Who Should be the First TBS Champion? | Roundtable Discussion
Welcome to the Pro Wrestling Musings Roundtable where contributors share their thoughts on the biggest talking points arising from AEW Dynamite. Please note writer's views are their own.
This week's contributors are:
1) Who should be the first ever AEW TBS Champion?
[Craig] For me its Hikaru Shida. Serena Deeb has already been TBS Champion, in a way. Her NWA run in AEW was, in essence, a secondary championship. However, work needs to be done in American wrestling around the presentation of Joshi wrestlers. Riho, Io Shirai and Hikaru Shida have all been champions in the US over the last two years and all three have failed to hit the heights their talents deserve. With the TBS Championship there is an opportunity to scaffold this problem.
The TBS Championship can give Hikaru Shida a platform to wrestle terrific matches and be a fighting champion. This is a role that she can flourish in. In a Cody-TNT Champion adjacent role she can put on weekly defences and can keep it simple on the mic. This won’t solve the problems discussed in the previous paragraph, but it will prevent the longest reigning Women’s World Champion falling into obscurity.
[Peter] It really depends on what you want the philosophy of the title to be. If you want something like Cody’s run as TNT Champion last year then Hikaru Shida, Ruby Soho or Serena Deeb is perfect for this role. If you are looking for the TBS belt to be a stepping stone to the World Title, then someone like Anna Jay or Jade Cargill, who will be future faces of the women’s division seem like the way to go.
Personally, I think Tony Khan is going to go the way he went with the early months of the TNT Title and have a big name be the inaugural champ. But I don’t think Shida is the right person. It should be someone who has yet to hold gold in AEW and can have great matches with her opponent and is that big name I mentioned previously. So, I present to you, Ruby Soho. She ticks those 3 boxes. She’s super over with the AEW faithful, she will have great matches and I won’t lie, “Ruby Soho is our champion” will look good on the TBS twitter bio. [Joe] I would be happy with both Shida and Soho, for me I’d really like to see Shida win it whilst slowly continuing her road to the dark side during the tournament. We’ve seen signs of a more ruthless and less sympathetic Shida on Elevation, I think pulling the trigger on that through a long tournament could be really good. If they go for a lesser established talent, I think Tay Conti could do a great job with the open challenge championship, but I’m not sure she should be the first one, not for me anyways.
[Tim] The TBS Championship would work well as the “work-rate” championship and no performer would be better suited for that role than Serena Deeb. She can work with anyone while at the same time elevating them. Thunder Rosa could also do this, but I’d rather see her be the one to take the AEW Women’s Championship from Baker.
[Gareth] Serena Deeb. Craig said it, she’s already done this, in essence, but now that she’s a veteran heel with a chip on her shoulder, demanding respect, Deeb running through the less experienced women on the roster would rule. Sprinkle in some more experienced opponents such as Ruby Soho for a “big match feel” here and there and I think it’s the best way to go to establish the title.
2) Beyond the winner, what do you want to see from the AEW TBS Championship Tournament?
[Joe] Something that’s on everyone’s mind right now is time and effort and the lack thereof that WWE have given the Queen’s Crown tournament. So, what I’d like to see from this tournament is the opposite of that. I hope the tournament is treated with the focus and importance that it deserves. I’d also like to see women from other companies, make this tournament a happening in women’s wrestling.
[Tim] Joe makes a good point in that there will inevitably be comparison between the TBS tournament and the Queen’s Crown tournament. As long as matches average more than 5 minutes per match, they’ve already got an advantage. Since I’d like to see the TBS championship be a work-rate belt, I hope these matches incorporate lots of technical action.
[Craig] I touched on it a little before, I’d like to see the TBS Championship take up more of a TNT Championship role in the women’s division. I believe it has been said that Rampage is going to stay on TNT and its only Dynamite that will be going to TBS, this is a test of how serious AEW are about this title. With the names of the belts, it would make sense for the TNT to be defended regularly on Rampage and the TBS on Dynamite.
It wouldn’t need to be inflexible but certainly should be the norm for the TBS Championship to be defended regularly on Dynamite. This way there would be more big stakes women’s wrestling on the show with the higher viewership, which would be an undeniably progressive step forward.
I’d also like to see women from outside AEW brought in temporarily to challenge for this new belt. Jordyn Grace, Killer Kelly and Maki Itoh come to mind.
[Peter] To Craig’s points, it would be weird to see the TBS belt defended on Rampage and vice versa regards the TNT Title and Dynamite and in that case, I don’t see either belt defended weekly which was the USP of Cody Rhodes’s reign. Also, Jordynne Grace on my AEW television? Yes please.
One thing I’ll say which is partially linked to this question is that this title is an opportunity for new talent to come in. I’m very excited to see the likes of Lee Moriarty and Daniel Garcia in AEW and I would like to see talent from the indies come into AEW such as Nicole Savoy (who did appear in the Women’s tag tourney) and Gisele Shaw come in which would help the status of the women’s division.
