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Let me preface what I’m about to say with this statement: I am a Jade Cargill Stan. I find her presence deific and her in-ring style, while still developing (quickly, mind you, in the hands of masters like Bryan Danielson) is thrilling. Jade rules!
I can’t say I’ve ever gotten all that invested in any of her stories. Jade’s raw star power is doing the bulk of the heavy lifting in these programs. It’s an experience not unlike a lot of Angelina Jolie movies in the early 2000’s where the writing may be all over the place but, holy shit, does Angelina Jolie ever pop off the screen!
Bow Wow/Jade in obscure trivia at this point. Jade/Trina at Grand Slam was so forgettable, I forgot what happened and I was there! The Baddies had potential but fizzled out. And when the stories weren’t hitting, it was the feuds that felt flat and, in Tony Khan’s defence, I feel like Jade’s streak provides an inordinately big challenge to booking Jade in compelling stories…
The Burden of Perfection
“The streak” steals focus from any potential feud that, unless Jade’s opponent could credibly be seen as “the one” to end her streak, it’s going to be hard to get any traction on that front. My hunch is that Tony Khan wants to leave a lot of the matchups with credible challengers on the table until after Jade’s streak has ended because, even if it’s Jade Cargill vs Britt Baker, anything Britt could say or do is just a “hat-on-a-hat” when Jade’s undefeated streak is on the line. In the meantime though, let’s use Jade’s streak as the backdrop to a different storyline progression. Predictable match outcomes don’t have to be boring. Some of the most outstanding AEW cards have been mostly predictable because there was more than just the outcomes for fans to sink their teeth into.
Since it seems apparent that a rematch between Jade Cargill vs Taya Valkyrie is in the cards, let’s use that…
I’m going to start by establishing Taya Valkyrie as an intelligent woman with agency. We’re not retconning anything that has happened before. We want to maintain continuity, I just want to reframe what we saw in their feud and in their match.
Part 1: Taya’s Open Challenge
- Jade squashes an enhancement talent, winning with Jaded.
- Taya Valkyrie’s music and walks to the ring
- Taya says she really thought that she could beat Jade even with the disadvantage of not being able to use Road To Valhalla. So she played along with Jade and Mark Sterling’s ridiculous demands but as it turns out, Jade is better than she thought.
So this explains what happened in a way that puts over Jade as the real deal and presents Taya, not as a naive babyface (a terrible wrestling trope) but rather she’s a big star who’s eating some humble pie after having an excess of hubris.
- Taya follows that up by saying both she and Jade know that in a fair fight, Taya would’ve won.
To the audience, this is scanning as a segment to setup their rematch where Taya can use Road To Valhalla. But I want this version of Taya no be not just as smart as the audience but also wise, which will subsequently divert the storyline into something of a “hero’s journey” for Jade.
- Jade tells Taya that she’ll give her a rematch AND she’ll even let Taya use her move, Jaded, in it. But only if she gets on her knees and begs for it.
- Taya says she doesn’t need to beg. She’s talked to Tony Khan and despite that blemish on her record, she’s on track to be the #1 contender. And since she already knows she can beat Jade, maybe she’s more interested in seeing if she can beat Jamie Hayter for her World Title.
Let’s pause for a second. This line could be problematic for Tony Khan since as a promoter, the rule of thumb is to not promote a match you don’t intend on delivering but I feel like World Champion Jamie Hayter is so ubiquitous in this universe that fans should assume that every wrestler is gunning for her. I also like it when wrestlers acknowledge the wider world around them, not just the linear storyline they’re currently in.
- Jade says she’s not falling for it. If Taya didn’t want a rematch, then why did she even come down to the ring?
Look at that: Two intelligent women able to parse perception from reality and clearly see the plot they’re both firmly standing in. Love it.
- Taya calls herself an International Icon who has wrestled and won Championships all over the world. And she knows the difference in how it feels to win a Title on her own versus using shortcuts.
- Taya recalls that in the semi-finals of the TBS Title tournament, Jade had a little help to defeat Thunder Rosa, didn’t she?
- Taya continues, saying that she’ll give Jade the benefit of the doubt because this is her first Championship so she wouldn’t know the difference. Taya puts Jade over saying that she has the potential to be the best wrestler on the planet but the road she’s going down won’t get her there… “So I’m here to teach you a lesson”.
