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Challengers | All Elite Wrestling

Last time, I raised the thought of how AEW and ROH both seem to be in a form of transition, with many new champions since December 2023. Quite often, fans will start thinking of who the next champion will be quite quickly, but I wanted to focus on something a little more unique, which was thinking of unique or new challengers for these titles. That doesn’t mean I think these challengers will win the respective titles, though I did mention one or two in the last article that could become champion if needed, just someone I think would be a great opportunity in the role as challenger for that title. We’ve already gone through the ROH titles, so now it’s time to focus on the AEW championships…


Title: AEW Continental Championship

Current Champion: Kazuchika Okada

Challenger and Why: If there’s one thing ‘The Rainmaker’ is synonymous with, it’s winning titles, and holding them for a long time. Because of that, I could easily see Okada holding the title all the way to the next Continental Classic, so the aim is less to find someone Okada could lose the title to, and more to find someone who could put over Okada with the possibility of meeting them again in the next Classic. Because of this, I wanted to go with a big challenger who has faced Okada once in singles competition, six years ago in the G1 Climax, but has since gone on to become one of the MVPs of AEW. Like Okada’s match with PAC, I would love to see Okada face an AEW original, in ‘Hangman’ Adam Page. Two years ago, we had a brief chance of this match, when Page tried challenging Okada at that year’s Forbidden Door, only for Okada to lose that title to Jay White. This time, let Page come back to AEW, challenge Okada, and see the two put on a likely half hour barn burner, with Okada winning to continue his successful move to AEW.


Title: AEW International Championship

Current Champion: Roderick Strong

Challenger and Why: This might be an interesting one, as even though Strong is the current champion, he faces Will Ospreay at AEW Double or Nothing, and it’s highly unlikely Ospreay will lose considering the push he’s currently receiving. Because of that, I’ve gone with an opponent that could easily challenge either Strong or Ospreay and offer a different type of match-up. I’d like to suggest that regardless of who is champion after AEW Double Or Nothing, their next challenger should be Eddie Kingston. One of the biggest fan favourites in AEW, who proudly won the Continental Classic to become a Triple Crown champion, Eddie finds himself now champion of just the NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship, and you could easily see him wanting to add more to his collection. There are two tremendous elements to Kingston’s game that makes him suitable for both men, his selling, and his Fighting Spirit. Eddie makes you believe when he sells, which considering how great Strong’s offence looked when he defeated Orange Cassidy, a similarly excellent seller would make Strong look amazing. Regarding Ospreay’s offence, his moveset looks agile, vicious and impressive, so Eddie could easily put him over. But more than that, it’s his Fighting Spirit, which matches Ospreay and is akin to Strong’s ROH-workrate style, that could create an awesome back and forth battle.


Title: AEW World Trios Championship

Current Champion: Bullet Club Gold (Jay White, Austin Gunn & Colton Gunn)

Challenger and Why: This might be one of the more difficult options, as unfortunately there has been a slight stagnation in the Trios Division, with many having split up or moving on to other divisions. It says something that the ROH and AEW Trios Titles were unified recently, but that doesn’t mean the division doesn’t have potential. I’ve always felt the Trios Division could be a great opportunity to regularly put together a tag team and a singles wrestler, to allow them all to still be involved whilst having something different. The other option was always to have a mixture of youth and experience, to allow the experienced ones to develop and teach the younger, while also protecting them. Because of this, I’d like to suggest a unique trio, in Dax Harwood, Cash Wheeler, and Kyle O’Reilly (trademark FTO’Reilly). There are several reasons for this, first being that FTR have been a dominant part of the tag team division in both AEW and ROH for two years, including multiple feuds with Young Bucks, so it would be good to see them kept separate for a period without benching a great tag team. Secondly, O’Reilly has returned from injury looking great, but has quickly fallen foul to attacks from the Undisputed Kingdom, so it would be smart of him to find a new stable to protect himself, while also keeping him relevant. And finally, I just think O’Reilly and Jay White would be a great match in the build-up!


Title: AEW TBS Championship

Current Champion: Willow Nightingale

Challenger and Why: Similar to the International Championship, I kind of have to plan for a challenger who would suit either Willow or her opponent at AEW Double Or Nothing, Mercedes Mone. With that in mind, I’ve gone for an individual who won’t win the title, but it could be a good opportunity for them. Queen Aminata impressed in her journey to the ROH Women’s Television Championship Tournament, and especially in the final against Billie Starkz, where her physicality and striking was painful to witness due to its ferocity. A brief move to the AEW roster could allow Aminata some more experience and both Willow and Mercedes have demonstrated good chemistry with physical wrestlers.


