From collaborating with established promotions like NJPW and Impact Wrestling to company president Tony Khan purchasing ROH, it feels crazy to look back on the immense growth of 2019 start-up All Elite Wrestling. And on the heels of their 3-year anniversary since the very first Double or Nothing, and with the month of AEW and NJPW’s Forbidden Door supershow upon us, let’s celebrate a happy-three-years of great wrestling partnerships by ranking 10 of the best championships from other promotions to be defended in AEW.
(10) ROH Pure Championship
The ROH Pure Championship would mark the ascent of Wheeler Yuta in a career-making month of April 2022. The month began at ROH Supercard of Honor XV with Yuta winning the Pure Championship from Josh Woods, who had held the title since September of 2021. Then a week later, Yuta would join the hugely popular Blackpool Combat Club, following a bloody match of the year contender against Jon Moxley on Rampage, earning the recognition of Moxley, Bryan Danielson, and William Regal.
Yuta would go on to have a successful Pure Championship rematch against Woods on Dark. However, it would be met with a rather tame reception from the crowd, who may still be getting acquainted with the special mat-based ruleset of ROH’s Pure division. Until such familiarity and connection with the AEW audience have been built, the Pure title sits low on this list.
(9) ROH World Championship
The ROH World Championship would debut on AEW with technical master and ROH World Champion Jonathan Gresham defending against Dalton Castle at Battle of the Belts II. The charismatic challenger, along with The Boys, may have captured the hearts of the AEW audience with his vibrant entrance theatrics; but he would also show teeth as a title contender, as “The Octopus” Gresham would find himself injured following this successful defense. Despite the bout’s triumphs and contrast in characters, its overall lack of build as the middle match on a 3-match card prevents the ROH World title from ranking any higher.
(8) Impact World Championship
The third in Kenny Omega’s world title collection in terms of sequence, the Impact World Championship would also end up his tertiary belt in terms of overall significance, behind the AEW World and AAA Mega titles. On the one hand, it coming to Omega much later than the AAA belt (a 19-month difference) made the Impact World title fresher in the fans’ minds, on top of being the legitimizer of sorts to Omega’s belt-collecting quest. On the other hand, it coming much later also means it had far less defenses to attain much significance in AEW, with its only defense taking place on the debut episode of Rampage between Omega and Christian Cage. Omega would not have a successful defense, dropping the title to Cage in front of a red-hot crowd, in a back and forth battle that will always be tied to AEW’s history.
(7) ROH World Television Championship
Following ROH Supercard of Honor XV—not to mention the major announcement made a month prior that Tony Khan had just bought Ring of Honor—one of the first instances of ROH involvement advertised for Dynamite is new ROH World Television Champion Minoru Suzuki (a crazy piece of news in its own right) defending his title against Samoa Joe. Sometimes, a big match with virtually no build just works. Joe didn’t need to relay that he recognizes the sadistic tendencies of the champion, or reiterate that he will treat him as just another stepping stone regardless; because when the bell rang, we knew an intensely physical strike-heavy collision awaited.
Joe would come out victorious and have a solid Rampage defense of the title against Trent Beretta, who has had a great 2022 so far in both singles and tag matches. The ROH World Television title is—as the rest of the ROH titles are—a new presence on AEW, but if these first defenses are anything to go by, it holds a lot of promise.
(6) AAA Mega Championship
Higher up on Kenny Omega’s belt collection in terms of significance to AEW, but of course, below the AEW World Championship, is the AAA Mega Championship. One of Omega’s best matches in 2021 (and one of the best of the entire pandemic era) was his defense of the AAA Mega title at Dynamite: New Year’s Smash against Rey Fenix; who, to his credit, consistently brings out the best in his larger, athletic opponents.
Other matches would also slip under the radar, including a spectacular match against loudmouth luchador Jack Evans in the first championship match on Dark in December 2019, and a hard-fought victory against Sammy Guevara on one of the very first empty-arena pandemic episodes of Dynamite. The AAA Mega Championship saw some great albeit infrequent defenses over a long stretch, solidifying itself as one of the unsung pieces of AEW’s early history.
(5) FTW Championship
The FTW Championship created by Taz was brought back to AEW two decades after it was originally rendered inactive and unified with ECW World Heavyweight Championship in 1999. The FTW title is used primarily to spotlight members of Team Taz, first being simply awarded to “The Machine” Brian Cage at Dynamite: Fyter Fest 2020, then won by “Absolute” Ricky Starks from Cage at the following year’s Fyter Fest; a factor that holds this title back to some degree. However, the FTW Championship has been a constant presence on television and provided a number of moments that have elevated some of AEW’s current stars.
Cage would have a notable title match against yet-to-be Team Taz member Will Hobbs on Dynamite, as well as sporadic defenses on Dark. But much of the FTW title’s newfound luster would come at the hands of Starks, who would successfully defend against the likes of Swerve Strickland, AEW World Tag Team Champion Jungle Boy, and even taking the rogue title to the Rampage main event in a Philadelphia Street Fight against Brian Cage.
