On the March 30th edition of Road To Dynamite, it was announced that AEW was beginning an eight-man tournament from the April 8th episode of AEW: Dynamite to crown the inaugural champion of their new unveiling, the TNT Championship.
According to Tony Schiavone and as confirmed on a press release, the first four competitors will be revealed on the March 31st edition of AEW Dark, while the other four shall be revealed on the April 1st edition of AEW Dynamite, with the finals to occur at the second ever Double Or Nothing PPV, currently scheduled for May 23rd in Las Vegas.
The decision to name the championship after the channel that currently broadcasts AEW Dynamite suggests the intentions could be for a championship that will be regularly defended on their main show. This would be the equivalent of WCW’s Television Championship possibly, one that would be suitable for a relative workhorse on the roster who could have a range of matches with the roster.
With the decision to unveil four of the competitors of the upcoming tournament on AEW Dark, this could be a tremendous opportunity for the inclusion of some relatively big names from the roster, in order to add some legitimacy to the championship. One of the best possible options could be the decision to utilise the Rankings system, which would not only help reinforce the importance of the rankings, but would also guarantee a high level of standard in what competitors would challenge for the TNT Championship.
If AEW Dark was to use the rankings as the first four choices, it also means they can be introduced in a manner akin to Seeding, where the higher the ranking, the better opportunity they would be granted. As of March 25th, the official rankings for the AEW Men’s roster were the following:
Chris Jericho MJF Cody Jake Hager Kenny Omega
Now, the likelihood of all five men being involved is quite small, especially as some of these choices either don’t need the championship, or it could be more detrimental than positive for their character. Hager, for instance, is unlikely to be involved as he’s currently being set up for a possible match against AEW Champion Jon Moxley, so he wouldn’t be available, unless Moxley was to possibly cost him a match, but then that would damage Hager prior to any title opportunity against Moxley, which is what needs avoiding.
It would also be unlikely for Jericho to be involved, as it would be a repeat of his involvement in the AEW Championship tournament, plus he also has just rescheduled Fozzy’s tour dates to begin from July, meaning he would most likely have been written out of AEW by May or June, so he wouldn’t suit the tournament at all. More likely, he would offer his spot to his young protégé Sammy Guevara, which would mean The Inner Circle would still be represented in the tournament without disrupting any upcoming storylines. So, for the moment, it looks likely the seeding will be as such:
MJF Cody Sammy Guevara Kenny Omega
Omega would suit being involved as it could be a possible opportunity for him to be a successful champion without feeling forced into the main event scene and taking away from current champion Moxley, as well as adding a certain wrinkle to his partnership with Tag Team Co-Champion, Adam ‘Hangman’ Page, a growing resentment for Page as he still feels overshadowed in his own tag team.
Cody had said he would never challenge for the AEW Championship again, but this would be a separate championship that would also include the opportunity to face MJF once again, who especially would suit winning the championship as he is guaranteed gold every week. But what of the four contenders to be named on AEW Dynamite on April 1st?
Seeds 5-8 will probably not be chosen, instead they will have to be earned in several qualifying matches to increase the level of impressiveness in even qualifying for the tournament. One individual I definitely don’t think will be included is Brodie Lee, despite being the Exalted One, it would be too soon to include him in a tournament as he can’t afford to take a loss, and I don’t think he would be the first choice to win, so better to avoid creating a difficult situation or choice, and just don’t involve him. The same thing would apply for Lance Archer, he is only just about to debut, and his possible feud with Cody needs more attention, so instead, it could be utilised for the tournament, but Archer himself wouldn’t be involved. Instead, I think some of the likely choices would be:
Darby Allin PAC Colt Cabana Scorpio Sky (winning a Battle Royal for the Number 8 seed)
Allin is one of the hottest stars currently on the roster, and the support he’d receive from fans to be included would get the fans emotionally involved, whilst PAC is a tremendous heel and deserving of championship gold, even if it could be a little too soon for him to challenge Moxley, so use him here. Cabana has quickly gotten a crowd following and could be a surprise victor in a qualification match, whilst Scorpio Sky has proven himself very endearing and popular, having already battled against the odds to become half of the first ever Tag Team Champions, so he could have a similar performance here. The overall seeding would likely feature Seeds 1 against 8, 2 against 7, and so on, similar to how the Tag Team division was organised. Because of this, the tournament could end up looking like this:
The eight choices above would without question be some of the strongest options on the roster, and would help minimise some of the inevitable ‘secondary’ feel of the TNT Championship, you want to have a push similar to John Cena’s run with the U.S. Championship a few years back, or Paul Robinson as the inaugural Proteus Champion.
You want to have the first winner be someone who can either wrestle every week to get the prestige of the championship elevated, or you want someone the fans are emotionally invested in to set a standard. Also, there are possible story opportunities for all four matches, which would add extra relevance for each match. The Quarter-Finals could likely end up like this:
MJF would defeat Scorpio Sky. Before the match even begins, in a moment tying back to the attack by Pentagon and Fenix on SCU that first gave Scorpio the opportunity to impress, Brodie Lee and the Dark Order would viciously attack Scorpio, Brodie blaming the actions of Christopher Daniels for causing these repercussions. A valiant Sky would still start the match, but between this attack and Wardlow’s interference, MJF would gain a relatively easy victory. This would continue the feud between The Dark Order and SCU, possibly leading to either a Six-Man Tag War at Double Or Nothing, or a Grudge match between Brodie and Daniels.