Title: AEW TNT Championship

Current Champion: Adam Copeland

Challenger and Why: As TNT Champion, Copeland has focused on the ‘Cope Open’, facing young stars that he can have twenty-minute bangers with such as Buddy Matthews and Penta El Zero Miedo, with the next big match likely to be against Malakai Black. However, Copeland has always excelled in feuds where you feel animosity and vitriol between the two, whether against Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, John Cena, The Undertaker, Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy, or in AEW, Christian Cage. With that in mind, it might be a good shout to have him battle against the sort of youngster that represents the future of wrestling that he wants to help work with but could also massively get under his skin. Jack Perry is currently at a career high, having joined The Elite as their latest protégé, rubbing elbows with legitimate stars like Kazuchika Okada and The Young Bucks, and recently attacking Tony Khan to huge heat. Entering a feud with Copeland, and possibly even having Adam try offering advice to Perry of the dangers of such actions, having committed similar in the past, could help personalise this match, especially if Perry attacks Copeland multiple times. The decision on whether to put Perry over or not could go either way depending on the big story, but it would be a great challenge for both men.


Title: AEW Women’s Championship

Current Champion: Toni Storm

Challenger and Why: It’s unlikely that Toni will lose the title any time soon, as they continue the story between herself and Mariah May in the style of All About Eve, so the bigger challenge is to have a good opponent who can help contribute to this story. Toni Storm prides herself on being the star of the show, the centre of attention, and there is a member of the Women’s Division who was recently in the spotlight due to the support from AEW fans. Nyla Rose was recently the victim of unfortunate bigotry and while usually this wouldn’t be a reason for a title match, this could be a rare opportunity to demonstrate the lesser seen side of Nyla, the internet goofball with fans galore who has become a representation to others. If Toni can be the villain accusing Nyla of stealing the spotlight, Nyla could use that story to represent the bravery of being out in the open, and possibly increase the internal conflict of Mariah. Also, it would be a great moment to reward a former AEW Women’s Champion.


Title: AEW Tag Team Championship

Current Champion: The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson)

Challenger and Why: The Young Bucks successfully defeated FTR at AEW Dynasty, and in the process, began their attack on the AEW roster and management. It is unlikely that The Elite will lose any of their titles for several months, but the tag team division needs some time to restrengthen some of the teams. Due to that, having the Jacksons use the time to challenge a team that doesn’t need strengthening, while also tying into the story with FTR. At AEW Revolution, the same night that the Young Bucks lost to then-AEW Tag Team Champions Sting and Darby Allin, their future opponents in the Tag Team Title Tournament FTR were defeated by the Blackpool Combat Club in Jon Moxley and Claudio Castagnoli. A combined former three-time AEW World Champion, two-time ROH World Champion, and the current IWGP World Champion, both men are also former multiple Tag Team Champions with a mixture of partners, making them a formidable challenge for the Bucks. The potential for the two teams in a series of matches could be the tag team version of Sami Zayn vs Cesaro and would be must-see.


Title: AEW World Championship

Current Champion: Swerve Strickland

Challenger and Why: The current AEW World Champion, Swerve Strickland has that IT Factor, full of charisma and intimidation in equal measures. Over the last two years, Swerve has improved in tag team wrestling, hardcore Deathmatch style, high-flying agility, and passionate blood feuds, but an area that hasn’t had as much focus is technical wrestling. At the same time, Swerve is likely to hold the title for the next 3-6 months, so the aim is to give him credible opponents he can beat that help cement him as a main eventer. We have already seen Christian Cage named as his first major challenger, who ticks the requirement of a credible opponent who can put Swerve over. But there’s one major player in AEW who could fulfil that criteria and may be the last opportunity to see this match occur with huge stakes (they faced briefly for the number one Contendership to the TNT Title, but this would be a much bigger stake and easily longer than the less than twenty minutes they had in that match). He already helped put over Hangman Page, and MJF as World Champions, but the match with Swerve Strickland could be Bryan Danielson’s perfect opponent in the last year of his full-time career. The Mogul against the American Dragon, given thirty plus minutes in a main event, could be excellent, help continue Swerve’s cementing as a champion, and easily lead into future feuds with a certain Aerial Assassin….


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