As first reported by ESPN’s Marc Raimondi on the morning of Tuesday the 26th of September, the inaugural AEW TBS Champion Jade Cargill has officially put pen to paper with the WWE, signing off on a multi-year contract with the industry leading brand of professional wrestling.
It’s no secret that Cargill has become a star in sports entertainment at a meteoric rate, with All Elite Wrestling strapping the proverbial rocket to her from the outset, with her professional wrestling debut taking place on AEW’s flagship program of Dynamite opposing one of its executive vice presidents at the time, ‘The American Nightmare’ Cody Rhodes. The former Division I basketball player has displayed a natural charisma and poise while her talents continued developing in front of many of our eyes, going on a 60-match win streak that often drew comparisons to that of 3-time World Heavyweight Champion & WWE Hall of Famer Bill Goldberg’s 173-0 streak. With a reign of 508 days and in turn setting the record for the longest championship reign of any AEW Championship, her confidence within herself shone through and set herself apart from the rest of her division with the Jacksonville-based promotion, but criticism continued to follow Cargill.
The majority of fans can agree that Jade Cargill’s character work hasn’t been in doubt as her on-screen presence was evidently seen through some of the earliest moments of her career. Interrupting the unofficial face of AEW to tease the impending debut of a globally recognised sports star in Shaquille O’Neal sets quite the high bar going forward, but in the 4 months between her on-screen debut and her in-ring debut she had cemented herself as a talent going forward as well as made the viewer believe that she was truly capable of hanging in there with top calibre stars of multiple genres. The largest criticism that Jade has faced in her career has been focused about her in-ring prowess, whether or not she was being carried through a career-altering championship reign, whether or not she was all sizzle and no steak. Regardless of what debate continues to rage on around Jade Cargill’s in-ring capabilities, World Wrestling Entertainment had Cargill report to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida today to begin learning the brand of pro wrestling that WWE has been famous for.
The most interesting topic that stands to date is the one surrounding the use of Jade Cargill in the landscape of WWE as it sits. Does Jade Cargill go through the Performance Center like new signings before her; she would have if she had been signed after her first WWE Tryout in 2019 when she had no wrestling experience at all and was approached solely off of her sporting efforts, or does she skip the queue based off of her increasing popularity and proven success on National TV? There are pros and cons to both that make the situation even harder to read. Having Jade feature on NXT before making a move to the Main Roster allows her to learn from the leading company within the entire sport of professional wrestling, guaranteeing her the best education possible, but aside from an original spike in ratings would see a wasted star power that could result in a loss of momentum for the new star right out of the gate. Placing her on the main roster would add a new dimension to the women’s division on either Raw or Smackdown and presents a plethora of dream matches for the audience to conjure up in their minds, however exposing Jade to a much more critical fan-base as well as throwing her into the deep end with a completely new schedule and only a small margin of error in front of millions of fans around the world could result in her tenure within the WWE being a bust.
If both of these options have their benefits and detriments, what would the best course of action be? Well, what if it was neither of them, and we follow a formula that has not only been trialled and tested before our own eyes just as recently as this past Monday on Raw? What if we took aspects of both of those potential routes and created a tailor-made plan of attack that would not only benefit Jade’s development into a future household name in sports entertainment, but also gave the consumer of professional wrestling the presentation of Jade Cargill they would expect? It all starts with her debut, and as the old saying goes, “to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.”
Becky Lynch is currently in her first reign as NXT Women’s Champion, a championship that has taken her to Grand Slam Status and has all but guaranteed her an eventual spot in the WWE Hall of Fame, if it hadn’t already been established as a near certainty. As 1 of 3 women to be the first female headliners of WrestleMania, Lynch has a name value that benefits NXT and their Women’s Championship as the WWE continue to shine a light on their developmental brand, with the championship belt appearing on Raw as well as Becky returning to NXT continuing to draw new eyes to the next generation of talent. A name like Becky Lynch’s is also necessary if you intend to make Jade Cargill’s just as recognisable one day so while Jade gets comfortable in her new environment and continues learning the new set of ropes within the WWE, Becky Lynch continues her reign as NXT Women’s Champion, defending against NXT talent and the occasional main roster talent in need of exposure across both Raw & NXT.
