Proof they’ve actually wrestled each other before, so you can’t go “Well they’re unfamiliar with each other”.
ANATOMY OF A DISASTER: BRITT BAKER vs. ANNA JAY:
* Hey all! I got a new idea for a column after seeing this disaster of a match! No idea how many of these I’ll do but I thought it was interesting.
So this match got a lot of attention on the interwebs owing to what a disaster it was. It’s hardly the first bad match to take place on a house show but it got a LOT of people talking, in particular thanks to Britt Baker suffering from a lot of public heat lately, and this match kind of confirming a lot of the negative opinions surrounding her. Jim Cornette in particularly had a field day with this one. So what I figured I would do is recap the match, going in on what actually seems to be going wrong with it, then offering takes on how bad it really was, who’s at fault, and how things could have improved.
THE STAGE: AEW House Rules (March 18th 2023) in Troy, Ohio- a literal house show, untelevised.
Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D.: A wrestler since 2015 who slowly built up a resume (as she was a practicing dentist), getting hired quickly by AEW when it debuted. Suffered from poor performances and weak reactions at first, but caught fire with a heel character. She had a lot of pretty impressive matches as time went on to the point where even I thought she had improved a ton, but at some point the wheels came off. Perhaps the agenting got worse, Britt herself lost a step, or we were all just high on “hopium” and thought she was good because we WANTED her to be good (I’m leaning towards the latter) and ignored that she was usually being carried in the good bouts. She’s been kind of on the outs with a lot of online fans since she lost the AEW Women’s Title, as her TV performances got clumsier and clumsier and she got accused of burying a lot of talent (dissing their abilities in promos and then beating them handily), and she’s now taken a side role to Jamie Hayter, and turned babyface to boot.
Anna Jay A.S.: A pretty new wrestler, having started training in 2018 (taking a break due to injury)- trained by Glacier (yes, really) then QT Marshall. Got hired almost as soon as she debuted in AEW as a jobber despite having less than ten matches under her belt at the time- pretty much entirely thanks to her looks. To be fair, she seems to have worked pretty hard and made attempts, but is still a very green worker who needs to be carried or REALLY well-agented in matches, coming off like yet another “QT Marshall Rush Job”. A lotta male fans are infatuated with her and thus there’s a lot of the same “hopium” Britt got attached to some performances. Had a long run as a midcard babyface but no major wins, and had just turned heel to join the Jericho Appreciation Society (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jericho had the two women who got the most attention from boys online inducted into his stable). She had just gotten injured again, and this was apparently her first match back.
Both are products of the U.S. indie wrestling system, which has failed a lot of women. Some call what they do the “Diva Shuffle”- this thing where they scamper back and forth and always seem like they’re out of position. It’s something people are supposed to have trained out of them, but a lot of women are “Rush Jobs”- pushed into big roles while they’re young and pretty to the fanboys, when men have to wait quite a lot longer before they’re put in TV roles. Women are obviously just as capable as men at wrestling (look at 1990s joshi for proof of that), with some of the greatest of all time being Manami Toyota, Aja Kong & Akira Hokuto, so this is obviously a training issue.
DR. BRITT BAKER, D.M.D. vs. ANNA JAY A.S.:
* Anna’s in black and Britt’s in red & white. So it’s a literal untelevised house show with a wrestler returning from injury. Not exactly the standards for a classic. But hoo boy…
Things start harmlessly enough, with Anna winning a grapple and doing the “D.M.D.” taunt to annoy Britt, who returns fire with forearms, but almost immediately something goes wrong as Britt drops down out of an armbar and Anna loses her grip and Britt just rolls away when Anna tries to improvise something. Britt does some pinning combinations but eats a side kick for two, but gets a running neckbreaker into her taunt. They do the “house show stall” but Anna is HURT… but when they try to get her out of the ring, she does the old Bret Hart Goldbricking Routine and Russian legsweeps Britt. That was cute. Britt takes a beating and Anna taunts the fans while the ref counts… and then he actually GETS TO TEN, having to stop halfway and shoot-tell Anna to get back in the ring. “Stefan you suck! Call that ten!” cries a heckler. Britt charges but takes that “grab them and throw them face-first to the mat” thing.
Anna does a leg-stretching submission and the foot-choke in the corner for obvious showing off of the buttocks, and this is going okay until they do a slow-motion evasion spot in the corner and Anna does a slow spinkick that a stationary fan-cam is NOT kind to, getting two. Anna hits a chinlock, and then they forget the next spot and Anna flails her arm into Britt’s back. oooh, that “shit, what was the next move?” hesitation is always death. Anna does an embarrassing arm-flail run into Britt’s spinning elbow- after a breather, Britt hits some clotheslines but takes into a slap, only for Anna to end up in the same “grab them and throw them back” move, hitting the corner. Britt puts on her glove and builds her SmackDown! meter, but Anna “fights out” of the Lockjaw and hits another forearm, then VERY slowly lifts her leg so Britt can catch it and forearm her, then she hits a sling blade for two. Then they do the single worst set of reversals in history, as they have a convo, Britt spins Anna for another forearm, Anna slowly ducks under it, then grabs Britt’s arm, then SLOWLY TURNS HER AROUND, then remembers the move she’s supposed to do, taking an arm and spinning behind Britt for a backslide war, Britt winning for two.