(4) NWA World Women’s Championship
The arrival of the NWA World Women’s Championship to AEW was one of the most exciting moments of 2020. AEW Women’s World Champion Hikaru Shida would have her most intriguing challenge ahead of her at All Out 2020, in the form of NWA World Women’s Champion Thunder Rosa. Rosa, with the NWA title, was instrumental in that she gave Shida an instant credible challenger and even tag partner during a more vulnerable phase of the women’s division, with highly-experienced talent like Riho and Emi Sakura unable to travel to the States.
The NWA World Women’s title would have another standout moment the following year when champion Serena Deeb defended her title against Riho at the Double or Nothing Buy-In in one of the strongest matches of 2021, taking place in front of a white-hot crowd present for AEW’s first full-attendance PPV in over a year. Later, in August, the imposing new champion Kamille would appear on Dynamite: Homecoming to stare down her 4’11 challenger “Legit” Leyla Hirsch ahead of their match at NWA EmPowerrr. At many different points, the NWA World Women’s Championship felt like AEW’s second women’s title, and aided the growing pains of the company’s women’s division; and with prominent champions like Rosa and Deeb frequently on Dynamite while champion, this title holds a special place at the top of the list.
(3) ROH World Tag Team Championship
As previously alluded to with the ROH belts, newness is what holds the ROH World Tag Team Championship back, but even then, it sits firmly in the top 5. Following an all-time classic with the Briscoes at Supercard of Honor XV, FTR would bring the ROH titles to AEW and put on a strong showcase of AEW’s tag division to rival, and even exceed, that of the AEW World Tag Team Champions, Jurassic Express.
As the simultaneous AAA and ROH World Tag Team Champions, FTR appeared to be the tag team equivalent of the belt collectors. And though they would hold one less championship than Kenny Omega when he coined himself as such, FTR has not (yet) had to suffer from lack of consistency or spreading themselves too thin; defending both titles against the Young Bucks in one of the best Dynamite matches of 2022, merely 5 days after the classic with the Briscoes; and the ROH belts against Roppongi Vice, whose chemistry with the champions may have been even tighter than with the Bucks, in one of the better tag matches all year, up until Jeff Cobb and The Great-O-Khan from NJPW’s United Empire arrived to give the match a premature end. In a span of two months, the ROH World Tag titles have made a case for zooming past a plethora of other championships in this competitive race, and at the rate that FTR are going, these belts are in a commanding position against our top 2 entries thus far.
(2) IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
“Death Rider” Jon Moxley was off to have a hell of a run in NJPW with the IGWP US Heavyweight Championship, defending it at Wrestle Kingdom 14 against Lance Archer in a Texas Deathmatch, and against Minoru Suzuki at New Beginning in Osaka a month later; then, March 2020 came. Many wondered about the future of Moxley’s US Championship: Would it be stripped from Moxley? Would the partnership between AEW and NJPW come to a halt, if it hadn’t already?
In February the following year, the answer would come when long time #1 contender KENTA shockingly appeared on Dynamite to fire the first shot at “Death Rider.” After retaining against KENTA on NJPW Strong, Moxley would go on to have 2 other successful defenses against legend Yuji Nagata and Bullet Club original Karl Anderson, respectively, before dropping the title to Lance Archer at Dynamite: Fyter Fest in a brutal Texas Deathmatch, and one of the best no-disqualification matches in AEW to date. The IWGP United States title provided AEW fans a look into Moxley’s dominance away from the AEW World title, as well as an exciting peek into the “forbidden door” to NJPW, which more than makes up for its extended inactivity during a rough period in wrestling.
(1) AAA World Tag Team Championship
The AAA World Tag Team Championship was the first titles to ever be defended in AEW, when the champions, the Young Bucks, defended their titles against perhaps their greatest rival, the Lucha Brothers, at Double or Nothing 2019. The titles would resurface two years later in October 2021 in a chapter of the rivalry between FTR and the dual AAA and AEW World Team Champions, Lucha Brothers. The feud saw FTR catch the champions off-guard on an episode of Dynamite, with the former initially wrestling as “Las Super Ranas” (dressed in green and black Lucha masks and bodysuits); and with the help of their manager at the time, Tully Blanchard, eventually scoring a victory over the Lucha Brothers in a fun bout to win the AAA belts.
While said match may have stood out for different reasons, FTR would continue to hold the gold into their statement year of 2022, staking their claim as the best tag team in the world by having one of the most career-defining weeks for any tag team, by capturing the ROH World Tag Team titles from the Briscoes in a match-of-the-year classic; and defending both AAA and ROH titles against a team with probably equal claim to being the best in the world, the Young Bucks, in a great back and forth bout. The AAA World Tag Team Championship has been instrumental to the AEW tag team division in the absence of a championship of their own; and with great rivalries, and even greater tag teams solidified under its banner, this title will be cherished and regarded as one of, if not the best, outside championship in company history—at least for the time being.