My high school playground was most likely similar to any other; a fragmented petri dish of shapes and sizes, creeds and credos, forms and fashions. The smokers, heels for sure, were known for forming a temporary alliance with some of the goths and metalheads, but they would glare with icy contempt across the playing field at the sporty types. Battlelines were not so much drawn as they were tattooed in congealed blood, bile and turkey twizzler grease in this instance. Then you had the whiter-than-white academics, squeaky clean and operating predominantly outside the territorial trenches. Baby-faces, yes, but they still cast judgement on the rest of the school’s warring tribes. I vividly recall one of their ranks going full Judas Iscariot on the group’s de facto leader in order to join the Pokémon fan club. A seismic canteen encounter ensued.
What I’m trying to say is, faction warfare is part of the fabric of our society, so it’s only fitting that this is reflected in the entertainment we consume. Moreover, there is no more fitting place to replicate the me-and-my-friends-versus-you-and-your-friends hysteria of the schoolyard than in the professional wrestling sphere. All Elite Wrestling have already distinctly drawn these battlelines; all that’s left is to bestow them with some prestige by introducing a set of titles for these groups to fight for.
Much like the campaign for a trios division avec de l’or has been bubbling beneath the surface of professional wrestling discourse for many moons now, I must confess that this article itself has been a neglected draft for some time. Adam Cole’s propulsive debut and the subsequent Superkilq reunion has been both cause and catalyst for a renewed examination of why six-man-tag titles could be a splendid and very much sensible addition to the AEW trophy cabinet. The article was then given its final lick of paint when Cole was joined by Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, adding another noteworthy trios act to the ever-increasing tally.
It’s no secret that having an oversized sparkling contraption to hold up your trousers or adorn your shoulder only adds to your identity capital. If you look like a champ, you’re perceived like a champ. This is doubly true when virgin viewers are concerned, or the oft-heralded ‘lapsed fan’ who is dipping their toes into the fake tan, baby oil and spandex-scented waters for the first time in a decade. If you change the channel and see Matt and Nick Jackson mean-mugging in Hawaiian shirts and garish jewellery, you might think they’re a pair of goofs. If you tune into those same two characters draped in title gold, your perception of them will be markedly different. All of a sudden, they’re a big deal.
In addition to adding some starpower to whoever reigns supreme in this trios division, the trios matches themselves will have more prestige and more gravity if gold is on the line. AEW is the Mecca of the madcap multi-man barnburner, its video library already an El Dorado of fast and furious spotfests. Why not double down on one of your unique selling points and show how serious you are about this brand of tag-team wrestling? Titles would add a legitimacy to the notion of the six-man-tag itself, signalling a shift away from North America’s misconception that these three-on-three bouts are the ugly, unwanted, illegitimate bastardchild of the purportedly purer two-on-two incarnation.
In WWE, they’re used as mucky and murky plot devices to see if any random rabble can coexist before descending into hamfisted betrayal and hogswill chicanery. Of course it would make no sense to introduce six-man titles in this environment. In New Japan even, despite their own NEVER Openweight 6-man titles being established, large scale tag numbers are almost exclusively relegated to undercard fodder in order to wrap their singles stars in cotton wool during touring loops. In AEW, though, we have seen a whole host of artfully crafted and exquisitely performed matches with busier-than-usual aprons, main eventing shows and blowing off feuds with substantial build. It makes sense for some division-specific gold to be the next logical step in the evolution of this scintillating niche that the company has given such a spotlight.
It could be argued, perhaps, that this is a trigger which should have already been pulled. One such missed opportunity occurred during the embryonic stages of The Pinnacle and Inner Circle’s feud. Here, many were critical of MJF’s heel faction failing to feel as though they had made any noteworthy waves, coming up short in many-a-fracas with their leader even having his head flushed down the toilet (another echo of the schoolyard tribalism). Wouldn’t FTR and Shawn Spears have looked more dominant and distinguished if they were AEW’s first trios champions? Would this not have, similarly, elevated Death Triangle’s inception and cemented the three as main event adjacent stars? It certainly would have added more spice to their boiled potatoes feud with Eddie Kingston, Butcher and Blade.
If we look at the last two weeks of AEW programming in 2021, the cards were choc-a-bloc with multi-man matches in featured spots. The cross-generational dream team of Sting, CM Punk and Darby Allin squared off with three of The Pinnacle's finest and blessed us all with an early Christmas gift on Holiday Bash, main eventing the show and tearing the house down. A week later at New Year's Smash, the main event saw Adam Cole reform with reDRagon to take on Orange Cassidy and Best Friends. Earlier in the broadcast, 2.0 teamed with Daniel Garcia to score an upset victory over Eddie Kingston and Proud and Powerful. These matches are everywhere in AEW, then, forming the backbone of broadcasts rather than once-in-forever novelty outings. The roster, also, is already replete with oven-ready candidates for their inaugural trios champions.
Of course, perhaps this is a bullet in the chamber of a gun best left in its holster. Given Jade Cargill’s recent acquisition of the TBS Title, the company would be at risk of an oversaturation of aurous paraphernalia. If gold is supposed to make a member of the roster feel and appear special, there is a limit to how much of it can flow through the all elite streets. Just look at the contrast between the Intercontinental title which Randy Savage, Mr. Perfect and Razor Ramon held compared to the one which Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson and Curtis Axel raised aloft. It’s night and day, because less is ultimately more.
As I come full circle on this discussion, I realise that I shouldn’t complain about having my cake and eating it, too. I also realise I don’t really understand that idiom, but I’m pretty sure it applies in this instance. As long as AEW continues to churn out these exhilarating do-si-dos, it’s a cause for celebration. A celebration with cake… cake which we can have, but not eat as well. Or something like that.