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I had resisted the urge to write about the possibility of Mercedes Varnado (formerly WWE’s Sasha Banks) coming to AEW for months now just because it felt like a long shot and I wanted to make sure I was dedicating this blog to the women we actually see on AEW television currently. But with the recent news that she is done with WWE and taking dates for NJPW, the chances of “Sasha Banks” becoming #AllElite seems, dare I say, likely. And what I really wanted to write about anyway was how I see Varnado interacting with the AEW roster including how she may be brought in. And since we’re less than 3 weeks away from the January 11th AEW Dynamite from the Kia Forum in LA, the timing seems apt.
The Second Dance
When news broke that CM Punk was coming to AEW (remember that?), Tony Schiavone shortly after announced that a special episode of AEW Rampage called The First Dance would emanate live from the United Center in Chicago.
There were lots of theories about how CM Punk may debut, including the idea of him arriving a week earlier on the debut episode of Rampage from Pittsburgh (the location of his last WWE appearance) and then “The First Dance” would actually be Punk’s first match back. As it turned out, the absolute simplest, straight forward approach was the best one.
Looking ahead to January 11th, the “simple and straightforward” approach would seem obvious, which is to have Mercedes Varnado debut as Saraya’s “mystery partner” against Britt Baker & Jamie Hayter. But there’s more than a couple reasons why I could see Varnado placed elsewhere on the show.
With all the attention being paid to the mystery of “Who’s Saraya’s tag team partner” it can be easy to forget there’s a couple other mysteries stirring in the women’s division, one of which is definitely earmarked for January 11th.
Front Row tickets
It’s an easy detail to overlook but when Britt Baker originally laid out the challenge, she handed an envelope with two front row seats to Saraya as a dig to give Saraya the opportunity to chicken out. In the segment Saraya pockets the tickets and both women just power through it like it never happened. It seems unlikely that Saraya would take this storyline device and use it just to have friends or family in the front row. So what do we make of this?
What if Tony Khan has signed both Mercedes Varnado AND Trinity Fatu (formerly Naomi in WWE)? Trinity has shown up in Jade Cargill’s Instagram recently, which has oddly gone very under the radar. Although I suppose the prospect of “Sasha Banks becoming #AllElite” is such a huge story that it’s somewhat understandable. But don’t forget, Tony Khan, at this point, definitely has shown a penchant for doing the “double debut”.
In any event, these tickets open up their own mystery and upon the January 11th episode of Dynamite, we’ll find out who Saraya passed these tickets onto.
Bow wow vs Jade
It feels like this storyline has lost some steam and, I’ll admit, it doesn’t seem like the vehicle to debut Mercedes in. Although, I’d be remiss to bring up that there’s a small degree of separation as both are connected to Snoop Dogg. I get that across the entirety of the entertainment industry that Bow Wow is probably technically a bigger household name than Sasha Banks but I don’t think even those who know who Bow Wow is would consider him relevant.
In any case, AEW is trying to appeal to a much more concentrated audience and trotting out Bow Wow to give “the rub” to Sasha Banks by being his surrogate feels exactly backwards. This is a far cry from Shaq tagging with a debuting Jade Cargill. To be honest, the only reason I’d like for this to be the case is because I’d like Varnado’s first program to be with Jade Cargill. But that’s a discussion for another day.
I want to take a moment to look a few key dates:
- January 4th – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom–Night 1 (Japan)
- January 11th – AEW Dynamite (Los Angeles)
- January 21st – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom–Night 2 (Japan)
- February 18th – NJPW Battle In The Valley (San Jose)
The report is that Mercedes will be at Night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom on Jan. 4th but in a non-wrestling role. It feels like a fair assumption that she will be there to challenge someone to a match for either Night 2 of Wrestle Kingdom on Jan. 21st or their Battle In The Valley PPV on Feb. 18th which will be New Japan’s first American show since November.
So my question is this:
Is it important to Tony Khan that Sasha Banks’ first match outside WWE be in AEW?
Because if so, then the Jan. 11th episode of Dynamite fits the bill. Under normal circumstances though, I would think Tony would want to save her first match in AEW until the Revolution pay-per-view. And in fact, I’m feeling doubtful that beating NJPW to the punch in this way is all that important to Tony Khan and that he’d rather pull a rating based on her simply showing up on AEW television, and then save the first match for a bigger PPV butyrate.
So with all that taken into consideration, I’m going to pitch how I think Sasha Banks’ AEW debut go.
Firstly, I don’t have her wrestle on January 11th. Now, as many fans have pointed out, if Saraya’s partner isn’t Sasha Banks, you cannot let someone else be a big reveal. It’ll be just like when eternal babyface Rey Mysterio came out at #30 in the Royal Rumble and everyone was bummed because they wanted it to be Bryan Danielson.
Instead, I’d have a backstage segment on the night between Saraya and Renee Paquette. Renee asks Saraya if she can reveal who her partner is. Saraya says she’ll reveal that in due time but first, she has a gift for Renee. She hands Renee a small envelope which Renee identifies as the two front tickets that Britt Baker gave her but reveals there’s only one ticket in the envelope. Saraya pretends to be surprised before facetiously “remembering” that she already gave the other ticket away to a friend. Saraya then follows this up by saying that she’s in the main event tonight and would like it if Renee would join her friend in sitting front row for her match. Renee asks if she knows Saraya’s friend and Saraya just says, “Oh you know her. Everyone knows her. Bank on it.” Cameras immediately cut to a shot of the two front row seats marked “Reserved” as commentary asks each other if they know who it is.
After this, any stigma about Saraya’s partner has been erased because AEW has *nudge nudge, wink wink* just told you that Sasha Banks is going to be in the front row. During the match, have Britt Baker get into her face, Varnado hopes the barricade and gets involved physically, assisting in Saraya’s team winning the match. After the match, Saraya gets into the ring. She points at the tron where a “Mercedes Varnado is #AllElite” graphic pops up on to end the show.
So that’s how I see it going down but what do you think? Do you have reservations still and think Sasha Banks won’t actually join AEW? Do you think she wrestles in her debut? Do you think Naomi/Trinity Fatu will also join AEW and if so, does she show up with Mercedes Varnado or separately? You can let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter (which as of this writing still exists) at @AEW_ONE.
Thanks for reading and, as always, make sure the women in your life know how much you appreciate them.