Honestly: This Is How The Interim TNT Championship Should Have Been Booked

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Photo Credits – AEW

Thoughts on Crowning an Interim Champion:

The booking decision to crown an interim champion to me, was a really bizarre decision to begin with here. Personally, I fully understand that Cody testing positive for COVID at the last minute forced a readjustment to the whole plan for this match at Battle for the Belts but the decision to crown an interim champion really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at all. They could have easily had Dustin defending it on behalf of his brother or done a number one contender match for the TNT title or if it had to be a title match, they could have put together another title match on the card. Those would have been the easiest solutions in my opinion and better options than naming an interim champion.

Interim champions are relatively rare in wrestling and are essentially designed for extreme situations. For example, the last known one that I can think of was when NXT crowned an interim Cruiserweight champion in Escobar because the reigning champion, Jordan Devlin, was stuck over in the UK because of the travel ban due to COVID. Devlin would defend the title over in NXT UK claiming to be the real champ, while Escobar did the same in NXT. Of course, this eventually led to the match between the two to decide who the real champ is. Yes, it has been done before a champ gets injured and someone new is crowned champ while their out and then they feud over it but the actual crowning of a champion and calling them interim is rare like I said.

Obviously COVID is absolutely serious, and no one knows how bad it could get but in Cody’s case if the reports are true it didn’t sound like a severe case, where he was hospitalized and considering AEW is already promoting his return this Wednesday, it doesn’t sound like it was severe at all if he is returning. Which is why naming an interim champ for essentially 2-weeks makes ZERO sense. I don’t know what AEW’s storyline policy for champions is because WWE always says, “a champion must defend their title at least once every 30 days”. Yes, I know WWE conveniently ignores this rule whenever they want like when Brock was Universal Champion. Anyway, let’s say AEW has a similar rule for their champions, well Cody literally defended it on the December 30th, 2021, episode of Rampage, so, in theory he should be good until January 30th. Yes, I know they didn’t strip him of the title but naming an interim champion for what 2-weeks again is dumb.

How The Interim Championship Match Should Have Been Booked:

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Anyway, so AEW went the interim champion route, although it is not the booking choice I would have made, the matchup of Dustin Rhodes stepping in for his brother to face the former champion, Sammy Guevara, is a hell of a match in itself.

Dustin has had an amazing resurgence to his career in AEW, but he has not held gold in the company yet. Having him face one of the “pillars” of AEW’s young talents could only benefit Sammy as he tries to make a name for himself because make no question about it, Dustin is a future HOF talent, and has a ton of knowledge that he can only pass on being in the ring with a talent. Sammy had a ton of criticism as champion from the fans claiming it wasn’t living up to what it could be but the general consensus from fans that I have talked to and hearing the crowd reaction was they HATED Cody once again taking the TNT Championship. 

About a month ago, I discussed the criticism with Cody and how he should stop pretending to be face and embrace the natural heat he is getting from the crowd and become a heel. The booking of Cody in general doesn’t make any sense if it is not leading to a heel turn. One rumor that came from a reliable source, stated that AEW is booking Cody with the intention that he is a heel, but his character doesn’t realize he is really a heel. If that is true, that is the dumbest booking idea possible for Cody. 

I personally think the smarter booking decision would have been to have Dustin come out the winner in this match and I will explain my thinking further in the article. The match between Dustin and Sammy was a great match, which I suspected it would be the moment it was booked but this match suffered from something a lot of matches suffer from today, they do too much that isn’t necessary. A lot of matches today will feature an insane spot but it won’t end the match, when it should. Also, the need to hit multiple finishers diminishes the value of the finisher and the talent delivering it if it doesn’t end the match. I understand why it is done at times where more than one finisher is needed but it shouldn’t happen in every match, if it doesn’t make sense. When Cody won the title by hitting Sammy with his finisher 3 times in a row would make sense for a heel but again “he isn’t a heel” according to Cody and AEW but the paying audience disagrees.

