The Best Female Wrestlers In AEW

When All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite debuted in October 2019, the differences between the AEW product and World Wrestling Entertainment's NXT were obvious. Dynamite aired in larger arenas, while live NXT shows remained at Full Sail University. AEW filled its roster with younger talents and gifted workers who weren't recognizable to casual wrestling fans who only tuned in to WWE shows such as Raw and SmackDown each week. WWE, meanwhile, relegated former Universal Champion Finn Balor to NXT. Furthermore, the NXT programs weren't focused on making new stars in the first few weeks of the opening month of the so-called "Wednesday Night Wars." Dynamite won the ratings competition in the first couple of weeks of the battle, which could lead one to believe AEW had the better product. 

Perhaps AEW's biggest weakness when it first began airing Dynamite on TNT was its women's roster. WWE and NXT critics may complain about how acts such as Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Shayna Baszler, Io Shirai, and others were booked over the years, but the WWE's combined women's roster cast a shadow over AEW's even before Dynamite got off the ground. 

As explained by the Los Angeles Times, former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega is helping build the AEW women's division. That roster is in good hands, as Omega has already shown he has quite the eye for talent. 

Brandi Rhodes is the AEW Chief 'Brandi' Officer

Odds are Brandi Rhodes, the real-life wife of Cody Rhodes and the AEW Chief Brand Officer who began 2019 as "one of the few female executives within pro wrestling," per Sports Illustrated, will never become the best women's wrestler on any roster. After all, she can only dedicate so much time to improving as an in-ring performer. She's bound to be busy with the business end of her duties within the company. All should remember that she was chiefly a valet and, more so, an announcer during her stint in WWE which ended in May 2016 after that promotion offered Cody his requested release. 

According to the Internet Wrestling Database, Brandi's first singles match occurred in 2017, and she was relatively green when she wrestled Allie at the 2019 Fight For the Fallen show. Bleacher Report's Erik Beaston gave that underwhelming and forgettable contest a "C+" grade. 

As detailed by The Undefeated, Brandi made history in 2018 when she became the first woman of color to appear in a New Japan Pro Wrestling Wrestle Kingdom event. She's also spoken openly about wanting to silence those who believe she's better off as a background figure and as somebody who just accompanies Cody to the ring rather than as a member of the roster. The likes of Emi Sakura, Awesome Kong, and also male trainers associated with AEW should help her achieve that goal. 

Bea Priestley may not be making close friends in AEW

We're sure Bea Priestley has only good intentions and doesn't mean to legitimately injure opponents working in a business where protecting fellow wrestlers is arguably the most important part of the job. According to the Pro Wrestling Torch, Britt Baker suffered a concussion in a match that involved Priestley as an opponent at the July 2019 Fight for the Fallen show, and Internet sleuths later discovered a Priestley kick to the head resulted in Baker's bell being rung. Per F4W Online, AEW turned the matter into a storyline feud between Priestley and Baker. 

Unfortunately, sometimes life imitates art. As explained by Ringside News, Priestley left Baker with a black eye following a tag-team match that occurred on October 9. Baker remained professional and did not use makeup to cover her eye up for her October 16 championship match versus Riho. 

In September, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Ringside News) reported Priestley had heat with fellow roster member Sadie Gibbs. Casey Micahel of Squared Circle Sirens added that Gibbs took a swing at Priestley backstage. 

Sadie Gibbs joined AEW with less than three years of pro experience

England-born Sadie Gibbs is more an investment in the future than somebody who was brought into AEW to compete for the title her first few months in the company. In March 2019, the Wrestling Observer reported AEW signed "The Amazing Grace" days before her 27th birthday even though she had fewer than two total years of professional in-ring experience at that time. 

It's easy to understand what Omega and others saw in her. Gibbs could be the best athlete on the women's roster, as her background includes track and field, gymnastics, and CrossFit. In May 2017, WWE gave Gibbs a tryout in London, but she never appeared on a NXT show. 

Gibbs may not have been ready for prime time on October 2, but her twisting Sasuke Special that she unleashed while on the independent scene was already better than what you'd see from many veterans of the business. To use a sports analogy, Gibbs is a sixth-round pick that AEW hopes will develop into Tom Brady with a little seasoning and time. 

Leva Bates is 'The Librarian'

Leva Bates started 2019 known in independent wrestling promotions as the industry's "Queen of Cosplay" who portrayed a wide variety of characters over the years. By the fall of that year, Bates was "The Librarian," a gimmick first mentioned on the YouTube show "Being the Elite" that was negatively received by in-arena crowds during the promotion's early days. 

Years before Bates was commanding fans to "shhh" and carrying what we hope aren't overdue library books to the ring, she was introduced on an edition of NXT as "Blue Pants" by Big Cass and Enzo Amore, Rolling Stone records. Things didn't work out between Bates and WWE, though, and she and the company parted ways in the fall of 2015.

