Dustin Rhodes battled Sammy Guevara for the Interim TNT Championship at AEW Battle of the Belts. The event took place on Saturday, January 8 from the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte North Carolina.
Though Rhodes came up short in his bid to become champion, he once again proved his worth to the company. He turned in a performance that hooked the audience and reminded fans of just how good he is. Dustin Rhodes has found the fountain of youth and it was evident in this match.
Answering the Call
Oddly enough, Rhodes had nothing to do with the TNT Championship heading into January 8. For the most part, he works the occasional match on TV and he contributes behind the scenes wherever AEW needs him. But the company doesn’t often feature him in prime main event spots.
However when the time comes to step up, that’s exactly what The Natural does. Dustin Rhodes answered the call to replace his brother Cody in the TNT title match at Battle of the Belts. Though the change was last minute, AEW fans went along for the ride. For many, this match was merely a means to an end.
The AEW faithful likely believed that this was Sammy’s match to win. After all, The Spanish God did lose the TNT Championship to Cody on the Christmas Day edition of Rampage. It’s only logical that the so-called “interim” version of the title would be given to Sammy at Battle of the Belts. It keeps Guevara and Cody connected and leads to another match down the road.
But when the promo for Sammy versus Dustin aired, the overall vibe of the angle began to change. Suddenly, fans were beginning to question if Dustin could actually pull off the win. Would AEW go with the eldest Rhodes and put the championship around his waist?
Rhodes to the Top?
Then came the match. From the moment the opening bell rang, all preconceived notions of a Guevara win began to fade. Dustin once again turned back the clock and brought the absolute best he had to the bout. He moved like a man half his age, while also working like the veteran he is.
His energy and his confidence in the ring made the Charlotte crowd believe that he would take the title home. Dustin did what professional wrestlers do. He made the crowd suspend their disbelief. They invested in the match, but more importantly, they invested in him. Dustin has that connection to the fans and they were firmly on his side.
But Sammy not only needed the win to keep his heat with Cody alive. He also needed the win because if Dustin had become champion, the entire storyline of the TNT title changes. It would no longer be about Cody the veteran defending against the next rising AEW star, or future world champion. It would then become brother versus brother.
The issue is that Cody and Dustin have already been down that road. The two faced off in a bloody war at Double or Nothing in 2019. That match was everything the brothers wanted and then some. It was a special night for the Rhodes family, as well as the fans, who will never forget it.
But that is the past and there’s perhaps no real reason to revisit it again. Dustin and Cody fought their battle and they moved on from it. Putting the Interim TNT title on Dustin would cause a direct conflict with Cody, which leads back to their rivalry. It also cuts out any immediate chance of a younger talent getting a championship shot. Because of this, the decision to put Sammy over was likely the right one.
However that does not change the fact that Dustin’s performance on January 8 was the highlight of the night. The Natural is still a natural, in every sense of the word. Of course, many fans are still campaigning for a title run and perhaps it will come eventually. But in the meantime, Dustin Rhodes will keep stepping up whenever he’s needed. He represents the heart and soul of AEW like no one else can. It’s what he does best.
Tom Clark is a Senior Pro Wrestling Analyst and Featured Columnist for Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Audible, Spotify, iHeart Radio, YouTube and live on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live