AEW is just four months away from celebrating the first anniversary of its inaugural PPV. In that time they have been able to establish a new promotion, build up a solid fanbase and are now poised to strike out further, having just been resigned by TNT for another three years.
At the center of much of their success in their first year has been the inaugural AEW Champion Chris Jericho. While ‘Le Champion’ is currently going from strength to strength in his role as top dog in the promotion, everything must eventually come to an end and the question must be asked, who will be the next AEW Champion?
So today let’s run the ruler over who I think are the top five picks and make sure you let me know who you think will be next champion in the comments below.
Jon Moxley is the most obvious choice to be the next champion so we will start with him. Not only is Mox currently the number one contender, set to face Chris Jericho at AEW’s next PPV at the end of February, since he arrived at Double or Nothing he has been booked as the most dominant wrestler in All Elite Wrestling. Just for point of illustration the only blemishes so far on Moxley’s record are a tag where Moxley chose to walk out on his partner PAC and then a time limit draw against PAC the week after, a draw he has now avenged. Along the way Mox has created the fastest win in the company’s history two weeks in a row and also has a pinfall over fellow top contender Kenny Omega at Full Gear. Not even the AEW Champ can boast such a glittering record.
Furthermore Moxley’s lone wolf act has quickly made him one of the most popular acts on the roster; every time he walks to the ring the crowd immediately picks up and the fans hang on his every word on the mic.
All of that is to say that he would be a great choice as champion and it seems like for all the money AEW is heading that way. However there is one big drawback to Jon Moxley, AEW is a company that has said that it wants to be an alternative to the WWE and having their first two champions very much products of the WWE’s system, no matter how much Moxley and Jericho have changed, is just not something that they can afford to do. While the die hard AEW fans would immediately eat it up and alongside Jericho, Moxley is arguable their biggest name it simply doesn’t fulfil their mission to be an ‘alternative’. It pains me to say it as a big Moxley fan but he just won’t be the next champion.
The news isn’t the end of the line for Moxley though if (when) he misses out on the championship, he could easily transition to a long term feud with any heel in the company (MJF would be a mouthwatering matchup). He would also be a great first up opponent for the rumoured signees Brody King or Brian Cage and could easily go a second round with Kenny Omega.
Cody is an interesting option to look at. For the majority of 2019 he was arguably the most popular wrestler in the world and has been the heart of every major show AEW has put on. While he isn’t the most athletic wrestler in the world, no one connects with the AEW crowd emotionally like Cody does, it doesn’t matter if he is on the mic or wrestling in the ring he holds the AEW crowd in the palm of his hand. There is a very strong argument to make that even with guys like Omega and Moxley floating around, Cody is the company’s top face. If it came down to pure audience reactions, Cody would be champion already.
However due to the stipulation in his championship match at All Out where he declared that if he lost he would never wrestle for the AEW title again, Cody is now in a self-imposed exile from the AEW Title Scene. Anyone who knows wrestling though knows that kind of stipulation only guarantees Cody will wrestle for the title again at some point but it just isn’t clear if it will be against Chris Jericho and if he will be the next champion. I would lean towards no.
I see this playing out one of two ways: the first way is that they use this stipulation as a way to turn Cody heel. Anyone who saw his heel work in WWE or opposite Kenny Omega in 2018 know that is a very exciting prospect so is certainly an option. The second option would be that after a heel cleans out the division Cody becomes the only one left so the audience beg him to wrestle for the title.
Either way it is playing the long game so for that I have to cross out Cody from being the next champion. Mark my words Cody Rhodes will be an AEW World Champion at some point, I just don’t think it will be for a long time.
I wanted to include PAC on this because I feel like he has quietly been one of AEW’s leading lights since their very first press conference the promotion put on. His programs opposite Adam Page, Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley have shown off his absolute mastery of his ‘bastard’ character and his matches have time and time again displayed his silky smooth but character infused in ring style.
However despite the strength of his performance the only chance PAC would have to be the next champion is for Jericho to reign long enough he transitions to face which sadly I don’t think will be happening.
