Quick Takes: WWE's Next Major Call-Up, MJF the New AEW World Champion and More

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2020

Quick Takes: WWE's Next Major Call-Up, MJF the New AEW World Champion and More

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    Could the undefeated MJF be closing in on the AEW World Championship?
    Could the undefeated MJF be closing in on the AEW World Championship?Credit: WWE.com

    Of everything that went down on AEW Dynamite on Wednesday, the biggest takeaway was that MJF could be the next AEW world champion come All Out on Sept. 5.

    The brash, undefeated up-and-comer has been hot on the heels of titleholder Jon Moxley for months. With the amount of momentum he has, it's possible he leaves that pay-per-view with the gold in his grasp.

    Also on Wednesday night, it was exciting for fans to bear witness to the AEW debut of Matt Cardona, formerly known as Zack Ryder in WWE. How high his ceiling is remains to be seen, however, especially with Raj Giri of Wrestling Inc reporting that he has signed only a five-appearance deal.

    As far as the future is concerned, one NXT act appears to be main roster-bound sooner rather than later if the recent booking on the black-and-gold brand has been any indication. If so, it then becomes a question of what show they should end up on between Raw and SmackDown.

    Raw recently benefited from Mustafa Ali's long-awaited return, though it looks like his renewed push may already be over after the events of Monday night. His latest loss and how it's a sign of a bigger problem in WWE will be discussed as part of this week's Quick Takes, along with MJF contending for AEW's top title, WWE's next major main roster call-up and more.

A Move to Raw or SmackDown for Undisputed Era Is Imminent

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    August marks three years since Undisputed Era's arrival in NXT. In those three years, they have run rampant on the roster, won all the championships several times over and stolen the show at countless TakeOver specials.

    However, having accomplished all that they can on the black-and-gold brand, the time has come for them to move on to either Raw or SmackDown.

    Adam Cole's loss of the NXT Championship on Night 2 of The Great American Bash in July essentially opened the door for them to take their talents elsewhere. None of them have been involved in anything of note since then, and although Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish have an NXT Tag Team Championship opportunity coming up on Wednesday, it's unlikely they will regain the gold for a record-setting fourth time.

    Besides, NXT has enough star power that while it would feel like a big blow to the roster, the brand would recover almost immediately. Raw and SmackDown, on the other hand, could desperately use the additional depth.

    SmackDown has several people out injured but is in the process of building up new stars such as Matt Riddle and Big E, among others. Adding Undisputed Era to their tag team ranks would be a welcome boost, but Raw needs them more, as almost every one of their divisions (main event, midcard and tag team) is lacking.

    Apollo Crews vs. Roderick Strong for the United States Championship would be a blast. The Street Profits rekindling their rivalry with Fish and O'Reilly over the Raw Tag Team Championship would be wonderful as well.

    Considering Cole vs. Drew McIntyre is a money feud waiting to happen, it makes almost too much sense for them not to be assigned to Raw sooner rather than later.

How High Is Matt Cardona's Ceiling in AEW?

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    Matt Cardona is officially "All Elite" coming off his Dynamite debut Wednesday night—if only temporarily.

    Knowing his history with Cody, for many fans it felt like it was only a matter of time following the former Zack Ryder's release from WWE back in April. Sure enough, that was exactly whom he saved in his premier appearance for AEW, as Cardona came to Cody's aid after the AEW TNT champion had successfully defended his title and needed backup against The Dark Order.

    Cody and Cardona vs. John Silver and Alex Reynolds of Dark Order has already been announced for Wednesday's Dynamite, but there's no obvious path Cardona takes from there. Cody vs. Cardona has to happen eventually, ideally for the AEW TNT Championship, and it could be that bout that determines where Cody's allegiances lie.

    The American Nightmare turning heel has been teased for some time, and Cardona could be the perfect person for him to betray because of how much more it would mean. Cardona doesn't need to dethrone Cody, but he does need to prove he's worth the hype and not fall by the wayside like some signings have such as Shawn Spears.

    Cardona's ceiling is certainly higher than being a regular on AEW Dark, and even without a title around his waist (except for maybe the Internet Championship), he can thrive at the upper-midcard level. He didn't contend for world titles many times in WWE because he didn't need to, but he unquestionably should have had more success as United States and intercontinental champion.

    AEW can rectify that wrong by doing more with him than WWE ever did to show his former employer what it was missing out on. That's assuming he sticks around beyond his next four appearances. With the incredible feedback his debut received from fans online, it's all but set in stone that he will.

