McGuire’s Mondays: What’s next for Jade Cargill after departing AEW for WWE?

By Colin McGuire, Staffer (@McGMondays)

If The World Wide Internet is to be believed, Jade Cargill is WWE bound (and if The World Wide Internet is wrong, you might as well stop reading right now because everything I’m about to say will be moot). In a move that felt like it kind of/sort of came out of nowhere, Cargill finished up in AEW with the latest episode of Rampage, losing for the second time – this one not in a flukey fashion – to Kris Statlander, who also doubles as the only person to ever beat Cargill in AEW.

It seems like it was only a week and a half ago that Cargill said this of AEW Head Master Tony Khan:

“He’s a phenomenal boss. I can literally hit him up now and he’d probably hit me back up in three minutes. This is a man who has four companies, a professional soccer team, Jacksonville Jaguars, he’s busy. But he literally comes to every show. He’s so passionate, he loves our company. There’s no other place I’d want to be. He doesn’t look at me as a number, he looks at me like a human being. He knows my journey and understands my purpose in the wrestling community and what I want to achieve and I don’t think you can beat that.”

Oh, wait. It actually was a week and a half ago when she said that.

Pro wrestling, friends. There’s nothing like it.

Anyway, Cargill should be commended for making sure there was no doubt surrounding Statlander’s reign as TBS Champion. The way she did business, as the vets might say, was the right way. Finish up with the company, but only after making sure that the next person in line is set up to be viewed as a worthy title-holder. Cargill had perhaps the most remarkable run of any champion in AEW, no matter the gender, so the credibility she built up for herself through the months had to be passed to someone, somewhere. Her undefeated streak was real. The company booked her to be an absolute monster. She was presented as a star. She handled herself like a star. She became a pro wrestling star. That doesn’t happen overnight and it also doesn’t happen without some important nurturing from the AEW team that was around her. Cargill’s rise in AEW, in my mind, is one of the company’s most impressive successes in its short history.

And now, she’s gone. Cue the music.

For all the fanfare that is dissected, regurgitated, analyzed, ridiculed, celebrated, and debated when it comes to WWE folk heading across the aisle to AEW Land, this is the first time that the favor must be returned. Yes, I know Cody, as an EVP, was a shock to the system when he migrated from AEW to WWE. And, of course, there was William Regal, who should forever receive residuals from whatever Blackpool Combat Club merch moves off the shelves. But those guys had one thing in common: Before AEW was even a twinkle in the eye of a star somewhere in a universe one hundred trillion miles away, Rhodes and Regal were WWE people. Regal essentially had his turn anywhere he wanted to have it around the world, but Rhodes … well, Cody grew up in WWE, for both better and worse. I concede that Cody helped get AEW off the ground, but it wasn’t like we had never seen him walk down a WrestleMania ramp before he showed up to face Seth Rollins in April 2022.

As such, this is the first time it really feels like we’re going to see how someone who earned their pro wrestling stripes in AEW fares in WWE. People can debate the increasingly obnoxious title of homegrown all they want, but the truth is that save for a reported WWE tryout in 2019, all Cargill knows is what AEW (and those of the AEW ilk, like AR Fox and QT Marshall) taught her. It wasn’t even three years ago – November 2020 – when Cargill debuted on AEW TV. From there, she tagged with Shaq, won the TBS title tournament and off to the races, she went. Her matches were short, dominating and impressive. She wasn’t asked to put together 20-minute wrestling clinics with her time in the ring; she was just asked to be herself: cocky and confident, cool and collected.

Even when her star began to illuminate the AEW skies in significant ways, there were rumbles from fans and pundits alike that her presence felt more readymade for WWE than AEW. Cargill, by her own admission, is more an entertainer than she is a pro wrestler. From the beginning, it felt like the entertaining thing came naturally to her. If she could just pick up some pointers from people like, say, Bryan Danielson when it came to in-ring work, she had box office hit written all over her. But, then, hey. Wouldn’t you know it – Danielson made the leap from WWE to AEW and as reports surfaced that he helped train Cargill on show days, you could see that she’d be just fine when it came to the pro wrestling side of things.

… Or would she?

That’s what I think the biggest question is going to be as she heads to WWE. It’s probably unfair to compare Cargill to another dominating pro wrestling presence, Goldberg, but it’d be irresponsible to at least not consider the similarities. If Goldberg didn’t win his match in less than three minutes, the waters became choppier by the second. Cargill hasn’t been as vulnerable as the former WCW Heavyweight Champion was whenever she’s been asked to work a match beyond a squash, but it’s also not like she’s bullet-proof. Of her 64 matches in AEW, only five went longer than 10 minutes. One of those was the tag with Shaq (12:02) and two of those were in the tournament to win the TBS title (11:13 against Ruby Soho in the finals and 10:59 in the semifinals of the same tournament against Thunder Rosa). One was a random Rampage match against Marina Shafir (11:41). And the only other one was her final match in AEW on Friday against Statlander (10:07).

