WrestleDream was an incredible night for All Elite Wrestling that left its fans glowing in the aftermath of Bryan Danielson vs Zack Sabre Jr, Hangman Page vs Swerve Strickland, Christian Cage vs Darby Allin, and of course the arrival of Rated R Superstar Adam Copeland (fka “Edge”). So although it had stiff competition for sharing the spotlight, Kris Statlander vs Julia Hart absolutely held its own. I adored this match. Julia vs Statlander was nothing short of a triumph for AEW’s women’s division. Julia Hart’s presentation, over-ness with the crowd, and ability to execute spots was nearly flawless in this match. Kris Statlander looked like a ring general. She seems to know how things are going to look on TV before they happen and what she needs to do in-between sequences to make sure they’re uncontrived and well timed.
Attention To Detail
A big key in this match to start off was Julia Hart’s selling. Both ladies bumped their asses off for each other but it was Julia wincing and placing her hand on her sacrum after a standard suplex from Kris that pulled me through the screen. It, as I like to say, broke the cadence of pro wrestling because it didn’t look exactly like every suplex and sell I’ve seen 1000 times. I had to lean in to determine just how bad Julia got rocked. Shortly after, Statlander while on the apron gets her leg swept out from under her and doesn’t let her feet land and then bend her knees to feign hitting the apron, rather one side of her upper body smacks the apron on the way down, falling awkwardly to the floor, making for a really gnarly looking bump. You could really tell in this match how no forearm strike, no kick, no Irish whip into the barricade, nothing was taken for granted. Everything looked stiff and snug. It really felt like Kris and Julia wanted to get every single thing over.
Julia Hart being fully dialled into her character isn’t news. But after she gets punched across the face while attempting to do the black myst, her black stained teeth provided a haunting visual for the remainder of the match. We all anticipated the spider hang after she threw Statlander from the top rope but Julia shaking her head ‘no’ while hanging upside down was so perfectly badass. The horror movie perfect scream she let out after failing to win with the Moonsault was magnificent.
I mentioned earlier about Kris Statlander being a ring general and I thought I should expand on that. Her attention to detail in this match was sublime. Take, for example, the sequence leading to Julia’s Moonsault. Statlander gets thrown off the turnbuckle well clear of where Julia could reach with the Moonsault but Kris is able to negotiate her body into a reasonable spot but it’s still too far but at this point, as a wrestling fan, you’ve sort of grown to accept that when the camera pans up to the wrestler on the turnbuckle, their opponent is likely situating themselves better. Statlander though gets to her feet and attempts to block Julia from doing the Moonsault so that Julia can Mule Kick her, which Excalibur puts over as Stat falling hard, setting herself up perfectly to take the aerial attack and get her foot on the rope.
Another example of Statlander just being so conscientious is after the finish where Julia is left laying in the middle of the ring but we need the visual of Brody King carrying Julia to the back but having Brody get into the ring, picking Julia up and negotiating both their bodies out of the ring and onto the floor would be awkward and clunky. Statlander grabs Julia by the foot and drags her over to Brody in a way that communicates to Brody “Get her out of my ring!” This detail may have well been written up like this but it all came off so natural to help setup Julia’s exit. Nothing looked like it was in a participatory way.
Power Of Vulnerability
Lastly, I just want to touch on Julia’s character work. It’s one thing to wrestle more aggressively and scream a lot. But think about what her character is: To put it crudely, she’s a possessed cheerleader. So she’s still very athletic and flexible and we see the possessed cheerleader come out when she does the spider hang. But she’s also a lightweight who’s prone to overpowered. The spirit is willing but the flesh is—not weak—but she clearly is susceptible to being trucked over by Kris Statlander. And on this latter point, there was two instances in this match where we saw Julia’s physical vulnerability (relative to Statlander) marry perfectly with her dark demeanour.
First was after Stat is able to stand up while Julia has her locked into the Hartless submission: Kris is struggling to get Julia positioned for her finisher so she instead opts for a Tombstone Piledriver! Which is the *chef kiss* perfect power move for the occasion. Julia informs us that she is physically vulnerable for Stat to negotiate her body into the Sunday Night Fever, by *chef kiss* letting her arms dangle towards the earth. The second is the aforementioned spot of Brody carrying Julia to the back. Julia entire upper body, lifelessly draped over Brody’s shoulder, is swaying back and forth with every one of King’s mighty steps.
Julia isn’t supernatural. Which is a good thing because I don’t even want to get into all the problems with that. She has vulnerabilities. And maybe one day, she gets another shot at Kris Statlander but she works over her knee so that Stat can’t just lift her up when she locks in Hartless. It’s a much better story than her somehow having strength through being “corrupted”.
From the moment Julia came out with her awesome entrance, enhanced by the super wide video screen at WrestleDream, to her seemingly dead body being carried to the back by her monster protector; This was just end-to-end perfect. I couldn’t have loved this match and all its extracurriculars more. I always cringe when podcasters or YouTubers say “That was a star making performance”, simply because it’s all about the follow up and where you take that performer from there. And in this case, let’s face it, Kris Statlander has become a “Best Match Merchant” where she is just churning out everyone’s best match ever (or at least best match in a long time). Nonetheless, Julia Hart on this night was a star and feels like she’s now instantly risen 2-3 spots in the hierarchy of the women’s division. I can’t wait to see what her next program is.
As for Kris Statlander… What else is there to say. The MVP of the women’s division when now, maybe more than ever, they’ve needed it. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing her take a night off of giving someone their best match to just absolutely squash someone and remind everyone that she can in fact obliterate people just as well as the last TBS Champion.
So what did you think of this match? Did you adore it as much as I did? You can let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter at @aew_one. Thanks for reading and, as always, make sure the women in your life know how much you appreciate them!