Mustafa Ali's Recent Raw Loss Is Exactly How Not to Create New Stars

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    After a seven-month absence from WWE TV, Mustafa Ali resurfaced on the July 20 edition of Raw, winning a six-man tag team match by pinning self-proclaimed United States champion MVP. With how brightly he shone that evening, it looked like he was finally on the verge of breaking out and experiencing superstardom.

    It took all of one week for WWE to cut short whatever momentum he had by having him lose decisively to Bobby Lashley on Monday's Raw.

    Although rebuilding Lashley should be considered a priority as well, it shouldn't be coming at the expense of Ali, who has just as much, if not more, potential to be a top talent in the promotion. The fact that it was booked as a glorified squash win for the former intercontinental champion hardly helped.

    As disappointing as it was for Ali's fans, it illustrated a much larger and more concerning problem in WWE regarding the stunning lack of true stars.

    CEO Vince McMahon said during a quarterly conference call recently that the company's goal is to continue creating new names, but booking decisions such as that involving Ali indicate that isn't the case. Countless Superstars over the years have suffered similar fates, most notably Rhea Ripley at WrestleMania 36 when she lost to Charlotte Flair for no real reason.

    To the company's credit, Drew McIntyre has been a success story this year and has been made to look strong as the face of the flagship show. The same can not be said for a majority of the roster, however.

    Addressing that issue and taking the proper steps to fixing it should be of utmost importance to WWE heading into the remainder of 2020, starting with Ali and other Superstars who have also fallen victim to booking malpractice lately.

When Will Otis Cash In His Money in the Bank Briefcase?

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    Otis returned to WWE TV following a monthlong absence Friday night, essentially reminding viewers that the coveted Money in the Bank briefcase remains in his possession.

    His victory in this year's men's Money in the Bank ladder match took many fans by surprise because of the other talent involved in the contest. As beloved as he became through his storyline with Mandy Rose on the Road to WrestleMania, there was and still is no reason to believe he will be successful once he cashes in the coveted contract.

    His return on SmackDown gave no indication of what's next for him on the blue brand, as he was positioned as a pawn in the angle between Rose and Sonya Deville. It appeared as if he was headed for a feud with King Corbin before his abrupt absence from the show, which likely had to do with the surge in Superstars testing positive for COVID-19 in June.

    Some fans questioned the decision for Otis to become Mr. Money in the Bank in the first place because he has been booked largely as a comedy act. The way he's been handled by the company since May hasn't done much to change people's perception of him, either.

    As long as either Braun Strowman or The Fiend is holding the Universal Championship, it's safe to say Otis won't be winning that title. Nor would him moving over to Raw and cashing in on the WWE champion be a good idea.

    While it's possible WWE could build him up to be a legitimate threat in the coming months, it might just be best to chalk up this experiment as a failure, have him announce his cash-in on Braun ahead of time and lose before he settles for a spot in the midcard with Mandy as his valet.

Buying or Selling on MJF as the Next AEW World Champion

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    It's been months in the making, but MJF finally announced his intention to compete for the AEW World Championship at All Out in early September.

    Because he is undefeated in singles competition since signing with the company last year, he has long been slotted at the top of the title rankings. It's possible he would have received his rightful shot at the strap at Double or Nothing had the pandemic not happened, but it's better late than never.

    MJF's insider-term-filled promo on Wednesday's Dynamite may have been a bit too on-the-nose for some, but at least it effectively set the stage for what should be a fun feud between him and Jon Moxley, specifically on the mic.

    Moxley has reigned as the AEW world champion for nearly six months and holds victories over the likes of Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Brodie Lee and Brian Cage. Not being able to play off an audience has hurt his time on top ever so slightly, but he's made the most of the circumstances.

    As for MJF, he hasn't done anything extraordinary since beating Cody at Revolution and could use another notable victory or two on his resume. He's been killing it on the mic at every turn but hasn't proved he's ready to be the world champion just yet.

    It may be more logical for Moxley to hold on to the gold for a little longer so he can rekindle his rivalry with a newly turned Kenny Omega from last year and lose the belt to him. If MJF loses to Moxley, he would have to be put in a prominent program soon after and not get lost in the shuffle as he has been for the better part of 2020.

    MJF capturing the AEW World Championship is inevitable, but at only 24, there's no need to rush it.

    Then again, the company must start to create stars of its own, and MJF is much more of an AEW "original" than either Moxley or Omega. Winning the title at this stage of his career would cement him as the star many fans already perceive him to be.


    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.