AEW: Cody Rhodes’ TNT Title reign fails to uplift lesser-known talent

AEW, Cody Rhodes (photo courtesy of AEW)
AEW, Cody Rhodes (photo courtesy of AEW) /

Cody Rhodes was a logical choice by AEW as the first TNT Champion, but the reign has now officially overstayed its welcome.

Back at AEW Double or Nothing 2020, the finals of the TNT Championship Tournament came down to Cody Rhodes and Lance Archer. It was a fitting finale to crown the inaugural champion, and Cody Rhodes felt like a logical pick to lend credibility to the title right from the start.

From there, Cody went on to defend the title in a string of open challenges. At first, it felt like a breath of fresh air to see young talent and even independent stars get such opportunities.

Sure, we had to sit through Jake Hager’s title shot at Fyter Fest 2020, but otherwise we got exciting challengers like Jungle Boy, Marq Quen, Ricky Starks, Sonny Kiss, Eddie Kingston, and WARHORSE. Of those, easily the most memorable was Kingston who opened AEW Dynamite with a scathing promo and pushed Cody to his limit in a No Disqualification Match.

Likely fueled by the vocal fan response to Kingston’s appearance, AEW actually signed Kingston to the company, but they’ve yet to put him on TV since then. Unfortunately, the rest of the matches felt relatively pointless. Sure, they were good moments at the time. I am happy for WARHORSE having gotten a chance to be showcased on national television.

This week, it looked like a culmination of these challenges as Cody went up against a more established name in former AEW Tag Team Champion Scorpio Sky. In recent weeks, Sky had been building momentum with victories on AEW Dark, though the fact he was rarely shown on AEW Dynamite certainly lessened that impact.

Scorpio Sky has the potential to be a future AEW World Champion. Going all the way back to November of 2019, he even challenged Chris Jericho for the AEW World Championship on the ninth episode of AEW Dynamite. In that match, Scorpio Sky lasted 12 minutes and 16 seconds before being forced to tap out to the Liontamer.

It’s now nine months later, and Scorpio Sky was finally getting his first big singles opportunity since then by challenging Cody for the TNT Championship on AEW Dynamite. Things seemed to start strong, as Sky kicked down a literal door put on the entrance tunnel to make his presence felt.

The introductions before the match certainly made it feel special. The bell sounded, and the match was underway. Throughout, Sky certainly put up a fight, but moments after the match ended his opportunity seemed to have been swept under the rug and rendered meaningless.

Sky lasted 12 minutes and 16 seconds against Chris Jericho last November, but it only took Cody Rhodes 11 minutes and 45 seconds to pin him cleanly this week on AEW Dynamite to retain the TNT Championship.

Just one minute after the loss, before Sky could even receive a sign of respect from Cody for a hard-fought match, Mr. Brodie Lee appeared on the titantron with the old unfinished TNT Title to challenge Cody for a match on the upcoming Saturday edition of AEW Dynamite. After Lee’s promo, which didn’t even acknowledge Scorpio Sky still being in the ring, Cody’s attention had shifted and Sky quietly left the ring without another word.

Scorpio Sky turned 37-years-old back in April, and he’s creeping up on two decades of in-ring experience. Yet, his presence was rendered pointless. Sky looked as forgettable as most of the other talent that’s challenged Cody, and it feels like he’ll just move back to AEW Dark where the majority of the AEW Dynamite audience will forget he exists.

At some point he has to lose right?

As I’ve stressed before, the TNT Championship Open Challenge only works if Cody actually loses the title. At this point, having Cody plow through talent on a weekly basis with ten minute matches has more than run its course.

Not only has the title reign grown stale, but at this point it feels as if it’s having a net negative impact on those he faces. Aside from maybe WARHORSE, who isn’t with the company, and Kingston who they’ve signed but yet to use, who has actually been lifted up by facing Cody?

Hager is as bland and uninteresting as ever. Starks, Kiss, Quen, Jungle Boy, and Sky all feel like lower card jobbers as far as the singles division is concerned. Now, we’ve got Mr. Brodie Lee next in line for some reason.

I’m not taking anything away from Brodie Lee, he’s a fantastic talent with great charisma and mic skills, but in what world does he need this? The only TNT Championship Match that was less exciting that this one involved Jake Hager, which isn’t exactly a difficult bar to make it over.

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It feels like past due for Cody to take on an actual rising star, a young talent (WARHORSE, Kiss, Quen) or a veteran who has never been given their due (Kingston, Sky) and actually lose the title.

If any of them had defeated Cody, it would’ve instantly risen their stock and made them huge faces of the company. Instead, once again this week on AEW Dynamite we went back to ol’ reliable. Cody wins clean, and the loser heads back into obscurity.