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Ripping WWE’s Name Policy, Jade Cargill’s Star Grows, More WWE, AEW Quick Takes

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    The former Pete Dunne is only one example of a Superstar’s career being nearly ruined by a name change.Credit: WWE.com

    The more things change, the more they stay the same in WWE—and in some cases, they worsen.

    Superstars undergoing gimmick and name changes from what they were prior to coming to the company is hardly a new phenomenon. In most cases, it’s expected and even understandable, but the recent edict for everyone using their real name to change it to something drastically different has gotten out of hands as of late.

    The same can be said for how NXT has treated its entire women’s division on the whole this past year. In addition to the many releases and call-ups that gutted the scene of almost all of its top talent, the booking of the ladies down in developmental since the brand’s reboot has been nothing short of appalling.

    Ember Moon’s recent interview with Chris Van Vliet provided excellent insight as to why that might be, and served as a reminder of how far the division has fallen from what it once was.

    That isn’t to say All Elite Wrestling’s women’s division doesn’t have flaws of its own, but there is a major star on the rise right now and her name is Jade Cargill. The successful in-ring debut of The Baddies on Friday’s Rampage only further reinforced that she has a very bright future ahead of her in AEW.

    This installment of Quick Takes will tackle Cargill’s growth and potential, Asuka’s return to Raw and why she should use it as an opportunity to go back to being the Asuka of old, and more.

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    Up until about a decade ago, almost everyone arriving in WWE was given a new ring name upon signing, a moniker the company could trademark and ensure that the Superstar couldn’t bring elsewhere if they were to leave. While not ideal, it did make sense, especially for a promotion as big as WWE that sees people come and go constantly.

    At its peak, NXT hired more established independent talent than ever before. Although notable names such as Prince Devitt (Finn Balor) and Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens) were rechristened, stars such as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura and others were all allowed to maintain their identities.

    WWE now wanting to change the names of everyone who currently uses their real name in any way is a step too far.

    It’s perfectly logical for that edict to apply to incoming athletes, but to alter the identity of someone who has been under contract to the contract for multiple years and has been established on television is comical. It insults the intelligence of every viewer that has invested in them and damages whatever goodwill they’ve built up with the audience.

    Ciampa and Theory eliminating their first names is acceptable, but Pete Dunne and WALTER becoming Butch and Gunther respectively while Kay Lee Ray as rebranded Alba Fyre is unnecessary and frustrating for fans when it should have been something dealt with as soon as they signed.

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    As solid of a card as WrestleMania Backlash appeared on paper prior to Friday’s SmackDown, RK-Bro vs. The Usos in a tag team title unification match felt like the biggest attraction of everything on tap.

    WWE announced the high-stakes matchup several weeks ago and the build to the bout has played out on both brands since then. Unifying the tag titles at this point seemed like the best way to make the tag team division important again.

    During SmackDown, however, the match was modified to a six-man tag; Drew McIntyre will now team with RK-Bro while Roman Reigns joins his Bloodline brethren. It was not said that any of the titles, including the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, will be up for grabs.

    This is a significant step down from what was originally advertised, especially if it’s going to be positioned as the main event of the show. It should be entertaining from an in-ring standpoint with the additional star power involved, but it virtually doesn’t matter who wins because nothing substantial is at stake.

    The only positive is that it prevents WWE from rushing into Reigns vs. McIntyre one-on-one on nine days’ notice. That can be saved for Hell in a Cell in June. Ideally, a Winners Take All stipulation will be added in the next week to make this match more meaningful than what you’d see on any ordinary episode of Raw or SmackDown.

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    There is always talk in All Elite Wrestling among fans regarding who the pillars of the promotion are, and all of the answers tend to be men (Darby Allin, MJF, Sammy Guevara, Jungle Boy). That said, it would be blasphemous to not include Jade Cargill in that conversation after the outstanding last year she’s had.

    Cargill went from being an unknown in a random rivalry with Cody and Brandi Rhodes to one of the company’s biggest and brightest stars—male or female. That’s a testament to not only how she’s been booked and built up but also to her growth as a performer and an on-air personality.

    She’s been undefeated in one-on-one action for the last year and has been dominant as AEW TBS champion since capturing the title on Jan. 5. She’s only gotten more over with the audience in that time and has the an aura about her unlike anyone else on the roster.

    Cargill wasn’t missing much from her act, but the addition of Red Velvet and Kiera Hogan as her “baddies” hardly hurts. If anything, they only make her that much more of a main event player and can do her dirty work for her.

    The three showed excellent chemistry in Friday’s six-woman tag team match and won with ease as they should have. Now the question becomes who AEW can line up for her to face now that she’s conquered a majority of the division already.

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    Asuka has finally returned to Raw following a nine-month-long hiatus because of injury, and she wasted no time in rekindling her rivalry with Becky Lynch on Monday night.

    Although Lynch would have benefited from more time away from television, her against Asuka is undoubtedly exciting considering how well they work together. It will also be an effective way of bringing Asuka back into the fold in emphatic fashion and reestablishing her credibility.

    The feud won’t fully live up to its potential until she goes back to being the unstoppable force she was when she initially arrived on Raw and previously in NXT.

    The Empress of Tomorrow’s green-misted antics have been more obnoxious than anything for the last two years. The goofy, unhinged character she’s been portraying wore out its welcome a while ago, making it much more difficult to take her seriously.

    This is as perfect of a time as any for her to return to her roots as a no-nonsense warrior who does more than dances. She remains one of the very best wrestlers in the world, but the presentation of her character could use a reboot as she prepares to set her sights on gold again.

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    It’s been painfully apparent for quite some time now that NXT’s women’s division has fallen off from where it was once was, and Ember Moon’s recent comments about the brand and her time there toward the end really put things in perspective.

    “We’d have to sit through stupid meetings about how we would have to dress sexy,” the former NXT Women’s champion told Chris Van Vliet (h/t Cageside Seats). “I remember looking at someone and I was like, ‘I cater to children.’ I am not about to wear fishnet booty butt-cheek shorts because we had a two-hour meeting about how to dress like Mandy Rose.”

    If you tune into NXT any given Tuesday night, it isn’t hard to see what Moon is referring to. Toxic Attraction play their roles well and are perhaps the only exception, but the emphasis shifting from being on the in-ring action to the sex appeal for the females has been inexcusable and goes against everything the division stood for during WWE’s Divas era.

    Moon added that she noticed the downward trend begin around the time Triple H left to deal with his health issues. The Game was largely responsible for ushering in the “Women’s Evolution,” and without him at the helm, the division has significantly regressed.

    NXT returning to its developmental roots and featuring inexperienced talent isn’t the issue so much as it is the constant objectifying of the women in an attempt to boost ratings. The powers that be on the brand have sadly lost sight of what made women’s wrestling there so great in the first place.

        

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.

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