Last Wednesday night, the All Elite Wrestling’s Women’s Championship was on the line in a particularly well built-up cage match. After a months-long feud full of violence both verbal and physical, Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa were set to return to the ring with each other one last time to determine who would take on the role of women’s champion – a pillar of AEW prestige.
Throughout her defenses, Britt built herself up as an unbeatable champion through a mixture of blood, nerve holds, hard hitting moves, and a little interference. Recently, a little interference has turned into a lot, as opponents start to use brute force as a strategy. On the other hand, Thunder Rosa had steadily climbed up the AEW ranks over time after starting out as an NWA-expat, eventually cementing a place for herself in this company that seems overdue for some type of coronation of sorts. The two have fought several times before and in various tag configurations, and there was always just enough trickery at play to allow for more matchups. In this case, the steel cage was meant to prevent such trickery, and it did all that and more with a bag of cotton balls.
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Those prior matches left some fans, like myself, wondering if there was a world to explore beyond long-time champion Dr. Britt Baker, DMD. What we bore witness to on Dynamite proved that you can never become too comfortable with your expectations, and that you should always allow yourself the chance to be wrong – impressed, even. As the night’s events came to a head and the unforgiving cage was lowered from the ceiling, it became harder and harder to hang on to any jaded feelings one might have about the feud. The very idea that a match with such a high level of importance was being placed on free TV was downright exciting compared to the idea of watching another company’s reliable, regular, heartless pile-up sequences. Regardless of what you thought of this feud up until the cage lowered, it doing so allowed for a renewed interest and excitement, a means for finally answering the question of which woman was the better wrestler.
High Pressure Situation
Leading into the match, Thunder Rosa had a win-loss record of 41-3, with one of those only losses being the one against Baker at Revolution. Beyond that, she’s continued burning up the indie circuit with a passion and drive that can only be truly explained by the trail of broken furniture and hardware she leaves behind in her wake.
Britt Baker, of course, came into the match as a long-time champion who had no intention of changing that aspect of her life any time soon. She knew which part of the phrase “by hook or by crook” she liked: she was never beyond a little interference, and she relied on her dental expertise and devastating (gross) nerve hold to bring her the glory as it almost always managed to. Between the steady interference and the previous shit talking in and out of the ring, Britt Baker presented herself in a perfectly hateable way, a way that would only manage to make it more satisfying to see her lose.
As this match took place within the last twenty or so minutes of the show, expectations had to be slightly tempered among the most realistic and/or cynical of viewers. After all, how could they say something here that wasn’t possible to accomplish on a pay-per-view, right? It was toying with these kinds of expectations that gave this match legs, and within the twenty minutes of remaining TV time for the show, Baker and Rosa managed to cram in so much dazzling violence that any prior twists and turns could be reframed and understood as the match went to such an eventful ending. These women both wanted to move the hell on, and nothing said that more than the speed with which the two women drew blood and risked broken backs.
In perhaps one of the most brutal shows of violence throughout the bout, Britt Baker set up a myriad of chairs towards the corner of the ring, creating something like a pyramid of occupational hazards. Naturally, it was Thunder Rosa who swung Baker into these after some back and forth, but even this level of damage was not enough to bring a swift end to her opponent. This conveyed that both women had a capacity for pain that their time with each other only enhanced, which wouldn’t have been possible if their feud hadn’t been established over time as meaningful and consistent. Only when one truly ended the other could the two both move on.
This is, of course, where it’s important to acknowledge that viewers need not become too invested in predictions. No amount of insider information scouring and attempted mind-reading prepared people like me for perhaps the most obvious aspects of why this feud ended how it did, in Thunder Rosa’s hometown. While my initial impression was that things could have been wrapped up at Revolution, it was necessary for that match to happen for Wednesday’s cage match to be as great and as satisfying as it was. Simply put, patience allowed viewers to witness a better story and conclusion.
At the crux of all great stories – or at least, almost all of the great ones, if you exclude the Goosebumps “choose your own adventure” books – is the idea that you have to surrender your expectations to the author’s will. You can take on the role of decision maker in games and fan fiction, but in everything from soap operas to pop music to pro wrestling, you are watching the result of others’ decisions. In doing so, you only hope that you can be rewarded for your time with something like Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa’s cage match. You only hope you can be free from the nagging dissatisfaction of spending seemingly six straight years without any meaningful excitement or vigor behind your show/shows of choice.
Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa worked extremely well together throughout all of their matches and brawls. That did not stop me from wanting them to see other people by the time the Revolution pay-per-view came around, a sentiment echoed by some members of the crowd when Britt went for major signature moves and poses. It was the reaction that the Revolution match generated that made the Dynamite cage match not only possible, but also the best conclusion for the feud itself. Shocking as that may seem, it became readily apparent by the match’s conclusion that it can be refreshing and good to eat your words sometimes. The reluctance with which Britt’s calls for the “DMD” chant were met by fans during Revolution made watching her loss on Dynamite gratifying. It was comeuppance and the freedom to now try new things. Beyond that, the joy and celebration that Thunder Rosa’s win and subsequent coronation sparked spoke for themselves. Bright skies were ahead, even with her dark makeup in tow.
It’s hard to figure out where things go from here, and that’s an extremely exciting prospect. Britt Baker fully utilized a great chance to cement her status as an icon, and now Thunder Rosa gets to do the same, starting with that stunning full band entrance that challenged the limits of guitar sizes. One of the most exciting aspects of the future with Thunder Rosa as a champion is how many new female talents will get the chance to shine against her in the ring, as her style and raison d’etre operate in stark opposition to the relatively snooty Baker.
Although among peers I’ve expressed some discontent with the balance of attention given to the women’s division in All Elite Wrestling, there was no denying that the feud finale offered up last Wednesday was every bit as rewarding as the company’s best pay-per-view moments (and they have plenty at this point). It’s understandable to still desire more coverage and variety in the women’s division as a fan, but it is also exciting to know that the grass on your metaphorical side of the lawn is getting greener every day. Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa both have something to be proud of with this feud and this match, especially as both women unlocked their true potential by making the absolute most of their time with each other.