Mercedes Mone’s expected AEW arrival should change everything for women’s division

The Post’s Joseph Staszewski brings you around the world of professional wrestling every Tuesday in his weekly column, the Post Match Angle.

The enormity of Mercedes Mone’s expected arrival in AEW can’t be understated — it is big business.

AEW has teased the debut of Mone’ — formerly Sasha Banks in WWE — with Tony Khan’s company at AEW: Big Business from TD Garden in Boston on Wednesday night (8 p.m., TBS), and let’s call it what it is.

It’s the company’s biggest free-agent signing since CM Punk and Bryan Danielson in 2021 and potentially one of the most important in its five-year history. 

There are several reasons why.

Mone’, whose real name is Mercedes Varnado, is one of the most recognizable stars in the industry thanks to her being one of the leaders of the women’s revolution in WWE, a Four Horsewoman of wrestling and a former WrestleMania main eventer. 

Those don’t come around too often, especially one with a link to a Star Wars franchise in “The Mandalorian.”

Mercedes Varnado, who wrestles as Mercedes Mone, is expected to debut in AEW on Wednesday, WireImage

The 32-year-old, returning from a serious ankle injury she suffered in May 2023, comes with a built-in and passionate fan base. Mone’ has 6.3 million Instagram followers and 2.5 million on X. To compare, AEW has 2.3 million followers on Instagram and current women’s champion Toni Storm and title challenger Deonna Purrazzo have a combined 1.1 million  AEW’s X account has just 981K followers and only Bryan Danielson’s at 4.4 million followers likely has more than Mone’ in the company on X.

Her star power, along with the large check Khan likely cut to land Mone’, and bringing in Jennifer Pepperman as vice president of content development should allow us to see just how committed AEW is to finally unlocking the potential of its women’s division.

We have seen some inklings of the increased opportunities fans have been asking for in the women’s division, whether it be some more well-developed storylines, more than one match per show and more live promo time — especially in the current angle between Storm and Purrazzo. AEW has been setting up Serena Deeb as Mone’s first opponent.

Mercedes Mone Getty Images

For far too long AEW relegated the division to the 9:30 p.m. slot on Dynamite with the extent of its storytelling being a heel attack and a babyface run-in after every match to set up the next clash and the next run-in. 

If AEW is serious about using its women’s division to expand viewership and make it feel more equal to the men, Mone’ can’t just be folded into the current structure. She needs to push through and create a new one. 

That means more layered stories, live, story-building promo segments, main-eventing shows and doing as much as she can to promote the company in the mainstream media. 

Mone’ versus Saraya, because of the link to the former Paige in WWE’s neck injury, is a story that can help hit all of those boxes if the two women are comfortable taking on that task.

AEW women’s champion Toni Storm is currently in a storyline with Deonna Purrazzo. Lee South/AEW

If all goes as planned, and Jaime Hayter and Britt Baker return, added to Purrazzo, Storm, Kris Statlander, Thunder Rosa, Mariah May, Saraya and Julia Hart, AEW’s women’s division has never been deeper or more talented. 

It’s time to unlock its full potential and Mone’ needs to be the one leading it in front of and behind the cameras. She needs to constantly be in Khan’s ear pushing for more and more opportunities for her and the rest of the roster. Her walking out of WWE showed just how determined she can be to make things happen.

Mone’ has always been a huge proponent of growing women’s wrestling and using her platform to shine a light on it. She did it in WWE and it’s one of the reasons she wrestled in New Japan and Stardom after her exit. 

Mone’ has that chance again in AEW. 

It’s a legacy moment for her and the company. Mone’ can lead her second revolution at a time when it’s put up or shut up time for AEW and how it treats its women’s division. 

Business better pick up. 

Rain Supreme

I laughed out loud in the best possible way when Kazuchika Okada completed the swerve during his debut as an official member of AEW on Wednesday. Okada, dressed in a suit, pulled Eddie Kingston by the back of his pants into a Rainmaker clothesline and gave off a cheesy grin. 

The Young Bucks announced him as a new member of The Elite after firing the injured Kenny Omega and suspending “Hangman” Adam Page for his attack on a ref at Revolution. Okada and the Bucks are good friends and if you have watched Okada on “Being The Elite” you know he has a cheesy sense of humor. Their social exclusive video after PAC returned to challenge them to a trios match on Wednesday felt like the first time the Bucks brought some of their BTE storytelling format to AEW. 

