commented on the sign, saying:

"“I see both sides to that because I completely agree. The absolute best matches that come out of professional wrestling come out of storylines you are so invested in. There are weeks and months that tell this beautiful story. It’s something we haven’t been able to invest as much time in the women’s division lately. Again, there are many factors. Injuries, this and that. I definitely want to get to the point where we can get some solid storytelling with the women.”“At the same time the fans who hold signs that say to book the women’s division better, that’s great. Then when I go on Twitter it doesn’t echo that. I don’t see the same support. It’s I hate these two wrestlers. This match was too long. This match was too short. If all you see about women’s wrestling is all negative online, it doesn’t add up to what they are preaching. If you want the women to be booked better, support the women.”"

Hikaru Shida can lead the change needed in the women’s division

The booking of women’s wrestling on television has always been a problem, regardless of the company. The women tend to not be given enough time, have short almost meaningless feuds, not enough matches, and not enough promo time. AEW’s women’s division certainly has all of these faults. AEW has five hours of television a week with Dynamite, Rampage, and Collision and each show usually has one women’s match and maybe a pre-taped promo or backstage interview. That is all, and many fans will argue that this is simply not enough time to build meaningful feuds while also highlighting the champions and other talent.

The title reigns of previous champions Toni Storm and Jamie Hayter received backlash because of the lack of focus on them. Storm and Hayter both had well-received matches during their reigns however neither woman was truly presented as the star when they should have been. In the lead-up to the Full Gear PPV last year Storm was the champion and Hayter was the challenger however instead of the Women’s Championship feud being given the spotlight it was more so given to Baker and Saraya, who had their own match at Full Gear. They are the ones who had the big segments and promo time, not the champion and challenger.

While Baker and Saraya do have more star power, the feud or lack of feud between Storm and Hayter was diminished. Storm and Hayter have a lot of personal history as they were former roommates but that was not made a point of during their feud which it should have been as it would have added more heat to their match rather than them just being in the shadow of Baker and Saraya. After Hayter won the title she went on to have some great matches during her reign but again there was a lack of promo time and attention on her as the champion. While it is believed she was dealing with issues outside of AEW’s control, the point still remains. AEW needs to do a better job of presenting their women’s champions as the focal points of the division and start giving them the same treatment that the male champions receive.

The booking of Jade Cargill’s historic 508-day reign as TBS Champion was also received negatively by some fans as there was a lack of focus on actual feuds and many of her matches were squash matches with local and unsigned talents. Cargill would lose her championship at the Double or Nothing PPV in May when Kris Statlander returned from injury and challenged the champion. Cargill, who had just successfully defended against Taya Valkyrie, would quickly lose to Statlander. Cargill has not been seen on AEW television since and is reportedly taking a break from wrestling with her return status unknown. Statlander has defended her title multiple times but she has not been given much promo time or any actual feuds just yet, which seems to be a pattern for the majority of female champions in AEW.

One thing that could improve the booking of the division is if they had the same special matches that the men have, for example; the Casino Ladder match and the Face of the Revolution ladder match. These matches would be a great way for a younger or not as established talent to show out and earn a title shot. Former and current AEW World Champions “Hangman” Adam Page and MJF have won these matches and went on to challenge for and win the World title. The same could, and should, be done for women. Taking into account the many injuries the division has suffered in recent memory there are many other women in AEW right now who could be worthy challengers for either championship, such as Julia Hart, Skye Blue, Emi Sakura, Willow Nightingale, Leyla Hirsch, and more. The talent is there, they just have to be used the right way.

With Hikaru Shida winning in the main event of Dynamite 200 and Statlander already having multiple competitive defenses, perhaps this is the beginning of the reset the division has long needed.

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