The match that made Britt Baker an icon wasn’t televised live, so Baker had time to warn her parents. She knew they’d be worried. She knew how it would look. “She calls me the next day,” her father, Sam Baker, remembers, “and she says, ‘Dad, I’m OK.’ I said, What do you mean you’re OK? And she says, ‘Just know that when you and Mom watch it, I’m fine.’”

A week later, when the All Elite Wrestling St. Patrick’s Day Slam aired on TNT, Sam and Mary Ann Baker understood. It was the blood, mostly, streaming down their daughter’s face from a gash on her forehead, caused by one of the various implements—a ladder, folding chairs, a table, her opponent’s knees—with which she’d been bludgeoned, or onto which she’d been dropped. Also, there were thumbtacks; Baker herself had dumped a bag full of gleaming silver tacks in the center of the ring, only to be slammed—power-bombed, specifically—onto them late in the match.

“When we finally watched it … oh, my lord,” Mary Ann Baker says. “She and Sam both told me it was fake, but they were trying to cover. I was like, That was real!”


Britt Baker bloodied from her 2021 match with Thunder Rosa, courtesy
SEEING RED: She lost the match, but the March 2021 battle with rival Thunder Rosa that left her bloody won Baker respect among wrestling fans. Courtesy.


You can find clips online of the March 2021 “Unsanctioned Lights Out Match” between Baker—billed in both of her professional lives as Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D.—and her opponent, Thunder Rosa; it immediately became one of the most highly regarded women’s events in professional wrestling history. The match also broke ground: It was the rare televised women’s match to feature such gruesome (and yes, real) bloodletting, and, as the main event on that night’s broadcast of AEW Dynamite, the first women’s match to take top billing in the brief history of All Elite Wrestling (AEW), the well-funded upstart challenging the established power, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), for industry dominance.

Baker ’13 H&HD was the first female wrestler signed to AEW when the company launched in early 2019, but it wasn’t until that match two years later that she felt she’d arrived. “I think that’s the moment I gained respect,” she says. “It was such a spectacle, and it was so shocking, but it was also a really good match, and people respected it. After that, people knew—she’s serious, and she is super passionate about professional wrestling.”


Britt Baker head kicking an opponent in the ring, courtesy
JUST FOR KICKS: After years on the indie wrestling circuit, Baker made the jump to the big crowds and live TV cameras of All Elite Wrestling. Courtesy.


She is also a real, actual, licensed and practicing doctor of dental medicine, one who manages to see patients at her Florida practice two or three days a week. There is no likely path to pro wrestling stardom, but of all the possible roads one might take to success, surely the one that begins with simultaneous matriculation at a well-regarded wrestling training academy and an accredited dental school is the least traveled. Baker has lost track of how many times she’s heard the obvious questions—How did you manage that?, and also, …Why?—and her answers tend to boil down to some variation of what she volunteers is a defining character trait. “I’m very stubborn,” she says. “I’ve had people every day of my life telling me I wasn’t going to be able to do both—two Plan A careers, instead of a Plan A and a Plan B. But I have two things I want to do, so I’m just going to do two things.”

The demands on her time and her body may well determine how long Baker can manage both. For now, she’s willing to endure the weekly air travel, the nagging back pain, and the occasional broken nose or black eye, because she’s stubborn, and because she loves what she does. If that’s hard to understand, you probably haven’t walked into an arena full of fans cheering your entrance and chanting the initials signifying your professional designation: D! M! D!


Britt Baker grew up in Punxsutawney, Pa., the older of Sam and Mary Ann’s two kids. Her dad is an executive with a health care company, and her mom teaches first grade; Britt’s younger brother, Dane ’16 Sci, is a surgical resident practicing in Michigan. She describes a happy and active small-town childhood, where “everybody knows everyone and there really wasn’t a lot going on, so pretty much everybody played sports.” For Britt, that meant “riding bikes and getting our hands dirty and getting into trouble” when she was younger, and playing basketball and running track when she was in middle and high school.

Mary Ann remembers her daughter as “very free-spirited, independent, a very strong personality, and always busy.” She did well in school, and Sam says he thought his daughter might one day pursue a legal career. “She was always an achiever,” he says. “A go-getter.” There was every reason to believe Baker would do well in her chosen field, whatever field she ultimately chose.

But, no, no one thought she’d end up doing this.

“I will tell you, in basketball I was always the one in foul trouble,” Baker says with a laugh. “So we should’ve seen that I had a future in professional wrestling—I was roughing people up at an early age.”

She chose Penn State for college in part because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. She was planning to pursue a career in health care but wasn’t sure which field, and so a big school with an array of academic offerings made sense. “I figured I could take any left or right turn I wanted as long as I had that basic education,” Baker says. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I’d have options.”

