Lessons to be learned from Big Swole-Tony Khan controversy
Aerial Hull, known to wrestling fans as Big Swole, raised issue on a Dec. 31 podcast with the lack of structure in AEW, and that the company’s representation of the black community is not genuine.
AEW founder Tony Khan, who would have been better advised to address the matter privately, instead went public, and nuclear.
The top 2 @AEW execs are brown (me & Megha)!! Jade, Bowens, Caster, Dante, Nyla, Isiah & Marq Quen all won on tv this month. The TBS Title Tournament has been very diverse. I let Swole’s contract expire as I felt her wrestling wasn’t good enough. #AEWRampage Street Fight TONIGHT! https://t.co/NprF6I7D6G
— Tony Khan (@TonyKhan) January 1, 2022
The response from the wrestling community, predictably, has been all over the map. Khan has received the support of African American performers Will “Powerhouse” Hobbs and Jade Cargill, who last week was crowned as the company’s inaugural TBS champ, and eventually Lio Rush, after Rush initially criticized Khan and demanded that he apologize to Hull.
Hull, not surprisingly, given the tenor of the times, has been the subject of derogatory messages and even death threats over social media.
Perhaps surprisingly, in a followup podcast this week, Hull said she has yet to hear from Khan in regard to her comments, ultimately doesn’t expect to, and that she has been “disappointed” and “embarrassed” by the whole saga.
Hull, as Big Swole, was never able to get over with fans in her time in AEW, in part because of bad timing – her biggest push came in a feud with Dr. Britt Baker that played out in the summer of 2020, when shows were being taped without fans – and in part because of her health.
Hull was in and out of action a good bit in 2020 and 2021 because of issues with her ongoing battle with Crohn’s disease, a digestive tract ailment that can lead to lengthy bouts of fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition.
The defensive response from Khan notwithstanding, one can hope that he can get himself beyond feeling the need to name all his black friends and take to heart the message that Hull was trying to get across.
Cargill, a former college basketball star at Jacksonville University, has been getting an extended push to the top of the women’s division, debuting in early 2021 in a match featuring Shaquille O’Neal on her way to winning the TBS title, but other than Cargill, what other “brown” performers, to use Khan’s term, are getting that kind of treatment?
Nyla Rose, a transgender African American, had a run as the AEW women’s champ, but has been an afterthought for several months, without a consistent storyline to build off her title reign.
Sammy Guevara is the current interim TNT champ, with Cody Rhodes, who defeated Guevara for the TNT title last month, on the sidelines with COVID at the moment.
But Guevara has not yet been a player in the AEW world title picture, which has been noticeably devoid of anyone brown basically from the launch of the company in 2019, and even though the current AEW Top 5 features Scorpio Sky as the #4 contender, and Hobbs at #5, there has been no build for either toward a possible title match that would appear to be coming anytime soon.
There’s plenty of diversity to build around – The Acclaimed, Anthony Bowens and Max Caster, are the #1 contenders to the AEW tag titles, and may be poised to get a title shot in the coming weeks; Santana & Ortiz are the #3 contenders in the tag division, though they haven’t been treated as title contenders despite their pedigree.
The women’s division has Tay Conti and Thunder Rosa among its Top 5, and Rosa, whose lights-out bloodbath with Baker last spring was the match of the year in AEW in 2021, is almost certainly in line for a run with Baker for the AEW title in 2022.
And then there’s Dante Martin, a young (20) high-flyer who is getting his first mid-card push in a storyline with Ricky Starks, the FTW champ.
The only thing missing is legitimizing more of these talents akin to what Khan is doing with Cargill, which, yes, takes time, and running a pro wrestling company involves keeping tabs on a lot of moving parts.
Based on what we’ve seen to this stage from Khan, I’m thinking he’s working in that direction – and honestly, I’d be surprised when we look back at this bit of uncomfortableness involving Big Swole that we don’t look at what has transpired and say it was something that maybe sped things up for Khan in that respect.
I also hope that something good of this can come for Big Swole, like, maybe, just maybe, another chance with AEW – maybe not on TV right away, because her in-ring and mic work needs more seasoning, but down the road, it would be the right thing to do for this story to have a happy ending.
Story by Chris Graham