[Gareth] I’d really like to see AEW build some more feuds off this tournament. The women’s tournament earlier this year was fun, but it didn’t further the division too much. Even without winning, tournaments allow you to get people over and develop rivalries. A few “shock” results would be awesome. Tay Conti finally defeating Shida could be the fuse Shida needs to turn heel, and this could turn into a feud for TV. Just one example, there are countless possibilities.
The tournament will obviously be memorable for the winner but give us some moments that shape the entire division for the coming months.
3) Championships are defined by their long-term booking. Who do you see benefitting most from this championship being introduced over the next couple of years? Who are the second and third TBS Champions?
[Craig] I don’t believe that Serena Deeb will hold the AEW Women’s World Championship, but this doesn’t need to be a bad thing. She is another talented worker in the same league as Hikaru Shida. Deeb as a fighting champion gives up and coming babyfaces a mountain to climb. Add that to the fact we’ve already seen her in this role in superb fashion as NWA Champion, it’s a no-brainer.
The other woman I feel really needs a TBS Championship run is Riho. I am aware that it may sound like I am removing Joshi talent from the World title picture, I’m really not. I would have Hikaru Shida win the World belt a second time as a bitter heel burned by her mistreatment post Pandemic Era. I’m not sure how Riho re-enters the World Title scene as champion again, I wouldn’t be against it, but I see Shida more in that role. But Riho is an absolutely superb wrestler, and it would make sense that wrestlers would seek out competition with such a special challenge.
Other wrestlers that I’d like to give honourable mentions to are Tay Conti who would be fantastic in such a profiling role, Jamie Hayter post Baker World Championship loss to ramp up the tension there and Ruby Soho who can use it to work with less experienced talent. Statlander, Hirsch and Yuka Sakazaki are also intriguing options.
[Peter] I’ll do one better. I’ll name the next five.
First Champ- Ruby Soho (Three-month reign).
Second Champ- Jade Cargill (Five-month reign).
Fourth- Jamie Hayter.
Fifth- Anna Jay.
*I would not be surprised if we saw someone who ends being part any future mass cuts in WWE/NXT come in to answer a Jade Cargill open challenge and beat Jade to win the title.
[Joe] This title is a great way to see if someone is ready for a world title one day if there’s questions about whether or not they are ready. I can see Statlander and Tay Conti potentially winning this championship quite early on. Peter mentioned Jade Cargill, I reckon they might go straight to the world title with her, but I’d really like to see a TBS title reign for her first.
[Tim] Leyla Hirsch. Give the inaugural champion a good 4-6 month run and then put the belt on Hirsch. Have her be what Shayna Baszler should have been since leaving NXT. A few months later Tay Conti can win her first belt. Conti has a solid technical base and is only getting better. At this point we’re looking at early 2024 and it’ll be time for a heel turn for Anna Jay as she goes after her former best friend for the title.
[Gareth] Tay Conti is super over and a great wrestler just waiting to be given the chance to shine regularly. As the summer of 2022 is nearing, after whoever holds the title first has established it, a hungry Tay Conti winning it would be a great moment. The likes of Statlander, Riho and Hayter all seem well positioned for reigns soon after.
4) Are you a fan of the TBS Championship being introduced? Do you think it’s necessary? What do you want this title to represent?
[Craig] Yes, big fan! I think bringing in tag belts can be way too forced when a division is not ready. Awkward and temporary pairings seem like forcing things. AEW have already shown they have space for a second singles championship in the division as evidenced by Deeb’s NWA run.
It’s absolutely necessary, women wrestling in AEW need more time and more focus. This belt almost forces AEW, by self-design, to fix this glaring and well-publicised problem. This title should represent competition and the evolution of AEW’s Women’s Division.
[Peter] When I saw Andrew Zarian tweet the news a couple of weeks back, I was surprised. I genuinely thought the next championship in All Elite Wrestling would be the Trios Championship with all the alliances and factions being built up, but a TBS Title makes sense.
One criticism of AEW has been the amount of airtime devoted to the women’s division (I’m guessing no matches except a Cargill squash will go less than 3 minutes though in this tournament) and adding a second belt does help the perception of unequal treatment that the women get in AEW but the way to something resembling equal treatment is to give compelling stories to further character arcs of the women’s roster. That’s something for a larger essay down the line though.
[Joe] 100%. I was a bit worried this would be a women’s tag team title, and while I do not oppose that in the future, I’d hate for the current roster to try and make people invested in that right now. A secondary singles title is not something a lot of fans talked about before the news broke, but the more I’ve thought about it the more I’m for it. I hope the title can help build a legacy for new talent, younger talent and help kickstart main event careers for more women over the next year and on.
[Tim] At first, I was doubtful that the AEW women’s division could support a second title, but if it’s used differently than the Women’s World Title then this is an opportunity to add that depth. I'm excited about the upcoming tournament and seeing who the first champ will be.