Bates ate a pinfall in a dark match versus Nyla Rose on October 16, and nothing that has happened with The Librarian character during televised segments would lead one to believe the company has long-term plans for Bates other than placing her in comedic vignettes and asking her to draw heat alongside her fellow librarian, Peter Avalon. In a promotion where wins and losses supposedly matter, AEW never teased pushing Bates as a serious competitor over the first nine months of the company's existence. 

Penelope Ford is AEW's bad girl

Following the Fyter Fest show in June 2019, AEW founder, owner, and president Tony Khan told reporters that viewers should not expect to see intergender or "mixed" matches on shows such as Dynamite. That could disappoint fans of Penelope Ford. "The Bad Girl" entered the company with a deep history of intergender wrestling versus male performers such as Joey Ryan and Ethan Page, and she also grew a reputation for competing in hardcore matches ... and for her willingness to throw her body into barbed wire

In December 2019, WWE announced that the gymnast and cheerleader received a tryout at the company's Performance Center. Less than a month after that, Ford and Joey Janela disclosed they both had signed with AEW. Admittedly, Ford has a ways to go to demonstrate that she's more than just a talented athlete capable of getting over in street fights, deathmatches, and controversial contests that involve man-on-woman violence. For the most part, AEW stashed Ford away on the roster through the promotion's opening month of televised programming. 

We wouldn't recommend holding your breath hoping she and Janela will team up in an AEW ring during the 2020s. 

Nyla Rose has already made history in AEW

Workrate is an important part of AEW's booking philosophy — we'd be shocked to see a Dynamite main event last only 10 seconds – but every successful company requires a variety of performers. Nyla Rose sticks out in a good way. Rose is a powerhouse who can throw smaller wrestlers all over the ring in a battle royal and who has proven that she can keep up with the likes of Riho and Yuka Sakazaki in a three-way contest. She can even deliver a powerbomb to a male wrestler like Michael Nakazawa when the occasion calls for such a devastating finisher

As explained by the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated, Rose made history in 2019 by becoming the first openly transgender wrestler to sign for a major promotion in the United States. This fact goes unmentioned by commentators during shows because the company wants athletes, male and female, to get over based on merit and ability. Brian C. Bell of Outsports argued Rose should've been crowned the inaugural AEW Women's World Champion, but Bell and those who share that opinion should remember Riho winning was the culmination of an initial storyline. Rose isn't going anywhere, and she'll almost certainly have her day in the sun in 2020. 

Allie is looking to be a champion in another national promotion

It's often felt as if the Allie character was limited by curious storylines during her time in Impact Wrestling. She once accidentally and unintentionally won that company's women's championship. A fake proposal led to her being jumped from behind. Some of you still watching Impact in 2018 may have enjoyed the Dark Allie gimmick or when the promotion killed her off, but none of this did anything to attract any real attention to the product. AEW did well to rewrite portions of her professional story after the company acquired her, seemingly scrubbing the more corny aspects of her resume from her past and, ideally, her future. 

Allie is one of the more versatile members of the women's roster, in that she can play the role of a beloved and dainty bunny or a darker and more sinister demonic heel. Nobody should expect AEW to create its version of an undead realm, but the company eventually aligning her with The Dark Order would make sense if a time came when the women's division was short on heels. 

Joshi legend Emi Sakura could mean more to AEW as a trainer

It's not a coincidence that you see similarities between Emi Sakura and Riho during matches. Per 411 Mania and Squared Circle Sirens, Sakura was one of Riho's trainers in the 2000s. Sakura is a legend of Japanese wrestling who made her official pro wrestling debut back in October 1995, and the fact that she turned 43-years-old following the first Dynamite show shouldn't lead one to believe she's slowed down. Granted, we're not sure that we'll ever see her break out a 450 splash during an AEW women's championship contest, but she's still a hard-hitting veteran capable of teaching greener performers both under the lights and in training sessions. 

Along with playing the role of a base for high-flying attackers in tag-team matches, AEW will showcase Sakura to introduce American fans to Japanese women's wrestling, as explained by Deadspin. As important as getting that brand of in-ring action over to mainstream audiences is to Kenny Omega and AEW, Sakura's biggest contributions to the company beyond 2019 should involve her training unproven commodities such as Brandi and Sadie Gibbs. 

Hikaru Shida is a multi-time champion looking for AEW gold

It's only natural that Kenny Omega wanted Hikaru Shida for a division he's tasked with building. He has experience working with her in the ring. According to Squared Circle Sirens and Joshi City, Shida made her professional debut for the Ice Ribbon promotion in 2008, and she earned both singles and tag-team gold in multiple promotions over a decade before AEW scooped her up in 2019. There was so much hype surrounding Shida's involvement with the promotion, in fact, that her loss to Riho at  All Out in 2019 stunned many who believed and expected Omega would hand-pick Shida as the division's initial champion. 