Again, we’re putting Jade over while criticizing her and giving Taya agency.
- Taya starts taking off her belt.
- Jade starts to get ready to defend herself as it looks like Taya intends to use her belt as a weapon.
- Taya suddenly notices Jade squaring up and realizes how this situation must look given the context. She tells Jade to calm down, she’s not taking off her belt for that.
- Taya claims that this is a $2000 Gucci belt but to her, it’s just the 8th or 9th nicest belt in her collection. It doesn’t really matter to her. But she wanted to know what it was like to be Jade Cargill and “defend a belt she doesn’t respect”.
I worded the TBS Title “a belt Jade doesn’t respect” rather than a meaningless belt so as not to bury the belt… Or TBS. Also, Taya claiming that a $2000 Gucci belt ain’t shit to her is a flex.
- Taya slings the Gucci belt over her shoulder like a Championship Title belt and proclaims that she’s instituting the “Taya Valkyrie Open Challenge”. Any woman who wants to step up and try to take her spot and bolster their claim for a title shot—And win this $2000 Gucci belt—may do so but there are two conditions:
- Number One: You must be elite. As in #AllElite. Not some local jobber.
- Taya turns her head to look up the ramp. The camera cuts to the enhancement talent that Jade just defeated limping up the ramp way to the back with the help of a referee. “No offence” Taya says to the poor soul.
- And number two: Only Taya is allowed to use Road To Valhalla. Or Jaded. Or, hell, even if you call it the Glam Slam (in reference to Beth Phoenix who also uses the move).
- Taya asks Jade if she’d like to be the first one to answer this challenge. Jade puts her in Taya’s face and leaves the ring.
- Taya smiles as her music hits. Commentary puts over how Taya just called Jade’s punk card.
Part 2: Jade Swears Off Jaded
Jade, having a bit of a crisis of conscience, is storming through the back with Smart Mark Sterling trailing closely behind, when Lexy Nair catches up to her with a microphone.
- Lexy asks Jade if she will answer the Taya Valkyrie Open Challenge
- Jade says she has nothing to prove. She doesn’t need to become #1 contender, she’s already the champ! Jade spins the narrative saying, Taya just admitted to everyone that she can’t beat me without stealing my move so facing her again would be a waste of time, just like this interview!
- Jade storms off screen. Smart Mark chases after her.
- Lexy yells out “Well, could you beat Taya Valkyrie without using Jaded?”
Well holy shit, look at Lexy Nair being a real journalist, cutting through the spin and asking a hard-hitting question!
- The camera pans over to Jade, who stops dead. She turns around and begins storming back towards Lexy. Lexy looks scared shitless. Mark Sterling looks frantic at what Jade might do.
- Jade looks down the camera lens and says that she is more than just one move and that for the foreseeable future, she will prove that by not using Jaded, and she’ll keep on winning.
- Jade yells at Mark to “Get Bryan on the phone and tell him training starts two hours early tomorrow!”
This line is in there specifically for the Twitter discourse. “Bryan? Who’s she talking about?” “Oh really, she trains with Bryan Danielson?” It’s a clever way to get the narrative rolling on Jade improving in the ring which will roll into this storyline.
- Mark Sterling placates to Jade saying that she doesn’t need any distractions right now so let him deal with Tony Khan and hammer out all the logistics so she can just focus on training.
This line sets up Mark Sterling to hand pick an easy competitor for Jade’s next match while absolving Jade of “ducking” better wrestlers. But Jade needs to call this out eventually otherwise she looks compliant in this.
Part 3: Jade Runs The Gauntlet
After these segments, Taya Valkyrie and Jade Cargill go on separate journeys:
Taya builds herself up in close matches against actual signed talent, defeating them one-by-one with the Road To Valhalla. She’d start with one-offs against lower level talent but then eventually move into actual feuds with talent higher on the card. She’d maintain her streak and her Gucci belt for the time being.
Jade Cargill, meanwhile, would begin winning matches in new ways. Fans quickly come into every Jade match wondering how she’s going to win this time.
- Match 1: Jade beats a no-name jobber with a Choke Slam. Commentary reminds the audience that Jade has vowed to win these matches without using Jaded. She’d get on the mic afterward and tell Mark Sterling that she needs to be facing wrestlers who are actually in AEW.
