The end of every calendar year is full of people proclaiming that “Next year is going to be *my* year”. Wrestling is full of those kind of people, and that’s fine – it’s good to go into the new year with a sense of optimism – but absolutely nobody went out and grabbed 2014 by the scruff of the neck like our next selection in this series – the one and only Barbi Hayden.
No sooner was 2014 underway before Barbi Hayden was striking gold, winning the ACW Anarchy Televised Championship from Angel Blue on Jan 19th at ‘Guilty By Association’ in Austin, TX one weekend, and following that up the next weekend by defeating Kacee Carlisle in Cypress, TX to capture the NWA World Women’s Championship. Already the longtime NWA Lonestar Women’s Champion, Hayden managed to complete an unprecedented triple crown and become the talk of the wrestling world in January (and we added to that talk by having Hayden back on our ‘Fight Like A Girl’ podcast series back in January). Hayden and Carlisle’s third meeting with the gold on the line was actually the main event of the NWA Houston show, headlining over a card of guys matches – which even in these “enlightened times” is somewhat of a rarity. Kudos to them both. Despite its billing as a “World” championship, it’s fair to say that the NWA World Women’s Title hasn’t always had the highest profile or generated the biggest buzz, but with the switch from Carlisle to Hayden and the replacement of the old oversized and ugly “car door” title belt with a new classy looking streamlined belt (which was presented to Hayden on the occasion of her winning the strap), people started talking about the title like it meant something again.
In fact, one of the first things Hayden did with the title was defend it on a non-NWA affiliated show, when Women Superstars Uncensored featured an NWA World Women’s Title defence on their Mutiny show on February 8th. Although the match was not aired as part of the iPPV portion of the show (it had to be a dark match due to challenger Santana Garrett‘s recent signing with TNA and their rules about not allowing contracted talent to appear on PPV for any other promotion), it has since aired on YouTube where at the time of writing it had racked up almost 50,000 views. We’ve already talked about how Hayden’s work with WSU in the latter half of 2013 was great for her personally as it introduced her to a whole new worldwide fanbase, and now here was the NWA World Women’s Championship belt itself being acknowledged and treated as something important on a bigger stage too. Truth be told, the match isn’t much other than a showcase of Hayden – it’s fairly short and one-sided, but it does what it needs to do – and both Hayden and the NWA get a nice rub.
She’s defended it all over the place too, making shots in San Antonio for NWA Branded Outlaw Wrestling (defeating Kat Green), Inspire Pro Wrestling in Austin (defeating Portia Perez), and returning to NWA Houston (to defeat Miss Diss Lexia) and WSU in New Jersey (defeating Nevaeh – this time on the iPPV portion of Queen and King of the Ring). She’s been defending her Anarchy Televised Title too, against Athena and Paige Turner in a three-way at ‘An Absence of Law’ in February, and against Athena at ‘Nothing Is As Real As A Dream: A Wrestling Prom’ in an evening gown match and shows no sign of letting go of either.
One NWA World Women’s title defence that should have happened was on WrestleMania weekend when Barbi was scheduled to make a defence of the title against TNA’s Angelina Love on the Mid-South Legends Fanfest in Chalmette, LA. Airport issues including apparently unhelpful airport staff and the subsequent unavailability of flights meant that the champ went home and the wrestling went on without her. It was doubly annoying for the fans, because that weekend should’ve been the debut of Hayden in SHIMMER Women Athletes (Vol 62 was airing live on iPPV the day before WrestleMania). It was a one-shot deal on that weekend due to Hayden’s relative geographical closeness to the show, but it’s fairly clear to see how a good performance and a good buzz from the fanbase would make it likely that she’d have been back on a future Berwyn taping – but missing out on this weekend probably didn’t help her cause. Still, the cream always rises to the top, and we can only hope that the stars align to make that possible on an upcoming taping. For now though, that weekend remains the only disappointment on an otherwise outstanding half year.
Of course, the thing that remains so fantastic about Hayden is simply how watchable she is in the ring. How she *gets* it. When discussing her recently on the site, we remarked “Hayden is in many ways a modern day interpretation of the classic NWA style of grappler, understanding that “working” means more than just doing moves, and making every facial reaction, every small movement and every break in the action mean just as much as any manoeuvre.” – and that’s another reason why she’s on this list.
Barbi’s made no secret of her long term career goal to work for WWE, and while we can only hope that this happens some day – if we had one short term hope for Miss Hayden, it’d be that she continues to travel outside Texas and continues to actively seek bookings that will both give her more exposure and experience. At the age of 23 years old, she’s not even close to the finished product yet, and she has every chance and every tool to become one of the biggest names in women’s wrestling today. If and when she achieves that potential, people can look back at 2014 as the start of that rise.