Hello and welcome to another look at how AEW's In-ring translates to viewers perceptions, this time of their champions.
There were three champions from Tony Khan owned promotions in action last night at Battle of the Belts 3; Claudio Castagnoli, Thunder Rosa and Wardlow. These champions came out of their matches with three different presentations.
1. Wardlow is the unbeatable monster:
Getting only 15% of the offence is an unbelievable low share for Wardlow. Jay Lethal spent the match beating down Wardlow to no avail. Despite the work on Wardlow's knee, he is still able to smash Jay Lethal and pick up the win. A terrifying story for prospective TNT challengers; even if they get the upper-hand they need to be able to make it count or risk losing to Wardlow's terrifying arsenal regardless.
2. Thunder Rosa picks her moment
28% of the total offence is another remarkably low share of the total offence for an AEW champion. Champions are often seen as the all powerful top of the mountain, so it's interesting both Rosa and Wardlow spent the majority of their defences on the back foot. Rosa's story was different; she was up against a towering challenger and was in peril before managing to sneak the win. A dangerous strategy that cannot be used too often as it risks undermining the champion.
3. Claudio navigates an explosive young challenger
68% for the champion here, a much more powerful and controlling number. This match took the story of two skilled wrestlers vying for control; reversals are exchanged quickly and furiously. Claudio and Takeshita match each other for big strikes, grapples and dives but Claudio's use of submission and more smaller strikes gives him control over his opponent.
Takeshita is still dangerous as when he finds an opening his offence is impactful and sudden. A wonderful structure, Takeshita is put over as a hugely dangerous wrestler who could take out any opponent if he is given the correct opening and Castagnoli is the powerful, expertly competent veteran who can navigate such a threat. A win-win.
How does this kind of booking affect the wrestlers now?
This PPV saw remarkable similar gaps in offence between wrestlers in each match. Wrestlers usually split the offence with up to 20% difference between opponents; 52-48%, 45-55%, 59-41% are common differences. Two champions was under their opponents thumb for large proportions of their defences and the other was enormously dominant.
Personally, I feel Thunder Rosa isn't coming across as a strong champion so her booking against Hayter makes her feel lucky and as if it's only a matter of time. Wardlow feels strong enough that Lethal was never convincing even in control, but the match didn't always feel too relevant until Wardlow's eventual offence, his match with Orange Cassidy was much more entertaining.
Claudio Castagnoli and Konosuke Takeshita's match was a masterpiece and a template that I'd like to see used more often. The champion is further established as a competitor that is difficult to topple and the challenger is put over as skilful and dangerous. Not everyone can be booked this way and nobody can be booked this way all of the time. However more champions should be booked to win clean, even if they are heels. So many New Japan wrestlers have scratched and clawed their way to the top of the mountain, overcoming a babyface champion clean; Kazuchika Okada.
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