Five Hot Takes From The Week In Wrestling: What We Wish Had Happened & More (2/15/2024)

Welcome back to another edition of Wrestling Inc.'s weekly hot takes column, where we fire off the spiciest opinions we can come up with about what we wish had happened over the past week, and what we want to see happen in the future! We're running the full gamut of topics this week, from the Elimination Chamber card and token women in stables to Adam Page heel turns and Austin Theory. As always, your capacity for this specific variety of opinion capsaicin may vary, and we want to hear all about what you think of these takes in the comments.


And now, our hottest takes from the week beginning Friday, February 9, and ending Thursday, February 15!

Mariah May should dethrone Toni Storm

Now, I know what you're probably thinking — Mercedes Mone should be the "final boss" in Toni Storm's reign — but hear me out.

At AEW Revolution, Toni Storm is scheduled to defend her AEW Women's Championship against "The Virtuosa" Deonna Purrazzo. Given the events of recent months, it is likely that the ever-loyal Mariah May will intervene in some capacity and aid Storm to victory. Ten days later, AEW will head to the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts — the sight of Mone's reported AEW debut. And while many fans (including myself) are excited to see "The CEO" take over the AEW women's division, she doesn't necessarily have to seek out championship gold right away.


With Mone's stock being arguably at an all-time high, there's no doubt that fans will be invested in her both with and without a title. As such, it seems reasonable for AEW to integrate Mone into the product through a non-title feud, and thus, allow the ongoing story between Toni Storm and Mariah May to fully play out.

Last month, AEW President Tony Khan shared some of the inspirations behind Toni Storm's "Timeless" persona, equating it to old Hollywood starlets such as Gloria Swanson and Bette Davis. Davis, of course, famously portrayed the established Broadway star Margo Channing in 1950's "All About Eve." This particular film follows the story of Channing as she comes across an eager, young fan named Eve Harrington. Seemingly working to earn a place in Channing's good graces, it is later revealed that Harrington is actually on a quest to replace Channing at the top of the celebrity hierarchy. Harrington's mission is ultimately successful, as she pushes Channing out of the spotlight, and steps into it herself.


Based on their current direction, it is clear that Storm's character resembles that of Margo Channing, while May's is reminiscent of Harrington. Therefore, much like the story of "All About Eve," AEW should soon be all about Mariah May. To do that, Mariah May must dethrone Toni Storm.

Written by Ella Jay

Austin Theory needs a reboot

I was never big on any incarnation of the Austin Theory character from the get-go, but there's no discounting his athleticism, his physique, and his potential to be a top level superstar in WWE. The latter is the problem for me, however, as I'm just not seeing progress. Theory's accolades are fleeting, with a pair of United States Championship runs that didn't move the needle and an unsuccessful Money In the Bank cash-in attempt. And then there are the character changes, from his time in The Way on "NXT" to an association with Mr. McMahon that we are gonna go ahead and just skip right over for various reasons, through to today where he tags along with Grayson Waller in a sometimes tag team with possibly the worst name this side of AEW in "A-Town Down Under."


Drastic action is in order here.

First and foremost, whatever else is to be done, they need to get Theory away from Waller, who is everything Theory was purported to be and more. Where Theory needles, Waller intelligently annoys. As Theory attempts to be snarky, Waller draws belly laughs. And when Theory puts on his mean face, Waller gets down do business and gets s*** done. But I shouldn't even be comparing the two, as one of these things is not like the other and it isn't even close. Waller's a star already doing star things. Theory's just ... the other guy.

Beyond that, I just can't buy into any of what Theory is selling. The haircut, the mustache, the get-up, the pose-down — it's all just flat. He's a heel, sure (I mean, how couldn't he be?), but Theory doesn't elicit true emotion from crowds so much as he simply annoys them. And far be it from me to use terms like "go away heat" but when he hits the stage or shows up on screen, that's all I can think of.


On the positive side, as I led with, he's got the look and the tools. It's the package that just isn't working. So I think with some time away and a new presentation altogether, there's still plenty out there for him to accomplish. Where we're at today, it's just not happening.

Written by Jon Jordan

Hangman Page doesn't have it in him to be a true heel

In the current "sports entertainment" driven world of professional wrestling, wrestlers are seen as blank slates — replaceable cogs who can play babyface and heel with the flip of a switch, seemingly ignoring that some people are just simply "nice guys" and some people were born to be hated. Such is the problem with AEW's "Hangman" Adam Page and Swerve Strickland.


Page seems like an all-around good dude. He might not be my favorite wrestler, and I'm sure that — like anyone — he has personal flaws and failings, but overall he seems like a "likable" person. This makes it very hard for me to buy into the sniveling coward heel that he's portraying currently. Sure, people will likely applaud his commitment to the character and even praise some of his witty, Dril-referencing promos, but I doubt that anyone is going to ever see him as a believable heel, especially against someone as detestable as Swerve Strickland. For example, I don't see Page sinking to the depths of invading Swerve's home.

The historic implications of the first Black AEW World Champion aside, Strickland is a born heel. His snarling facial expressions, his fiendish laugh, his willingness to hang his opponent with a chain and choke them into unconsciousness — he is meant to be a supervillain, and I worry that AEW is going to neuter one of its most hateable heels in the name of proving that Page has range. Page shouldn't need "range," he should be used like the likable white meat babyface that he is, just like Swerve should be crushing babyfaces' dreams and burrowing under their skin. But as is often the case with AEW, they'd rather do things the hard way.


