Is it just me, or has the TNT title just felt kind of aimless ever since the end of Cody's first reign? While I can't say that the plan wasn't always for Brodie Lee to have his reign cut short by the returning Rhodes, his illness and recent passing, as well as the short-lived nature of Cody's second run, suggest that it wasn't their first idea. Beyond that, Darby Allin has yet to defend the title since winning it off of The American Nightmare at Full Gear (a move that I actually advocated for prior to the PPV).
While Darby hasn't disappeared from our televisions, his focus hasn't really been on defending the title or really doing anything with it. His upcoming match against Brian Cage has the hype around it, and I am excited to see what happens, but it really is a shame that it seems like most fans are calling for Darby to lose the belt on his first defense. So, let's take a look at the TNT title and figure out what can be done to fix it.
Establish Who Is In Contention For The Title
Once again, one of AEW's biggest problems lies in its ranking system. As of writing this article, the most current top five in men's singles competition are Ricky Starks, Brian Cage, Cody Rhodes, MJF, and Jon Moxley, and while all five of those guys are fantastic wrestlers who could realistically challenge for either title, it isn't clear who is next in line for which title. Sure, Moxley is the top contender, but it isn't like we will see him going for the TNT title anytime soon, whereas someone like Ricky Starks is incredible in the ring and on the mic but doesn't seem quite ready to take on Kenny Omega for the World Championship.
I would suggest that AEW separate the divisions for the TNT and AEW World Championships similarly to the Impact World Title and the Impact X-Division Title. I know that some people are going to come after me and remind me that WWE doesn't really separate their divisions for on their shows (for example someone every male wrestler on SmackDown is just as eligible for the Universal Title as they are for the Intercontinental Title), but AEW has yet to really show me who is in contention for either title and it doesn't seem like they are going to be getting their organically any time soon.
The TNT title can be a big deal; they just need to establish who it is a big deal to. If they don't establish who is chasing this title, it starts to make the TNT belt feel like a consolation prize for the guys who can't beat the world champion.
Keep The TNT Champion Out Of Tag Matches
Darby Allin hasn't defended his championship since winning it at Full Gear, but you know what he has done? He has teamed with the previous champion, Cody Rhodes, twice against the faction that should've been coming after his belt the whole time. The AEW tag-team division is already so stacked that some of the best teams in wrestling don't get a chance at weekly tv time, so why is the TNT champion wasting his time and this spot in non-title tag matches?
I get it, we can't expect the champion to only defend his title in straight forward singles matches, and we can't expect him to do it every week with no breaks. But it is clearly a problem when AEW feels they need to add Cody Rhodes to the match in order to make it matter. Darby should've defended his title against some of the best AEW upper mid-card has to offer. Instead, he has tagged against the same faction twice, and in only his third match since Full Gear, he will be making his first title defense against a member of the same faction.
I admire AEW for trying to do some longish-term storytelling with Darby and Team Taz, but there are other ways to do it while still having the title be defended. This move reeked of a lack of confidence in Darby as champion, and I hope that regardless of the outcome of his match against Brian Cage, we don't see the title pushed aside in favor of non-title matches.
Introduce An Annual Tournament For The Number One Contendership
The cynic in me might argue that the last time the TNT title felt really important was during the inaugural championship tournament. Now, I know that that really isn't the truth, but nothing can really set the record straight on who is really after the title better than a good old-fashioned tournament. In the wake of Brodie Lee's passing, there have been several calls for there to be an annual tournament named after Brodie to crown the number one contender for the TNT Championship. I think that not only is that a great way to honor Brodie Lee, but it is a great opportunity to give the title a yearly soft reset.
A tournament would establish who really is in the TNT title scene, provide a reason for some banger matchups, and get some guys who really need more tv time some more tv time. If AEW ignores the rest of my advice, that is fine, but this really is a sure-fire way to breathe some new life into this title scene.
Let The Champ Defend The Championship
Look, I didn't think I would have to say this, but a championship that isn't defended might as well just be a belt. If AEW doesn't want to have their TNT champion on-screen defending the title, then they really don't need the championship at all. I'm not saying that AEW needs to bring back the open challenge (as that is unsustainable in its own way), but they need to find a middle ground between weekly challenges and literal months without defenses. Darby Allin, by all accounts, should've been a great champion but not having him defend his title was a huge mistake. Everyone knows what a healthy championship scene looks like, and this just isn't it. The championship needs to be defended, or else what was the point in putting it on someone new, to begin with?
So there are some of the ways that I would suggest AEW look into in order to fix the TNT Championship scene. What do you think about the title? Who do you want to see win it tonight on Dynamite? Let me know by tweeting at me @robbydeshazer!
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