I think it is best, to be honest at the top of this article. AEW has dropped the ball when it comes to the FTW Title. Jon Moxley's absence from 2020's edition of AEW's Fyter Fest special event seemed like the perfect time for Taz to bring back the short-lived ECW title that fueled most of his storyline from May of 1998 through the end of that year. While not everyone agreed with Taz's belief that the FTW Title belongs to the "baddest son of a b**** in wrestling," most would agree that the unsanctioned title coming back could've led to some interesting storylines.
Unfortunately, it seems like after Cage's loss to Mox the next week at Fight for the Fallen was the end of the belt's importance in AEW. Cage is still walking around with the belt, and Taz is even calling him the FTW champion, but for the most part, the excitement around this title has died down quite a bit. Most would assume that at this point, the belt will fade back into obscurity again, Brian Cage will stop wearing it out to the ring, and Taz will stop talking about it. But as a fan of Taz and a fan of ECW, I would really hate to see that happen. So let's talk about some of the ways that AEW can make the FTW Championship matter.
The History of the FTW Title
To understand where the FTW Title could go, we need to look back to where it started.
"The Human Suplex Machine" Taz, unveiled the FTW Championship at ECW "It Ain't Seinfeld" on May 14th, 1998. Taz had had enough of Shane Douglas's injuries and illness preventing him from getting the title shot that he was owed, and created the belt to recognize himself as the "real" heavyweight champion while Douglas could not defend. Taz defended the title on many occasions during his run with the belt in '98, including in a fantastic Falls Count Anywhere match at "Heat Wave 1998". Eventually, Taz "lost" the belt to Sabu on an episode of ECW Hardcore TV in December of that year, when Taz pulled an unconscious Sabu over him to throw the match.
Sabu defended the title a few times over the next ninety-two day until the title was unified with the ECW World Heavyweight Title when Taz defeated Sabu at "Living Dangerously 1999" less than one year after it was created. Some attempts were made to revive the championship, most notably in XPW, in 2002, but most agree that these few instances do not count in the official lineage of the belt. The title stayed dormant for just over eleven years before Taz resurrected it at night two of Fyter Fest 2020. Since then, Brian Cage has been the "official" FTW Champion.
So now that we have the history of the title explained, let's look at some of the ways that AEW can take advantage of this unsanctioned title.
Put Brian Cage's Name on the Belt
Ok, I know I said we were done with the history of the belt, but I need to add some more context for this suggestion to make sense.
The title belt that Taz had for the majority of his run in 1998 was the third version of the FTW Title. The first version of the belt was a modified version of an ECW Television Title Belt with an orange strap and a sticker with "FTW" over the word television. The second version of the title was still orange but had a plate that said "Taz" and put "FTW" where ECW would've been without the television engraving at all. Bill Alfonso fabricated the third and likely the most recognizable version of the belt as an incentive for Taz to team with Rob Van Dam and Sabu against Triple Threat. That third belt had a black strap and a new design with Taz's name permanently engraved on the belt.
The third version of the belt is also the one that Sabu wore and was eventually unified with the ECW World Heavyweight Championship at "Living Dangerously 1999". Sabu was unhappy that his new title had Taz's name forever emblazoned on it, so he took a piece of tape and a magic marker and put his own name on the title.
AEW should honor the non-Taz lineage and put the current FTW Champion, Brian Cage's name on the title, extra points if it is just tape and magic marker like Sabu did. This change is such a small thing, but it makes all the difference in the world. Right now, the title feels like Taz dug up his old belt from his attic or pulled it off the shelf in his house and gave it to Brian Cage. If Cage were to put his name on the title, it would feel like he had ownership of the title instead of just cosplaying as a champion. As I said, this is only a small change, but the amount of legitimacy it would add is hard to understate.
Let Taz Talk Up the Championship More
There is no denying that Taz is excellent on the mic, but it takes a special kind of charisma to get an unsanctioned title over with the fans. Ted DiBiase was able to get the "Million Dollar Championship" over, Zack Ryder used his YouTube fame to claim himself "WWE Internet Champion," and Moose on Impact is currently defending an unsanctioned "TNA World Heavyweight Championship." Taz was able to get the ECW fans to buy into his FTW Championship, and he needs to be vocal about this belt until the AEW fans have bought into it.
It wouldn't be hard for Taz to talk up the belt; he is already the mouthpiece for Brian Cage, and let's not forget that "Team Taz" has another fantastic talker in Ricky Starks. With Taz and Starks talking up the importance of the FTW Championship, AEW would be able to build up the right kind of heat around this belt so that when (hopefully) someone takes it off of him, it feels like a big moment, which leads me to my last and most significant point.
Brian Cage Needs to Defend the FTW Championship
I already know some of the responses that I'm going to get to this point. "Robby, Cage has already defended the FTW Title on AEW Dark." First of all, let me say this: I am glad that there has already been a title match for this championship; it is a step in the right direction. Now, let's talk about why my point still matters. Look, I am sorry to all the hardcore AEW stans, but AEW Dark is an auxiliary component to Dynamite. For anything to be taken seriously going forward, it needs to have representation on the main show. Brian Cage had defended his title one time on AEW Dark (in a tune-up match before his world title match against Jon Moxley.) against Brian Pillman Jr. in a match that went less than five minutes, including entrances. In order for this title to be taken seriously, Brian Cage needs to start defending on Dynamite and on Pay Per View.
When the FTW Championship came back, lots of people were quick to compare it to the various hardcore championships that have existed. As well as the UFC BMF belt, which is supposed to be award to the "baddest motherf****r" in UFC, which I think is a much more apt comparison. The FTW title doesn't have to be treated as a legitimate title; it doesn't need a 24/7 gimmick; it just needs to be held by someone who can really mess someone up.
A quick glance down the official AEW roster will show you how many guys currently under contract with Tony Khan could easily be seen as legit FTW Champions. You have your big guys like Brodie Lee, Wardlow, and Luchasaurus. You also have guys who embody that no f's given attitude that Taz had during his original run with the belt in '98, Eddie Kingston, Pentagon Jr., Darby Allin. Hell, I even think current AEW World Heavyweight Champion Jon Moxley could be a great FTW Champion after his reign as the top guy comes to an end.
The point here is that AEW has a massive roster of guys could have great runs with this belt, or even just pull off some great matches with Cage. It is insane to me that AEW hasn't booked Brian Cage vs. Lance Archer for the FTW Title at "All Out" because that right there would be the easiest and quickest way to breathe life back into this title. The sky is the limit here, and the only thing that AEW needs to do is to start letting guys have opportunities to get this belt.
So that is how I think AEW can fix their FTW situation. What do you think, can the FTW Title be saved? If so, who should challenge Cage for the championship? Let me know by tweeting at me @robbydeshazer!
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