Kazuchika Okada and the Young Bucks attack Eddie Kingston. Lee South/ AEW

Okada’s performance in it shows the potential to tap into a newer side than we saw in New Japan and could set up another match with Omega when he returns from his health concerns.

The 10 Count 

Some important things to note from the closing promo on SmackDown. The Rock reiterated that he is Cody Rhodes’ and Seth Rollins’ boss and that he is going to make Rollins’ world heavyweight championship go away. It feels like Triple H has to enter this story again at some point and Rock either costs Rollins the title at WrestleMania somehow or he or Solo Sikoa challenges the champ after, if he retains. Lastly, if you are going to sell the Rock — who could still be a double agent for Rhodes — as being at odds with him to Reigns, that slap will do it. Rock went out of his way to insult Rhodes to set it up.  

The Perfect 10 still feels like Shawn Spears’ best persona. What we saw on NXT last week so far feels like a bunch of other characters we have gotten in wrestling — asking your opponent to look at or reveal their true self.

Good solid babyface moment for Bayley admitting she did wrong, that she did it for Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky, but hey, it’s backfiring on me. That adds tremendous layers to her character. It will be interesting to see what it will take for her to potentially convince Bianca Belair to help her eventually, though she may at least have Naomi by in her corner. I saw the chatter that this will set up a potential Belair heel turn. I think it will, but not until Bayley is champion and she has something truly to be mad about.

Whatever Adam Copeland has in the box he brought to Collision that spooked Christian Cage better be something darn good because their story needs it to be to keep things feeling fresh.

It was a bit of an awkward start, as the live audience didn’t seem to know what was going on, but WWE has chosen to lean into the controversial booing Maxxine Dupri received at a live event by making it part of her TV storyline. On Raw, Candice LaRae verbally berated Dupri about it mid-match and it ended up costing Dupri and Ivy Nile the win. Hopefully, fans get behind this and it makes the best out of what was a rough real-life situation.

Mariah May truly is Toni Storm’s understudy by playing the classic version of her. Let’s see if she progresses through different versions or even mimics the “Timeless” character.  

Mariah May AEW/ Ryan Loco

WWE is building Tiffany Stratton the right way. She had a strong Elimination Chamber and now wins over Naomi and Michin. At this rate and with how impressive she is she will be a babyface soon enough.

William Regal had a very intriguing return to NXT television, telling son Charlie Dempsey he will be watching how he defends the Heritage Cup. I’d have to think this won’t be the last time we see Regal, but it’s too early to tell the direction this story is going in.   

We got the first look at a full babyface Swerve Strickland, and he looked completely comfortable in the role and had the crowd firmly behind him. He took a smart tone by saying he’s let the fans down so far and did a good job verbally roasting Adam Cole.

Bryan Danielson and Will Ospreay AEW/Ryan Loco

Leave it to Becky Lynch to keep finding ways to add new layers to her character as she runs herself through some of the most grueling matches she can before facing Rhea Ripley at WrestleMania. Will there be anything left of her in Philly?

Extra: If Will Ospreay is Bryan Danielson’s last opponent as a full-time wrestler when they face off at AEW Dynasty in April, we will be seeing arguably the best wrestler in the world right now versus likely the best wrestler of his generation. Pick and choose which one of those describes those two men.

Extra, Extra: This week’s A&E doc on Scott Hall is well worth a watch.

Wrestlers of the Week

Sami Zayn and Chad Gable, WWE

Zayn may have won the gauntlet match on Raw to secure a date with Gunther for the Intercontinental championship at WrestleMania 40, pinning Gable to end the thrilling final portion of the clash. But Gable could still have a path to an even greater underdog story than the one Zayn has been writing because it appears his shoulder may not have been on the mat for the fall. The two of them added an important chapter to what could be the end of Gunther’s historic reign.

Social Media Post of the Week

Match to Watch

Samoa Joe (c.) vs. Wardlow, AEW world championship (Dynamite, Wednesday 8 p.m. TBS)

We don’t get too many legitimate AEW championship matches on free TV and it will likely determine Wardlow’s standing in the main-event scene. The big man has dubbed himself the uncrowned king and has some momentum behind him along with the Undisputed Kingdom. A Wardlow win sets up the scenario of him needing to turn over the title to Adam Cole. A loss, if clean, would give Swerve Strickland a clear path to a one-on-one match with Joe at AEW Dynasty.

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