78 Degrees of Wrestling: The Major Arcana of AEW (Part I: The Soul of Desire)

A three-part walk through the Path to Illumination, as interpreted by a wrestling obsessive and student of tarot.

Not too long ago, my girlfriend told me she described me as a witch. It was far from the first time I’ve encountered the distinction.

A woman I dated over five years ago, an aura reader who self-identified as a witch herself, felt the same way. I went to get my palm read for my birthday in 2015 (Libra season), and my reader told me she felt a great deal of psychic energy coming from me. “I thought I was just really intuitive,” I said to her. She replied, “Keen intuition is basically what psychic power is.” 

Armed with this information and a prevalent interest in astrology, I started teaching myself tarot in the summer of 2019 after buying a reading for myself and one of my closest friends as a birthday present for her. The experience was illuminating, seeing some of the evocative images of the Rider-Waite deck and learning their meanings. Within a month, I bought my very first deck, designed by Cassie Ramone; artist, musician, songwriter, perhaps most notably frontwoman of the punk band Vivian Girls. I would do past-present-future readings for myself and my friends, eventually upgrading to more elaborate spreads. 

As a wrestling fan for most of my life, I obviously have been intrigued by the concept of characters. When I started getting into astrology over a half-decade ago, I’d often get the eye-roll from (usually male) friends about the concept as a belief system. But that’s not why I got into it. As a student of characters and archetypes—and fundamentally, personalities—there was no better learning path to immerse myself than studying signs and houses and aspects. About a year and change into learning tarot, I bought a Major Arcana deck—the Black Power Tarot—conceptualized by King Khan (yeah, King Khan and the Shrines King Khan). Under the tutelage of filmmaker and The Way of Tarot author Alejandro Jodorowsky, Khan spent years learning about the Path to Illumination and I’ve been fortunate to learn a thing or two from him through the course of interviews and a tarot reading, a free gift for buying the Black Power Tarot.

That was a lot of background to say that in the spirit of Mer’s WWE tarot readings, we will also be doing periodical tarot for AEW, fitting for a wrestling-loving witch like myself. Prior to that, I thought it would be fun to explore the Major Arcana through AEW’s massive array of characters. To take a long walk through the Fool’s Journey and see what we find along the way. 

The Major Arcana is usually broken up into three segments, generally based on a theory by Plato that the soul is divided into three parts. As with any other journey, there are levels to this shit. The first part, which we’ll get into today, represent worldly powers or the realm of consciousness. Next we’ll get into the subconscious and how tarot inhabits those particular qualities (like justice and temperance), and lastly we’ll get into what is called the superconscious; the meaty, spiritual concepts.

0. The Fool: Ruby Soho

AEW Ruby Soho
AEW Ruby Soho

A common way to use tarot when you’re first starting out is to interpret the cards literally, which leads to a great deal of misunderstanding. The Major Arcana is often referred to as “The Fool’s Journey,” a path which suggests a lack of knowledge or experience in life. But the Major Arcana moves in cycles at various points of our lives; The Fool is the jumpoff point for a new cycle in life. It would be easy to designate The Fool as a competitor who is just starting to gain their footing (an early choice for this placement for me was Fuego del Sol), but it’s important to illustrate the cyclical aspect of tarot. Ruby Soho has been wrestling for the better part of two decades; an accomplished, decorated veteran in every respect. But her story in AEW is just beginning. 

The Fool highlights the thrill of possibility, but also warns you that you might fall short of your goals along the way. After winning the best Casino Battle Royale AEW has held yet, she challenged Dr. Britt Baker for the AEW Women’s World Championship in a fucking excellent match and lost. A person can have all the experience in the world and still be kicked to the bottom rung. But The Fool’s Journey is long and full of peaks and valleys; Ruby’s climb to the top of the mountain will most certainly be an interesting ride for all of us.

I. The Magician: Dante Martin

AEW

The magician stands at a long workshop table, a host of tools neatly arranged on it. Whereas further into the Major Arcana are archetypes ruminating in stillness, The Magician is all action, all energy, all flight. It is the card of unlimited potential, and if you’ve seen Dante Martin in singles action while his brother Darius has been out with an injury—whether you’ve tallied his cumulative hangtime in matches (guilty) or have simply been in awe of his Simone Biles-esque acrobatic ability (also guilty)—you’re well aware that, pun perhaps a little regrettably intended, sky’s the limit for this young star.