It took two years—and a firm nudge from her father, who reminded her that she’d need to pick a career path if she was going to pay off her student loans—before Baker got serious. In the summer after her sophomore year, she started job shadowing back in Punxsutawney, including a stint with her hometown dentist. “I fell in love with it,” she says. “It’s super science-heavy, but there’s also a lot of art to it. You need to be able to think on your feet and be good with your hands, and that’s something I thought I would be really good at.”

A visit to the academic advising office threatened to derail that plan; instead, it helped confirm her new career path. Back on campus for her junior year, Baker told her adviser she was interested in dental school. Her adviser pulled up her academic record, saw a sub-3.0 GPA, and suggested Baker consider more realistic options. “It made me so mad,” she says, “but I’m so thankful she said that. Because it lit a fuse.” Her signature stubbornness engaged, Baker dedicated herself to her classwork; by the time she graduated in 2013, she says, “I had my pick of dental schools. But I needed that kick in the ass. I didn’t even know my own potential at the time.”


Britt Baker childhood photos, courtesy
PATH TO STARDOM: The "free-spirited" kid from Punxsutawney has gone from THON dancer to dental school grad to world champ and half of one of pro wrestling's best-known couples. Photos courtesy.

Britt Baker Penn State photos, courtesy


Even as she salvaged a bumpy start to her academic career, Baker still made the most of her time at University Park. She worked as a fitness instructor at the White Building, tailgated for Nittany Lion football games, and built a thriving social circle that included Raya Pinsky ’13 H&HD. They were sitting next to each other in a freshman-year class in Thomas Building when Baker initiated a conversation. “She was always really outgoing, and it was just an immediate connection,” says Pinsky, who remembers late-night study sessions (and occasional dance parties) in the East Halls study rooms and grabbing pizza at the Big Onion in Findlay Commons. In 2012, Baker and Pinsky won lottery spots to dance as independents at THON, for which they raised $12,000.

Pinsky remains struck by Baker’s intelligence and drive. “There would be times before a test where she’d be like, ‘I’m not ready, I didn’t study,’ and then she’d get a 107,” Pinsky says. “She’s a pretty modest person; she puts her head down and does the hard work, but she doesn’t boast about it. It just always seemed effortless.”

She also remembers a confidence and energy that set Baker apart. “A magnetism, but not in a showy or negative way,” Pinsky says. “Just … people notice this girl.”

It’s only in retrospect that you might see that as a hint of where Baker was headed. She’d been a casual pro wrestling fan through college, and during her senior year—by which time she had been accepted into Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine—she and some friends would gather at her State College townhouse to watch WWE pay-per-view events. She was a fan of the Bella Twins, identical twin sisters who became WWE stars. “That was an aspiration she had,” Pinsky says. It might never have become more than that if another friend of Baker’s hadn’t mentioned that Pittsburgh was a hotbed of indie wrestling. “I had no idea what indie wrestling was,” Baker says. “So I went down the YouTube rabbit hole, and I found out that some of these huge stars, some of my favorite stars in WWE, started out as indie wrestlers.”

The independent wrestling scene exists in various forms around the country, in small towns and big cities alike. It can —and often does—serve as a farm system for those hoping to work their way up to a major promotion, although many wrestlers will spend their careers there without ever reaching the big time. It also caters to diehard fans who appreciate the less polished, more accessible nature of the product. “It’s literally in bingo halls and high school gymnasiums and church auditoriums, and sometimes there’s 50 people in the crowd,” Baker says. “It was weird and dingy, but it was fascinating to me, that anybody can be a pro wrestler—you start out that way and you work your way up.”

Baker’s online digging brought her to Pittsburgh’s International Wrestling Cartel (IWC), an indie company with a respected training academy. She called to see about a tryout. The response: We don’t know how long you’ll last, but you can try. You start next week. This was early in the spring of her senior year, meaning Baker still had a few more months in State College before she was due to graduate. It was the first test of her dedication to a pursuit she was at that moment entirely unprepared for. She signed up, and once a week—unbeknownst to her parents; she’d told only a few friends—she made the round-trip drive on Route 22, logging long miles and longer hours and learning as much about the business of pro wrestling as she did about performing in the ring.

On event nights, Baker and the other trainees were the traveling crew. “We’d ride in the ring truck together, set up the ring, set up all the chairs, and we’d basically work as event staff all night—taking 50-50 tickets, mopping the floors,” she says. “When it was over, we’d take the ring down, put the chairs back, take the ring back to the training school, unload everything, and then we get to go home. I’d get in my car at 3 in the morning and drive back to State College.

“I’m thankful for that,” she says, “because it made me realize, Hey this is going to be hard. If you want to do it, you need to be serious about it. I think that’s a huge reason why I was able to balance the dentistry and the wrestling.”

