The statement “Britt Baker will be the best thing to ever happen to women’s wrestling” does not, in any way, minimize or take away from the work that past warrior’s in women’s wrestling has done.
Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch saved mainstream women’s wrestling in the mid-2010s, rejecting the way “The Fed” had treated the women on its roster for decades and ushering in the “Women’s Revolution.” Becky Lynch actually deserves double credit here, single-handedly carrying that revolution into the late 2010s and putting women’s wrestling on the biggest stage it has ever been on: the main event of Wrestlemania.
Before them, Gail Kim, AJ Lee, and Beth Phoenix fought and struggled against a sexist North American audience to give that revolution ground to stand on. Meanwhile, Joshi wrestlers like Kairi Sane, Kana/Asuka, Aja Kong, and Manami Toyota were tearing the house down in Japan, and women like Dark Angel, Fabi Apache, and Taya Valkyrie (now known as Danielle Monet) were proving that luchadoras are just as good, if not better than their male counterparts. In the 1990s and 2000s, Trish Stratus, Lita, Mickie James, and Chyna deserve as much credit and adoration as possible for putting up with the impossible and making the absolute best of it.
We can not talk about wrestling, let alone women’s wrestling, without talking about the women who came even before them. Alundra Blayze and Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah (whose history is tainted and gross, yes, but she still deserves a nod for her work trying to break down racial barriers in pre-racial America and for helping overturn bans that many American states had placed on women’s wrestling in the 1960s and 70s) were pioneers, not just in the early years of wrestling, but also in the second great feminist movement of the 60s.
The history of women’s wrestling is filled with amazing women fighting against all odds and adversity to achieve amazing things. The journey has been long and difficult and taken several steps backward at points, thanks in large part to many bigoted choices made by mainstream North American wrestling promotions. However, these warriors have persevered and pushed women’s wrestling to the place where it is today.
The statement “Britt Baker will be the best thing to ever happen to women’s wrestling” does not mean that any of these women’s impact on the sport is insignificant and should be overlooked.
As a matter of fact, it means quite the opposite. If it were not for Blayze, Moolah, and Young, women’s wrestling would have never gotten off the ground and probably would not even have a presence in mainstream wrestling. If it were not for the hard work of Lita, Stratus, Chyna, and James, many of the women in wrestling today would have never laced up a pair of wrestling boots so that they could be like those before them. Many of the best women in today’s wrestling landscape who are furthering the sport are either currently in or came out of either the Joshi promotions of the east and the Lucha Libre promotions of Mexico and Latin America.
If it were not for the many women who helped start and drive the women’s revolution, women’s wrestling would not be getting enough mainstream attention and support to main event the biggest pay-per-views and wrestling events of the year. Since the revolution, every single North American promotion has finally caught up with the times, giving the extremely talented women on their rosters the respect and main event spots that they have earned. The women that kick-started that movement, AJ Lee, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch, along with the women who went before them, get to own that and wear it proudly as a badge of honor.
It is the work that these women put in and the foundation that they built that allows for the statement “Britt Baker will be the best thing to ever happen to women’s wrestling” to be true.
On March 17th, 2021, Britt Baker and Thunder Rosa main evented AEW’s “St. Patrick Day Slam” special in an unsanctioned “Lights Out” match. Rosa and Baker would batter each other with chairs and ladders, put each other through tables, and even throw their bodies onto thumbtacks. It was a bloody and brutal affair that did not just live up to the expectations fans had set for the match, but far exceeded them.
There were many reasons to remember this match, from the unbelievable effort that both women put into their gruesome and violent use of foreign objects. The pictures of Britt Baker’s crooked smile painted crimson with blood are so memorable that when AEW put it on a tee-shirt, it became one of the company’s fastest-selling and top-selling shirts ever.
Where the match may not have counted because it was “Unsanctioned” it set AEW on a course that will change wrestling forever.
