Professional wrestling is a saturated marketplace, so AEW need to do whatever they can to differentiate themselves. Although the hardcore matches and inside jokes at Fyter Fest were intriguing, intergender wrestling is a niche that AEW can turn into something more impactful on the fandom.
AEW had another solid outing with its second show, Fyter Fest, but it still feels like there’s something missing with this promotion. We’ve heard about how All Elite Wrestling will change the game and there have been some game-changing hires (Nyla Rose) and ideas (healthcare, no gender discrimination for pay), but the product itself has been similar to what we’ve seen from other mainstream wrestling promotions like WWE, Impact Wrestling, and NJPW.
Sure, AEW is different, but how different is it? And are they willing to explore different avenues of story-telling in order to truly set themselves apart from their big rivals, WWE? Do they understand which wrestling fans are most interested in an alternative from WWE and what they want an alternative to look like?
How AEW handles intergender wrestling could determine the answers to these pressing, somewhat ambiguous, questions. Based on comments Tony Khan made after Fyter Fest, there may even be a disconnect between the man with the big bucks and the wrestlers with the actual experience in the industry.
First of all, how could anyone not enjoy Jordynne Grace kicking ass in a Battle Royal and going toe-to-toe with Brian Cage?
Second of all, AEW could be shooting themselves in the foot if they aren’t open to embracing intergender wrestling. Don’t see why? I’ll let Grace herself explain.
AEW can talk about how WWE is their main source of competition, but they are honestly just as much in competition with Impact, NJPW, ROH, and even independent wrestling promotions like Beyond Wrestling as they are with NXT/205/Raw/SmackDown/NXT UK/EVOLVE.
If Impact is willing to embrace intergender wrestling, shouldn’t AEW be willing to display a form of wrestling that has empowered so many women and opened up so many different kinds of stories? Chyna broke ground by winning a men’s title and kicking ass against the men of the WWE roster and Nia Jax opened eyes earlier this year with some intergender spots in WWE. And Grace, Tessa Blanchard, Candice LeRae and more have been standouts in intergender matches.
Of course, it’s a little bit more complicated than that. Khan and AEW have to worry about TNT/Turner trusting them in the fall.
There’s this stigma around intergender wrestling matches due to some woefully-booked spots in the sport’s recent history. That stigma could scare sponsors and Khan has to cater to so many different audiences in the public eye who are not familiar with professional wrestling in order to make AEW’s weekly television a financially viable reality.
That said, wrestling fans who want to see intergender wrestling hit the mainstream shouldn’t be discouraged by Khan’s personal feelings or even the looming sponsors. Not only could the fears of sponsors turning their noses at intergender wrestling, which is feminist when applied properly, probably exaggerated, but Khan’s feelings aren’t the decider here.
The decider is, as always, money. If enough fans show AEW that this is what they’re interested in, we could see intergender wrestling slowly become a reality.
AEW will have to earn Turner’s trust by providing quality, well-booked programming that is without major errors or controversies and once they build that goodwill with the network and fans (since there’s still no guarantee AEW’s executives would be good at booking intergender wrestling matches, as well-equipped as they may seem), we could see intergender matches happen.
In the likes of Nyla Rose, Kenny Omega, Brandi Rhodes and Joey Janela, AEW has a roster filled with talents who have either competed in intergender wrestling matches or seem interested in doing this in the future. They have talent who are willing to do this, and many of these wrestlers occupy important leadership positions in the company.
Assuming there’s indeed enough interest from the fanbase – and given the response to Khan’s comments, there is – they can point to these cries from wrestling fans to put pressure on Khan.
Integender wrestling may not be on the horizon in AEW’s near future, but it will surely take place at some point. Khan’s words may seem discouraging, but they might be more overly cautious than anything else. Though Khan is a wrestling fan himself, he may not understand how popular intergender wrestling is or have interacted with enough wrestling fans.
As a whole, wrestling has a diverse fandom in terms of interests, so it’s honestly likely that Khan doesn’t see how much fans have been begging for this form of story-telling to be portrayed by a promotion with a major TV deal. By the same token, critics could note that there’s a reason why no modern-day promotion with a major TV deal has been able to have intergender matches central to its programming.
AEW has promised to break the mold, and it honestly needs to be ground-breaking in terms of its product and storytelling in order to make actual waves. Intergender wrestling is an important, empowering form of athletic competition that can actually be part of AEW’s mission to fundamentally change wrestling for the viewer, and fans shouldn’t rule out Khan changing his mind. In fact, the fans could play a key role in doing exactly that.