Shida carries star-power confidence to the ring that comes from backgrounds beyond pro wrestling and mixed martial arts. She has also worked as an actress for film and television when not delivering stiff kicksrunning knee strikes, or Falcon Arrows to opponents. Had Riho not been available for AEW in early October for whatever reasons, Shida would've been a perfect choice to carry the banner for the women's division as its first titleholder. There's only one question about her future championship reign, whenever it may come: Will she be a babyface or heel when the gold is around her waist? 

Yuka Sakazaki could become AEW's top overall babyface

When someone first sees or hears Yuka Sakazaki, they may not envision the adorable and diminutive competitor being able to hold her own in the ring, especially against larger opponents. But the total package is all part of Sakazaki's charm. Known as "The Magical Girl," Sakazaki is lightning-quick and can fly at any moment during a match. She's also a well-accomplished chain wrestler who can match blow for blow when a fight breaks out in a solo contest or tag-team affair. Sakazaki's Magical Girl Splash is pure poetry in motion, even if it doesn't involve completing several midair rotations before crashing down on an opponent. 

Sakazaki met Riho and Nyla Rose for a three-way at the June 2019 Fyter Fest event, and it was The Magical Girl who stole the show in the losing effort. This was the only match on the show graded an "A+" by Bleacher Report's Erik Beaston. All things being equal, Sakazaki may be the most well-rounded in-ring worker on the AEW women's division. The company went with Riho as its first champion, however, so Yuka will have to wait her turn, unless the promotion turns her heel. 

Dr. Britt Baker could be the one WWE let get away

The history of pro wrestling is filled with wacky gimmicks and performers playing different roles. Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. is the real deal, as she told Diva Dirt in June 2019: a professional wrestler for AEW who is also a practicing dentist. Baker differs from those on the AEW roster in one other way. She's on the opposite end of the "Wednesday Night Wars" from her husband, Adam Cole, who began October 2019 as the NXT champion and the leader of that roster's Undisputed Era faction. 

WWE previously had Baker underneath the company's umbrella, as she worked for a taped NXT show and was also an alternate for the Mae Young Classic. She and WWE never came to a long-term agreement, however, and she ultimately chose AEW in early 2019. "One of the major selling points personally for me was that Kenny Omega was going to have heavy involvement and that there would be a lot of use of the Japanese women," she told about her decision to sign with the company competing with her husband's employer. 

Baker remained green as of the middle of October 2019, something that was evident during her title match versus Riho. She's nevertheless been front and center at AEW media events because of her potential and also because of her unique story. She's a future champion in the making. 

Awesome Kong is the division's top power house

Wrestling fans who have followed North American promotions don't need to be introduced to Awesome Kong. Kong began wrestling professionally in 2002, per the New York Post, and she first started squashing opponents in Impact Wrestling back in 2007. WWE fans will remember Kong, real name Kia Stevens, as Kharma during her brief run in the company. Her top highlight while in that promotion was her involvement in the 2012 Royal Rumble when she chased heel announcer Michael Cole out of the competition before eliminating Hunico. 

Per and the Pro Wrestling Torch, Kong is working as both a behind-the-scenes in-ring coach and an active member of the roster. Her efforts in training others and also learning the television production aspect of live wrestling events shouldn't be undersold, but the veteran who has taken a lifetime's worth of bumps throughout her legendary and lengthy career deserves a run with the title as a towering heel who crushes smaller competitors. 

Putting the strap on Kong could eventually propel a new babyface to the top of the roster once that person, whoever she is, defeats the immovable force.

Riho was the first AEW Women's World Champion

AEW unsurprisingly selected Chris Jericho to win its first World Championship, but the company went in a different direction with the women's title. The undersized yet energetic Riho earned a surprise flash-pin win over Hikaru Shida at the All Out show in August 2019, and she then faced monster heel Nyla Rose during the Dynamite debut. With that odds stacked against Riho, she repeatedly kicked out of pin attempts that followed Rose's powerful offensive attacks before delivering a double-knee strike that secured her the victory and the right to be called the promotion's first women's champion. 

As Brandi told Newsweek after Riho's hand was raised on that fateful night, the champion was up against it from the moment she signed with the North American promotion, as she's not a native English speaker. That didn't prevent Riho from getting over and receiving massive pops from crowds each time she worked inside of an AEW ring. She's no stranger to the squared circle, as she first started training to wrestle when she was 9-years-old, per 411 ManiaOnline World of Wrestling, and Daily DDT

Riho became the face of AEW women's wrestling at the age of 22. She's already the division's best babyface. We can only imagine where she will sit in overall wrestler power rankings by October 2029.