AEW Dynamite has hosted seven different title defenses by reigning TNT Champion Cody, but the Open Challenge only works as intended if he eventually loses.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen Cody defend the TNT Championship against a vibrant mixture of competitors. We’ve seen AEW talent like Marq Quen, Jungle Boy, Sonny Kiss, and Jake Hager got a shot. Newcomer Ricky Starks, now a mainstay of AEW, debuted by challenging Cody for the title.
In the last two weeks, we’ve even seen two huge free agents from the independent wrestling scene take on Cody for the title without even being signed to a contract. The first was Eddie Kingston, who’s visceral mic skills and violent in-ring prowess set the internet on fire to the point that fans demanded AEW #SignEddieKingston.
Unfortunately, so far it looks like those calls have fallen on deaf ears, and Kingston hasn’t yet been signed by the company. This week, another huge figure from the independent scene made his debut on AEW Dynamite as Cody defended against WARHORSE.
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The heavy-metal headbanger who “RULES ASS” didn’t get the same chance to show his charisma on the microphone, but he did push Cody with a fantastic match for the title. WARHORSE was close to victory on more than one occasion, but ultimately Cody took the win by submission with the Figure Four.
At this point, there’s no denying the importance of Cody’s Open Challenge. It’s also meant AEW has given some key names from the independent scene a very big moment, and likely an important payday, at a time when the industry is more unstable than ever due to the ongoing global pandemic.
Unfortunately, they’re about to run headlong into a problem of their own creation. The only way for this Open Challenge to truly deliver and do what they likely want it to do is for Cody to eventually lose one of these matches.
Cody is easily one of the most beloved babyfaces in the company, but that’s all the more reason he doesn’t need this belt. He’s laying a foundation for the title successfully, but eventually he absolutely has to let someone take over and start building on that foundation.
Eddie Kingston was the perfect choice. Especially with the No Disqualification stipulation, Kingston could’ve been an instant gamechanger in the company by taking out Cody and capturing the TNT Championship. Instead, one week later AEW seems to have moved on entirely from that powerful moment.
WARHORSE also could’ve been made into a star with a single victory, but chances are his tenure on AEW won’t come up again any time soon. There’s an abundance of talent, especially Black and queer talent, on the independent scene that are more than ready and willing to be a huge signing for AEW.
AEW could show their commitment to diversity, and to making new stars rather than relying on ones made elsewhere, by having an independent name that’s “not even signed to a contract” defeat Cody for the TNT Championship on AEW Dynamite. Anyone who scores that win will instantly be a mainstay of AEW’s mid-card, and it’ll certainly draw the attention of independent wrestling fans like never before.
Eddie Kingston could even still be the one to do that, if he signed with the company on the condition of a rematch against Cody. There are plenty of names to pick from, but if Cody just keeps winning this Open Challenge, the purpose of it will ultimately fizzle out.
WARHORSE and Eddie Kingston’s moments can’t be taken away from them, but their importance is tarnished if Cody never loses the Open Challenge. They become one-off moments in those men’s careers, and risk being a trivia question in AEW’s future.
“Which uncontracted free agents did Cody defend the TNT Championship against?” That’ll be the question, and not everyone will know the answer. Instead, by having Cody lose, they can shift the narrative entirely in their favor.
“Which uncontracted free agent defeated Cody for the TNT Championship in their AEW debut?” Now that’s a question everyone will remember the answer to. That’s one that can be a launchpad to a memorable AEW tenure for any independent wrestling star who becomes the answer.