It’s that time of year again. As is typically the case at the culmination of a year, there are talks of which wrestler most captivated fans – either a newer wrestler having a “breakout” year, or a more seasoned competitor having arguably the best year of their career; so good that it carries them into a leading position in the debate of “wrestler of the year”. Professional wrestling is a simply ginormous industry, containing thousands of different wrestlers; dozens of different styles of wrestling and millions of fans spanning the entire globe. Therefore, fans do possess different tastes; some will prefer hardcore, “extreme” style wrestling, whereas others will prefer a more traditional, technical approach to pro wrestling. Some would rather their favorites be larger than life characters and masters of the microphone, whereas others would rather the actual wrestling does the talking. Fans might have a taste for Japanese wrestling, whereas others will prefer Mexican. Alas, wrestling – much like music – is subjective and there will be fans who disagree with this pick for the unofficial title of “wrestler of the year”, much like any pick would have fans both in favor of and against the decision. Regardless, for this writer, 2021 was the undisputed year of Dr. Britt Baker DMD. Here’s why.
— Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. (@RealBrittBaker) March 18, 2021
Britt Baker Has Become a Household Name
Flashback to January 9th, 2019. Britt Baker was announced as the first female talent to have signed with the new, upstart American pro wrestling promotion, All Elite Wrestling. Back then, we all knew that, unlike previous promotions, this one had serious financial backing. Tony Khan – as a member of the famed, Jacksonville Jaguars (and Fulham FC) owning, billionaire Khan family (and son of Shahid Khan) – was rightfully viewed as a serious owner with an astute pro wrestling knowledge, as well as personal fandom dating back decades and a near unlimited bank of financial resources to rely on. A number of high profile signings were announced for the company, from certified future WWE Hall of Fame talent, Chris Jericho, to the likes of PAC (formerly WWE’s Neville) and Cody Rhodes. When you add in Kenny Omega, who became arguably the biggest star outside of Vince McMahon‘s grasp through his work in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) who became the biggest name on the US independent circuit, you had the makings of a pretty interesting roster from the very beginning. Therefore, you’d be forgiven at the time for overlooking the announcement of Britt’s signing. After all, at this point, Britt was most commonly known for her work in a smaller independent promotion named International Wrestling Cartel (where she was a 2x IWC Women’s Champion) and a “jobber” appearance in the WWE all the way back in 2016, where she was squashed by the now former Nia Jax.
One of the absolute joys of AEW over the past two years has been the steady rise of Britt Baker. As mentioned, Britt was not a household name upon her signing with the company; she was an “investment” type signing for the promotion – someone who, though not yet a star, could absolutely become one with the right amount of backing. Her first match for the promotion came all the way back at the first Double or Nothing (2019) pay per view and saw her overcome Awesome Kong, Kylie Rae and Nyla Rose in a fatal four-way match lasting slightly over ten minutes. Despite being the least experienced and the likely least recognizable of the quartet at the time, Britt was trusted to win the match by creative and she very quickly began to establish herself as the figurehead of the AEW women’s division after this. Whilst more experienced wrestlers such as Nyla, Riho and Hikaru Shida were feuding over the AEW Women’s World Championship during that first year and a half-two years, Britt was biding her time; honing her craft and building what is perhaps the largest fan base of any of the AEW “homegrown” talent. Flash forward to the present day and Britt is a household name; someone who everyone wants to work with (it is no coincidence that CM Punk‘s now historic return promo began with an immediate reference to Britt Baker’s popularity) and the certified crown jewel, in terms of drawing power, of the women’s division. She also made 2021 her year.
She Has Embodied Professional Wrestling
If you are to speak to any Britt Baker detractor (they do exist), it is always the same criticism that the AEW women’s division simply contains “better wrestlers” more deserving of the spotlight. Whereas it might be true that Britt is not the best technical wrestler on the roster, as we mentioned in the opening paragraph: wrestling is subjective. Britt Baker, love her or hate her, embodies professional wrestling – she understands how to make the most of her talents almost as well as any other. She is very comparable to John Cena in the sense that, despite not being the “best wrestler”, she has found a way to tap into the fan base better than anyone; build and develop her own fandom to the point where every Britt Baker match feels big simply because of how over she is and how invested in her matches the fans are. This is all despite being a heel, also. She’s that good. In 2021 especially, Britt has reached new heights and is one of the undisputed most popular wrestlers on the AEW roster. With further time to develop in the coming years, she will go down as one of the all time great female professional wrestlers. She has an excellent, heel character; a very catchy and over catchphrase (altogether now: D M D) and when the eventual time comes for her to turn babyface, she is going to be one of the most popular faces in all of wrestling.
All of this has been made possible by how successful her 2021 has been – from the development of her character, to some of her big time matches. Britt’s phenomenal, Unsanctioned Lights Out Anything Goes match against Thunder Rosa, who might very well be the subject of next year’s “end of year” article, will forever be remembered as a “star making” moment for both women and showed audiences that Britt Baker is more than just a character; she’s a very good wrestler, also. In capturing the AEW Women’s World Championship from Hikaru Shida earlier in the year, Britt has drawn eyes to the championship and to a division which, throughout most of 2020, was seen as AEW’s biggest booking error as, for much of the year, the women struggled for TV time. Well, though the division could definitely benefit from some more TV time, there is no doubting that Baker’s popularity (as well as the popularity and ring work of Rosa, Riho and Jamie Hayter) and ring work is evidence that an AEW women’s division can and should be a big draw, as well as a fundamental part of weekly television.
Her 2022 is Already Set
Finally, the last part of why Britt Baker’s 2021 has been so good is because of how effective her storylines have been in creating meaningful and exciting feuds for 2022. The Thunder Rosa rematch is coming and it will be yet another example of Baker’s underrated in-ring ability – as well as a spectacle in itself, given the clear chemistry between herself and Rosa. Though Baker will likely drop the AEW Women’s World Championship to the ultra-talented Mexicana, that won’t be the end; there is plenty of story yet to play out with her faction, which contains Reba (not Rebel) and Jamie Hayter (and Tony Schiavone, to a lesser extent). That trio is going to implode next year and when it does, we have the possibility of a Hayter/Baker feud where Britt might very well become the top babyface she is almost destined to be. In Hayter, too, Britt has an excellent opponent (both in the ring and as a character) to feud with. With AEW’s affinity for longer storylines, this could take up much of Britt’s time in 2022 and provide for some excellent moments. So, between Rosa and her own stable, Britt’s 2022 is likely already planned out.
To summarize: Britt Baker has been this writer’s pick for 2021’s star of the year. Quite simply, no other wrestler (in my opinion) has grown as a worker nearly as much as Britt this year – at least on a national, televised level. Some of her matches; the development of her character; her title reign and undoubted popularity each make Britt arguably AEW’s biggest “homegrown” talent and one of the biggest names in all of professional wrestling today. In case you were unaware, Britt Baker is a dentist (has that been mentioned before?) and given her tight schedule, the doctor might not be able to see you now. One thing is certain, though: we have all seen Britt Baker in 2021 and this has been her year.
More From LWOS Pro Wrestling
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world. As well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch AEW Dynamite Wednesday nights at 8 PM ET on TNT and AEW Dark: Elevation (Monday nights) and AEW: Dark (Tuesday nights) at 7 PM ET on YouTube. AEW Rampage airs on TNT at 10 PM EST every Friday night.