Last week, Cody was victorious in AEW's first-ever dog collar match and saw the TNT Championship returned to him from the clutches of "The Exalted One" Mr. Brodie Lee. The match itself was pretty entertaining and different from what we have seen in televised professional wrestling in a long time. Now that Cody has the belt again and has seemingly finished his story with Lee, this is a perfect time to examine how the TNT Championship has been utilized and what can be done to make it better.
The TNT Championship has had an interesting first four months of existence. Despite being the focus of some very fun matches, AEW has yet to establish a niche for their newest (recognized) title. Cody has been quoted as saying that he wants this title to evolve on its own and not get stuck as just the mid-card or the "workhorse" title. Cody's mindset is excellent, but they still need to have a plan for the belt, and that is where my list comes in. Here are 5 things that AEW should do with the TNT Championship and 4 things that they should not.
Should: Separate The Title From The Rankings System
Look, I am aware that technically the rankings have nothing to do with how the TNT title is booked and that the holder of the TNT title's record has no effect on the rankings, but let's just make it super clear. Remove the current champion from all rankings materials going forward. If the title remains relevant, it will be clear who the champion is just by watching the show. Formally removing the TNT title from the rankings also grants a little more freedom in terms of booking challengers for the title. AEW can book anyone to go up for a title shot, not just the five top guys with the best win-loss records. If the TNT Championship is free from the rankings systems, AEW can book number one contender tournaments, championship ladder matches, etc.
The best part about keeping the TNT title scene separate from the World Championship rankings is that you can get as many wrestlers as possible involved in the TNT title scene. Doing this allows talent to shine that hasn't always been allowed to show off.
Shouldn't: Bring Back The Open Challenge
Getting as many wrestlers involved as possible does not mean that AEW should resume Cody's open challenge. The first reason is that if Cody picked up the open challenge where he left off, it would feel like "going back to business as usual," which would just invalidate Brodie Lee's short reign with the title. The other much more important reason is that the open challenge doesn't really allow long-term storytelling. A new challenger every week keeps us from seeing rivalries forming, big blow off pay per view matches, and limits the title scene to only surprise upsets.
Look, it was fun to see guys like Eddie Kingston, Ricky Starks, and Warhorse make their AEW debuts, but we always knew that there was no chance that any of them would be able to pull off a win without some kind of build. AEW should recognize that these quick shots of excitement aren't worth devaluing the TNT title scene in the long term.
Should: Defend the title outside of Dynamite and PPV
Let's not even get into the fact that the TNT title wasn't even defended at this year's All Out (Like, seriously? There are only 4 titles in the whole company! Why isn't it being defended on PPV?). Other than being award to Cody as the inaugural champion at Double or Nothing 2020, the title has only been defended on episodes of Dynamite. Now it makes a whole lot of sense to defend the Championship on the promotion's flagship show on the network that bare's the name of the title, but keep in mind that AEW has their other weekly show, Dark, where so far the TNT title has not been defended. A TNT title defense on Dark would bring more eyes to the show, and hopefully, make that show more important in the current canon of AEW.
AEW has been praised for allowing their wrestlers to continue to compete on the independent circuit. A great way to help get fans to appreciate the TNT title would be allowing the champion to defend against opponents from outside of AEW on the indies. This helped get the TNA X-Division Title over with independent wrestling fans, and it could bring some indie cred to the promotion as a whole.
Shouldn't: Treat This Title as Equal to the AEW World Championship
To be clear, I am not saying that AEW currently treats the TNT title as if it is equal to the AEW World Championship. But the question is bound to come up "if the TNT Championship is not a mid-card title, is it the same as the World Championship?". AEW's answer to this question should always be a resounding no.
AEW is too small to be dealing with a WWE and Universal Champion situation, and likely won't have the roster or tv time to make that a possibility anytime soon. The TNT Championship needs to be a secondary title in order to keep the prestige of the AEW World Championship intact. That doesn't mean that major stars shouldn't hold the title or that it should be considered a stepping stone in the career of an up and comer (not that it shouldn't be a stepping stone either).
