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AEW World Title Eliminator Tournament bracket breakdown: Ricky Starks time to shine

All Elite Wrestling

AEW is bringing back the World Title Eliminator Tournament starting Wednesday night on Dynamite. The final will take place at the Full Gear PPV on November 19. The ultimate winner earns a world title shot on the Winter is Coming episode of Dynamite on December 14. Let’s break down the bracket.

The eight competitors have accomplished a wide variety of championship achievements in their careers from major promotions around the world. Well, except for two. Here are the golden successes:

  • Eddie Kingston: nothing, zilch, zip
  • Ethan Page: two-time Impact world tag team champ (with Josh Alexander), longest reign in title’s history at 380 days
  • Bandido: ROH world champ, ROH six-man champ (with Flamita & Rey Horus)
  • Rush: CMLL world light heavyweight champ, CMLL world tag team champ (with La Mascara and El Terrible), CMLL world trios champ (with Macro Corleone & Maximo), two-time CMLL national trios champ (with Angel de Oro & Diamante and La Mascara & Titan), two-time ROH world champ
  • Ricky Starks: NWA TV champ, FTW champ
  • Lance Archer: two-time IWGP US heavyweight champ, four-time NWA world tag team champ (with Kid Kash and Davey Boy Smith Jr.), three-time IWGP tag team champ (with Davey Boy Smith Jr.), two-time GHC tag team champ (with Davey Boy Smith Jr.)
  • Dante Martin: zero
  • Brian Cage: Impact world champ, Impact X-Division champ, FTW champ

The opening round matchups have history on one side of the bracket and not so much on the other side of the bracket.

Kingston and Page have yet to compete in a singles match for a televised promotion, but they had a deep rivalry on the indies. Kingston won a dog collar match in AIW during 2014. Page got revenge in an ‘I Quit’ match in 2015 in that same promotion. Kingston also retained the AAW heavyweight title three times against Page in 2015 with the third coming inside a steel cage.

Bandido and Rush have squared off in singles action twice in ROH. Rush bested the luchador in 2019, but Bandido had the last laugh by winning the ROH World Championship from Rush in 2021.

It appears that Starks versus Archer and Martin versus Cage will be first-time affairs. Looking toward the second round, Starks could meet Cage in a bad blood fight. Starks was the man who took the FTW title from Cage and subsequently booted the big man out of the group. Starks triumphed in a street fight rematch.

I’d say that whoever wins this tournament has a 1% of dethroning Moxley or MJF. That’s not knocking anybody’s skills. It’s just a logical conclusion. If Mox is set to drop the belt soon, then MJF is the man for the job at Full Gear. MJF wouldn’t be losing the title less than one month is his reign. If Moxley prevails at Full Gear, then I forecast his success to carry into the next PPV.

That means AEW has two choices in motivation for this tournament. They can build a new star or they can give the people what they want with a fan favorite. There are two wrestlers in this bunch that I believe would earn views despite high odds of defeat. That would be Kingston and Starks.

With Kingston’s current storyline of uncontrollable rage, I don’t anticipate him getting past the opening round. Kingston winning the tournament sends mixed messages about his goon behavior. If he prevails, then there is no reason to change. It would undermine the intervention scene from a few weeks ago. For that reason, I’m crossing Kingston off the list.

Starks has the fans yearning for his breakout. Shining in a main event title fight would give him a boost in credibility as a top player. Starks would have to get past a murder’s row in Archer and possibly Cage. I’d say Cage should be a lock to beat Martin. The Machine is coming off two high-profile hoss losses to Wardlow and Samoa Joe. He needs a win over Martin to re-establish himself in the pecking order. That would led into revisiting Starks versus Cage with their FTW history.

In terms of building news stars, keep an eye on Ethan Page and Bandido. All Ego has the tools to thrive. He’s a mid-card commodity at the moment. I don’t believe that fans take him as a serious top talent right now. Winning this tournament could be a step in changing that perception. One thing that can’t happen is Page losing to Kingston then reversing the result when Kingston goes berserk with violence. That would cut off all credibility for Page.

Bandido has the flash to sizzle all the way through in victory. He’s a prime underdog ready for mass exposure.

Prediction time.

I’m rolling with Page, Bandido, Starks, and Cage to advance in the opening round. Page versus Starks in my pick for the final. That’s not going out on a limb at all. Both have received the most promo time in recent weeks, which could be foreshadowing. I’d say Page is the betting favorite due to the storyline with the Firm beating up Moxley and MJF, however, I’m supporting Starks to walk out victorious in the end.

Who do you think is the best choice to win the AEW World Title Eliminator Tournament? What are your predictions? Who will you be rooting for?

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