- Match 2: Jade beats someone who’s been on AEW Dark lots of times but has never won. Jade wins with a Power Bomb. Commentary puts across that although Jade won without Jaded, this isn’t the level of competition she was expecting. Jade, once again, is irate at Sterling, getting on the mic and saying her competition needs to be actually signed to an AEW contract.
- Match 3: We get something of a swerve before delivering a great match.
- Fake 3rd Match: After Jade’s entrance, Rebel comes out. Jade is not impressed. Rebel gets into the ring and Jade Pump Kicks Rebel before the bell even rings. Rebel falls out of the ring and is unable to get back in. Jade grabs a mic and tells Mark that he’s fired… (Crowd POPS, Mark loses it) …Fired from picking her competitors anymore. Mark Sterling breathes a sigh of relief, wiping his brow with his tie. Jade says says she’s dressed to wrestle so she calls out anyone who’s in the back and ready…
- Actual 3rd Match: Emi Sakura comes out (this is a match I’ve been campaigning for on Twitter) and they have a strong competitive match which Jade wins with a Crucifix Pin (aka a Kishikaisei for my Stardom homies out there). Excalibur, calling it the Kishikaisei, puts across that this would be a move that Emi Sakura would be familiar but wouldn’t have expected from Jade. This puts over how much technical training Jade has been doing.
- Match 4: Jade is challenge by Julia Hart! Jade barely survives Julia’s Heartless submission and ends up beating Julia with a submission move of her own, ideally something out of Bryan Danielson’s move set. Again, Excalibur putting across and putting over Jade’s training.
Part 4: Skye Blue Challenges Jade
- Immediately after Jade defeats Julia Hart, Skye Blue’s music hits as she walks out to the ramp in full gear with a microphone
- Skye Blue says she was in the back, ready to walk up those steps and through the tunnel to wrestle Jade Cargill tonight but then the lights went out and Julia snuck past her.
This is kind of a neat detail that draws the logistics of these surprise opponents and also how Julia Hart could’ve used her style of entrance to her advantage.
- Skye says she’s not leaving it to chance that someone else won’t hop the line next time and that she’s the next challenger for Jade Cargill’s TBS Title.
- Jade just holds up her belt and we can see her say “You’re on!”
Not only are we developing Jade’s character as an in-ring performer who can defeat her opponents in a variety of ways she’s slowly turning into a more babyface Champion, readily taking on all comers. But as we’ll see, change is difficult…
Part 5: Jade suffers a setback
In the lead-up to Jade Cargill vs Skye Blue we get a video for Skye. It shows highlights from their match at Battle Of The Belts V as she talks about how the last time she faced Jade, Skye had poured over video from all Jade’s matches and she was able to have an answer for everything Jade threw at her… Until she caught Blue out of mid air and hit her with Jaded. This time, even though Jade has added a lot of new weapons to her arsenal, Blue is confident she’ll have Jade’s number this time.
- In the match, Skye Blue does a great job of countering the moves that Jade had won with before while really putting Jade on the ropes with her own offence.
- Just like the finish to Battle Of The Belts V, Jade catches Skye after she attempts a springboard Hurricanerana but instead of turning it into Jaded she turns it into a Tombstone Piledriver.
- Skye Blue kicks out at 2!
- Jade picks Skye Blue up and hits her with a Choke Slam and then pins her.
- Skye kicks out again!
- Jade is visibly frustrated at this. She goes to setup a Power Bomb but instead turns Skye Blue around and hits Jaded for the win.
- The crowd is not best pleased by this.
- Commentary reminds the TV audience that it was never a stipulation of the match Jade couldn’t use Jaded but it was understood between her and Skye Blue that she wouldn’t.
- Jade is celebrating in the ring, holding up her TBS Title for the camera, with the “66-0” graphic (or whatever she’d be up to by then) is on the tron behind her
- The camera shows Jade flexing and mouthing off to the crowd but in the background is Taya Valkyrie standing at the top of the ramp.
- Taya, disgusted, walks off stage to the back.
- Jade turns to look at her 66-0 graphic just after Taya has already left. So she never sees her.
