AEW set the wrestling world on fire this past Friday night with CM Punk’s long-awaited return to the ring. The Chicago native and straight-edge star had been away from wrestling for over seven years after an ugly break-up with WWE, and many assumed he would never return to the ring. His return at the United Center has already drawn nearly five million views on YouTube and is yet another point in favor of All Elite Wrestling being the best in the world of professional wrestling.
Punk will make his second appearance for AEW this Wednesday at Panther Arena for the 100th episode of AEW Dynamite. The show, originally scheduled for April of last year, was already set for a strong debut in the city long before the announcement of CM Punk. AEW was started by Jaguars and Fulham FC owner Tony Khan along with the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and Cody Rhodes in Executive Vice President roles. What originally started as the stars of the independents (plus Chris Jericho) going big time has since morphed into something much more than almost anyone could have anticipated.
AEW has become a place where wrestlers can truly become stars. The homegrown wrestlers like Darby Allin, Hangman Adam Page, and MJF are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the star making machine. When looking at AEW’s roster, you’ll find everything from the independent stalwarts-turned-mainstream heroes like Eddie Kingston and Thunder Rosa, to the WWE outcasts doing the best work of their career like Jon Moxley, Miro, Tay Conti, and so many more; to the future of the business like Jungle Boy, Sammy Guevara, and Jade Cargill that are developing right in front of the audience.
There is no greater example of the star making success of AEW than Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. Baker set out with the rather unique goal of becoming a dentist and a wrestler. She accomplished the former and is now practicing in the Orlando area, but when it came to the latter, it was only because of AEW that she was able to reach her own lofty expectations.
Milwaukee Record spoke with Dr. Baker ahead of this Wednesday’s Dynamite to talk about her Pittsburgh homecoming, her relationship with Jamie Hayter, returning to Milwaukee as a major star, and what to expect from AEW’s Milwaukee debut.
Milwaukee Record: I checked out your Parts Unknown episode this week. When you were on that show a few years back, Anthony Bourdain called professional wrestling a “cathartic emotional experience.” Between returning home to Pittsburgh, going back to your college, throwing out the first pitch, and everything else: How much would you say that your return to Pittsburgh was a cathartic emotional experience for you?
Dr. Britt Baker, DMD: Oh man, it was like, it was all over the place as far as an emotional roller coaster goes because being back in the halls of the dental school there was so many times where, not only did people question me—saying, “how are you going to be able to be a wrestler and a dentist?—I started to question myself a couple of times. So to be back in those halls and this time I’m there with the women’s championship title around my waist, it was such a cool feeling. Being in PNC Park, where I used to go to the baseball games all the time as a kid with my mom and dad, and this time I’m the one on the field. Growing up a Pittsburgh sports fan where I was always buying tickets to see my favorite athletes. This time, you know, for Rampage Pittsburgh was almost sold out and they were buying tickets to see me. So it was a very full circle moment and one of the best weeks of my life, for sure.
MR: Not only did you end up main event-ing the first Rampage show, but you also ended up being in the highest-rated segment of the show in the key demo. Is this just bragging rights backstage for you at this point?
BB: Well, that’s definitely not the first time where I’ve had the highest-rated segment. I’ve been doing very well recently, ever since I became champion. We all kind of poke fun at each other, “I had the highest this, I had the highest that,” but it’s all in good fun because at the end of the day we want the whole show to do well. So it doesn’t matter who has the highest rating this week or next week. As long as we’re all doing well, then AEW is doing well.
MR: You finished out the Pittsburgh show with the return of Jamie Hayter to AEW. On Dynamite, she mentioned your past. I know that your only trip to England you wrestled her on EVE. Was there something you saw in her back then that made her right for this role with you?
BB: Yeah, so when I wrestled her in England, right away we just clicked and I thought she was a fantastic wrestler. She has a really cool, edgy personality. We’re kind of similar too in our dry, sarcastic humor and we just really clicked. We really got along. They were using her pretty frequently for awhile for AEW, but then with the pandemic, the travel ban, of course, everything kind of was at a standstill. But then when stuff is opening up again, you know, I was kinda nudging Kenny and Tony like “Hey, remember Jamie Hayter? Remember Jamie Hayter?” Because she’s such a fantastic talent and everybody here—literally every single person in AEW—agrees that she’s fantastic and we need her here.
MR: She’s going to re-debut on the Milwaukee Dynamite. This will be your second time in Milwaukee, the first time you were at Zelo Pro at Turner Hall. It’s AEW’s first time in a new city, but you’ve been here before on the independent scene. Do you like debuting and like the seeing a city from the other side kind of thing?
BB: I almost even forgot about being in Milwaukee, but then you mentioned that. When I was there, it was such a fun show. It was actually a little bar-type venue, but the crowd was so electric. When you have a really passionate indie fan base, it makes those fans that much better because they appreciate pro wrestling at the bottom. So when their favorite wrestlers get to the top, they’re even that much more energetic. That’s kind of what you saw in Pittsburgh. Like Pittsburgh, that crowd had seen a lot of us wrestlers from when we were wrestling in Pittsburgh, like, in the tiny little fire halls, but when they see us on the big stage, that’s why they’re that electric. For us, it’s contagious. We love to come back to these towns where we got to visit on a smaller stage because it makes it that much sweeter when it’s the bigger stage.
MR: There’s always a lot to do in Milwaukee in the summer. We’ve got Summerfest, a lot of outdoor festivals, so let’s say hypothetically there is someone reading this that might still be on the fence about this show and whether or not they should come, what would you want to say to them?
BB: I would say just watch any clip you can find of an AEW show because at any given moment that crowd is full of smiles. They’re screaming their lungs out. They’re chanting. The crowd has so much fun. I’ve talked to so many people who said that AEW was the first wrestling show they’ve ever been to and they said it’s addicting because the energy is so contagious. It’s like a drug; you want to come back for more. It’s so much fun. Everybody in that building is having fun. Even the guys holding the cameras when they get to the back they’re telling us “Man, this city was great. That was a blast.” The energy in the building is something you can’t describe, you have to feel it.
MR: Before I let you go, I have to ask this. Cody was on a media call recently and he said he wants AEW to do a stadium show in Milwaukee where the Brewers play at the former Miller Park. Now, I know you have some sway with Tony Khan. What can you do to make this happen for us?
BB: I think we’re all just kind of chomping at the bit to get a giant stadium show, too. We’re doing Arthur Ashe stadium and we’re going to want more and more and more because we love our fans. We want to pack as many of them into a stadium as possible as long as it’s safe, post-pandemic. We want to be with everybody, and I think the fans feel the same way too. I think they’re ready for a stadium show here, too.
— UWM Panther Arena (@UWMPantherArena) August 16, 2021