It’s important to strike while the iron is hot, but it’s important not to rush opportunities like the one that presents itself with Jade Cargill. Allowing the newest signee to do media, creating speculation about what they’ll be doing or where they’ll be assigned to within the company whilst staying off of television for a month to get appropriately assimilated to the new climate within the WWE might be an idea worth considering, which takes you to the end of October, just days removed from NXT Halloween Havoc Premium Live Event where Becky Lynch had successfully retained the championship. While cutting a promo in relation to defending against the next crop of stars and anyone that wants to pick a fight or something to that effect, a commotion occurs on the ramp featuring a group of NXT talent all vying for a shot at Lynch. A fight spills to ringside when Jade Cargill suddenly emerges and enters the ring, dropping the champion in the process. The NXT talent sees this and eventually fall to the same fate, and after a brief flurry from a fighting champ, Raw ends with Cargill standing tall over Becky Lynch.
Debuting Jade Cargill a month before Survivor Series on the Main Roster, Raw in particular, makes sense. It’s WWE’s flagship show and it’s longest-running weekly episodic television program, and having Cargill debut in the last segment of the night against one of the company’s top female superstars will make supporters of Jade happy, but will position her in the eyes of first-time viewers as an opponent of equal status if they were completely unfamiliar with her work. The importance of Becky Lynch being her first opponent is the fact that, aside from the rub and experience that comes from working with a talent of Lynch’s calibre, is the fact that thanks to her NXT Women’s Championship reign she has been making regular appearances on the development brand’s television program. As Jade learns the WWE style and grows as a talent to become a superstar, having Lynch around the performance centre as often as possible to get familiar with one another inside the ring and to iron out any creases as they prepare for Jade’s WWE in-ring debut. With only Lynch wrestling in the month between Cargill’s debut & Survivor Series, but appearing on both Raw & NXT, Jade and Becky have plenty of time to come up with the best possible way of getting Jade over with the WWE Universe, where she would defeat Lynch in her first ever WWE match and start a reign with the NXT Women’s Championship that, while potentially not as long as her TBS Championship reign, would present her as a formidable star for the years ahead.
As a way of mocking the former champion, Jade Cargill revitalises her old catchphrase by stating “to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man, but I never wanted to be the man, because I’m That Bitch”, and defends her title against both NXT & Main Roster Talent, allowing her to slowly work her way into the new travel routines as well as continue her in-ring development behind closed doors. Keeping her away from main roster talent would be doing her fans and potential AEW fans exposing themselves to WWE content a disservice and could leave the WWE open to scrutiny, but capping said main roster talent to those that don’t come under the ‘dream match’ bracket just yet, as those matches would come after the completion of her NXT Championship run and story, as well as ensuring that they don’t devalue the entire WWE Main Roster by having Jade mow through them all in her first year. She of course would also feature on NXT on a weekly basis fighting against the crop of talent that will be coming through as she continues her rise, and in so would be developing future storylines in the making.
Featuring Jade on both NXT & the main roster after an appropriate amount of time transitioning her into her new professional wrestling home will allow her enough of a foundation to continue growing as a talent in a similar manner to that of Dominik Mysterio, who is also currently performing on a schedule similar to this as he carries the NXT North American Championship whilst becoming a breakout heat magnet for the main roster’s Judgement Day faction. From his first in-ring appearances as an adult during Rey Mysterio’s feud withs Brock Lesnar, Samoa Joe and eventually seeing competition during the Mysterio’s rivalry with Seth Rollins & Buddy Murphy (now Buddy Matthews of AEW), through constant hard work both on the main roster and at the Performance Center, Dominik’s growth as a character as well as his body of work speaks for itself, and could provide a good insight as to how to approach a new talent that the machine can strap it’s next figurative rocket to.