She did exactly that, to the dismay of two disparate sets of peers. “People in the professional wrestling world thought it was weird that I was in dental school, and people in dental school thought I was the biggest weirdo because I was wrestling at night,” she says. “These two worlds are not meant to go together.”

But she managed, stubbornly, asking for her roommate’s help occasionally to make sure she had the necessary study guides, and that she didn’t oversleep and miss a class. The one challenge she wasn’t up for initially was informing her parents; even after she started dental school, they were still clueless about her side pursuit. When they finally found out, it wasn’t because Baker had worked up the nerve to tell them. One of her cousins happened to spot a flyer promoting an upcoming indie show with Britt’s name on it at a gas station—and shared it in the family group chat. “That was a pretty tough conversation,” she says. “They were not happy—especially my mom. But once they realized I was in good hands where I was training, and that I wasn’t going to quit dental school, they were on board.”

By the time she graduated from dental school in May 2018, Baker had been competing in events for IWC and other small indie promotions for three years, and she had briefly featured as a “jobber”—a relative no-name providing an easy win for a more established opponent—in WWE. Her dental career would take her to Florida, where she joined a practice in Orlando. It was impossible to say whether her wrestling career would go any further. And then, one night that fall in the Chicago suburbs, it did.

“All In” was an independent pro wrestling show, but really it was a bet: that another promotion could fill an arena and do big pay-per-view numbers at a time when only WWE was managing both. Held in September 2018 at the Sears Centre Arena just north of Chicago, it was organized by and featured a mix of wrestlers ranging from former WWE stars to standouts from the pro wrestling circuits in Mexico and Japan, and up-and-comers from the U.S. indie scene. Only one of the 11 matches, a “four-corner survival match” in which four wrestlers faced off simultaneously, featured women. One of those wrestlers was Dr. Britt Baker.

The match—like the event itself—was a hit. “All In” sold more than 11,000 tickets and more than 50,000 pay-per-view buys, and earned praise from both the passionate (and finicky) online wrestling community and from some of mainstream wrestling’s biggest stars. It led directly to the creation of AEW, inspiring the billionaire owners of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars to fund a new company that they believed could compete with WWE for a share of the massive global wrestling audience. It also proved to be Baker’s big break: A few months later, she was the first woman signed to AEW. She had made it. Now she just had to prove she belonged.


Britt Baker sitting on black trunks of pro wrestling equipment backstage, photo by Cardoni


Pro wrestling has its own vocabulary (see "Ring Lingo"), a lexicon in which certain words carry unexpected weight. One of those words is gimmick. Because Baker is in fact a practicing dentist, she doesn’t like hearing her persona described as such. “It would be weird to do a random ‘I’m a female dentist’ wrestling gimmick,” she says. “That’s a really bad gimmick. It’s bad creative!”

Baker admits the persona she brought into the ring in her early days in AEW—a babyface in wrestling terminology, essentially an extension of her-real life self, a tough, competitive, but ultimately likeable young woman who had an unlikely professional career outside the ring—lacked that elusive something that helps pro wrestlers transcend the crowd. “I didn’t know who I was as a wrestling character yet,” she says. “The match commentary was always saying I’m a wrestler and a dentist, and the fans were like, ‘We don’t care. It’s boring. We’re over it.’”

So, on the advice of AEW veterans and management, Baker did what countless babyfaces have done before her: She turned heel. It was less a complete character makeover than a darker twist on the persona fans already knew. She traded likeable for haughty, taking an angle that fans had grown tired of and leaning into it until her condescension gave those same fans a reason to care. “When I did promos,” she says of the pre-taped or between-match monologues and interviews that are vital to building a wrestler’s brand, “I would say it a hundred times: ‘I’m a wrestler and a dentist, and I’m better than you.’ It became Doctor Britt Baker, just super arrogant. It was a character that I could find parts of me and sprinkle them in and make it something I believed in, and then the fans believed it. That’s where everything started to click.”

The heel turn came in early 2020, when she insulted AEW announcer Tony Schiavone during an on-camera interview, poking fun at his past gig as a Starbucks barista. It was the start of both a fruitful working relationship and a real friendship; pro wrestling interviewers play the often hapless foils to the performers, and Baker and Schiavone, an industry veteran, proved a good match. “She took that moment and made something out of it, which is what she does,” he says. “In wrestling, you become a star by talking, and I’ve seen her grow in confidence doing promos. I think her personality is the reason she’s the star she is.”

In May 2021, a couple of months removed from the bloody star turn that confirmed her status among even the most critical wrestling fans, Baker’s new trajectory carried her to the AEW Women’s World Championship, a belt she held for nearly a year. The highlights continued even after she lost the title, including a homecoming show in front of a packed house in Pittsburgh where she was joined for her entrance by two members of her beloved Steelers, including former Nittany Lion standout Pat Freiermuth ’20 Lib.


top, Baker in the ring with two Pittsburgh Steelers, bottom, with her boyfriend Adam Cole
WELCOME TO BRITTSBURGH: Baker was joined at a 2022 Pittsburgh show by Steelers Pat Freiermuth (above, left) and Najee Harris. No matter the city, she often shares ring and screen time with boyfriend Adam Cole. Courtesy.


