In a special Roundtable, Pro Wrestling Musings' collaborators take part in a fantasy booking/predictions Roundtable. It's simple who do you think and/or want to be the next 5 AEW World Champions?
Craig William (@CraigPWMusings)
1. Adam Page
I’m not being original here; many expect Hangman Page to take the title off Kenny Omega, the question is more about when, rather than if. The Kenny Omega title reign has not been as rewarding as I expected, and that’s as a self-professed Kenny Omega mark. From my perspective, both Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley had better, more magnetic, title reigns.
The prevailing theory is Page will take the title at All Out, due to the clue in Omega’s Twitter banner. I’d have him lose at All Out, spiral and have a final but massive wobble, complete with self-doubt and possible an anger filled alienation from the Dark Order. I’d then look for Page to realign with the Dark Order, eventually and take the title from Omega as late as at Revolution 2022, perhaps.
The key to this is whether Omega can hold the title for that long without it becoming stale. The key to this may be in the oft-mentioned ‘Forbidden Door’. Can we dream and get Kota Ibushi? I’d settle for a Wrestle Kingdom 13 rerun and see Hiroshi Tanahashi step through that mythological door.
Again, not a surprising pick from me here. MJF has been positioned as the next monster heel in waiting. The Pinnacle will be at the top of AEW at some point in the not-too-distant future and MJF will be champion. The main question is when.
The Adam Page arc is going to define AEW and won’t be concluded with him simply winning the AEW World Championship. His first reign should be short and end cruelly. After conquering Omega at long last, Page will need another mountain to climb and MJF is surely that mountain, long term.
3. Jon Moxley
I’d love to see Jon Moxley as the first man to be AEW World Champion twice. I’m not convinced Jon Moxley is a man that will give his whole life to wrestling so I’d like to see him get the cherry on the cake that has been his career thus far. Moxley being the man to take the title off MJF is also a cool call back to his one-man conquering of the Inner Circle.
4. Darby Allin
It seems a little while ago now, but Jon Moxley and Darby Allin have somewhat of a storied history with each other. It would be a fiery and highly competitive match, and one that would surely end with a show of respect from Moxley to Allin. Allin has proven over the last few months he can carry a belt, draw eyes to the product and put of great matches. Add that to the fact Darby Allin has connections and stories with numerous top stars in AEW, this almost has to happen.
5. Cody Rhodes
Yep, I went there.
I wouldn’t go down the route of Cody taking the title of a dominant MJF who is ruining his creation. However, that is a tremendous story that would be worth breaking Cody’s stipulation for.
I’d go with full-scale heel Cody. Ring of Honour style top-heel Cody. Mercilessly taking the title off Darby Allin flanked by a stable of villains in the twilight of his career, but with enough time for a redemptive, baby face run as TNT champion before he retires around 40.
Jacob Burns (@SaltyAyyycob)
1. Adam Page
I mean, come on. It’s been obvious since day one that they had their first four champions written in ink. Jericho, the recognizable veteran to draw in hesitant viewers. Moxley, the top babyface renegade, carrying the company torch even in the harshest condition. Omega, the heel megastar, terrorizing and pillaging multiple companies of their top titles, making himself the ultimate evil.
And finally, Adam Page. The only character in AEW currently undergoing the archetypal “Hero’s Journey”. There’s no doubt in my head that since day one, Hangman has been set up to take the belt off of Kenny Omega. Once he does, AEW’s booking is going to be free to run an any direction it pleases.
So now it’s time to speculate.
2. Brian Cage
For this entry I’m going for Brian Cage. I will get into why momentarily, but I also want to use this entry to briefly talk about who I strongly believe was being set up to be champion after Hangman. Since his debut, Brodie Lee had been positioned as a spiritual rival to Hangman Page. From BTE skits spawning the “F*** Hangman” meme, to the Dark Order always just falling short of recruiting him. It always seemed that The Exalted One and The Hangman always seemed destined for a collision, and I think it’s likely Brodie would have taken the belt in the process.
As another side note, I think MJF is also a very likely next champion. If Hangman Page is the first babyface champion brought to prominence by AEW, MJF is a great mirror to be the first heel champion brought to prominence by AEW. They were also the two highlighted stars during the AEW Championship unveiling at the first Double or Nothing, so it would make sense they get the championships in succession. But for the sake of intellectual diversity, MJF is not my pick for this entry.
Now to finally to actually talk about Brian Cage. Simply put, I feel like Brian Cage is playing a very similar roll to what Brodie would be playing at this stage in Hangman Page’s hero’s journey. His win over Page on Dynamite took away his chance at a title match at Double or Nothing 2021, and another possible win over Page at the PPV itself (Written before DoN2021), Brian Cage could be being set up to be the first challenger for Hangman after he wins the belt.
I could see them giving Hangman a short first title reign. His story has been all about self-doubt, so it would make sense if his first title reign reflected that. Immediately after climbing his last mountain, a bigger, meatier mountain presents itself. Brian Cage isn’t the most interesting wrestler by himself. But having Taz as a mouthpiece for a world champion the size and skill of Brian Cage sounds like it could be a lot of fun.
