All Elite Wrestling has often been criticized for its lack of storytelling, prompting owner Tony Khan to go on the defensive. Regardless of where one falls on that subject, it’s hard to deny that the current saga centered on its World title might be one of its best.
On the Nov. 8 Dynamite, Samoa Joe made several bold statements. First, he defeated Keith Lee to retain his Ring of Honor Television title. Then, Joe vacated the title and declared his intentions to pursue the AEW World Championship held by MJF.
At first glance, the creative decision for Joe to vacate the championship rather than drop it to Lee seems questionable while perhaps diminishing the prestige Joe’s reign added to the title. It’s also arguable that losing to Lee before moving on to face and possibly dethrone MJF would have given Joe a logical first challenger to his AEW crown, should he win it.
But AEW’s execution here is perfect for several reasons.
Since late July, Samoa Joe has been an absolute wrecking ball, losing just two matches during this stretch. One of those losses was at the hands of MJF, who beat Joe to retain the AEW title in September at Grand Slam.
By relinquishing the ROH TV title after a successful defense, Joe relieved himself of any future obligations to the championship, allowing him to concentrate solely on MJF. It’s a gutsy move as Joe puts all his eggs in one basket.
And that makes for dramatic programming as Samoa Joe puts himself in an all-or-nothing situation. Win, and he’s champion of the world. But if he loses, what’s next? The threat of such a defeat makes Joe’s journey much more intriguing.
At the same time, AEW appears to be leaning into a storyline that finally severs the relationship between MJF and his brochacho, Adam Cole.
The long-anticipated split between the ROH Tag Champs was delayed after Cole suffered an injury that halted his storyline with MJF. While their allegedly unyielding friendship has continued through Cole’s recovery, something seems off about Cole’s insistence on having MJF accept Joe’s offer to help defend their ROH tag team titles in exchange for a rematch for the AEW Championship.
All this sets up a captivating scenario that could see Cole stab his friend in the back with the help of Samoa Joe, costing MJF the ROH tag titles at Full Gear. That creates a moment for MJF to showcase his heroic side by overcoming Jay White later that night before returning his attention to Joe.
With this fire behind it, a potential MJF and Joe title tilt at AEW’s Worlds End pay-per-view in December becomes a must-see showdown. And if that’s the direction Tony Khan is taking, it’s compelling television that could help kick off 2024 in a big way for the promotion. Meanwhile, there’s still the lingering mystery over who AEW’s Devil is, what their intentions are, and how they will factor into these stories.
As for the ROH TV title being a sacrificial lamb in all this, hey, if that’s what it takes to achieve such a payoff, so be it.