Even without a belt to defend, Baker continues to refer to herself—in character and out—as “the face of the women’s division.” That position was affirmed this spring, when the company premiered AEW All Access, a behind-the-scenes reality show that aired after its live Wednesday-night event broadcasts on TBS. Baker, having recently eased back into the  role of a babyface, features prominently in every episode, with storylines that focus on her role within the company and on her relationship with Austin Jenkins, better known as Adam Cole, one of AEW’s biggest stars.

After meeting briefly years earlier at an indie show, Baker and Jenkins started dating about six years ago, after matching on a dating app. Their first date was at the TGI Friday’s in State College, a mile from campus: he was living in Lancaster and she was in Pittsburgh, so Happy Valley was the logical meeting point. “We stayed from 6 p.m. to midnight, until it closed, just drinking coffee and talking,” Jenkins says.

They’ve been together since in real life, and since 2021 in the AEW universe, when Jenkins joined the company after a popular stint with WWE. Their relationship was well known in wrestling circles before All Access aired, but the show offered a surprisingly honest glimpse at their life together outside the ring, particularly of Jenkins’ long recovery from a serious concussion sustained in a match in 2022. The show’s first season culminated with his return to the ring, a moment made all the more poignant by Baker’s presence backstage.

“Britt’s just an incredibly compassionate person, and she knew what I was going through, not only physically but mentally, thinking I might not get to do my dream job anymore,” Jenkins says. “I don’t think I could’ve gotten through it without her.”

And here it’s worth considering another loaded term in the pro wrestling lexicon: fake. “We literally call it the ‘f-word,’” Baker says. Yes, pro wrestling involves characters and storylines and choreography, and no, most of those punches to an opponent’s head don’t actually land. But the implication that the physicality itself isn’t genuine—that they don’t feel the short- and long-term impact of all those slams and suplexes and flying knees, that the pain the performers endure is somehow inauthentic—well, it irks.

Baker’s own injury list is daunting: a concussion of her own in 2019, along with a broken leg, a broken wrist, a twice-broken nose, and a black eye suffered at another Pittsburgh event this past April (the lingering effects of which are visible in our photo shoot for this story). “I have bulging disks, and I just got an MRI on my neck,” she says. “It’s every wrestler, it’s not just me. Any wrestler that has been serious about being a professional wrestler for even five years, you’re hurting.”

This is where that other Plan A is hard to ignore. Baker has a steady and well-paying gig to fall back on whenever she’s ready to hang up her custom-made knee-high boots. She is generally able to see patients on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, allowing her to travel to the weekly AEW Dynamite shows on Wednesdays and to promotional events or autograph signings on weekends. It’s only occasionally that the reality of one career trespasses on the other. “I’d say 95% of the time, the fans are wonderful—at Comic-Cons and meet-and-greets, they’re excited to see you and talk to you—but the dental office is a totally different story,” she says. “If a fan blocks off appointment time because he wants to come in and take a picture, that’s time wasted, that’s money wasted, and nobody leaves happy. Safety is a concern, too. We’re still trying to figure that out.”


Britt Baker with her back to the camera wearing a rhinestone encrusted jacket with DMD on the back by Cardoni


Whenever she wanted to, she could decide she’s done. No more breaks and bruises, no more twice-weekly air travel, no more spotlight. She could simply be Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D., a dentist with a quiet, easy life and lots of great stories to tell.

Jenkins knows better than to even suggest it.

“It would be very hypocritical—it would be impossible—for me to say, ‘Hey, listen, just be a dentist. You worked your tail off for that, just focus on that,’” he says. “Britt loves, eats, sleeps, and breathes pro wrestling just as much as I do. So, as much as I worry about her, I totally understand why she doesn’t want to stop, and I would never expect her to.”

Baker has said in recent interviews that she’s content not to hold the title belt as she focuses on supporting the storylines of other wrestlers and strengthening the women’s division overall—star power is vital, but a wrestling company is nothing without depth. She feels a personal stake in the company’s success, and she’s excited about promoting AEW’s upcoming “All In” show at Wembley Stadium in London, its first show outside of North America. She’s also started taking acting classes, mindful of refining her already sharp promo skills, and of the well-worn path from pro wrestling to Hollywood.

She’s still not ready to choose.

“If I would’ve thought long-term when I was a year-one dental student and in my first couple of months of wrestling training, I would’ve been doomed. So I don’t really plan too far ahead,” she says. “Right now, I’m just focused on right now.”