Part 6: Taya is DISAPPOINTED
- We go backstage where Lexy Nair is chasing after Taya Valkyrie
- Lexy asks Taya why she came out on stage and if she was upset at how Jade Cargill vs Skye Blue ended.
- Taya says “I’m not upset. I’m just disappointed.” and leaves
Part 7: Jade Challenges Skye Blue
Skye Blue gets pulled into a Trios Match, partnering with Willow Nightingale & Madison Rayne, facing Nyla Rose, Marina Shafir & Emi Sakura in which Skye gets the deciding pin.
- Immediately after the match Jade Cargill’s music hits and she marches to the ring.
- Jade Pump Kicks Emi Sakura on the floor
- Jade Power Bombs Madison Rayne on the apron
- Jade gets into the ring and Pump Kicks Willow who rolls out of the ring
- Jade then grabs Marina Shafir by the throat. Nyla Rose is just about to step through the ring ropes for the save when she locks eyes with Jade. Nyla decides to bail and exit the ring, after which Jade hits a Choke Slam on Marina.
- Skye Blue is in the corner stunned by all this.
- Jade asks for a microphone.
- Jade blames Skye Blue for the week she’s had…
Jade isn’t self-actualized enough to admit that she feels guilty but enough that she knows deep down inside what she needs to do to absolve herself of this feeling. Having Jade do the right thing for the wrong reason is more true to her character.
- Jade says she’s going to give Skye Blue one chance to make it this right. Jade says she is challenging Skye Blue to a rematch, for the TBS Title, but this time Jaded is banned!
- Jade sticks out her hand. Skye Blue looks nervous and plays it up until the fans urge her on. Skye and Jade shake hands. The match is set.
Excalibur puts across to the audience that that was as close as you’ll ever see to Jade Cargill apologizing.
So I thought about putting in a segment where we see Jade’s reaction to finding out that Taya was up on stage judging her for beating Skye Blue with Jaded but I liked the idea better of fans inferring from this segment that Jade found out and it bothered her.
Part 8: The Rematch With Skye Blue
- In their previous match at Battle Of The Belts 5, Skye Blue did a great job countering Jade’s offence. Rather than just running it back, this match turns that dynamic on its ear as it’s Jade who lets Skye Blue come to her and is countering her moves.
- Jade dodges Skye Blue’s basement spin kick hits her with an elbow to the back of the neck
- Skye goes to hit the Code Blue, but Jade turns that into a Gory Bomb
- Skye puts Jade into position for Skye Fall but Jade escapes by dropping to a seated position and rolls Skye up similar to how she beat Taya Valkyrie
- Jade catches Skye Blue’s foot on a Thrust Kick, spins her around and then grabs her neck and Choke Slams Skye Blue for a 2-count
- Jade pulls out a few new submission holds, which commentary puts over as her putting in extra hours with her team, but Skye is able to reach the ropes.
- Finally, the finish of the match comes when Jade Cargill has Skye Blue in position for Jaded. Ref Aubrey Edwards is waving furiously at Jade, telling her she loses her title if she hits this move. Jade lifts Skye up and then hangs onto in that double chicken wing position and locks her hands, suspending Skye’s body parallel with the mat. I think this is a great submission for Jade to have in her arsenal. You can imagine at some point an opponent continually getting out of Jaded and so Jade needs to weaken their arms by putting them in this position.
- Skye Blue taps. Jade wins.
- Commentary puts over how Jade was already so proficient at putting any opponent into the Double Chicken Wing position so it was smart to use a move that utilizes that.
- This is optional, but I like the idea of Jade offering to shake Skye Blue’s hand after the match, as having Jade, especially, show Skye Blue this respect really puts Blue over.
- Immediately after the match, Taya Valkyrie’s music hits. She stops at the top of the ramp with a microphone.
- Taya says she’d like to announce that she’s ending the Taya Valkyrie Open Challenge. So that means nobody gets her $2000 Gucci belt. But that also means her challengers can use Road To Valhalla… Or Jaded, if you want to call it that.
- Jade holds up her TBS Title while looking up the ramp at Taya.
- Taya smiles.
- Jade vs Taya 2 is set for the next pay-per-view.
So what do you think? Was that a more compelling storyline for Jade Cargill? Did the booking allow Jade to progress in an interesting way? Did it allow her win streak to exist without stealing focus? Let me know what you think in the comments 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!