What is the FTW Championship?

Surely it doesn't stand for—oh it does?!

Brian Cage FTW Championship
Source: AEW

During the second week of AEW Fyter Fest 2020, Brian Cage entered the ring alongside his manager Tazz, who promised a special announcement. To the collective shock of the wrestling world, Tazz would resurrect the F*** The World (FTW) Championship and award it to Cage. Despite the leak of certain spoilers in regard to the episode taping, there wasn’t even a hint of Tazz’s announcement this week, making it an even bigger surprise.

However, even though there were many on Twitter who recognised the title, there are also a substantial amount of new fans who are less familiar with the championship. Below, I’ll not only be recounting the history of the championship, but also explaining why the decision to resurrect it is so important.

 

How Did The Championship Come Into Creation?

In May 1998, the then-current Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) World Heavyweight Champion, Shane Douglas, suffered an injury, specifically both a serious sinus infection and an elbow injury. These injuries meant that Douglas would be unable to wrestle, but in an interesting decision, ECW owner Paul Heyman would not strip Douglas of the championship. Instead, it was transitioned into a storyline featuring Taz (singular use of the letter ‘z’ during his time in ECW), who was being pushed into the main event scene. Taz had recently lost the World Television Championship and was now requesting a title shot at Douglas, who was supposedly refusing due to injury.

Because of this, at the May 14th supercard It Ain’t Seinfield, Taz would create his own championship, the FTW Title. The reason for this was that Taz believed himself to be the ‘real’ World Champion, and the FTW Championship represented his contempt for Douglas. During this time, Taz would even defend it at events, although ECW as a company did not recognise the championship.

The extra benefit of this championship, according to Taz himself in The Rise & Fall of ECW, was that the message conveyed by the title, contempt for management and society, was appreciated by the fans and elevated it above the official ECW Championship (I won’t rush to dispute Taz for my own safety).

Taz would hold the championship for 219 days until December 19th, when he would drop it to Sabu. This loss came with an asterisk however, as Taz would destroy Sabu, and then pull Sabu over himself for the three count. The reason for this was that Taz believed he no longer needed the title, as he had finally achieved what he wanted: a shot against Shane Douglas for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship.

This would occur at the next major PPV, ECW’s Guilty As Charged 1999 on January 10th, where Taz would end Douglas’ title reign and finally win the ECW World Heavyweight Championship. Two months later at ECW Living Dangerously, Taz defended the ECW Championship in a unification match against FTW World Champion, Sabu, a match Taz won, nullifying the FTW Championship.

The FTW Championship originated as a method to not only help legitimize Taz as a main eventer, but it also served as a necessary stopgap during Douglas’ injury. The championship was actually an old ECW Television Championship that was branded orange, representing Taz’s colours, with a few stickers over it. However, despite the fact the championship only lasted for ten months, it accomplished its main objective: making Taz look believable as a future World Champion. It was similar to the Million Dollar Championship in WWF, as it was an unsanctioned championship meant to put over an individual (Ted DiBiase in WWF, Taz in ECW), but Taz’s title had more substance to it due to its brief lifetime and overall achievement.

 

Why Bring The FTW Championship Back?

Tazz created the championship in 1998 as a psychological attack on the champion, as well as to help build himself up as a main event threat. Douglas was legitimately injured in 1998 but tying that into a story about a cowardly heel champion made Taz look like a legitimate threat. Here, Moxley is not injured, he’s staying at home due to self-isolating from the ongoing pandemic, but Tazz is subtly tarring Moxley with the same cowardice that Douglas exhibited. In essence, Tazz is trying to antagonise Moxley for Cage to take advantage of in their match next week.

The second reason for this decision is the inclusion of a passing of the torch. Tazz prided himself during his career as being a tough as nails, unrelenting bastard of a champion, and passing that championship supports the idea of Tazz believing Cage is his natural successor. This means that any doubters of Cage as a threat to Moxley are now being presented with physical evidence that he might be the real deal.

Cage has already shown himself as being substantially tough by surviving the Casino Ladder Match and exhibited some nasty intentions with his decision to attack Moxley in the parking lot. It also could lead to the possibility that if/when Cage defeats Moxley for the AEW Championship, Cage could similarly unite the two championships together to confirm himself as the undisputed AEW Champion.

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