3. Adam Page... Again
After three title long title reigns, I think AEW has earned the right to play it a bit fast and loose with the championship. Not too fast and loose, but giving Brian Cage the title for one PPV cycle at most would reinvigorate the idea that anyone could get a push at any time. An idea many fans have lost faith in, since this first phase of AEW has been very predictable.
The title should go directly back onto Hangman. Not only does it make him the first two-time champ, which is a title he’s worthy of, but it also sets him up as the perfect babyface to eventually lose to...
It’s inevitable. MJF is the death and taxes of All Elite Wrestling, if “death and taxes” was wildly entertaining and the best talker in the business at the age of 24. Along with what I have already highlight in my section about Brian Cage, MJF he claims to be The Pinnacle of wrestling, and he’s going to need a championship to solidify him as such. He’s the only option to take the championship away from Hangman in any permanent capacity. With the Pinnacle watching his back, he should hold the title for a long time. Until...
5. Cody Rhodes
I wanted to have a unique list, but it’s just too perfect. AEW is great at providing satisfying long-form storytelling. I believe that they plan on looping back to Cody and MJF when MJF has the World Championship, because it was MJF that cost him the chance to ever challenge for the title ever again. It only makes sense that MJF would be the one to grant Cody the opportunity to break his promise.
Cody is such a good babyface, that when this whole “Pro-America” debacle smooths over, he’s going to cut a promo on MJF that’s going to have the fanbase clamouring for a Cody championship reign.
Tim Morehouse (@TimmayMan)
1. Adam Page – All Out, Chicago IL (August, 2021)
Kenny Omega has lost the Impact and TNA World Titles. He grows more paranoid as Andrade taunts him about his upcoming match for the AAA Mega Championship. His old tag team partner is now a threat as Adam Page is the #1 contender for the AEW World Championship.
This is clearly the feud that AEW has been building to for a long time now. I honestly thought that Page was going to have his moment at Double or Nothing, but another three months of build for this feud isn’t the worse thing. Time for Page’s friendship or betrayal of the Dark Order to develop. Time for Omega’s friendship and/or betrayal of the Elite to develop.
2. PAC – TNT SuperShow, London England (February, 2022)
Of all of the initial group of signees for AEW, PAC is the one I wanted to see hold gold the most. He got royally screwed by the COVID pandemic, losing nearly a year of his career to it. He has worked exceptionally hard to get his body and character into peak form. He deserves it, and in front of a home- town crowd no less. I’m a big proponent of playing to the city you’re in and PAC winning in England would be something special. I am concerned with his history of injuries, so I’d like to see him get the belt before too long.
3. Miro – Double or Nothing, Las Vegas NV (May, 2022)
Quite possibly the best ex-WWE signing that AEW has made. He looks like an absolute monster with the TNT championship and any casual viewer would instantly believe him as the top guy. This would be serious Miro having long ago given up the video game “Best Man” aspect of the character.
4. Jon Moxley – Full Gear, Cleveland OH (November, 2022)
Again, I like to see the home-town hero make good. Moxley becoming the first 2-time champion would feel earned as he was screwed out of the belt by Omega the first time. I like seeing Moxley against bigger opponents (his match with Brodie Lee is under-rated) and I think him and Miro could have a fun feud. Or he could turn more heel-ish after turning his back on Kingston.
5. Walter – Dynamite, Seattle WA (April, 2023)
A lot can happen in nearly two years. Is it fantasy that Walter will sign with AEW? Is it fantasy that AEW will make it to the west coast of the US so I can catch a show? Maybe. This 5th spot is home to fantasy so allow me to indulge. Things move fast in pro-wrestling. A year before the infamous formation of the nWo, Hogan was wrestling Vader on the beach while Ric Flair strutted around the ring. So yes, I’m holding out hope that one of my favourite contemporary wrestlers will sign with my favourite company.
Antony Bennett (@anthonydownunder)
1. Adam Page
Duh, honestly not much else to say about this one.
The Pinnacle will need some gold and I think holding all the titles at once is a real possibility, but they will defiantly need the AEW championship. MJF is the perfect person to take the title from Hangman. MJF will be a champion and probably have a few reigns, this to me is building that future storyline.
3. Jungle Boy (Jungle man by this time)
Speaking of building the future, MJF and Jungle boy should be tied closely, and I feel having him win and have his moment will be great. I think this will be a shorter run but his building so great and by this time he would be ready for his moment.
Simply deserves his moment to shine. He is champion material and deserves to get this moment.
5. Platinum Max
Everyone loves the Acclaimed. I just want to see the raps he does as AEW champion.
I really enjoy their work and raps and I just want it.
Ryan Gorneault (@ryangorneault)
Before I jump into my list, I wanted to give my modus operandi. Ultimately, this list is a result of fantasy booking, but I still wanted to keep this list as grounded in reality as possible. So, I am more concerned about listing wrestlers who have a legitimate chance at becoming champion, and how I could envision their reigns happening, rather than fully delving into fantasy booking.