Colt Cabana would defeat Sammy Guevara. Despite the tremendous ability of Guevara, he continues to be unable to gain victory, his arrogance allowing Cabana to take advantage and go through to the next round.
PAC would defeat Cody. In a moment that could be relatively conceived as an upset, Cody would be unsettled by both MJF and Wardlow on commentary or in the crowd, antagonising him, as well as Lance Archer and Jake Roberts appearing at ringside. Whilst Cody battles quite well, PAC eventually takes advantage of the distraction and locks in The Brutalizer to make Cody tap. This would be the moment that would finally make Cody accept Archer and Roberts’ challenge, leading to a match at Double Or Nothing.
Darby Allin defeats Kenny Omega. In a huge upset that throws the entire tournament wide open, Allin would defeat Omega in the main event of AEW Dynamite. Whilst a closely-fought match, it would actually be the inadvertent distraction from Page that would lead to Omega losing, whether because Page tries coaching Omega badly, or because Page leaves ringside to attack a rival (maybe Santana and Ortiz, for instance), distracting Omega briefly enough for Allin to take control. With Omega already Tag Team Champion, the inclusion of a second belt would be unnecessary, something that should occur later on after he loses the Tag Team Championship and moves on from any issues with Page.
With the four Quarter-Finals having unveiled MJF, Colt Cabana, PAC and Allin as the Semi-Finalists, meaning three of the original four seeds have been eliminated, it helps legitimise those who defeated them and also allows opportunities for other superstars. If possible, I think both matches would be main events on concurrent episodes of AEW Dynamite, to help sell the importance of the championship, with the matches possibly proceeding like this:
MJF defeats Colt Cabana. MJF would be surprised when Cabana shows his more serious side, outwrestling and outperforming MJF, who would even have to rely on Wardlow at one point to save him from a nearfall. With Cabana already a fan favourite and currently undefeated, he would have a lot of momentum, and in the end, it may take MJF distracting the referee and Kip Sabian, who had already had a run-in with Cabana a few weeks ago, to take out Cabana. Sabian would be the intelligent type who would want to wait until the main event of an AEW Dynamite to screw over the man who disrespected him, whilst also getting the most eyes on him, and it would also suit MJF’s character to have help two matches in a row to help build the frustration from the crowd towards him. MJF would then spend the next few weeks cutting promos on how he’s obviously going to become champion, helping hype the match up.
Darby Allin defeats PAC. Despite the growing belief that Orange Cassidy and The Best Friends might interfere, in revenge against the Death Triangle, in the end there would be no interference in this match. Instead, you would get a tremendous main event where a resilient Allin refuses to be defeated, PAC’s continuous beatings unable to beat the daredevil, Allin battling back and getting the crowd behind him. Just when PAC is at his most frustrated, and attempts a modified version of the Brutalizer, Allin is able to reverse into a pinning predicament and get a clean victory over PAC. It’s only then that Orange Cassidy and The Best Friends would get involved, preventing Death Triangle from attacking Allin and officially challenging them to a match at Double Or Nothing.
At this point, you’d have two of the biggest young stars on the AEW roster preparing to battle over the TNT Championship, the ultimate braggart and intolerable tool in MJF, and the beloved daredevil with tremendous heart and determination, Darby Allin. At the first ever Double Or Nothing, MJF was the last man eliminated by Adam ‘Hangman’ Page in the Casino Battle Royal, whilst Darby Allin didn’t even feature, whereas this year they’d feature in one of the biggest matches on the card, with one of them becoming the inaugural TNT Championship.
The decision on who would win could have either one become champion and it would be a good decision, as you could have the hated MJF as the first champion, antagonising fans as he sneaks away with the championship, so that whoever beats him is ready made. On the other hand, you could have Allin as the inaugural champion, who would offer a great fighting spirit and most likely would regularly defend it on both AEW Dynamite and AEW Dark, allowing a wider range of opportunities, just like the original NWA/WCW Television Championship. It would also help having backstage figures like Dean Malenko and Arn Anderson to work on these matches, as they were both excellent as wrestling matches that made their opponents look good in defeat and themselves excellent in victory, which suits such a championship.
I personally would lean towards Allin winning, as I feel it would offer a wonderful feelgood moment for the crowd and would be a deserved reward for the tremendous work he’s put in over the last year, organically growing into a huge favourite of the AEW crowd. This tournament has a wonderful opportunity to develop several stars, help tie in multiple storylines to grow, and to set up seven matches that could impress fans and critics alike, and I for one cannot wait for the pleasure of this tournament and the reveal of a new Championship, especially if any of my theories are correct.
Who would be your choice as the first ever TNT Champion, would it be Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Darby Alin, or someone else?
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