They’re still locked together, bridging out, then get up together and do ANOTHER fight, Anna ending it with a Gory Stretch drop, landing Britt on her face for two. Anna argues with the ref over the count, so Britt comes to life and wins a forearm battle, but Anna hesitates AGAIN, ducking another shot to hit the “omnipresent AEW thrust kick”, then does the most awkward run I’ve ever seen in my life, looking like Drew Carey in the first twenty seconds of his show opening, flailing her arms as she ducks down into another thrust kick from Britt, who spins her (AGAIN?) into yet another terrible forearm, trying a suplex but Anna does a terrible Falcon Arrow-esque thing (getting no lift so it’s like a neckbreaker where Britt lands on her leg- were they going for a snap suplex and slipped?) and threads it into her Sleeperhold finisher (not flailing her head or anything like she does in the comedy spots). But Britt briefly fights, then rolls sideways so Anna releases, turns her over, and hits the Lockjaw to FINALLY end this at (10:49).
Okay, so this? This was a MESS. There are periods where it’s fine, but it’s only when they slot it down and do the “House Show Special”, leaning on each other or doing basic weardown holds. As soon as they do a pre-planned spot or start running it completely falls apart, as if they’re first-years. Anna is particularly bad for hesitating before doing things and doing these very weak, arm-flailing forearms. These look better on TV but a stationary view shows them not only coming in light as a feather, but usually missing entirely. Then you get that awful reversal spot- that has all the hallmarks of something they’d planned out beforehand but Anna lost the plot at the last second, doing another classic “shit, what was the next move again?” stop beforehand. And then it just keeps going! Like they planned out all this elaborate stuff beforehand they wanted to do and couldn’t get out of it. Britt being unathletic and unable to rein in Anna was not helping.
Rating: DUD (if I did negative stars, this would assuredly get some)
A lot of attention went to Britt looking like she had “two left feet” here, and while I was ready to dive in on it, this was pretty clearly Anna’s fault in most of the bad spots. The damning thing is Britt’s an 8-year veteran (albeit probably worked part-time at best during most of that) and should have known better than to do all these weirdly complicated spots or timed running moves with someone as bad as Anna Jay. This is the point where the veteran gets called in during a breakdown in a match to grab a hold to settle someone down, or work through a simple sequence for the next spot and get back into it. Not just hammer through your 6-8 pre-planned spots. But Anna was badly-timed, clumsy and not hitting anything right- the “hesitate trying to think of what to do” is for green rookies, not someone with 30+ TV/YouTube matches per year. And STOP WITH THE GODDAMN SPINNING MOVES ALREADY- nearly all of their issues were from trying to do elaborate spinning reversals, which neither is agile enough to do properly. It looks phony (especially with Anna’s hesitation).
Honestly, though, what this match makes clear is that Anna Jay was DRASTICALLY rushed to the spotlight, and needs a lot of work. Work that might be impossible to get while being an active TV competitor (see Cargill, Jade). She ideally should have had a LOT more seasoning before even making TV, much less actually being a pushed character. She’s got the “Diva Shuffle” bad, and appears clumsy and unready (odd for someone who trained in dancing before wrestling). A good veteran could probably rein her in, but Britt’s not in that tier.
The Fallout: This got a lot of attention online- Jim Cornette dove into it and talked about the issues, pointing out a veteran/agent watching would have said “GRAB A FUCKIN’ HOLD!”. As Anna is still not featured much on Dynamite yet (just two Rampage matches), it was pretty easily swept under the radar, but YouTube fancams are getting a lot of views and notes about how ugly the match was, and just Googling the match gets a ton of places talking about it.
Mitigating Factors: Okay, it’s a HOUSE SHOW, though. If you’re going to suck, this is where to do it. Anna is also just back from injury since January, and might be out sorts. Both were probably out there to just have an easy, slow match (it doesn’t pick up the pace until about 8 minutes in) with a few spots they figured out ahead of time. I dunno if they had an agent for this match or were just told to do their own thing, so it could be partially an agent’s fault. And fancams are a poor way to watch wrestling- the business kinda evolved to have camera-cuts cover things like whiffed strikes (Anna’s are BAD, but can be covered by cutting on “impact”). But like, any wrestler who tries super-duper hard during a house show is a doofus- nobody works that hard at house show matches, nor should they. They probably weren’t wrestling this one expecting it to be posted online from multiple angles. How fair is it to diss a house show match, really?
So that’s it for this one! Give me your thoughts on the match and criticisms and such if you have them! Also, feel free to suggest future “Anatomy of a Disaster” matches- I know I recapped Sid Vicious vs. The Nightstalker once, and that could easily be extended for something like this. And of course the “Gayda Incident”.