Double or Nothing aired Saturday May 23rd from Jacksonville, Florida.

    Cody Rhodes stepped into the ring to face Lance Archer, yet this was no ordinary match. This was to decide who would become AEW’s first-ever TNT champion. “The baddest man on the planet,” Iron Mike Tyson was ringside to hand the winner the championship belt.

    Ultimately it was Cody Rhodes who claimed victory, defeating Lance Archer by way of pinfall. It took Cody delivering a pair of Cross Rhodes to seal the deal and etch his name in the history books at the first-ever TNT champion.  

    Cody Rhodes, escorted to the ring by Arn Anderson, spoke to Tony Schiavone about the TNT title on the Wednesday, May 27th episode of AEW Dynamite. Rhodes declared that “I will stand out here every week for the AEW TNT championship. This is an open challenge.”  

    Later that evening a number one contender’s battle royal match was held to see who would be the first to face the new TNT champion. Jungle Boy emerged victorious from the Battle Royale and punched his ticket against Cody Rhodes for the following week. Despite an inspired performance, which left Cody Rhodes bloodied, the champion retained his title defeating Jungle Boy via pinfall.  

    So now you are up to speed on how Cody became AEW’s first ever TNT champion. Let’s discuss the Top 5 must see matches as Cody defends his title. Interestingly, the newly crowned TNT champ was hosting an “Ask Cody” segment on Twitter when the subject of non-AEW talent challenging for the title came up. Cody responded that the open challenge is open to those outside of AEW as well.  

    With all that in mind here are the top 5 opponents I want to see as The American Nightmare defends his belt: 

    Brian Cage 

    The Machine has set AEW on notice that he is not just a force but is THE force to be reckoned with in AEW. His brute strength and physical stature are on display for all to see and he is deceptively agile for someone as big as he is. 

    I can envision a scenario down the road where Cage wins the belt from Rhodes and sets up a winner take all match against Jon Moxley. A second scenario could be that Cage holds the AEW title when he squares off against Rhodes for the same type of winner take all scenario. Cage is on fire right now and his skill set demands that he get a shot at the title sooner rather than later.  


    Photography: Scott Lesh

    The 65 million-year-old has waited a long time to get a legitimate title shot. He is a fan favourite that has been underutilised up to this point. Luchasaurus, like Cage, would certainly have the size and strength advantage over Rhodes which always make for compelling matches. Even if Cody retains the title this would be a great push for Luchasaurus and give him a much-needed bump.

    We’ve already seen Jungle Boy get his shot so having a member of a tag team get a shot at a singles title is not unheard of. I think the fans would really enjoy this match. Two fan favourites battling for the TNT title would make for great theatre and give a much-needed boost to an underutilised character with tremendous upside. 

    Will Ospreay 

    This would be a great crossover with New Japan Pro Wrestling and would be a positive first step in building a partnership between two of the hottest promotions in wrestling today. Obviously Ospreay and The Elite are familiar with one another from their time working together in NJPW. This would benefit both promotions as it would introduce a new fan base to both.

    For his part Ospreay seems willing to consider it. In an interview with WrestleTalk, he stated: 

    “If there was a chance for it to come true and for it to happen, I’d be all for it. I’ll strap up and I’m ready to put in a shift. Until then, I’m supporting from the sidelines, they are all my friends but I’m 100% a New Japan guy.” 

    The sticking point would be that the title would have to remain in AEW so either Cody must win it or Ospreay would need to come to AEW, which seems highly unlikely. 

    Brodie Lee 

    The Exalted One, and leader of The Dark Order was a great “get” for AEW. His match with AEW champion Jon Moxley at Double or Nothing, which resulted in a match stoppage, was tremendous. The fact that Lee passed out but did not submit nor get pinned allowed Brodie Lee to save face and Mox to continue his reign as champion.

    Lee is a dynamic character with a fantastic skill set and AEW must do a better job featuring him than WWE did. If Brodie Lee can acquire the belt from Rhodes, with help from the minions, this would set up a rematch with Moxley. The first match between them was great and a rematch with two belts on the line would be pay per view worthy in its own right.  


    The MJF – Cody feud ended too quickly with an MJF victory at AEW Revolution. Remember MJF gave Cody three stipulations for the match to occur.  

    The first was that Cody could not touch MJF prior to the match, the second was that Cody had to defeat Wardlow in a cage match and the third was that Cody must receive ten lashes with a belt from MJF. At Revolution, MJF defeated Rhodes via pinfall. AEW missed an opportunity to build on this rivalry which fans were highly invested in. It appeared that as quickly as that the excitement, passion, and want for justice for Rhodes grew it vanished just as quickly following Revolution.

    I think reigniting this feud would be a huge win for AEW. Fans want to see Cody exact his revenge on MJF, the man they love to hate. This would also be a fantastic opportunity to have MJF get a title shot against his former mentor and his greatest rival. AEW is at its best when MJF is prominently featured in the championship story line.  

    With the addition of the TNT title to AEW’s championship lineage, there is now a multitude of options for fascinating storylines involving championship runs. AEW must capitalise on the momentum it generated with the introduction of the new TNT championship. Creating fan investment is accomplished through thoughtful booking as well as innovative use of the company’s talent.

    These five-match proposals certainly fit the bill and would be a good starting point to legitimise the newest championship the company has to offer.

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