If I really wanted to get crazy though, I would book Marko Stunt to beat Kenny Omega in the ultimate act of revenge, since Kenny Omega pretty much officially turned heel by beating up Stunt in July 2020 (long-term storytelling). MV Young would then pick up the belt at the next PolyAm Cult Party, unifying the title with the Wrestlers’ Lab Championship. Of course, Trish Adora would win the belt and feud with ASUKA along with the remaining members of the Villano Family at Ichigaya Chocolate Hiroba until the end of time, or until global warming renders the earth inhabitable. This would result in the first ever match on the International Space Station. Who would win the championship in the first space match you might ask?
Me, of course. I’m the fantasy booker. I could do what I want.
Clearly, that would be the best option but AEW’s executives don’t have the guts to make that happen. That’s beside the point though...
1. Adam Page – AEW All Out (August, 2021): The fact that Adam Page is so obviously going to be the next AEW World Champion shows that long-term storytelling is not always what it is cracked up to be. Page beating the champion (presumably Kenny Omega) would be a smart choice because it would lift him out of the mid-card limbo he had been in since losing the Tag Team belts, and honestly, him losing could result in a total loss of credibility. As great as it will be to see Page beat his former tag team partner, I’m just afraid that there will be little tension throughout the match. I could imagine Page having a Kofi Kingston-type title reign without the squash title loss. I think his match against Omega could easily be the best singles match of his career, with the rest of his title reign featuring (comparatively) lacklustre but fun matches. Still, I can imagine his reign would be massively entertaining because it will effectively elevate everyone around him, including Wardlow, and Jungle Boy, who will soon (amicably) break off the Jurassic Express and go by his real name, Jack Perry.
2. PAC – AEW Battle of the Belts (June/July? 2022): Page will definitely have a feel-good title reign, but of course, all good things must come to an end. After an almost year-long reign, Page should lose to someone who can easily be shoehorned into the main event scene, but has not had way too many opportunities at the top of the card. That man will be PAC. Page and the self-proclaimed Bastard had fought four times towards the tail-end of 2019, and are tied for wins if we count tag-team action. It would make sense for PAC to want to finally win their rivalry by winning the title.
This would all happen at the June or July TBS Super Card that has yet to be named (but is speculated to be christened the Battle of the Belts). His reign should be moderately long, but does not even need to go much longer than half a year. In fact, I would have him lose the belt after seven months. A seven-month long reign does not sound too long, but as long as a PAC remains dominant throughout his reign and looks well in defeat, it doesn’t really matter how long the reign is.
3. Jack Perry – AEW Revolution 2023 (February 2023): PAC’s character work and wrestling style will amp up in brutality through his reign, and he’ll run through some of the biggest names on the roster. Who’ll take PAC down? Jack Perry, who will have begun an exciting winning streak following his loss to Adam Page. Perry will challenge PAC for the belt and will have massive fan support and enough momentum that it wouldn’t seem wrong for him to be challenging, but the chances of him winning will still seem slim. Their match will be a banger, but Perry winning will be the icing on the cake. The crowd will go crazy, and a star will be born. He’s off the deep end, watch as he dives in / He’ll never meet the ground / Crash through the surface where they can’t hurt him / He’s far from the shallow now.
In all seriousness, I truly believe that by 2023, Perry could end up good enough to be a legitimate contender for the championship, and the company might as well take a chance on him. The title reign won’t be long though, because he’ll lose the belt in a few months against the person who gave him his best singles match.
4. MJF – AEW Double or Nothing 2023 (May 2023): Close to two years after their excellent DoN match, MJF will take the belt. He will most definitely cheat and probably use Wardlow to his advantage, and the crowd will hate every second of it. No, I do not anticipate him receiving “go-away” heat, but beating someone like Jack Perry will push him to the top of wrestling’s heel totem pole.
Ultimately, his title reign would probably be fairly basic. MJF is a basic wrestler, so his title reign does not need to be too complicated. Things will eventually get complicated because Wardlow had been building himself back up again. He had such an impressive aura, but then took too many losses in 2020 and 2021 to really be taken as seriously as he should be, but because the Pinnacle would splinter off following their win at DoN 2021, he rose the ranks again. MJF surely would be insecure about this and want Wardlow to just remain his lacky. Of course, Wardlow would not have that, and would turn on his former tag team partner. So, to kick off a Batista versus Triple H-type feud...
5. Wardlow – AEW Dynamite (December 2023): ...Wardlow will pick up the win and finally prove himself. MJF would lose again in a subsequent rematch, and Wardlow would love on to run through the rest of the roster. By this point, Anthony Ogogo and Hook have become top draws (because of course they have) and will immediately become contenders for the belt. I personally would love to see all three of those guys fight in singles matches, but a three-way dance between them makes me salivate.
Those three could easily be considered the future of AEW. Wardlow has had considerably less matches compared to his AEW counterparts, Anthony Ogogo has had minimal matches, and Hook has yet to even compete in a sanctioned match as of May 28th, 2021, but these three can still carry AEW into the future. None of their matches would be pretty, but AEW would exude badass energy more than ever before. I envision Wardlow losing the belt to either one of those guys after a nice ten-month long title reign. I have no preference between Hook and Ogogo, since both are great.