An Audit Of Jade Cargill’s Run In AEW
I really need to trust my gut more and be a little less unassuming. During Jade Cargill’s hiatus from AEW, I started writing (but never published) a piece about what I thought we could expect from her going forward. Invariably though, I couldn’t escape the notion that something about Jade’s last year in AEW didn’t pass the sniff test. But the other thing about Jade Cargill I couldn’t deny is that it kind of didn’t make sense that she was even in pro wrestling to begin with. I’ll address this point first.
Not Long For wrestling
Pro wrestlers generally fall into one of two classes: There are those for whom pro wrestling is their dream and whether they made it onto national TV or had to tour the Indies in perpetuity, they were going to be a pro wrestler. For everyone else, pro wrestling was the next best option after they either couldn’t cut it as a pro or their sport didn’t offer legitimate career paths. There’s no shame in being in that second group, but typically as soon as they can stop taking bumps for a more lucrative career they‘re all too ready to hang up their wrestling boots.
This is because while pro wrestling on a national stage like for AEW or WWE is a pretty good paying gig compared to the norm, it’s on the extreme low end of the pay scale compared to other careers in pro sports and entertainment. And when keeping all this in mind, when I was considering Jade Cargill’s future in pro wrestling, my calculus was as follows:
- Jade Cargill is already worth multiple times as more money than any pro wrestler has ever made from pro wrestling alone.
- Jade likely has a different view of money and pay scale compared to her contemporaries. Consider that her husband, Brandon Phillips, once called his $72.5M contract from the Cincinnati Reds a “slap in the face”. I’d imagine it’s a real eye-opener to Phillips to see just how small an AEW or WWE contract is compared to MLB
- Therefore, I’m left to assume that for Cargill & Phillips, pro wrestling is very likely seen as a stepping stone to a more ludicrous career in the entertainment industry because, bleeding into my next point…
- Jade has never made any secret about wanting to work in Hollywood and during her hiatus, she has pursued various entertainment avenues including gaining exposure on Hollywood red carpet events.
Let me just pause to say that the purpose of this writing isn’t to disparage Jade Cargill in any way, shape or form. And I should reiterate that I’m only speculating. But I’ll reiterate: Jade Cargill, through her words and through her actions, as expressed her designs on being in Hollywood. How likely is it that Jade Cargill, in her 30’s after not growing up a wrestling fan, is going to show more dedication to the sport than The Rock, John Cena, and Dave Bautista?
Moving on; Something that’s easy to lose sight of when you live inside the wrestling bubble is just how niche pro wrestling is. Hollywood is not going to beat a path to Jade Cargill’s door simply because she’s in WWE.
In the grand scheme, Jade will garner a modicum of additional mainstream exposure. But the true power play here is her increased exposure to WWE’s new parent company, Endeavor who represents many of the top stars in Hollywood and TV. With that connection and her unprecedented resources, we’ve never seen a pro wrestler more apt to making that jump happen with or without WWE’s help (or in some cases, WWE kneecapping wrestler’s acting prospects by divvying opportunities to someone else). Suffice to say, it’s my belief that Jade Cargill wants to be in Hollywood and I’m not going to bet against her pulling it off.
Balls & Flowers
And here’s where the Tony Khan of it all comes in; There’s plenty of folks online quick to accuse Tony Khan of “dropping the ball” with Jade Cargill. I actually think Tony deserves his flowers. He and his team took someone with absolutely zero wrestling experience and within a couple years turned them into a legitimate star. When a star makes it, it always feels obvious after the fact that they were destined for greatness. But a million fantastic bodies & auras have arrived and failed on the pro wrestling stage. The Jade Cargill Project was never a guaranteed success.
And I just want to drive the point home one more time: Historically, the power dynamic between promoter and talent is very heavily tipped in the promoter’s favour. I’m no wrestling historian, but I have to figure Jade Cargill is the richest person to ever pursue pro wrestling. She’s unfuckwithable.
My theory is that Tony Khan either figured out or was made aware as early as February 2023 that Jade Cargill was likely on her way out the door as soon as her contract ran out. When you look at her booking through this theoretical lens, things make a lot more sense. Again, I should trust my gut more. Tony Khan is very smart so if there’s something wonky about AEW’s booking, there’s probably a reason for it outside of Tony’s creative vision.
By early 2023, Jade was regularly putting away established signed mid-carders on the roster. Her trajectory seemed clear as they were keeping her strong but had saved high profile matches against the likes of Britt Baker, Jamie Hayter, Hikaru Shida, Toni Storm, and Saraya. But after Jade went over Red Velvet on Feb. 1, 2023, Jade was fed nearly exclusively a steady diet of un-signed jobbers. The exception to this was of course Taya Valkyrie who was very much not an “AEW Homegrown” and at 39 years old, Taya wasn’t someone AEW is pinning the future on. And even in their initial match, Jade won because of a wonky stipulation where Taya couldn’t use her finisher. Jade did go over at Double Or Nothing clean but any impact was immediately washed away by Kris Statlander’s return and squash of Jade.
Following this, Jade was off TV for months. She was held off All In at Wembley Stadium, All Out in Chicago, and even Dynamite. She returned on Collision and had her final match on Rampage. My hunch—and again, this is pure speculation—is that a match against Kris Statlander at Wembley was the dangled carrot for Jade had she re-signed with AEW.
If I’m correct about this, I really cannot blame Tony Khan for sandbagging Jade’s starpower in her last months simply because the more you showcase her, the bigger the hole she leaves. As it stands, there is a hole but it hardly feels insurmountable. I think especially for the broader AEW audience, losing Jade Cargill in favour of more focus on women who raise match quality would pretty resoundingly feel like addition by subtraction.
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you’ll know how much I love Jade. But after some time for reflection, I’m kind of relieved. I started out this article talking about my previously unpublished piece on Jade’s future in AEW and how there was an inescapable “Sword Of Damocles” note to putting all these resources into her for the reasons I’d previously mentioned. I think that level of risk is okay for WWE. If Jade suddenly leaves for Hollywood or TV, they can eat that loss. But for AEW’s still fledgling women’s division, a misstep like having Jade Cargill go over women like Britt Baker, Jamie Hayter and Toni Storm and then leave would’ve been devastating.
On a positive note, it’s widely believed (if not outright known) that Kris Statlander was originally supposed to end Jade Cargill’s streak and take her TBS Title at Grand Slam 2022 before Statlander got injured. Watching Statlander routinely give women in AEW their best matches it feels like we’ve finally gotten back there and it was worth the wait.
Now if we could just get that 2nd women’s match on Dynamite.
But what do you think? You can comment 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! 🙂