Quick Takes on AEW's Ace in the Hole, Kevin Owens' Return to WWE's Elite and More

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured Columnist IVAugust 14, 2022

Quick Takes on AEW's Ace in the Hole, Kevin Owens' Return to WWE's Elite and More

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    Kevin Owens looks on in approval as Ezekiel is carted out of the Raw arena. (Credit: WWE.com)

    The many returns, debuts and corporate changeovers have made it an exhilarating time to be a fan of WWE and All Elite Wrestling heading into the final stretch of the summer.

    The Triple H effect is already being felt on Raw and SmackDown, with both brands delivering strong shows this week. The renewed focus on several underutilized stars has been refreshing, specifically in the case of Kevin Owens.

    The former universal champion made a major statement on Monday's Raw by obliterating archrival Ezekiel. Now having reverted to his roots as a ruthless prizefighter, it will be intriguing to see what his ceiling will be going forward.

    AEW, meanwhile, is about to receive a significant shot in the arm with the returns of Bryan Danielson, CM Punk and possibly Kenny Omega as soon as Wednesday's Dynamite. All three are heavy hitters for the promotion and will give the shows more of a must-see vibe again.

    These Quick Takes will tackle AEW's ultimate ace in the hole, Hit Row being a big boost to the WWE tag team division, who the inaugural AEW World Trios champions should be, and more.

CM Punk Will Play Pivotal Role in Restoring Excitement to AEW TV

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    AEW programming has been missing that certain spark this summer, the same spark that made Dynamite and Rampage must-see programming around this time a year ago. Injuries to several top stars in recent months has had a lot to do with that.

    Bryan Danielson and presumably Kenny Omega are both on their way back, but CM Punk will prove to be the biggest difference-maker of the three, especially in relation to the AEW World Championship picture.

    Jon Moxley has been keeping Punk's spot atop AEW warm and has held down the fort to the best of his ability. However, there hasn't been a ton to get overly excited about or invested in, at least until The Best in the World returned on Wednesday to kick off his feud with Moxley heading into All Out on September 4.

    It's one of the biggest bouts AEW can do at the moment. It's guaranteed to deliver from an in-ring standpoint, but on the microphone is where they'll really shine in the weeks preceding the pay-per-view.

    Prior to his hiatus, Punk was far and away one of the most compelling characters to watch on AEW TV. His feud with MJF was spectacular storytelling and his chase for the title was also interesting. Now, there's plenty more for him to sink his teeth into as the defending champ.

    As thrilling as Punk vs. Moxley is bound to be, one has to assume MJF's return to TV is right around the corner, and him rekindling his rivalry with Punk (this time over the title) will give AEW another massive edge and a potential ratings boost.

Hit Row Return Is Big Boost to WWE Tag Team Division

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    It's no secret that WWE has undervalued tag team wrestling for some time now. Even with popular tandems such as The Usos and RK-Bro in the mix, the rest of the division has been depleted for the better part of 2022.

    Triple H taking charge creatively should mean that the tag team scene is going to be taken more seriously going forward. The first steps in accomplishing that took place on Friday's SmackDown when Hit Row returned and won their tag team match with ease.

    With B-Fab in their corner, Top Dolla and Ashante "Thee" Adonis can be a popular act with the right booking. They were released within weeks of arriving on the main roster last year and now have a chance to right that wrong.

    Of course, more teams will need to be built up for them to work with, but the talent is there. The New Day and The Viking Raiders are currently feuding, Maximum Male Models may be starting a storyline with Los Lotharios, and Raw still has Alpha Academy, The Street Profits, The Judgement Day and The Mysterios in its ranks.

    Calling up The Creed Brothers, Pretty Deadly and Legado del Fantasma eventually could also be a huge help. Unlike the top two singles championships, keeping the tag titles unified (and an influx of fresh faces) will be essential to the revival of the division.

Who Will Be Inaugural AEW World Trios Champions?

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    AEW finally announced the introduction of its Trios titles late last month, but it wasn't until Wednesday's Dynamite that the bracket for the tournament to crown the inaugural champions was revealed.

    There were some notable omissions, with no one from Blackpool Combat Club or Jericho Appreciation Society taking part, but there are still quite a few trios that could walk away with the gold at All Out.

    The Young Bucks and their mystery partner along with the entire House of Black have to be considered the top two picks to win the whole thing. That should be the match in the finals since nothing else would make as much sense.

    With "Hangman" Adam Page turning down the Bucks' invitation to team with them, all signs point to the returning Kenny Omega filling the spot. The former AEW world champion has spent the last nine months on the sidelines with several injuries, and this would be the perfect time for him to be reintroduced.

    House of Black have been unstoppable since joining forces earlier this year and would be a fantastic fit as the first-ever Trios titleholders.

    AEW can't go wrong with either faction, but The Elite emerging victorious would play perfectly into their program with Adam Cole and reDRagon, making them the odds-on favorites.

WWE's Renewed Focus on Midcard Titles Is Breath of Fresh Air

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    Much like the tag team division, it has been encouraging to see progress made with the midcard championships since Triple H was appointed the new head of creative in WWE.

    It started on last week's Raw with the video packages highlighting the importance and prestige of the United States Championship. That carried over into the title clash between Bobby Lashley and Ciampa on Monday night, with The Blackheart dedicating the match to his trainer and inaugural U.S. champ, Harley Race.

    The Intercontinental Championship received similar treatment on SmackDown when Gunther defended against Shinsuke Nakamura in the main event. It was the first time in years that the title was made to out to be something worth fighting for.

    For so long, these belts were basically utilized as props and served no real purpose aside from keeping certain Superstars busy. They had no meaning, but using their lineages to illustrate how coveted they can be is a smart strategy.

    It's all a part of the gradual changes being implemented into the product and a sign that Triple H is aware of the issues that need to be addressed and fixed.

    These are the little things that make the biggest differences and only add to the viewer's enjoyment of Raw and SmackDown.

Kevin Owens' New Character Has Main Event Potential

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    Kevin Owens is the quintessential WWE Superstar in that he excels in any role the company decides to put him in.

    He made the most of his recent rivalry with Ezekiel and turned into one of the best things on Raw for as long as it ran for, but the time had come for him to be booked like more of a threat.

    KO's vicious attack on Elias' younger brother this past Monday on Raw indicated he's bringing back the mercilessness that made him one of the best heels in all of WWE from 2014 to 2015. We've seen shades of it on the main roster but never for more than a month or so.

    Shockingly, it has been a full five years since Owens last held gold of any kind in WWE. Of course, he hasn't needed a title to remain relevant, but his outstanding efforts deserve to be rewarded in the form of a championship in the very near future.

    The United States title would be fine, but his current character could easily make a run at the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship when the time is right. In addition to Seth Rollins, Raw could use more credible heels at the top of the card, and The Prizefighter should be among that elite competition.

    Owens' initial reign as universal champ in 2016 was far from what it could have been due to less-than-stellar booking. This latest character shift should be how he gets back to main event glory and the strong title run he should have had the first time around.

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.


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