If you missed the women’s battle royal on NXT last Tuesday, you missed something really special.

Many of the participants in the match to determine who will challenge NXT Women’s Champion Lyra Valkyria have been in the spotlight but nothing more prominent than NXT.

We are talking about up and coming superstars like Arianna Grace, Fallon Henley, Kelani Jordan, Lash Legend, Lola Vice, Tatum Paxley and others. To boost them and lead them were those with more experience like Blair Davenport, Gigi Dolin and Roxanne Perez.

It was a fun and well-booked, well-executed match by everyone involved. The highlight for me was Kelani Jordan, who has such a bright future ahead of her in WWE, borrowing a page from Kofi Kingston’s book creatively reentering the battle royal fray from outside the ring.

The match proved why NXT has the best women’s division in all of wrestling besides the underappreciated Stardom promotion out of Japan. Comparatively, TNT and the WWE main roster do a relatively decent job and AEW, sadly, continues to fall out of the sky like the Hindenburg airship but with the pilots and some of the crew oblivious to the impending crash.

The NXT women’s battle royal brought to mind the last few AEW women’s matches I have seen like Willow Nightingale versus Kris Statlander on the Zero Hour for Worlds End and how even though they feature talented women the bouts are generally subpar, have an extraordinary amount of botches and didn’t represent the individual talents very well at all. What can you expect from the talent, though, when matches are reportedly thrown together, with little time for preparation?

The AEW women’s division has tanked so badly, is in such awful shape, that I would say it is time to remove the division from broadcast television entirely. AEW should overhaul the entire infrastructure surrounding the division from the coaches to whomever the bookers are and soft relaunch it when it is ready to return.

AEW is full of great women wrestlers like Toni Storm, Deonna Purrazzo, Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D., Hikaru Shida, Jamie Hayter (and her big hair), Taya Valkyrie, Penelope Ford, Saraya, Serena Deeb, Thunder Rosa, and more. AEW should be leading the way with those veterans taking the less experienced but impressive talents like Mariah May, Skye Blue, Willow Nightingale, Kris Statlander and Julia Hart under their wings. The missing parts of the equation are strong leadership, meticulous organization and a direction with goals.

In a way, I feel badly for the women in AEW who are trying to pull their weight but are victims of circumstances beyond their control. I don’t feel badly though for those who continue to delude themselves into thinking everything is rainbows and unicorns in Tony Khan’s Toyland. Most criticizing the product are not “trolls” or a “haters”. They are actual wrestling fans who want the AEW women and its division to be treated and featured better than they are now, including myself. I want AEW to be on the level of Stardom or NXT.

At the end of December, some of the AEW women’s locker room posted a video defending themselves. They did shine a light on the despicable behavior by some fans and some in the industry such as judging someone’s in-ring talent based solely on their looks or sex-appeal. What they didn’t do, though, is address the legitimate criticism or issues within their division. It didn’t respond to that at all. It served more as a deflection than anything else.

What was particularly curious were the remarks of Kris Statlander who said:

No matter how hard I try, how hard I work, you don’t know what I’ve been through. I blew out both my knees for this. I try so hard. Why won’t the internet like us? What do we do? What do you need from us? How much do I need to hurt myself for you?

Back in high school I tried my best at math. I worked myself to the bone. I sought extra help. I did everything I could and I still received a grade of 15% one semester. Let me repeat that … 15%. Knowing that I would never be involved in any profession centered around math and science, I immediately dropped them and added more history and English classes to my schedule. You see, it doesn’t matter how much time, effort and energy you put into something — you can still suck at it. We all learn more from our failures than our successes anyways.

The notion that anyone can achieve anything if they put their minds to it is simply nonsense. It is a lie we tell to children. In reality, life isn’t fair. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. Part of the reason some people succeed in their various careers, their roles as parents, their athletic or educational endeavors, anything worth doing well in life, is they recognize those strengths and weaknesses in themselves.

Kris Statlander Vs. Willow Nightingale at AEW Worlds End on Saturday, December 30, 2023, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Photo by George Tahinos, georgetahinos.smugmug.com

I am not saying in any way that Statlander is untalented. I think she has the potential to be the next Rhea Ripley — just not in AEW where they don’t have the architecture or system to foster talent at the present time.

Statlander is mistaken in the belief that just because you work hard you deserve to be praised and admired. That isn’t how wrestling or life works. You aren’t entitled to anything from anyone, ever, except a fair opportunity, a chance to earn respect. Participation trophies recognizing effort over actual results are not a real thing outside of grade school. It is another lie we tell to children. In life it doesn’t matter how much effort a hockey team puts forth on the ice. Most teams and players work their assess off every game. What matters most is their win and loss record when it comes to earning a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the NHL’s mentality was like that, then there would be participation trophies for every team, whether they made the playoffs or not. Merit matters.

You see that’s the difference. The women in WWE, Stardom and NXT don’t feel the need to post videos defending their divisions. They may defend women’s wrestling as a whole or speak out about the sexist bullcrap they face but they aren’t compelled to come to the defense of their divisions. That is not to say they don’t have their own issues. No organization is perfect and women’s wrestling still has a long way to go in facing and correcting the problems in the ring and behind the curtain.

AEW Women’s Championship: “Timeless” Toni Storm (c) (With Luther And Mariah May) Vs. Skye Blue at AEW Dynamite at Centre Bell in Montreal, Quebec, on Wednesday, December 6, 2023. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis, www.photography514.com

Except for Toni Storm and Julia Hart at present the women aren’t used or booked to the best of their abilities. It doesn’t matter how many Thunder Rosas, Britt Bakers or Hikaru Shidas you have on your roster, if they don’t have adequate time to prepare for their matches, if there aren’t any long-term and intriguing angles to support their personas, if not-ready-for-prime-time talent are booked with other not-ready-for-prime-time talent, if top talent disappears for weeks and months on end, if the veterans aren’t guiding the rookies, if there is no consistency, you end up with a division that has no momentum, little interest and has constantly poor or mediocre showings.

You end up with women’s matches, except for Hikaru Shida main-eventing Dynamite months ago, that are principally the lowest-rated segments on Dynamite.

The answer isn’t to have more women’s matches or feature the division more. The answer isn’t quantity over quality. The answer is to address the core problems that are holding the talent and the division back from being greater than it is right now and part of that is everyone admitting and addressing their mistakes, their role in the declining quality. Then and only then can everyone move forward with a better approach, a better infrastructure, a better team and a better product. Pretending everything is okay when it isn’t is never the solution.

TOP PHOTO: “Timeless” Toni Storm (c) (With Luther And Mariah May) Vs. Skye Blue at AEW Dynamite at Centre Bell in Montreal, Quebec, on Wednesday, December 6, 2023. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis, www.photography514.com.