Now, let’s not get silly and think WWE will expect her to consistently work 18-minute singles matches on Smackdown every week. But let’s also not ignore the reality that since Paul Levesque (supposedly) took over creative reigns, we’ve seen less PLE matches in favor of longer PLE matches. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see the company expect her to tangle with Charlotte for 20 minutes at a Royal Rumble or something similar.

And it’s not like WWE has a reliable women’s star – like, say, a Bryan Danielson – where you are guaranteed a great match against said star, no matter who steps in the ring opposite Cargill. Charlotte Flair has the ability to be special, but that only seems to happen when she decides it’s going to happen. Rhea Ripley, of course, is an obvious dancing partner, but if you saw her outing with Raquel Rodriguez at Payback, you’d know that even she’s capable of being one half of a clunker if that’s what it’s going to be.

My point is that when it comes to the wrestling part of the pro wrestling equation (however you want to phrase it), Cargill is still a bit of a mystery. The AEW women’s division has taken its lumps over the months and that can mean two things for Cargill. One, she stood above the rest because of her sheer star power and the wrestling ability didn’t really need to matter all that much, so going to WWE could present a set of challenges that she’s never previously faced. Or two, maybe the AEW division was actually holding her down and now that she’ll have the ability to work with the most celebrated women’s wrestlers on the planet, perhaps her game will rise up in ways we’ve never seen. Having only wrestled for a little more than four years, it’s impossible to tell which scenario shakes out.

On top of that, however, seems like the more subliminal element to all of this, and it’s one element that so many people are glossing over because of Cargill’s natural star presence. That element? The “entertainment” in “sports entertainment.”

While I did earlier concede that the entertainer portion of the phrase seems to come to her easier than the wrestling part, there are a few things that shouldn’t go unnoticed. One, believe it or not, is Mark Sterling. His on-screen on-and-off relationship with Cargill mattered. When he was around, it gave her a fall man to demean (which fit perfectly for the Jade Cargill character), and it also gave her a mouthpiece. Cargill can talk – let’s give credit where credit is due – but I can’t recall a time when we were asked to watch her talk on her own. Throughout her AEW run, she was always flanked by somebody. If it wasn’t Sterling, it was Red Velvet, Kiera Hogan or any one of the Baddies (a gimmick that I thought had legs, but perhaps some decision-makers in AEW disagreed). She worked best as a leader in a group. Not only did it accentuate her presence, but it also took some of the heavy lifting off her back as someone who was still growing into the pro wrestling business.

Well, now what? Is WWE going to present her on her own? Will she be expected to merely be Big Star Jade Cargill and get that idea over without the help of a seasoned mouthpiece and a group of minions? And, most importantly, if that’s the case, does she have the ability to accomplish it? For all the success WWE has had through the decades, that company has taken more “it’s not broke, so let’s break it” approaches than most like to admit. Look at the NXT Black & Gold roster alone. People that thrived in that system were called up only to walk out in front of thousands of people in BDSM gear and be immediately dismissed (OK, so that was just Karrion Kross, but you get the point). Would WWE look to change the Cargill act significantly? Will her name suddenly become Kandy Kane or some other such nonsense?

These are questions that I think matter as much as anything else. Despite the easiest perception, Cargill’s presentation in AEW was a sum of its parts. There’s no doubt that Cargill had the biggest role in that development, but she didn’t do that on her own. She wasn’t asked to engage in a witty eight minute promo battle with someone on her own. She also wasn’t expected to put on a 20-minute mat classic. She was asked to play a very specific role and it turned out that it was a very specific role that she knew how to play very, very well. I’m sure WWE knows that, but I also hope they know that this won’t just be a plug-and-play situation. If nothing else, Cargill still classifies as a green wrestler because she’s someone who hasn’t even been doing this for five years yet. There don’t have to be smoke and mirrors, but WWE has to know they can’t just put her on an island and hope she knows how to survive … right?

It all adds up to the most intriguing back-and-forth development in talent between AEW and WWE thus far. Cody could call his shot when he went back to WWE and there were a lot of mitigating factors that played into him having that ability. Cargill is an experienced rookie and someone who hasn’t been subject to the WWE machine, for all its greatness and all its flaws. At the end of the day, my only hope is that she thrives in whatever WWE asks her to do. She’s one of the most promising up-and-coming stars in all of pro wrestling, and it’d be a shame to see that company try a few things out over six months, decide it’s not worth it and relegate her to Main Event tapings. Not only would that be a waste of pure star-attraction, but it’d also shut the door on such a massive amount of potential that WWE would have to be sued for malpractice if it decided not to see all that potential through.

As for now, we wait, we see and we hope for the best. Until then, all that’s left to do is … ahem … cut the shit.


Readers Comments (2)

  1. Well there’s one guarantee of what will “happen” if she goes to WWE. The WWE marks who bashed her will suddenly begin saying how amazing she is. Never fails. Some may even now say she just wasn’t used right in AEW to cover the fact they now have to fawn over her.

  2. I am going to reiterate what I said when I first heard the news. All I want for Christmas is a Jade Cargill vs Nia Jax match on live TV.

    On a more serious note, I think this is the right move for all concerned. She is not going to be asked to do much wrestling on WWE television because there is hardly any wrestling on their shows to begin with, and the Performance Center will be good for her.

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