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So why would Dustin, a beloved babyface legend go for 3 crossroads too? That’s not a babyface move; this wasn’t a heated rivalry. Oh I know, the argument would be well Dustin was desperate to put Sammy away and he knew it worked for Cody, but it shouldn’t have gotten to that point. The finish of the match should have been this Canadian Destroyer spot through the table:

This was an absolutely amazing spot and for Dustin at his age hitting it so beautifully should have ended the match. Either the ref should have stopped the match saying Sammy could not continue and declare Dustin the winner or Dustin should have rolled Sammy in the ring and pinned him. It would have been believable and logical to conclude the match this way. Side note, unless I missed something, it made ZERO sense why the match didn’t end in a DQ as it was not a DQ match, at least book it correctly and establish before the bell rings that there must be a winner by pinfall or submission and there will be no count outs or disqualifications.  

Of course, this wasn’t the end of the match, Dustin ends up hitting two consecutive crossroads to a lifeless Sammy but somehow before he can hit a third, Sammy somehow not only comes to life and blocks it but flies all over the ring like he hadn’t been Canadian destroyed through a table or hit with two crossroads and ends up winning the match! Yes, we all know it is scripted but at least make the finish believable and that finish was far from believable. Why even bother making Sammy interim champ to either lose again to Cody or beat Cody? If Cody beats him again it just further buries Sammy, and it will make even less sense if Cody doesn’t embrace the heel. If Sammy beats Cody, then what the hell was the point of Cody beating him for the title before other than giving Cody and Sammy additional reigns? If Cody losses and it sets him off to embrace the heel, then even though it is a convoluted way to get there, at least it would sort of make sense.

Why The Wrong Man Won:

Dustin should have won the match like I stated with the Canadian Destroyer spot, it would not only be believable and wouldn’t have hurt Sammy at all because after all a spot like that could and should have beaten almost anyone and Dustin has been wrestling longer than Sammy has been alive, so being beaten by a legend doesn’t hurt him. The biggest thing that would have come out of this thing would have been a Double or Nothing rematch seeing the brothers again going to war with each other but this time it isn’t just pride and bragging rights on the line but the TNT Championship. For me, the Cody vs Dustin match at DON was absolutely one of the best matches in 2019 in the industry and one of the greatest matches in AEW history. It was a classic and is still one of my favorite matches ever. 

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To me this is a much bigger money match than Cody vs Sammy 2. I would have had Dustin win and keep Cody off of TV until at least February. Keeping Cody off of TV makes having an interim champ make much more sense than rushing Cody back 2 weeks later. Dustin could successfully defend the title in the meantime and when Cody returns the rematch between them is booked for AEW’s first PPV of 2022 at Revolution in March. That is a hell of a marquee match for the show and fans would love to see the rematch and it is an incredibly easy build for the match. They could literally put the brothers in tag matches and Cody can act all “I’m fine with Dustin being interim champ and there is no animosity between them” but hints of a heel turn can be laid prior to the match.

At Revolution, the two men put on another absolute classic, but Cody finally embraces the full heel turn and cheats to beat his brother. He doesn’t stop beating Dustin down after the match and has to be pulled off by Arn and Brandi pops up behind Arn and kicks him in the balls. Arn and Dustin are left laid out in the ring as AEW’s power couple leaves to the chorus of boos.

Cody cuts a promo that he is sick of the fans constant disrespect to him and Brandi and that he is the true heir to the “American Dream” and the fans should have been cheering me not that bastard that spent his career painted up and dressed like a freak that our father was ashamed of. That’s right Dustin, Dad was ashamed of you and told me that he wanted me to carry on his legacy not you. 

Dustin eventually returns with Arn at his side weeks later looking for revenge on his little brother. Now I don’t know how much longer Dustin plans to wrestle but this would be a hell of a retirement match in a heated rivalry that Dusty would have absolutely loved, and I think Dustin would love for Cody to be the one to end his career as it was the original plan for the DON match. 

To me this would have given us a hell of a feud and set things up for a proper heel run for Cody and added a real prestige to a TNT title feud and most importantly would have been a money draw.

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