Cody Rhodes as AEW TNT Champion, Bobby Lashley and MVP Split, More Quick Takes

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2021

Cody Rhodes as AEW TNT Champion, Bobby Lashley and MVP Split, More Quick Takes

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    Cody Rhodes gains very little from becoming a three-time AEW TNT champion.
    Cody Rhodes gains very little from becoming a three-time AEW TNT champion.Credit: All Elite Wrestling

    Despite being a holiday week, the last seven days in wrestling were anything but boring, as both WWE and AEW produced several stories that are worth keeping an eye on heading into the new year.

    Cody Rhodes capped off Christmas night by shockingly regaining the AEW TNT Championship from Sammy Guevara. It marks his third stint with the strap, but it's worth questioning how high his ceiling is with his character's current limitations.

    Kyle O'Reilly's Dynamite arrival was another highlight on the AEW front. The three-time NXT Tag Team champion and one-time ROH World champion immediately realigned himself with Adam Cole and Bobby Fish, setting the stage for what could be an epic clash between The Elite and the former Undisputed Era.

    Meanwhile in WWE, two major names appear to be branching off on their own as babyfaces as 2022 looms large: AJ Styles and Bobby Lashley. Both former WWE champions teased tension with their partners this past week and could be involved in high-profile matches come WrestleMania 38 if they can continue to build momentum.

    This installment of Quick Takes will tackle what the future may hold for Lashley and Styles, Rhodes' polarizing title win, NXT 2.0 bringing in the big guns, and more.

AEW TNT Championship Win Won't Make Cody Rhodes More Interesting

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    Cody Rhodes has been stuck in the same cycle for the better part of the past year, bouncing around from feud to feud without a real sense of direction. That continued on Saturday's Christmas edition of Rampage when he became a three-time AEW TNT champion by beating Sammy Guevara.

    Aside from issuing a challenge to Guevara two weeks ago, Cody has shown zero interest in pursuing the TNT title recently. He last lost it to Darby Allin at Full Gear in November 2020 and hasn't been involved in much of major importance since.

    His in-ring work has hardly faltered, but as a character, he has never been less interesting. Putting the belt back on him won't change that, since it wasn't that long ago he was holding it.

    Of course, the boos he received upon pinning Guevara were noticeable, and if AEW doesn't intend to follow through with the heel turn a majority of fans want to see from him, continuing to tease a turn will get old after a while.

    AEW's promising up-and-comers can benefit from working with someone the caliber of Cody, but the endgame of this title run for him remains in question. His inability to challenge for the AEW World Championship from a storyline standpoint and not turning heel has limited a lot of what he can do and how far he can go, resulting in his stagnation for years.

Enlisting Help of Main-Roster Stars Is a Temporary Fix to WWE NXT 2.0's Issues

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    NXT 2.0 has only been around for three months and already the brand is bringing in main-roster stars in an attempt to boost the less-than-stellar ratings.

    That was extra apparent last week when AJ Styles surfaced on the show despite not having a real reason for being there. Grayson Waller called him out on social media a few days prior, but beyond that, Styles' appearance on the program was random.

    The two teased a match as Waller walked off before they could get physical. Surely there will be a blow-off at some point, but it begs the question of why Superstars such as Styles and Riddle (who is serving as the "shaman" for MSK) are needed in NXT in the first place.

    NXT 2.0 hasn't been a total bust, as there are several top prospects with plenty of potential. Bron Breakker, Waller, Carmelo Hayes, Tony D'Angelo and Toxic Attraction are among them, but the creative direction of the show itself has been horribly lacking since the relaunch in September.

    There is some irony in WWE enlisting help of established names from Raw and SmackDown (who were also major success stories on the independent scene) for NXT when there has been a policy in place for months now about NXT not hiring wrestlers with much independent experience.

    NXT should succeed or fail on its own merits, not with main-roster talent thrown in the mix when there already isn't enough television time for everyone NXT is in the process of building up.

WWE Could Be Preparing for a Bobby Lashley and MVP Split

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    Bobby Lashley's dominant tear has been one of the best parts of WWE Raw in recent weeks. Aside from being counted out in a tag team match at Survivor Series, he hasn't been defeated decisively since losing to Goldberg at Crown Jewel in October.

    WWE's insistence on protecting Lashley is encouraging considering there's never a guarantee that a Superstar will continue to be booked well after dropping the WWE Championship. Thankfully, he has remained at the main-event level and is a focal point heading into the Day 1 pay-per-view.

    The conclusion to Monday's Raw gave fans a glimpse of what Lashley's future may look like as he gave off major babyface vibes and didn't have MVP coming to his aid. The two briefly teased tension backstage, meaning that Lashley may be about to break off on his own and embark on a babyface run en route to WrestleMania.

    Lashley has been a heel for the last three years of his career and an excellent one at that. Although he's always been at his best in that role, he's endeared himself to the audience enough that a babyface turn would be believable and he no longer needs MVP to do the talking for him.

    They've been the perfect pairing since the summer of 2020, but Lashley losing MVP at this juncture wouldn't be as detrimental to his career as it would have been six months ago.

How AEW Has Perfectly Set the Stage for The Elite vs. Undisputed Era

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    After over a month of teases, the trio of Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly finally reunited on AEW Dynamite last Wednesday and planted the seeds for a match no one thought would be possible six months ago.

    On the post-Full Gear edition of Dynamite back in mid-November, Kenny Omega teased tension with Adam Cole by saying that he was leaving The Young Bucks in charge of The Elite in his absence, not him. Cole and the Bucks have been a cohesive unit since then, but Wednesday marked the first time that Cole left the arena without the Bucks by his side.

    Needless to say, all roads should lead to The Elite's Omega and Young Bucks vs. Cole, Fish and O'Reilly eventually and the build to that bout is officially underway.

    As fun as it has been to have Cole alongside The Elite again for the first time in nearly five years, he did some of his best work with Undisputed Era in NXT. That serious side to his character is where he shines, and leading a faction of his own is the smartest use of him.

    Regardless of what name they go by as a group, the additions of Cole, Fish and O'Reilly to the AEW roster are massive and make for many exciting match possibilities going forward.

AJ Styles Branching off on His Own Was Long Overdue

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    AJ Styles spent his entire 2021 in WWE's tag team division, and while it served its purpose early on, his team with Omos ran its course many months ago and he was long overdue for a return to the singles ranks.

    The Phenomenal One's pairing with Omos has been on the brink of collapse for a few weeks, but their breakup last Monday on Raw felt rushed. They'll now go one-on-one on the December 27 edition of Raw, reportedly due to WWE having bigger and better things in mind for both men heading into the new year, per WrestleVotes on Twitter.

    Omos remains a work in progress and shouldn't be receiving a significant push any time soon, but it sounds like he could be in line for a major match at WrestleMania. Of the two, Styles is the one who should be pushed prominently on the road to WrestleMania as he can lend a lot to either the babyface or heel side of the roster.

    Styles shouldn't be counted out as a possible candidate to win the men's Royal Rumble in January. Having never reigned supreme in the Rumble before, that would be the perfect opportunity for him to re-establish himself as a threat and waste no time in entering a top title picture.

    The outcome of his upcoming clash with Omos won't mean much as Styles can bounce back from virtually anything and always be perceived as a top talent in the eyes of the audience.


     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.