To read the previous installment of Martin’s exploration of the major arcana of AEW, click here.
VIII. Strength: Kris Statlander
In many different contexts—obviously including pro wrestling—strength is a term used as a synonym of domination. We are conditioned to think of strength when we think of someone conquering another person, or the alpha male flexing muscles. But the symbol for strength in tarot is a woman calmly opening a lion’s mouth with her bare hands, exuding patience and compassion while performing a task any reasonable human would balk at. Kris Statlander doesn’t strike me as the domineering type. She’s competitive and can gorilla press most of her opponents with relative ease, but she doesn’t have to bully her opponents or make a show of her physical talents. There’s an inner sense of compassion within her, even in the throes of battle. That’s what Strength is all about.
Plus, I’m sure trying to engage in a conversation with Orange Cassidy is a lot like trying to pry open the jaws of a lion.
IX. The Hermit: Darby Allin
Before we get all well actually, Darby can’t be a hermit because he’s always hanging around in the rafters with his dad Sting, there is a solitary feeling about Darby Allin. A faraway expression that suggests he’s alone even when he’s in a crowd. It’s not just some goth put-on; one of the cool things about the visual storytelling element of wrestling is that its characters always tell you who they are even if their words try to dispel unspoken truths. Darby always appears as though he’s deep in his thoughts or summoning a place where he’s by himself and can only hear skateboard wheels rolling along a blacktop. The Hermit is enigmatic, to the point where both its character attributes and problematic flaws are a mystery to much of the world. Even though the figure in the card usually represents an elder, Darby has felt like an old soul even when he was 22 years old, working the independents. In our immensely, occasionally suffocatingly social Western culture, we intrinsically feel as though being alone is an albatross. But the truth is we can only find ourselves when we’re in our own company. Who’s to say if Darby has truly found himself in his solitude, but he’s certainly taking the Hermit’s path to eventually get there.
X. Wheel of Fortune: Chris Jericho
Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, sometimes you’re trying your best to reenact Bruiser Brody circa his All Japan Pro Wrestling days, sometimes you’re a poorly preserved legacy act, fighting about dancing in the second match of Wrestlemania. Karma’s wheel keeps spinning, especially if you’ve had the shining luck of having a 31-year career in pro wrestling. Another era, another reinvention. Le Champion, the Painmaker, Y2J, that weird period where he watched No Country for Old Men one too many times. The Wheel of Fortune is a sometimes stark reminder that time always keeps circling around, sometimes back to places in your life you’d rather regret (like when Jericho brought back the Painmaker and was appropriately maimed by Nick Gage, even though his hand was raised as the victor). The Wheel can be a cruel invention if you’re not careful with how you carry yourself in the world, because it never forgets.
XI. Justice: PAC
Justice is one of the few cards in the Major Arcana where most people know exactly what they’re getting when they see it. Is it fair, or isn’t it? Are you in a situation where your ethical boundaries are being tested? Are you being called upon to do the right thing? Is someone else fucking you over? With Big Swole having parted AEW on friendly terms, PAC serves as AEW’s moody arbiter of justice. Justice is often swift and brutal, justice doesn’t have time for niceties; justice only cares about the right thing. Ever since people started trying to fuck with Death Triangle—from Eddie Kingston to Andrade El Idolo—PAC has stepped in, precise and dangerous, to settle the score, just like Justice itself.
XII. The Hanged Man: “Hangman” Adam Page
I know this seems a little too on-the-nose, but it makes a lot of sense. The Hanged Man has a rope tied around his foot, he’s stuck. He can thrash as much as he wants, but that rope is tied tight. Hangman Page is stuck at the welcome mat of the status he’s wanted, the jewel he’d vowed to obtain for as long as All Elite Wrestling has been a thing: the AEW World Championship. For years he kept knocking, jimmying the lock, trying to break the door down, but he couldn’t get in. He was stopped by Chris Jericho in his first attempt. Kenny Omega, his former championship tag team partner, had prevented him not once but twice already. After a long, long journey to finally redeem himself and attain the success he wasn’t quite sure he was cut out for.
And then he won, and immediately after, the world’s greatest wrestler stepped in his path. He took out Kenny Omega, arguably the most critically acclaimed wrestler of his generation, but he knows Omega was rolling on a busted wheel and suffered multiple mechanical problems under the hood. There is a pretty significant possibility that Hangman will earn the distinction of being the only AEW World Champion without a successful title defense.
Time and time again, Hangman’s stubborn impetuousness has prevented him from getting to the place he’d said he’d be before AEW even put on their first event. Can he prove definitively that Danielson dismantling his support system one by one isn’t enough for him to lose his nerve? Will his next world title match be the moment where he takes what he’s learned and wiggles out of stasis? Only time will tell, but if he takes heed of what the Hanged Man stands for, he might just pull off the biggest win of his career.
XIII. Death: Jon Moxley
Ever since Jon Moxley lost the AEW World Championship to Kenny Omega, I can’t help but think about how his entire reign foreshadowed the end. Being world champion means you’re at the top of the proverbial mountain; it has been used as a symbol of status and excellence, a bargaining chip for a better life. For Mox, it always seemed to feel like the end was near; he was arguably grouchier and more fatalistic with the championship as he was without it. Every run, every life has its final moment—Death (or the Nameless Arcanum in the Tarot of Marseilles) assures us of this. It’s the card which lets us know some aspect of our lives is reaching its culmination. But as the famous poem goes, nothing gold can stay.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Look at Mox’s career after losing his status as world champion. His friend turned bitter rival Eddie Kingston turned into a friend again—arguably a better friend than before. Mox still grumbles and mean-mugs whenever a camera is shoved in front of his face, but he’s having fun. He’s arguably the ambassador of the Forbidden Door between AEW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, he’s GCW World Champion—making him the badass visage of contemporary deathmatch wrestling—he’s bathing himself in Liquid Death while surprising independent wrestling crowds the world over. And now, with making a big step in his life by taking the fight to his alcoholism, the stark lessons of Death begats positive results for Mox. When you pull the Death card out of your tarot deck, all it means is that your life is going to change.
XIV. Temperance: Orange Cassidy
Temperance is the card of enlightened patience. There’s something zen-like about the angel depicted on its corresponding card, a magical alchemy in the way the water pours upward. Whether you understand Orange Cassidy or find yourself mystified by his diffident nature, it’s abundantly clear that haste is not an attribute he possesses. The sun shines brightly in the background of this card, corresponding with Cassidy’s signature shades. Pulling Temperance is a sign from the stars that maybe you should chill out a little, and although he loses his cool when he’s pushed far enough, Orange Cassidy is the embodiment of not letting life’s bullshit get to you. Just put your hands in your pockets and slouch your way to brilliance.