When All Elite Wrestling’s Julia Hart isn’t wrestling singles matches for AEW’s women’s division on their YouTube series AEW Dark Elevation, she can be seen on the main roster as one third of the stable the Varsity Blondes. Accompanying Brian Pillman, Jr and Griff Garrison, Hart completes the pep rally inspired babyface outfit as the literal cheerleader of the group. On December 8 2021’s episode of AEW: Dynamite, the lighthearted, highflying Varsity Blondes had an unexpected run in with the dark side. When Malakai Black attacked, he spit his signature black venom in Hart’s eye. Her character has slowly, subtly been changing ever since.
Malakai Black’s Reign of Terror
Black, then known as Aleister Black, was released from World Wrestling Entertainment in summer 2021. His release was stunning, given that WWE had heavily teased Black’s latest character with a series of vignettes, and he had just kicked off a feud with Big E. Shortly after the release, Black made his AEW debut as Malakai Black, and began a feud with Cody Rhodes. AEW gave Black the stage that WWE had denied him. His supernaturally tinged character became known for his decaying face and black venom attacks. Black’s promo segments unspool his character’s mission and philosophy. Eventually, he assembled the House of Black stable, which as of now consists of Brody King and Buddy Matthews. After the December attack, the feud with the Varsity Blondes has been a slow-burning progression. Julia Hart is at its center.
Hart and Garrison usually play the role of supportive teammates and friends while Pillman Jr. takes the lead with inspirational, spirited babyface promos. However, in these segments Hart’s transformation has become more and more apparent over the last five months. First, she began sporting an eye patch over the eye in which Black spat venom. Although at first she seemed to be cheerfully recovering, her behavior gradually became more and more despondent, and even aggressive. She shows disdain and indifference to Garrison’s and Pillman, Jr.’s words during promo segments and actions during matches. Hart has become the anti-cheerleader. She even sometimes sports dark clothing, standing out from her comrades’ varsity gear.
Credit goes to Hart for how subtle and effective her performance has been. WWE explored similar territory throughout 2020-2022, when Alexa Bliss began to take on traits of Bray Wyatt’s demonic persona ‘The Fiend’ and morphed into a Gothic heel character with an infantile but sinister personality. That gimmick received mixed reviews. Hart emotes the changes within her in a convincing, cerebral manner that will only serve the storyline even more as the tension between the Varsity Blondes and the House of Black is coming to a breaking point.
Close to the Edge
As Hart goes darker, suspense builds on just when she will fully turn heel and join the House of Black. She came close to the edge on May 4’s episode of Dynamite. Pillman Jr. called out the House of Black for what they had done to Hart. The House of Black stormed the scene, and attacked the Varsity Blondes. Black and Matthews tried to command Hart into attacking Garrison with a steel chair. Still not fully corrupted, she resisted. Death Triangle entered the scene, and joined the fray.
Hart’s soul, it seems, still hangs in the balance between good and evil. When she finally makes her choice, chances are it will ignite a full fledged war of wills between House of Black and the Varsity Blondes. The suspense of the storyline, driven by Hart’s subtle but powerful performance, make the wait worthwhile.
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