AEW TNT Title Changes, WWE Staying the Course with Cody Rhodes, More Quick Takes

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 6, 2023

AEW TNT Title Changes, WWE Staying the Course with Cody Rhodes, More Quick Takes

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    Samoa Joe's latest AEW TNT Championship win was equally shocking as it was satisfying.
    Samoa Joe's latest AEW TNT Championship win was equally shocking as it was satisfying.Credit: All Elite Wrestling

    Much has been made of the decision to move forward with Roman Reigns vs. Cody Rhodes for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania 39 instead of finding a way to shoehorn Sami Zayn into the equation.

    As announced on Friday's SmackDown, Zayn will get his title shot at Elimination Chamber in Montreal on February 18. The path WWE has taken with Reigns, Rhodes and Zayn will ultimately prove to be the right one, hence why a last-minute change in creative plans with Zayn facing The Tribal Chief again at 'Mania is not necessary.

    The AEW TNT Championship has certainly changed hands a fair amount recently, with Samoa Joe most recently besting Darby Allin in a violent main event to become a two-time champ.

    Although that also was the case in the first half of 2022 when the belt was booked like a pointless prop, the recent exchanges between Joe and Allin have raised its stock considerably.

    This installment of Quick Takes will talk about All Elite Wrestling successfully restoring the TNT title to prominence, Rhea Ripley making the correct choice for WrestleMania, a new United States champion being crowned at Elimination Chamber, and more.

Rapid Title Changes Won't Hinder AEW TNT Championship Resurgence

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    There was a time last year when the AEW TNT Championship held virtually no value and was treated like an afterthought due to the extended program between Sammy Guevara and Scorpio Sky falling flat.

    Wardlow capturing the title should have been a turning point, but his reign was also quite forgettable due to how sporadic his defenses were. To their credit, Samoa Joe and Darby Allin have done an exceptional job of getting the belt back on track in the last three months.

    Joe's first run was highlighted by some terrific matches against Allin, Wardlow and AR Fox. Allin beating for Joe for it in his hometown of Seattle also made for a memorable moment, followed by the standout title matches he was having on a weekly basis as well.

    Joe regaining the gold after only a month-long reign for Allin may leave fans questioning why, but if the title defenses are frequent and delivering, that's what matters most in ensuring it feels coveted.

    AEW has finally figured out a formula for the TNT title that works. While not every reign should be brief, Joe and Allin trading it back and forth has made for great television and has gotten the belt to a better place than it was in before.

Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley Is Right Choice for WrestleMania 39

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    Rhea Ripley wasted no time in making her intentions known as far as what championship she'll choose to contend for at WrestleMania 39.

    Two days removed from her historic performance and victory in the women's Royal Rumble match, she announced on Monday's Raw that she will have her sights set on Charlotte Flair's SmackDown Women's Championship come April 1-2 and settle their score once and for all.

    A Raw Women's Championship clash between Bianca Belair and Ripley seemed to be the obvious direction WWE had been headed in for months. As excellent of a match as that would have been, the Australian wanting to avenge her many losses to The Queen from years ago makes much more sense.

    It was Ripley's first defeat against Flair at WrestleMania 36 that sent her career into a tailspin for over two years. It wasn't until she joined The Judgment Day that she finally found her footing as a character, and with the wave of momentum she's currently riding, it's fitting she would want to target an old enemy who put her on this path to begin with.

    The Nightmare exorcising her WrestleMania demon is how this story must end.

Austin Theory Doesn't Need U.S. Title for 'Mania Match with John Cena

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    For the first time ever, the United States Championship will be defended inside the Elimination Chamber at this year's installment of the same titled pay-per-view.

    Austin Theory has successfully defended the title against Bobby Lashley and Seth Rollins since regaining it at Survivor Series in November and has excelled in his role. But it isn't vital he holds onto the gold through WrestleMania 39 if the plan is for him to face John Cena.

    WWE has yet to make the 'Mania match official, but there have been plenty of teases from Theory to suggest it will actually happen. And a contest of that caliber does not need the star-spangled prize on the line.

    The upcoming Elimination Chamber match will allow Theory to lose the belt before 'Mania and get it onto someone who can benefit from it. Johnny Gargano and Bronson Reed are the two best choices, especially since Seth Rollins wouldn't need it for his match against Logan Paul at The Show of Shows.

    The story that can be told with Theory and Cena doesn't need the title involved to feel important, despite the latter's own history with it.

    Theory's reign has served its purpose, and now it's time for him to take his next step up the card without it.

The Acclaimed Need More Credible Competition

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    The Acclaimed are the hottest they've ever been and have been riding high since becoming AEW world tag team champions at Grand Slam in September.

    Other than their three-match series with Swerve in Our Glory, they haven't been involved in much of note throughout their title reign. Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett felt like a filler feud for them, while their ongoing issues with The Gunns are essentially a rehashing of their rivalry from last summer.

    The story of where Billy Gunn's allegiance lies is far from interesting and doesn't do The Acclaimed any favors. The focus should entirely be on their run as tag team champs.

    AEW once boasted an incredibly deep tag team division. At one point, several top teams were fighting over the twin titles simultaneously, but many of those tandems are either inactive or no longer together.

    There hasn't been a strong effort to bolster the division in recent months, either. The AEW World Trios Championship scene is loaded with talent, but The Acclaimed can't grow until they have a pair of real rivals who can push them to their limit.

    This will prevent Max Caster and Anthony Bowens from cooling off prematurely and prolong their title run even further.

WWE Must Continue Current Path with Cody Rhodes, Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn

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    The crowd reactions Sami Zayn has been receiving as of late have convinced a portion of fans that adding him to the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship match at WrestleMania 39 would be the perfect payoff to his story.

    In reality, The Great Liberator made it known on SmackDown that he never previously wanted a title opportunity until Friday night when he demanded it. His story with The Bloodline is all about family and him discovering who he can trust.

    Zayn reuniting with Kevin Owens to challenge (and defeat) The Usos for the tag titles at WrestleMania 39 is the only logical outcome to the angle.

    That shouldn't disrupt Cody Rhodes' own road to WrestleMania where he looks to win the prestigious prize in honor of his late father, Dusty Rhodes. A segment of the audience will be upset that Zayn's dreams will be dashed at Elimination Chamber, but that shouldn't have a negative effect on Rhodes, who has been handled perfectly over the last month.

    It isn't uncommon for fans to want WWE to call an audible ahead of The Show of Shows, but this situation calls for no change.

    It's encouraging that the company has two babyfaces as over as Rhodes and Zayn are, and utilizing them in different spots on the 'Mania card is the right route to take.

    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.