The TNT title needs to be the fast-paced title with the exciting, ever-changing title scene, while the AEW World Championship has long reigns with big fights for the title becoming the norm. This will create a distinction that helps keep both titles relevant while also defining them as separate honors.
Should: Steal the "Option C" Element From The Impact X-Division Championship
For those unfamiliar with Impact's "Option C" rule for the X-Division Champion, essentially, whoever holds the X-Division Championship can vacate the title for an opportunity at the Impact World Championship. If this idea was implemented in the right way, we could see the TNT title used to build new talent and prepare them for the big time.
I don't expect AEW to implement their own version of "Option C" immediately. I definitely don't expect Cody, or even whoever has the title after Cody, to create the new stipulation. But I think that this could allow for some very interesting storytelling down the line, granted AEW has the right person to build this concept around. Of course, I hope this stipulation is used sparingly, but it would be another way to keep the TNT title scene fresh and exciting.
Shouldn't: Defend the Title Every Week
As with the open challenge, a weekly title defense can really hinder long-term storytelling. The TNT Championship, despite being named after a television channel, is not a television title and doesn't have to be defended every TV taping. AEW knows how to book a build to a title match. They just need to be willing to book a feud over this title that doesn't involve the champion winning every week just because they have to defend.
If AEW wants to build to a title defense at a PPV or a special Dynamite, there is no reason for the Champion to keep winning anticlimactic matches against other roster members each week. This one seems like a no brainer, but a weekly defense other than an open challenge (hopefully started by someone other than Cody) really makes no sense for this title.
Should: Put The Title on Up and Coming Talent
We get it. It is not supposed to be a mid-card title. That being said, the mid-card and the up and comers need a title scene for them to fight over rather than just getting beat up by Jon Moxley week after week. Sure, Jungle Boy might not be ready for a long run with the AEW World Championship, but he should be able to be some kind of champion. Guys like Darby Allin, Sammy Guevara, Ricky Starks, etc. aren't where they can believably defeat Jon Moxley for his belt, but they could all believably be TNT Champion.
Putting the belt on so-called mid-carders might seem like the opposite of what Cody said he wants, but there is no way to keep this belt relevant if only belongs to guys who could be in the World Championship scene. This, in combination with an "option c" stipulation, could be the star building tool that AEW needs. This is the most obvious move for the belt, but I worry that AEW is too worried about "disrupting" the industry to recognize that it is the smartest move.
Shouldn't: Only Put The Title On Men
I know that intergender wrestling is a touchy subject when it comes to AEW. I know that Tony Khan, Cody, and Jim Ross have all voiced opposition to the idea of Dynamite featuring intergender matches. I am also aware that intergender wrestling is pretty niche even when it comes to wrestling fans. But I also know that if you have the kind of talent that could pull it off, you should allow that talent to pull it off.
What I am not recommending here is that Cody starts defending his belt against Britt Baker or Penelope Ford next week, but maybe if the right kind of talent arrives in AEW, you give that person a shot. Impact recently got a ton of publicity for Tessa Blanchard winning the Impact World Championship, which was huge for them. I'm not sure which women's wrestler could pull off a successful TNT title reign, but I am absolutely certain that AEW should not close that door completely.
Should: Continue Stipulation Matches for the Title
The dog collar match and the no DQ match were some of the most memorable title defenses so far in the short run the TNT title has had. AEW should continue to allow the title to be defended in various stipulation matches. Whether it's the classic ladder match or if AEW decides to pull out another relic like the dog collar match. This would add some life to the title scene and continue to help differentiate it from the AEW world title.
Personally, I would love to see the title defended in an "I Quit" Match or hell even the second mimosa mayhem match. Just allow this title to be the fun title that will get people to love it.
What do you think? Who do you want to see win the TNT Championship next? Let me know by tweeting at me @robbydesahzer!
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