Let me get this out of the way up front: I love AEW. The company reinvigorated my interest in wrestling after suffering through two decades of complete garbage from the WWE monopoly. I've been a big fan of Saraya throughout her entire career. And no one has been more critical of WWE's decline and the company's seeming belligerence toward its own fans and their desires. Which is why I hope someone in AEW recognizes that I have only their best interests in mind when I say that Saraya's promo on AEW Dynamite was an epic fail of an almost historic proportion for the company, and that it's time for AEW to pay attention to what the fans are asking for when it comes to the booking of the women's division.
I'm not sure what the intended outcome of that segment last night was, but regardless of the execution (which was not great), I don't see how it could have possibly worked out in AEW's favor. Since basically the inception of the company, people have been complaining that AEW doesn't really seem to respect its own female talent. The running complaint is that AEW only ever books the women in one segment on every episode of Dynamite, and that's more-or-less true, but the situation has only gotten worse as the company adds more and more talent while the booking situation never changes. Britt Baker and Jade Cargill are presented well, but AEW's booking has pretty much failed every woman on the roster, including champions like Hikaru Shida, Thunder Rosa, and Toni Storm.
First of all, why is Saraya being presented as a "revolution" or a savior of the AEW women's division? By definition, this implies that the division needs saving, which is giving me severe flashbacks to WWE's attempts to transition out of the Divas era. In that case, nearly ten years ago, WWE was congratulating itself on finally trying to solve a problem of its own making: the disrespectful booking of women as nothing more than sex objects (even as other companies like Impact had been treating their Knockouts division with respect for years). But AEW's rehash of that story is somehow even worse because it shows that despite the progress WWE begrudgingly made, AEW took things a step backward, requiring the company to need to solve that exact same problem nearly a decade later. For this to be the case in a company that prides itself on respecting wrestling over "sports entertainment" is an even worse look.
Toni Storm is the current (interim) women's champion, so why did Saraya need to introduce her last night like an up-and-coming star making her big-time debut? Furthermore, why were the other random babyface women in the ring with Storm, and why didn't any of them get an introduction? Why did Britt Baker and her heel faction care about Serena Deeb's title shot, and what was Penelope Ford even doing there? None of this had a particularly plausible explanation, other than as a means of getting the women out there to participate as lumberjacks, which was, for inexplicable reasons, presented as some kind of brilliant innovation on Saraya's part.
Perhaps the worst part of the whole thing was that Baker, who is admittedly on a level of her own, outmaneuvered Saraya on the mic, which is not the best look for your debuting babyface legend. Pointing out that Baker's first name rhymes with "shit," especially when AEW was forced to censor the word, was an all-time great cringeworthy moment. Baker also displayed, in reacting to the crowd's chants of "Jamie Hayter," the capability to read the crowd and improvise. On that note, if it hasn't been clear from the crowd chanting every time Hayter is in the building, even when she is not the focus of the segment, the crowd is dying to support a Hayter face turn, feud with Baker, and eventual championship run. To deny this and continue to push other wrestlers while Hayter is booked as a lackey to Baker demonstrates some of the worst aforementioned tendencies of WWE to book against their own fans. Hopefully, a big push for Hayter is in the works in the near future, because it would be a complete blunder to fail to capitalize on her organic popularity. Maybe, if Saraya is not going to be cleared to wrestle, a better use of her talent would be to coax Hayter into ditching Baker and manage her in a babyface run.
Believe it or not, none of those things were the worst part of that segment last night. This is going to come off as hypocritical given all the trash I've talked about WWE over the years, but of everyone on the face of the planet, Saraya is probably the last person who should be complaining about her treatment by that company. Not only was she pushed throughout her entire in-ring career, but WWE uncharacteristically stuck by her throughout a lot of troubles, including her Sid and Nancy phase with Alberto Del Rio, helped make a movie about her life with The Rock, and kept her employed long after her in-ring career ended. WWE screwed over a lot of wrestlers, but unless there's something not even the sleaziest dirt sheet knows about, Saraya does not appear to have been one of them. Of course, she is entitled to her opinion, but even AEW's anti-WWE fanbase seems to have rejected this particular anti-WWE attack, judging by online reactions, which have been almost universally negative about every single aspect of last night's segment. A better way for Saraya to handle her previous employer might have been the way Bryan Danielson handled his AEW debut: by saying that he liked WWE, but now he likes AEW better.
One of the great things about AEW is that they do appear to listen to criticism and respond to it. Sometimes that response is Tony Khan getting pissy on social media, which isn't necessarily productive, but other times it's reflected by an honest effort to improve the on-screen product. One example of that is the video packages shown on Dynamite last night to inform fans about Bandido and Juice Robinson ahead of their title matches on the show. Negative fan reaction has rarely been louder than it was for last night's women's segment, which ended, by the way, with an excellent match between Serena Deeb and Toni Storm. Hopefully, someone in AEW is paying attention and making the effort to correct the course of the women's division and make better use of Saraya, a legitimate star whose AEW debut could have been so much more effective if done well.