Written by Ross Berman

Women in male-dominated stables is not the feminism win you think it is

Before you get mad at me, let me explain. I am not calling out female members in male-dominated factions who contribute to the dynamic of the group, and I am certainly not calling out Rhea Ripley. She is doing a phenomenal job with The Judgement Day, because she is so involved with them. However, because Ripley is so good at her job, women joining male-dominated factions, only to become a token who barely does anything, is now the norm in this industry. That needs to change.


B-Fab recently made a main roster return to help Bobby Lashley and The Street Profits against The Final Testament (composed of Karrion Kross, Scarlet, and the Authors of Pain) and she now seems to be officially part of the group, accompanying them on this past Monday's "WWE Raw" for Lashley's Elimination Chamber qualifying match. While it's always great to see more women on the main roster, I can't help but wish for that to actually translate to seeing more women on the main roster. The booking of women who are entangled in these male-dominated factions has been mostly poor, with only Ripley and maybe "Michin" Mia Yim being exceptions, and not the rule. Zelina Vega and Scarlet are hardly involved in feuds of their own, and while Elektra Lopez and B-Fab may be too green on the main roster to definitively say that they're being booked poorly, the odds don't look too great for them,


When a woman is booked to be with a male-dominated faction solely because they are a woman, it reads more like tokenism than diversity. Real diversity would be putting women in these stables, yes, but letting them be actors in the stories that they're in. All of the aforementioned women are capable performers who should be given the opportunity to grow in their in-ring craft. What they are right now are sidepieces, dolls that stand next to their male counterparts and look pretty. They have no agency, and their time is wasted in these positions with no upward mobility. What will Zelina Vega do after the LWO? What will Scarlet do after The Final Testament? For these questions to not have any answers speaks volumes about how stagnant being a female valet for these masculine factions can be.

There are two options, moving forward. Wrestling promotions can give these women something to do in their factions if they want to continue having these intergender units, or they can divert their efforts away from finding women to accompany men, and just to women. If the past ten years have told us anything, it's that women's wrestling can be some of the greatest in the world. By pigeonholing female talent into empty manager roles, the women's locker room is set back.


Written by Angeline Phu

You don't need to wake up early for Elimination Chamber

There's still plenty of time for WWE to prove me wrong on this, and maybe they will, but at the moment it's hard for me to imagine caring very much about the Elimination Chamber card. With four matches already set, plus the announced Grayson Waller segment with Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins, that's probably the whole shebang outside of maybe one more undercard match. And considering how those matches are likely to play out, it's really difficult to see this as anything other than a glorified house show.


Probably the easiest match to get behind at this point is Damian Priest and Finn Balor vs. Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate for the tag titles, just because there's at least a little hope we don't know the outcome. The Judgment Day will probably win, just because after literal years of being held by wrestlers hovering around the main event picture, the tag belts feel a little bigger than the newly re-formed British Strong Style ... but they might not, you never know! Judgment Day's direction heading into WrestleMania is unclear at the moment, so there are more possibilities for the finish with this one.

The other three, however, seem pretty cut and dried. Drew McIntyre is winning the men's Elimination Chamber (he's the only person in the match who would make a ounce of sense as Rollins' opponent) and Becky Lynch is winning the women's Elimination Chamber to set up a WrestleMania match with Rhea Ripley, who will defeat Nia Jax. Is there anyone at all who believes that isn't happening after WWE prematurely blew their load on the Lynch/Ripley feud at the WrestleMania Kickoff event or whatever? Is anybody not picking those three people to win those three matches?


I've often said that predictability isn't necessarily a bad thing, but predictability isn't really the issue here. If the story between Rhea and Becky hadn't already started going into this match, most people would probably still have taken them both to win. Launching that feud before Elimination Chamber doesn't make their matches predictable — it actively makes their matches not matter at all (not the result, not the finish, not any of it) by directly showing us what comes next. As a wise man might say, that's not a prediction, it's a spoiler.

Even worse than that, though, is the fact that so far these Elimination Chamber rosters look pretty dull in terms of potential conflicts. LA Knight is in the match, but he's feuding with AJ Styles, who isn't. Bobby Lashley is in the match, but he's feuding with Karrion Kross, who isn't. The omission of Sami Zayn is frankly just insane — he's feuding with McIntyre, and if you put Logan Paul and Kevin Owens in on Friday, you would have four guys right there who all have history with each other (except maybe McIntyre and Paul). And similar problems abound in the women's chamber, where the primary avenues for character conflict so far would be Ripley vs. Liv Morgan and Lynch vs. Nia Jax. So of course, Morgan and Lynch and in the Chamber while Ripley and Jax fight for the title. It's a recipe for the wrestling equivalent of empty calories — no real drama, just a bunch of moves in a slightly variant setting.


As for Seth and Cody ... look, WWE probably thinks this is the big draw for the broader fanbase, but not having Cody, at least, wrestle a match in Perth is weak sauce. This is a card that had CM Punk and Brock Lesnar on it before Punk got hurt and Lesnar got disavowed; are you really just not going to replace any of that star power? Because I have to assume that neither Roman Reigns nor The Rock are flying to Australia for an unannounced cameo appearance in someone else's segment.

Speaking for the Americans in the audience, this PLE is airing damn early, and those of us who live in the western states would have to switch on Peacock and two or three in the morning. On a Saturday. I'm sorry, but no — not with this card, booked this way. Y'all can tell me all about it when I wake up.

Written by Miles Schneiderman