Cody Rhodes was originally scheduled to defend the TNT championship against Sammy Guevara last weekend (Jan. 8) at AEW’s Battle of the Belts, but Cody was eventually pulled from the show due to COVID protocols.
In the past, when a championship match was compromised under similar terms, AEW simply postponed the match. For example, Jon Moxley was supposed to defend the AEW world championship against Brian Cage at Fyter Fest 2020, but the match was postponed by a week when Moxley was unable to appear on the original date due to COVID.
AEW opted for an entirely different solution at Battle of the Belts. The promotion decided to create and hand out an interim TNT championship, and Cody was replaced by his brother Dustin for the match with Guevara. Guevara went on to win the match and is now the interim TNT champion.
Dustin wasn’t among the top ranked wrestlers in AEW, so his inclusion in the interim TNT championship match can certainly be questioned on that basis. But the bigger logic problem is related to the fact that Cody was not expected to miss a lot of time; he’ll be back in AEW next week on Dynamite. In other words, Cody will miss no more than two weeks due to the COVID protocols. The Cody/Sammy title match could have simply been postponed, and AEW didn’t have to go down the convoluted route of creating an interim championship.
So, why did AEW decide to make things needlessly complicated here? That answer seems pretty straightforward to me. A show named “Battle of the Belts” implies all the matches will be title matches, and so AEW decided to create a new title for the replacement match in order to remain consistent with the theme of the show. It’s a decision that sets a noteworthy precedent, particularly when it’s not hard to imagine more title matches could be at risk if future COVID or travel issues pop up, or even just basic short-term injuries arise. Is AEW now going to create interim titles every single time a defending champion has to miss a week or two?
The bottom line is that if last Saturday’s show was named “Dynamite” or “Rampage,” I bet AEW wouldn’t have created the interim TNT title. They would have opted for the more logical route of just postponing the title match and finding a suitable replacement match that doesn’t involve creating a new title.
Maybe there is some secret genius at play here where AEW wants to embrace Cody’s rejection by the fans, and so they created an interim belt in order to have another championship for him to win and rub in everyone’s face whenever he fights Guevara again to unify the two TNT titles. Outside of that sort of goal, it seems to me that AEW created a precedent with a lot of downside by introducing the interim TNT title. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense, especially when other champions from the promotion were on hand at Battle of the Belts and a different match could have easily replaced the TNT title match.