SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Since its inception AEW has successfully mined the independent scene in order to fill its ranks meaning true company originals are a rarity. One such original is Floridian native Jade Cargill. A former college-level basketball player and Social Sciences graduate from Jacksonville University, Cargill attended a tryout at the WWE Performance Centre, but she wasn’t signed.
Not to be dissuaded, and with the encouragement of AEW’s Mark Henry, Cargill pursued her ambition and caught the eye of AEW in 2020. With an standout athletic build, a distinctive look, and glaring confidence, Jade was a can’t-miss prospect for All Elite before she ever stepped between the ropes.
Tony Khan displayed his confidence in Cargill by featuring her in a high profile celebrity tag in her debut match. Very few non-celebrity wrestlers have debuted in such a setting and teaming Cargill with Shaquille O’Neal opposite company EVP Cody Rhodes was a definitive signal of intent. Cargill was the surprise standout of the match and although inexperienced showed an obvious X factor.
Positioned as a heel due to her confident persona, Cargill was aligned with legal counsel Mark Sterling. She then entered a tournament for the debuting TBS Title, a championship seemingly created especially to reward Cargill’s rising star. Blitzing through the competition, Jade would defeat Ruby Soho in the final. As of writing Cargill remains the only TBS Champion and is on a two-year undefeated streak since her singles debut.
Mark Sterling’s services would be dispensed of before a short alignment with the debuting Stokely Hathaway (an association with dissolved without any explanation). Cargill would also form her own stable nicknamed “The Baddies” who acted as subservient mean girls to the alpha TBS Champ.
Challengers have ranged from Athena, Willow Nightingale, Skye Blue, Keira Hogan, and Red Velvet but none have been able to unseat the champion.
Although hugely talented and distinctively featured, Cargill has had very little in terms of narrative substance. Drifting aimlessly on Rampage (with the rare appearance on flagship show Dynamite), Cargill’s sole story has been her winning streak. The dissolution of her stable gleaned little fan interest due to the complete lack of focus. Her title defenses feel predictable as Cargill never mixes with the women whom have been featured as top tier on Dynamite.
To rejuvenate the potential headliner AEW have to break Cargill out of her TBS Title malaise. One way to break the monotony would be to align Jade with the AEW originals, Brit Baker and Jamie Hayter, against the Outcasts. This would even the odds and finally insert her into a Dynamite women’s program plus provide fresh matches opposite Toni Storm and Saraya. Another option is the potential Forbidden Door 2. With Mercedes Moné as current NJPW Women’s Champion, a clash opposite Jade Cargill would be a dream match for some and a huge hook for PPV buys.
AEW has to be extremely careful with the foreseeable booking of Jade Cargill. She is tailor-made for WWE and, if Cargill continues to drift, overtures from WWE may follow. AEW currently needs stars who appeal to the mainstream and Cargill is one such figure. The TBS Title and a winning streak have taken her so far, now it’s time to unleash her obvious potential more prominently.
Brothers Darius & Dante Martin debuted in 2016 and journeyed the independent wrestling scene, with stops at notable companies AAW Wrestling, Black Label Pro, and GCW. With an eye-catching, high-flying style which recalled tag team luminaries The Hardy Boyz and Young Bucks, the Minnesota-natives had both the youth and in-ring style which appealed to a fledgling AEW.
Signed by All Elite in 2020, Top Flight joined a burgeoning tag team scene and were able to show off their highly athletic offense opposite the aforementioned Bucks and Blackpool Combat Club.
Top Flight made their Dynamite debut in November 2020 against The Young Bucks. Despite a losing effort, the Martin brothers won many plaudits as both teams showcased an exciting and innovative style. Most impressively Top Flight were able to match the Bucks move for move which led many to earmark the team as eventual successors. Unfortunately the momentum of the team was soon cut short when Darius suffered a serious ACL injury, sidelining the older brother for over a year.
In the meantime, Dante continued to develop in singles competition and was consistently featured on Dynamite and Rampage, though crucially in losing efforts. Darius would then return in March 2022 before the anguish of injury struck again. Out of action for another nine months due to a serious car accident, the Top Flight tandem would again be put on ice.
Darius would battle back once again to return in November 2022. Top Flight would then align with A.R. Fox and chase the Trios Championships held by frequent opponents The Elite. After a surprise victory over The Young Bucks, Top Flight and Fox would earn consecutive title opportunities against the Bucks & Omega, but once again fall to the more tenured team.
Top Flight are perhaps the best example of a current trend in AEW. Talented and youthful competitors featured on national television though often on the losing side of the ledger. The Martins have been defined as plucky underdog babyfaces, capable of stellar and lengthy televised matches but unable to move significantly up the card through consistent wins.
An excursion to New Japan or transfer to the ROH roster for an extended period could reset the talented tandem. Top Flight could then return to AEW refreshed and more experienced, ready for a shot at tag team gold both narratively and in the eyes of the fans.
Darius Martin has been horrifically unlucky over his All Elite career and the highly-talented team have found their momentum cut off on multiple occasions. Tell this story. Video packages charting the teams tribulations would allow the fans to know the brothers more beyond their obvious in ring talent.
Top Flight have potential and have proven their in ring credentials but need both momentum and character development to take the Minnesotan duo further than the good hands they are currently portrayed as. Injuries may have led to booking trepidation and consistent TV losses have led to fan perception of Top Flight being unable to breakthrough to the main event scene. A refresh and building credibility away from the AEW bubble could allow Top Flight to soar.
(All Elite Assessment is a new weekly feature here at PWTorch.com by Dan Allanson taking a look at a current top tier star and also someone lower on the card who may rise or fall in coming months and years.)
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