Thankfully PAC’s character feeds off being overlooked so giving him no chance of being the next champion will probably suit him just fine, however I do expect him to be a very strong challenger for whoever ends up picking up that strap down the line.
It may seem surprising but if I was going to put people in order ‘Hangman’ Adam Page would be my second pick to be the next AEW Champion. Don’t worry, as early as a month ago I would also have thought I was crazy to rank him so highly but hear me out.
At AEW’s first ever press conference Page declared his intention to be the first AEW Champion and at the time he seemed miles off being ready. Even when he got to face Chris Jericho at All Out for the title Page still didn’t feel like he was at that top level, however in the last two months things have clicked in place in a big way for The Hangman. He is mega over with the crowd, everyone in the front row is dying to share a beer with him and his Buckshot Lariat consistently gets the pop of the night.
Page is also in the midst of a story that began at the first press conference, has seen him question himself and his readiness to be a contender, now has him getting his first taste of gold as a Tag Team Champion alongside Kenny Omega and is slowly having him distance himself from The Elite in his quest for success. In the coming weeks I can see him end up at odds with Omega and facing his stablemate for the position of Number One Contender. Ultimately I think it is a fight he will lose but he is now in a position where I think he could realistically challenge Jericho to fulfill that early promise he made to himself.
Outside of the story, crowning Page a young and hungry up and comer early in AEW’s life would send a very strong message as to what kind of promotion they want to be.
The bottom line is that I still wouldn’t call Page the top pick to be the next champion but don’t tell you I didn’t warn you if it happens.
Alongside Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley you would have to call Kenny Omega the third member of the big three AEW main event stars. However since losing to Chris Jericho in their inaugural PPV Double or Nothing he Kenny Omega has not been booked like it.
Instead of tearing up show after show and showing American TV audiences what got him so much attention wrestling in New Japan, Omega has been consigned to high end jobber for Jon Moxley and now a tag team program with Elite stablemate Adam Page. Don’t get me wrong, it has all been very good stuff but it is a far cry from what fans such as myself expected from the man that wrestled some of the greatest matches ever.
Sadly this presentation has seen Omega’s star has fade slightly in comparison to when he was announced on the roster in early 2019. He doesn’t generate quite the same pop as the likes of Moxley and Jericho and in some ways looks more and more like just another wrestler on the roster every week.
However despite all of this Omega remains my number one pick to be the next AEW Champion and here is why. This booking strategy to downplay not just Omega but also The Young Bucks has been a choice made by the AEW hierarchy to build new stars like Darby Allin, Jungle Boy, Proud and Powerful and Adam Page and in chasing that goal they have succeeded. However this is a promotion named after The Elite and has a fanbase that came to the promotion to see them.
Omega is currently in a program with Adam Page that I believe will ultimately see him crowned the next number one contender. It has a number of similarities to the Bullet Club Civil War program that led to his IWGP Championship win in 2018 and I think they will follow that same pattern to completion. In Hangman Page, Omega has a stablemate who is searching for higher glory and has started to push the buttons of his allies The Young Bucks, doing small but not insignificant things to divide the stable. I believe that come Double or Nothing or perhaps All Out 2, we will see both Omega and The Bucks finally crowned as champions on the same night after fighting through the internal division brought on by a rebelling Hangman.
While Omega isn’t at his peak status wise right now, when it comes to the AEW core fan base it will only take a few matches to remind them exactly the star Kenny Omega can be. Furthermore transitioning to a work rate champion after the character heavy reign of Chris Jericho would be a great chance for AEW to display a different side of its promotion and as he showed in New Japan in 2018, there is no one better in the world in that position than Omega.
All of this means that I predict the next AEW Champion will be Kenny Omega.
Well that wraps it up for this list, there are some names I missed out who may also be an outside chance but let me know who you think will be the guy to beat Chris Jericho and claim the AEW Championship in the comments below. You can also chat to me further on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or in the AEW section on the LOP Forums.