Ruby Soho is propping herself in the corner, face resting on the middle turnbuckle. Statlander rushes in, grabs a waste lock and rolls Ruby into what looks like a pin but she continues through into a huge German Suplex! The Las Vegas crowd comes to their feet. Statlander grabs ahold of Soho, hooking a leg, setting her up for the Spinning Blue Thunder Bomb. Taz exclaims “This is it! The crowd feels it!” Statlander hits it and pins Soho as Excalibur yells “She’s gonna advance!” The crowd is electric.
Ruby kicks out.
The crowd is not happy.
Mere seconds later, Ruby rolls up Statlander for the win and the crowd is, frankly, pissed. So is much of the online community. Even in the post-match angle, Ruby acknowledges the relentless booing from the fans saying “Ok ok ok ok I get it! I’m a fan of [Kris Statlander] too, I get it!
What the fuck just happened?
Maybe this is just me but the more time I lend to thinking about the outcome of a wrestling match, the more unsure I become. In Ruby Soho vs Kris Statlander, a modicum of foresight would’ve told me that the plan was always for Ruby Soho to win. Kris Statlander was a late addition to the tournament for Hikaru Shida. The reason Statlander was added into the tournament was because her feud with Leyla Hirsch fell through when Hirsch suffered an injury. And now in hindsight, we know Rancid was hired to play Ruby Soho’s entrance live at Double Or Nothing. So this outcome was well in the works for some time. Despite all that, after watching this match live, my immediate visceral reaction was: That was a missed opportunity.
I have to imagine that this crowd reaction came as a surprise to even Tony Khan. It was two babyfaces, both strong title contenders. Ruby Soho has been positioned at nearly Britt Baker’s level while Kris Statlander, probably a tier below Soho. But I think in their pre-main event side-by-side interview with Mark Henry, Kris Statlander really struck a chord in the arena when she said “I’ve been here since the beginning and what have I got to show for it?” This “Day One AEW” narrative is something we’re seeing being played with by Hangman Page, MJF and others but that’s a discussion for another time. What I want to talk about is the timing of Kris Statlander’s evolution and upcoming rise to being a big star in AEW.
When Kris Statlander made her AEW debut in November 2019, while fans were charmed by her space alien persona, it was a gimmick which seemed sure to keep her grounded. AEW commentators would roundaboutly put over that Statlander wasn’t actually an alien. Tony Khan is all for wrestlers having gimmicks. However, AEW does (thankfully) appear to have an (at least unofficial) “no supernatural stuff” edict. So with Kris Statlander being someone who believed she was an alien but wasn’t, this type of ambiguity would seem to be an impediment for a wrestler to further their career.
It’s hard to know whether this would’ve been the case. Statlander got injured in June 2020 and was out for nearly 10 months. Kris made her return at Arcade Anarchy when she turned out to be hiding in a claw machine. She seemed like a good fit to be with Orange Cassidy and the Best Friends. It may not have furthered her character much but it provided good entertainment value for sure. And while the bulk of fans seemed willing to look past the alien persona and enjoy her work, she still felt locked into place at a tier below the level of a wrestler AEW would put a title on.
But that doesn’t mean the alien gimmick was a failure. Much in the same way that most businesses fail to get off the ground; Most pro wrestlers don’t get to be on a nationally televised pro wrestling promotion for years. Kris Statlander the alien immediately established herself as a fun, bright, colourful and wholesome character who fans adored. More importantly though, she was someone you were delighted to see walk out that tunnel for a match. And whether it was strategic or not, this over-the-top gimmick got herself onto TV and then put her career almost into like an incubator (or in this case, maybe an ovomorph?) as she improved in the ring and figured things out. Speaking of which…
More than a woman
On March 6th at the Revolution pay-per-view Buy-In, Statlander would lose to Leyla Hirsch (with help from a steel turnbuckle). This would act as the precipice to setup a change in her character. Up to this point, the alienation (aha) felt from not really knowing who Statlander was quashed any anxiety over her not getting that rocket booster push. AEW fans were comfortable with where Statlander was and waited for an indication to expect more.
Just 10 days after the Hirch defeat at AEW Dynamite: St. Patrick’s Day Slam, a 14 second clip aired of Kris removing her yellow contact lens and removing her makeup over-laced with clips of her in losing spots. It perfectly and abruptly signalled to fans: “It’s time. Let’s fucking go!”
Ready for her moment
Whenever a pro wrestler emerges as a star, people always point to a moment.
CM Punk’s “Pipebomb Promo” on RAW.
Stone Cold Steve Austin’s “Crimson Mask” at Wrestlemania 13.
Of course the truth about any “overnight success” is they come off the back of a ton of hard work, creative thinking, and strategic timing. For Kris Statlander, I feel like we got a preview of what her moment will be like. She made a genuine connection with fans over being a spiteful “Day One” AEW roster member. She then backed it up in the ring, turning to her background as a powerlifter to present a fan-pleasing overpowering style as she flung the smaller Ruby Soho around the ring like a rag doll. It was after this match where Statlander went from top of the mid-card to a woman who could credibly hold either title. And that includes perhaps the biggest title in AEW at the moment: Toppling the undefeated Jade Cargill.
It wasn’t on the books for Kris Statlander to have her moment in the Owen Hart Tournament. It was not meant to be. AEW didn’t miss the boat. Statlander didn’t miss her one chance. Rather, the happenstance of Kris Statlander changing up her persona as a part of a feud, to her being thrown into a bigger spot in the Owen Hart Tournament Semifinals, gifted us with a tease of what’s on the horizon for Kris Statlander. And I, for one, am very excited to see her moment.
Thank you for reading. Tell the women in your life that you love them.