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To say Willow Nightingale has captured the hearts of AEW’s fanbase would be putting it lightly. People talk about someone’s presence lighting up a room, well Willow Nightingale skipping out of the babyface tunnel is a cheat code for lighting up an entire arena. In equal contrast would be the level of heartbreak were she to somehow slip between AEW’s fingers and into WWE’s (although it would be absolutely fair play on her part). And to be honest, putting aside my feelings towards the WWE product, it’s not hard to imagine Willow being wildly successful in that environment.
Willow’s emergence in AEW has been a revelation. She’s so goddamned likeable and wholesome! And she’s accomplished this without infantilizing her character. With her tattoos, purple hair, and a bull ring piercing, I would never assume this is someone who is naive or sheltered. Rather, she scans as an authentic young woman who, while likely a conscientious and mindful person, chooses happiness every time she comes bounding out the tunnel to her music. And after watching Denise Salcedo’s (very excellent) interview with Willow, she comes by this honestly.
Like probably the bulk of AEW fans, I was exposed to Willow Nightingale from AEW Dark. So I was surprised to learn that this “overnight success” actually has 7 years in “the business”. Although she was away from the scene most of 2019 recovering from neck surgery. In short order though, Willow’s overwhelming on-screen presence has AEW fans side-eyeing each other as if to communicate “Erm, this could be a huge star and the fact that we haven’t seen the graphic yet is making me anxious”. This feels like Benjamin Carter all over again, only with higher stakes.
In ring, of course, Willow has impressed. We’ve seen her in a few ~5 minute matches in AEW. She had a longer match (12:45) at ROH Supercard of Honor against Mercedes Martinez and an awesome match against Allysin Kay at ROH Death Before Dishonor. Willow’s athleticism is impressive. She has the power aspect to her game in spades while also being able to throw her frame around seemingly effortlessly. She even has a bit of that ‘Ricky Starks-quality’ where she’s very conscious of her character work between moves. She’s a joy to watch.
As a character inside AEW’s ecosystem, Willow’s infectious and alluring positive energy would organically produce extremely entertaining dynamics. She’d make for a perfect foil for some of the more serious characters in AEW’s women’s division. Whether its infuriating a no-nonsense heel or threatening to soften the grimace of a badass babyface. There is currently no more surefire turnkey method of turning someone heel than by having them turn on Willow Nightingale. But with that said, my hope for Willow is that as we get to know her better, she’s not pigeon-holed as a hapless simpleton with a sunny disposition. Calling back to her interview with Denise Salcedo, I was so impressed with how mature, measured and wise she actually is. So I think that would be an interesting challenge to present a character with those layers.
Given her usage on Dynamite, Rampage and in Ring of Honor, it’s safe to assume Tony Khan has high aspirations on signing her (if he hasn’t already). Tony himself even calls Willow “a great great prospect” so hopefully any measure of anxiety AEW fans may feel about Willow being “the one that got away” are unfounded. But still, we want to see that graphic and will continue to beg on Twitter until we get it. Y’know, Arthur Ashe Stadium is just up the road from where she grew up.🤞🏻
Thanks for reading and, as always, make sure you tell the women in your life how much you appreciate them.