Britt Baker’s on top of the wrestling world. She returned to Pittsburgh—affectionately Brittsburgh to her fans—to defend her AEW (All Elite Wrestling) Women’s World Championship, and she took some time to talk about her status as the hottest act in professional wrestling.
As I set up our interview spot from the press box high atop the University of Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center, it looked like a rock concert was unloading on the floor below. Britt and I sat down and watched the AEW crew assemble what would be the centerpiece for the week’s two events: Dynamite and the debut of Rampage.
I was caught up in the buzz surrounding it and it made me wonder: Does she still get excited each time she sees the ring—her stage—being constructed, especially in this building, in her hometown?
“I do!” she exclaimed, gazing out at the muddle of equipment. “It’s so crazy. Walking into this building—it makes it all very real to me. I can’t even guess the number of times I was here between 2014 and 2018. I got my D.M.D. across the street (University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine) and this is the building I studied in. There’s an atrium downstairs with a cafe that I practically lived in. I was here all the time.”
Britt was born in nearby Punxsutawney—about 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh—but she’s clearly a Yinzer. She grew up loving all the Pittsburgh sports teams, bleeding black and gold and cheering on her Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. But she also took an interest in other sports, particularly professional wrestling, during her teenage years.
“I really got into wrestling during high school and college,” she said. “My friends would pitch in and we’d watch pay-per-views together. I was really passionate about it, I loved to watch it, but I didn’t think about doing it at the time.”
That all changed when she moved to Pittsburgh.
After high school, Britt attended Penn State University, where she earned a degree in Behavioral Medicine with a minor in human development and family studies. Then her focus turned to dentistry.
“When I was moving to Pittsburgh to go to dental school, a couple friends told me about the big independent wrestling scene here,” she said. “I only knew about the wrestling I saw on TV—like WWE—but I started researching it a bit more and found this local school called IWC. They happened to be having tryouts that week and I thought I would check it out, just to see what it was like. But as soon as I got in the ring, as soon as I hit the ropes, I wanted to do it. I decided from that moment on that I was going to be a wrestler and a dentist.”
That decision meant pursuing two full-time careers, which for most people, isn’t a viable option. For Britt, however, it was all about digging deep and staying in the moment.
“It was grueling,” she admitted emphatically. “I had to put 100% into my studies and wrestling to be successful, so I had to find 200% inside of me. A lot of times there weren’t enough hours in the day to sleep. Sometimes that meant falling asleep in class or sneaking in late to the back row of a lecture and watching wrestling videos. (laughing) I don’t recommend that, but hey,I did what I had to do at the time. It was really difficult and I just remember telling myself that I couldn’t look too far ahead. My goals needed to be short ones, like what I had to do to get through that day. For me, it was important to take baby steps along the way.”
Given her energy and enthusiasm, it’s obvious that Britt’s wired a bit differently. Her work ethic and determination are,to use a cliche,on another level. But in her case, the adage rings true.
“I’m very disciplined—or stubborn,” she laughed. “However you want to spin that. That’s me, through and through.”
Britt’s dual career pursuits would eventually meld together as she developed her wrestling persona with AEW. Her “wrestling-dentist” idea began as something she merely wanted to try, but she wasn’t sure how to do it—or what the reaction would be. So she set her sights on an independent event in Chicago called “All In” to introduce herself in a whole new manner: as Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D.
“I was wrestling on that show shortly after I graduated from dental school,” she said. “So I could officially call myself Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. For me, it was just something cool to try, even if I only did it once. I wanted to announce myself as Dr. Britt Baker coming to the ring. It was a very full-circle moment. But I stuck with it because it got so much buzz. It was like: ‘Oh, this girl’s a dentist and a wrestler,’ which was really unique.”
It took some trial and error for Britt to find out how to make the moniker work because, “It’s not super relatable. There aren’t a lot of people who are dentists and wrestlers.”
Eventually, however, the cheers turned to booing because fans grew tired of hearing about it.
“People were like, ‘We get it. You’re a wrestler and a dentist. You can do it all. Shut up, already. It’s annoying!’”
Which prompted a change in her persona. She began her career, in wrestling terms, as a face—or hero. Then she turned into a heel—or a “bad guy.” But fans became so drawn to her villainous approach that they started cheering for her again.
“Yeah, we’re going back to the other end of the spectrum again,” she said. “Wrestling’s funny. Fans definitely have their opinions—very bold opinions. But they like what they like and they don’t like what they don’t like.”
So who is Britt Baker now?
“I’m just unapologetically myself,” she said smiling. “And I’ve been given the stage to do that. I’m the most confident I’ve ever been in the ring. Whether it’s in matches, promos, or backstage segments, I’m allowed to say and do whatever I want—to a certain extent (laughs). But believing in what I’m saying makes all the difference. There’s no script. I’m not being forced to say something. It’s about having my own opinions, my own ideas—and then turning it up a couple notches because, hey, it’s wrestling baby, right? I get to put all of that on blast. My job is to get under people’s skin. Wrestling fans love that because it’s entertaining.”
That confidence has led her all the way to the top of her profession and it’s clear she’s having a good time with it. So what does she consider the best part of being a professional wrestler?
“Seeing my own personal growth and taking on the different challenges that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do,” she said. “I got to be part of a Main Event and Dynamite this year. That was huge. It made history. People are calling my match with Thunder Rosa one of their all-time favorites. I didn’t know if I’d ever be Main Event quality. I hoped that I would and I believed I could, but to actually do it—that was really cool.”
And the worst?
“Scheduling is hard,” she admitted. “I mean, it’s a commitment. You give up a lot. Family events, graduations, weddings, reunions. I miss a lot of stuff. But it’s like anything, when there are highs, there are also lows. I just have to stay headstrong through the lows because no matter what I’m going through that day, I still have to come out here and be larger than life for millions of people at home.”
Britt practices dentistry in Florida, where AEW is headquartered, but she still longs for the things only her hometown can provide. What does she miss most about the Steel City?
“Everything,” she laughed. “My family is here. I miss the sports environment so much. Pittsburgh is like a ‘big-town, small-city’ family. And the sports atmosphere is a bond for a lot of people—the Penguins, Pirates, and Steelers. We laugh, we cry, and we celebrate together. I miss the camaraderie with everyone here. People might think I’m crazy but I also miss the snow on Christmas, and the change of seasons. It’s everything I grew accustomed to. You don’t realize how much you miss it until it’s gone.”
Ironically, Britt grew up buying tickets to sporting events in Pittsburgh. Now people are buying tickets to see her, something she described as a “surreal” experience.
“It’s really a cool feeling—a pinch-me moment,” she said. “I keep using the word ‘surreal’ because there’s really no better way to describe it. It’s everything I ever wanted.”
But now that she’s at the top of her game as the AEW Women’s World Champion, where does she go from here?
“I want more,” she said. “I want to be a factor not only in women’s wrestling but in all of wrestling. I want to be someone that a fan buys a ticket to see or buys a shirt for. I want to move the ratings. I want to be one of the biggest stars in all of professional wrestling.”
Many would say she’s already achieved that status, especially here in Brittsburgh. But around the world—at the very least, she’s already well on her way.