Over the past two weeks, the AEW Women’s Eliminator Tournament segments have been ratings winners for Dynamite. In successive episodes, both women’s matches earned the highest-rated segment on each show, which is surprising, as women’s division segments have traditionally been some of Dynamite’s lowest rated portions of the show.
After months of backlash on social media about the company’s treatment and positioning of the division, the company announced the tournament. The event would occur in two venues, one in Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Fla., where Dynamite is taped, and one at the Ice Ribbon wrestling dojo in Saitama, Japan. Again, to the dismay of some fans, the Japanese side on the bracket has only streamed on YouTube, while only a select portion of the AEW-side has been shown on Dynamite. Going into the tournament, the company clearly saw this as an experiment aimed at hardcore fans and must have seen the rating success as an unexpected bonus.
Coming on the heels of the ratings victories, AEW announced that the Japanese side’s finals and the final US semif-inal match would be part of a Bleacher Report Special on Sunday. It led to confusion among fans who debated about whether or not the special would be aired on Bleacher Report proper or B/R Live, AEW’s primary host for pay-per-view events.
Some fans also questioned the logic of having to follow the tournament across three separate platforms. AEW did little to alleviate confusion in the days leading up to the event, hardly promoting the special heading into the weekend. When information came out that the special would stream on both Bleacher Report and B/R Live, it was almost too late. Confusion grew when the event started, and it became apparent that Bleacher Report would not be streaming the event outside the States.
I’m sorry people had issues @BleacherReport’s international stream. I was promised multiple times by our partner that the Eliminator matches would stream in real time for free for all international fans. Since that’s not the case, I’ve just put the matches up for free on YouTube.
— Tony Khan (@TonyKhan) March 1, 2021
An apologetic Tony Kahn took to Twitter to and announce that tonight’s matches had already been uploaded to YouTube.
As for the event itself, the Japanese side began with a trios match. AEW Women’s World Champion (and tournament director), Hikaru Shida, Gatoh Move champion Mei Sugura, and Rain Kadoakura, co-holder of the WAVE Tag Team titles, defeated Emi Sakura, Veny, and internet sensation, Maki Ito, in a fast-paced and exciting tag match. Veny, in particular, showed off a crispness and precision that could lead to further appearances with the company.
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) March 1, 2021
Ryo Mizunami scored what many would consider her third straight upset of the tournament in the finals on the Japanese side of the bracket, defeating Yuka Sakazaki. “The Magical Girl” Sakazaki had been a familiar face to AEW fans from back at 2019’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view. Sakazaki and Aja Kong were actually favorites to win that side of the bracket early on, but both fell to Mizunami, who heads to the States to meet the winner of the opposite side of the bracket.
In what many would also consider another upset, former NWA Women’s Champion Thunder Rosa defeated inaugural AEW World Women’s Champion, Riho. Many believed this match had a foregone conclusion, with Riho moving into the finals to face Shida at Revolution next week.
Rosa’s win was particularly interesting, as the entire NWA video library was removed from YouTube over the weekend; a new deal for William Corgan’s company is expected to be announced soon.
Mizunami and Thunder Rosa will compete for the right to challenge Hikaru Shida for the AEW Women’s title at Revolution which airs live next Sunday on both traditional pay-per-view as well as B/R Live.