Kris Statlander hoists the AEW TBS championship belt.

Kris Statlander hoists the AEW TBS championship belt. Credit: All Elite Wrestling

When Kris Statlander last appeared in Newsday in 2018, she was an aspiring pro wrestler looking forward to being an on-screen extra in a WWE televised event at Nassau Coliseum.

Five years later, she’s more than just an extra. She’s a champion.

“It’s a very surreal experience,” said Statlander, a West Islip native and the reigning All Elite Wrestling TBS champion, who returns to the area Wednesday to take part in AEW’s Grand Slam event at Arthur Ashe Stadium. “But, at the end of the day, it is what I’ve wanted to do. It’s my job. And I can’t think too much about it, because it’s just a little too insane to understand.”

That insanity reached a high point for Statlander, when she made a surprise return to AEW television in May after a nine-month injury hiatus, and in her first match back beat the undefeated Jade Cargill to win the TBS title—named after the cable network that hosts AEW’s flagship program, Dynamite.

Kris Statlander with the AEW TBS championship belt.

Kris Statlander with the AEW TBS championship belt. Credit: All Elite Wrestling

After losing to Statlander again last week in a title rematch, Cargill has wrapped up her run in AEW and is now rumored to be joining WWE. Wherever Cargill lands, Statlander said she expects she’ll remain “an absolute star.”

“Me being the second-ever TBS title (holder) means nothing without Jade having her undefeated streak and being an unstoppable monster,” Statlander said of wrestling’s top female free agent. “Whatever she chooses to do, I know that she’s going to do great at it. And she’s going to be a star, no matter what.”

In a media scrum following the All Out pay per view event earlier this month, AEW CEO Tony Khan said he, too, is “definitely a big fan of Jade.”

“She put together one of the most dominant runs ever,” Khan said of Cargill, who won 60 straight matches before facing Statlander. “It was very fitting that she was stopped by one of the top stars in AEW.”

Cargill’s departure is not the only one to deal a blow to AEW in recent weeks. Khan fired top star CM Punk earlier this month following a series of backstage scuffles. Although the news has dominated AEW’s headlines, Statlander wishes fans wouldn’t dwell on it.

“No matter what is going on backstage, or what people think is going on backstage, or any sort of rumor going on, my personal goal . . . is to make sure that at the end of the day, I do what I can to put on a great show. And that's all that I can do,” Statlander said. “And I wish people that like to feed into any sort of drama or rumors could just kind of look at wrestling at a surface level and just feel like this is entertainment . . . I wish that some people would just not care so much about other stuff that doesn't matter when it comes to the overall product.”

Punk’s falling out with AEW followed several philosophical clashes between the wrestling veteran and younger members of the locker room. Without specifically weighing in on Punk’s situation, Statlander acknowledged that some wrestlers from her generation “don’t always see that sometimes people are just trying to help.”

“Sometimes with us being younger and stupid . . . they don’t always make the best decisions,” Statlander said. “Everybody’s going to have their own way to go about these things. For me, personally, I will welcome any advice from anyone that takes the time out of their day to help me out.”

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