The explosion in mainstream popularity and attention that Baker received after this match was undeniable. In March, she gained 15,000 followers on Twitter and 14,000 on Instagram. This is 1500% more growth than she had experienced the week prior on Twitter and 600% for Instagram. Unlike normal, this quick explosion in growth has actually translated long term. Before her match with Thunder Rosa, Britt Baker would gain somewhere between one and two thousand followers a week on Twitter. Since that match, she has averaged a gain of five thousand Twitter followers per week.
AEW’s women’s division as a whole has seen a pretty significant increase in interest since that match as well. The highest-rated segment of most episodes of Dynamite is the women’s division matches. Hikaru Shida’s championship defense against Tay Conti on the April 21st episode of Dynamite attracted almost 1.2 million live viewers, and over half a million live viewers in the 18-49 demographic, which is monumental for the company moving forward.
Is this spike in interest due exclusively to Britt Baker’s being at the absolute top of her game recently? No. However, it is no coincidence that the large spike in interest in the women’s division and Britt Baker’s spike in popularity came at the same time.
In the next year, AEW has a ton of decisions to make and a ton of room to grow. They are adding another hour of television in August in the form of AEW Rampage and are completely changing networks at the beginning of 2022. Their audiences are growing rather quickly already, but will likely spike again when the move to TBS happens.
This means that AEW needs to solidify itself as a brand and as a show. If your audience is coming for one thing and you completely uproot it and change it the next week, you are going to lose viewers. The best way to do this is to look at your show, see what episodes and segments garnered the most attention, and run with that. You do not want to over-expose people to it, especially in wrestling, because that takes away the feeling of it being special, but you need to make the important people in that division the center of your brand.
If AEW executives and writers do this, and they likely will, then they should be looking no further than the women’s division, which has had the highest rated segment of almost every single episode of Dynamite since March.
As live audiences begin being allowed back in, this will become more and more clear to the point that, if it is not already clear to AEW executives, it soon will be. Even this Sunday, at Double Or Nothing, in front of a sold-out crowd, I am willing to bet that a large majority of the crowd is going to make one thing clear:
They paid to see Britt Baker.
Moving forward, AEW should, and likely will, center their product and their brand around Britt Baker. A star that gets the attention of not just hardcore wrestling fans, but also casual fans and non-wrestling fans. A star that sells merchandise better than anyone else in the wrestling world. A star with overwhelming charisma and great talent on the stick. It is far too obvious, and AEW executives would be stupid to not see that.
On top of that, do you realize how fantastic of a role model and idol she is? She is an actual practicing dentist with a real-life medical doctorate on top of being a wrestler. Her partner is a huge star in professional wrestling, but she refused to use that connection or money, so she built her own thing, working with AEW to build the women’s division from the ground up. Building your wrestling brand around someone who can inspire people to be better is how you make sure you are leaving a long-term effect on the world.
She is a huge inspiration to me, and I am just some 23-year-old dude. Imagine how big of an inspiration she is too little girls across the globe who could see her regularly on the TV. The high school teenager who is trying to decide on their next step in life can look at the TV and see a strong woman who chose both her love for wrestling and being a dentist.
The girl who is told “Girls can not fight or be tough” can watch Britt Baker complete a 20-minute match while bleeding from her brow. She has already touched the lives of millions of fans, but as the centerpiece of the brand, she can affect even more lives for the better.
Moolah, Young, and Blayze were the first. Lita, Stratus, and James fought the system. The Joshis and Luchadoras made the next generation of women. Flair, Banks, Lynch, and Bayley forced the industry to respect women and give them a platform.
Because of those women, Baker is going to be able to become the first women’s mega superstar.
Baker is not going to be bigger than all of the women who came before her, she is going to be bigger than most anyone that came before her. She is going to be much bigger than anyone wrestling today, including Ibushi, Okada, Reigns, Tanahashi, Allin, Cole, Balor, and even Omega. If AEW is smart and goes all-in on Britt Baker then Britt Baker should be the biggest superstar to have ever stepped into the squared circle by the end of her career.