Oh, what a feeling it is to feel free and to let smile.
Willow Nightingale is the type of babyface that most promotions would dream of – she’s bubbly, bouncy, positive, and awkward in all the ways that magnetize people. She’s pastel, personified. It’s hard, maybe impossible to root against her. The chuckle and smile of confidence and exuberant energy from The Babe With the Power lets us fans sit with anticipation as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.”
When first I heard of Willow, she was still on the independent scene, being propped up by many as a talent with a positive attitude and bubbly personality, but as I was not the type to regularly check in to the indie scene yet, I was oblivious to her.
I missed out on her time in Shimmer, Ring of Honor, and Beyond Wrestling prior to 2021, but I could not go anywhere in the wrestling sphere without her name spreading into the conversation.
I think my first actual exposure was 2022’s Supercard of Honor XV as she battled for the ROH Women’s World Championship match as Nightingale faced off against Mercedes Martinez in a losing effort. Immediately I saw what drew fans to her. She’s got this quirky energy to her where it’s hard to not smile. It’s hard to not cheer for her and root for her because she’s so in love with what she does. In a world where we all want to give up, she holds this aura of getting back up, smiling off the dirt and defeat, and continuing the fight.
Then she came to AEW Dark: Elevation in 2021 against Thunder Rosa, against Red Velvet during the Owen Hart Cup, and twice against Jade Cargill, until eventually she got signed in the autumn of 2022. While she works her indie dates, she makes time for AEW and Ring of Honor, which is a higher priority. To date, she’s mostly held victories in her time under Tony Khan’s umbrella, losing to those far more established in the limelight than her, but she still hasn’t given up. She’s even lost a friend in Ruby Soho, but she’s still fighting.
In this, she’s been able to craft her own character, feeling very much like a can of Bang Energy’s Rainbow Unicorn, Blue Razz, Radical Skadattle, or Cotton Candy. Sweet to the taste, but brimming with hyperactive energy. It’s in her voice, music, the way she dances to the ring, and every pounce she makes in the ring.
It’s this ability to connect that’s seen her go across the world – notably in TJPW and DDT Pro, two Japanese promotions that cater perfectly to her style and character. Here, she would connect with the foreign audience and would leave with this experience that would come in handy later. Knowing the joshi style comes in handy for any woman getting into wrestling, and Willow received just that.
In the current women’s division scene in Ring of Honor, there lives a menace. She’s vile and angry and loves the chaos. She is Athena. She’s everything that Willow isn’t, making her the perfect foil on the February 25, 2023 episode of ROH TV in an acclaimed and hard-hitting match for the Women’s World Championship that went for almost fifteen minutes and saw Willow unsuccessful in her endeavor, despite making things harder for the former Ember Moon.
Having matches that are incredible and a must-see is grand and adds to a legacy, but it means little if there are no victories where it matters most. For the most part in her ascent, Willow hadn’t quite reached that. It would take a miracle or a tragedy to see her with gold around her waist.
That brings us to NJPW: Resurgence. on May 21st in Long Beach, California – the place where her life and career would change drastically.
In a short, four-woman tournament to contest for the newly unveiled NJPW Strong Women’s Champion, Nightingale surpassed Stardom’s own Momo Kohgo and faced off against wrestling megastar Mercedes Moné in the main event.
Through it all, Willow survived and persevered as two women gave representation, and no matter the outcome, history was to be made. The match is a fun one, and the two played off each other well, but unfortunately, Moné sustained an ankle injury that forced the match to be shortened, leaving Willow the victor. The inaugural champion, when things were riding against her and turning the hand of fate.
Willow isn’t the type to stay dwelling on it. She knows what she carries and will make her title defenses something to remember. She knows that people will consider her reign with an asterisk and she will be ready to erase that with a smile. She has to – she knows they don’t come around that often so she makes every reason to.
The Babe with the Power may not always be happy, cheerful, or positive. She faces heartache, heartbreak, and sadness in general like the rest of us. That’s what crushes us and hopes to see that optimism thrive. In a world and industry built on darkness and strife, we need that gleeful light.
We need something to be sweet, sweet like candy.