June 16, 2022

Image via Jedi Jack Yeti

For four years, The Black Rasslin’ Podcast has dropped the #BRP50—which ranks the 50 Best Black professional wrestlers in the squared circle, today—on Juneteenth. While the aim has always been to shine a light on the talented Black performers in federations across the globe, we start to notice interesting trends when you examine each wrestler based on their win-loss records, the duration of the titles they’ve held, and their overall impact across the professional wrestling diaspora. Every year, there are interesting trends, and one clear trend that we noticed from May of 2021 through May of 2022, is that Black Women have been showing up, showing out, stealing the show, and helping pave the way for the future of women’s wrestling, not to mention the art of professional wrestling in general. Don’t believe me? Look no further than the EST of the WWE, current WWE Raw Women’s Champion, Bianca Belair.

Belair’s rise isn’t a fluke. We saw her early—I vaguely remember the start of the conversation, but through the haze, brother Matth called Belair, who was just starting to cook in NXT, a “superior athlete.” Then I saw her strength and agility in-ring, paired with her huge personality, and knew she was going to be a star. I don’t think I was ready for her to rise to the top so quickly—it’s rare for the WWE to book in ways that make an ornery Black dad smile—but I was glued to the TV whenever Belair’s music hit. Braid in hand, she’d command the arena, building her babyface rep while strutting into the 2022 #BRP50 calendar year as SmackDown Women’s Champion. That 133-day reign was cut short in 26 seconds, and internal conversations about this year’s #BRP50 looked specifically at where Belair would land based on whether she could win big. She won big, the queen sitting atop her throne with the Raw Women’s Championship, and could likely be one of the biggest stars the WWE has produced if they continue to keep her at the top of the card while allowing her to be as unapologetically Bianca as she wants to be.

That’s Monday night, though. Over on TBS, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) has been cultivating its own Black superstar. (Typing that felt weird as hell, but hear me out.) When we had her at a strong no. 16 on the 2021 #BRP50 list, there were some doubters. Many thought we were too early, and that she was too green. It didn’t matter; while everyone was wondering which male superstar Tony Khan was going to strap the rocket too, they slept on Jade Cargill’s rapid ascension to the top of the AEW Women’s division. Currently AEW TBS Champion—a title she’s held since January 5—she’s been on an undefeated streak, booting the competition with ease, while building up her Baddie Section, which aims to put beautiful women of all walks of life into the crowd. That gimmick led to Cargill forming a stable with Kiera Hogan and Red Velvet, which could eventually be the illest part of this entire gimmick. Jade Cargill, green as grass, dominates the competition in less than one year, and has already reached back to bring two dope performers along for the ride? That’s what you’re supposed to do.

While we are not blinded by the gold, it’s hard to neglect the championship accomplishments of Black women in professional wrestling. The situation between Sasha Banks and Naomi ended on an extremely sour note, but for a month and change, they were the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. Their energy was felt across the world—you could tell that they were having mad fun doing TikTok’s and being in their world…although in hindsight, that could have likely been due to what was lacking in their time like champs. Speaking of time as champion, Trisha Adora continues to hold that Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Wrestling Championship—a title she won BEFORE THE PANDEMIC STARTED—high. We also had women like Tasha Steelz, who made it her business to own IMPACT throughout 2021 and 2022. After lighting up the Women’s Tag division with the aforementioned Kiera Hogan as Fire ‘N Flava, Steelz set her sights on a singles competition. Steelz spent the second half of 2021 building up her singles rep, making several impressive turns in tournaments she was featured in. At the top of 2022, she won the inaugural Knockouts Ultimate X match, eventually taking the Knockouts Championship from Mickie James back in March. On top of all of that, you can feel the hunger and passion in the Brick City bomber. Steelz been ready.

Another competitor we’d say has “been ready” is the mighty Willow Nightingale, who was just starting to consistently pop up on AEW Dark ahead of the 2022 #BRP50 calendar year. Nightingale, a seasoned vet with a big smile and a mean pounce who’s everywhere, has taken on everyone over the past year; Trish Adora, Tay Conti, Joseline Navarro, Wheeler YUTA, Effy, Queen Aminata, Kimber Lee, Brandi Rhodes, Deonna Purrazzo, Taya Valkyrie, and MANY more. The key? She’s done it as Willow, a super fun, tough pro wrestler who packs a pounce and feels like she’s destined for greatness.

There are even women on the 2022 #BRP50 that seem to have been grossly underutilized and underrepresented. Take Nyla Rose, who hasn’t held AEW gold in a bit but ended up vacating the VWR Women's Championship back in January after a 224-day run. Rose ended this run with a 40-5 record, with many of her wins happening on AEW Dark. That’s impressive, no matter how you slice it; it’s a run that feels like it could have championship implications if AEW wanted to prop Rose’s impressive record up like they would the record of an Adam Cole. Maybe when they are ready to have Jade Cargill take a break for a bit.

Keep in mind, that’s almost 1,000 words without mentioning Sasha Banks dominating the early part of the 2022 Royal Rumble. Or acknowledging the come-ups of Savannah Evans and Holidead, two women who are unique and undeniably ill in the ring. Or discussing the multiple belts Marti Belle has held on to over the last year, including the NWA Women’s Tag Team Championship. Black Women? They are running this wrestling shit. And that isn’t hyperbole: the most dominant women on both major professional wrestling shows are Black. (No diss, Rousey) I’m not going to hold you, but Sasha Banks is arguably one of the best pro wrestlers walking the Earth.

Lowkey, AEW has many talented Black Women getting their reps in, consistently, while IMPACT is unafraid in letting Tasha Steelz become the star we know she will be. And in a world where Trish Adora can stomp through ROH, AEW, and anywhere else she sees fit while still rocking the Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Wrestling Championship on her waist. Amazing Black Women in professional wrestling exist and are stealing the show while walking away with the gold. Don’t trust us? Trust the stats. And follow the leaders.

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