TBS Title Scenarios

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The next 8 weeks of booking for the TBS Championship appear set. On April 21st at AEW’s newest of expanding PPVs, Dynasty in St. Louis: Willow Nightingale will challenge Julia Hart for the belt. And then just 5 weeks later, Mercedes Moné has decreed that she gets the winner at Double Or Nothing in Las Vegas.

In contrast to Will Ospreay vs Bryan Danielson which has as simple and straightforward a storyline as you could ask for, the TBS Title program contains multiple storylines as well as some auxiliary developments which could yield a revelation anytime between now until sometime after Double Or Nothing. There’s a lot to break down but first, I want to give some flowers to our current champion.

Success Story

By the time we reach AEW Dynasty, Julia Hart’s TBS Title reign will have lasted 155 days. Not short enough in the current pro wrestling landscape for me to label her a “transitional” champion but the reign has been marred by her missing time due to an undisclosed injury, which thankfully she has been able to work through. But Julia did go a full two months without defending her title (Jan 13th-March 16th). That having been said, I can’t call the last 6 months of Julia Hart’s run anything but an enormous success for AEW.

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Following her match with Kris Statlander at WrestleDream, I wrote about how AEW nailed every single aspect of Julia Hart’s presentation: From her goosebump-inducing entrance, to all the great spots within the match, to the post-match of her body limply swaying back and forth over the shoulder of her monster servant Brody King marching her corpse to the back. To me it was a massive triumph that AEW, admittedly in a very controlled environment, could present Julia Hart in this way in just her 68th career match. It’d be nice to know how much better this reign could’ve gone had she not needed to recover from (evidently) a minor injury. But whether it’s at Dynasty or Double Or Nothing, I’m glad this reign happened.

Rocket Feulled

The whole wrestling world at this point feels behind pushing Willow Nightingale as a juggernaut at the moment. Not only has she reeled off singles victories against Riho, Skye Blue, Queen Aminata, and Kris Statlander in AEW. Not only has her name been on Mercedes Moné’s lips since before she entered the company; Willow pinned NJPW Strong Champion & CMLL World Champion Stephanie Vaquer in the Mecca of Lucha Libre, Arena Mexico at the most recent CMLL pay-per-view. By Stardom American Dream, Willow scoring a pinfall victory over Konami felt more like a formality than a shock.

All signs point to Willow Nightingale defeating Julia Hart at Dynasty to become the TBS Champion. It looks pretty simple and straight forward. But could there be a swerve coming?

Potential Swerves

Mercedes Moné Screws Willow out of the TBS Title

Mercedes Moné coming out on Dynamite and letting everyone know she’s got the winner of Julia vs Willow at Double Or Nothing is curious. I can only come up with a couple logistical reasons for why AEW may have done this:

  1. Mercedes Moné isn’t cleared yet and so this is AEW letting fans know not to expect Mercedes in a match for the next 7 weeks.
  2. They wanted to throw more doubt into fans minds about the outcome of Willow vs Julia. After all, they’re not gonna have Mercedes lose her first match in AEW, right? So would they really give Willow a 5-week TBS Title reign? But then if Willow loses, we don’t get Willow vs Moné, we get Julia Hart vs Moné instead.

If it’s not for a logistical reason but actually for a storyline purpose, it could be that a Mercedes Moné heel turn lies in her being both angry with, and scared of, Willow Nightingale. Mercedes could, at Dynasty, kill two birds with one stone by getting revenge on Willow by screwing her out of the TBS Title AND avoiding her since she’d be slated to face Julia, not Willow. This would setup Willow for a chase storyline which, typically, is how top babyfaces are made, not by having them just win win win.

The other part if this is that Mercedes Moné keeps talking about this being a Global Women’s Revolution. Has that already been realized in the new AEW x Stardom partnership? Or is Mercedes bringing in a heel faction of International players? If she does, maybe that sets up a gauntlet of International talent for Willow to go through to get to Mercedes.

Big Stat Heel Turn

Things in AEW haven’t been working out for Kris Statlander since she started teaming up with Willow Nightingale. She had beaten Willow at Battle of the Belts VIII and then shortly after, started teaming with her. After which, she’s lost singles matches to Skye Blue, Willow herself (at Worlds End), Skye Blue (again), Riho, Willow again in a 4-way (Anna Jay got pinned), and she also ate the pinfall in the tag team Street Fight (which I was there live for in Toronto) against Julia Hart & Skye Blue.

Being that Kris Statlander has gone from an unstoppable looking world-ender to eating losses like Thanksgiving dinner, she may understandably come to the conclusion that befriending Willow has screwed up her whole career trajectory—Or worse: That Willow befriended her for that sole purpose and elevate her own career.

Unlike a Mercedes Moné heel turn, this feels inevitable. Will it happen at Dynasty? Or does Stat wait until Willow has the TBS Title before doing it. After all, that way she can get revenge on Willow and get her TBS Title (which she was never pinned for) back.

Stoke Sells Out

Stokely Hathaway is shifty. We all recognize this. As much as it warms my heart to see him exude genuine (looking) joy at the successes of Willow & Statlander, I think we all expect him to jump at what he perceives to be a bigger fish.

But while screwing over Willow wouldn’t feel too out of character for Stoke, there just hasn’t been any type of breadcrumb trail (at least lately) that I can trace to why he would do this now. It’s far from a Bischoff/Russo-esque swerve (as it would make sense) but unless they do something with it in the next couple of weeks, obscuring a swerve through abstaining from showing you hints isn’t my favourite type of writing. Although if Stokely were to sell out to Mercedes Moné, I could see that. It would also open the door for a remorseful Stokely down the line.

Stephanie Vaquer Enters the mix

You’ll recall I mentioned that Willow Nightingale pinned NJPW Strong Champion Stephanie Vaquer at last month’s CMLL PPV. Well, in addition to the NJPW Strong Title being the title that was originally meant for Mercedes Moné to be the inaugural holder of, Stephanie Vaquer is who Mercedes Moné defeated in the semi-final to face Willow Nightingale.

Mercedes Moné vs Willow Nightingale for the TBS Title feels big enough on its own. Logistically though, maybe NJPW is itching to get “Big Lilac” around the waist of Mercedes Moné as originally intended. And for CMLL, if Vaquer is going to lose that belt, they’d probably prefer to do it in a way that doesn’t have her getting pinned for it. So in storyline, what if Vaquer figures this is her opportunity to avenge both losses at once? And to buy her way into fighting for the TBS Title, she puts up her NJPW Strong Title as well? Then it truly would be Double Or Nothing for all three participants.

Prediction

It’s hard to come up with all these scenarios and then decide which one you think will happen because you naturally will like one more than the others. But I think Willow wins at Dynasty. Mercedes comes out immediately after for the face-off. And this sets up a match which neither feel like they can afford to lose, which is kind of the best way to book stakes into matches. A 5-week TBS Title reign from Willow feels like a failure. But you can’t have Mercedes lose her first match in AEW, can you? So then I think you have Kris Statlander turn on Willow at Double Or Nothing, costing her the title, giving Mercedes her win back against Willow, and setting up a program between Willow and Stat.

You can let me know what you think in the comments below. Or go hit me up on Twitter at @aew_one. Thank you for reading and, as always, remember to let the women in your life know how much they mean to you. 🙂

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