 

II. The High Priestess: Thunder Rosa

AEW Thunder Rosa
AEW Thunder Rosa

According to Michelle Tea’s Modern Tarot—part tarot breakdown, part memoir, all banger—the High Priestess is “the most mysterious, the most radical, the most feminist card in the Tarot.” And when you see those descriptors all tied together, what wrestler could possibly spring to mind faster than Thunder Rosa; half her face painted in a Dia de los Muertos sugar skull, running her own, all-women’s wrestling promotion, kicking ass all over the wrestling world to the point where regular conversations pop up questioning if she’s being a little too stiffskies. (To her credit, wrestling should look a little more like you’re kicking someone’s ass and a little less like a Cirque du Soleil breakdance fight.) In its purest form, the High Priestess represents stillness. When Dr. Baker won the AEW World Women’s Championship, Rosa could have had a legitimate claim to jump the line to challenge her blood rival for the championship, but she’s been biding her time, implementing the High Priestess’ famous intuition to find the best time to strike.

 

III. The Empress: Riho 

AEW Riho
AEW Riho

The Empress is known foremost for her empathy, and it’s difficult not to ascribe that quality to the inaugural AEW World Women’s Champion. She’s a winner, but she’s not an ass-kicker. Her wrestling style involves a few hard stomps, but more flash pins and cunning ways to come away with the three-count. Riho, like the Empress, radiates joy upon arrival—and through the struggles and hardships of a match or the journey of the Major Arcana, find a way to maintain that ecstatic aura. 

 

IV. The Emperor: Arn Anderson

AEW Arn Anderson
AEW Arn Anderson

After Arn Anderson fell off the apron in Cody Rhodes’ match with Aleister Black—the second fall, not the first, totally accidental spill that occurred when he was getting into position—Cody came to check on his mentor and got flipped out on for his trouble. Arn’s reasoning for yelling at Rhodes was that he should be paying attention to his (dangerous) opponent, not checking on him in the middle of a goddamn match. The energy is textbook Emperor behavior. Rational, strategic, not suffering for fools, not allowing time for sentimentality. The Emperor is typically wise, drawing from a wealth of experience; a born leader. So when Arn suggested he’s strapped like a skydiver to motivate Cody to get his shit together, just know the Emperor’s energy courses through those Horseman bones.

V. The Hierophant: Malakai Black

AEW Malakai Black
AEW Malakai Black

Well, well, well. How appropriate. The Hierophant—or the Pope, as it’s known in the Tarot of Marseille—has spiritual undertones which transcend religion, which is a fitting archetype for a character who adopts pagan and occult-leaning imagery. The Hierophant is primarily known as a spiritual educator, a traditionalist, and a conformist of sorts; perhaps not the associations you’d make with Black until you realize much of his vibe is based on customs which drastically predate Western religion as we know it. But there’s most certainly a teacher/preacher aspect to Black’s words, a spiritual discipline that I’m certain we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg of. 

 

VI. The Lovers: Anna Jay & Tay Conti

Anna Jay AEW Tay Conti
Anna Jay AEW Tay Conti

Once again, people have a tendency to take the archetypes of the Major Arcana literally, but the Lovers don’t necessarily have to be actual lovers to represent the themes of the card. The Lovers is the Major Arcana card which rules all relationships—business, personal, romantic, platonic. Anna Jay rules, Tay Conti might be AEW’s real Best Bout Machine. Their individual talents are formidable, and when they’re combined it more often than not becomes a sight to behold. Because they’re real-life best friends, their chemistry is undeniably authentic (as the cliché goes, the camera doesn’t lie). And because they’re both excellent wrestlers, their tag team matches are as seamless as if they’d been tagging for decades. Whether romantic or otherwise, the Lovers card represents the ideal union.

VII. The Chariot: Santana & Ortiz

Santana AEW Ortiz
Santana AEW Ortiz

Through a great deal of personal experience, I’ve come to realize tarot is an art, not a science, and therefore a lot of the meaning in the cards can be heavily dependent on personal interpretation. The Chariot has always revealed itself as “the determination card” for me; a sign that implores you to embrace your sense of perseverance. If you’ve read any of the personal essays I’ve written (whether here or elsewhere), you might have gleaned that I’ve had kind of a hard life. Whenever I see the Chariot, it reminds me that I’ve gutted through more than my share of painful trials. 

Santana & Ortiz have been emblematic of what the Chariot stands for throughout their AEW careers, even when they were heels. They’ve lived through poverty, hardship, depression, grief, self-doubt, more than their fair share of racism I’m sure; a tough road just to get to AEW. And the internal struggles haven’t stopped just because they’re tangibly successful. There are still the challenges of real life and the fact that this team, one of AEW’s best, have yet to win tag team gold here. But the Chariot teaches us that with an iron will, anything is possible.

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