Cody Rhodes carved his name even further into wrestling history on Saturday night, defeating Lance Archer to crown himself the first-ever TNT Champion at AEW's Double or Nothing pay-per-view.
"It was a privilege to have that moment in the ring," said Rhodes. "Look at this from the perspective of what is happening in the world. People are losing their lives. There needs to be happiness, wrestling needs to endure, so that was a great moment to share."
Rhodes hit his signature Cross Rhodes three different times on Archer, with the third time being the charm. The story was exceptional in its build, and the narrative was clearly established as Rhodes needed to overcome every obstacle hurled at him by the monstrous Archer.
The 6'6" Archer showcased a blend of power and athleticism rarely on display by men of his size, immediately setting the tone by hitting his signature move, The Blackout, in the match's opening sequence.
"Lance is a really special athlete," said Rhodes. "He has size and speed and he's a drug-free athlete you can count on. To peel the curtain back a little bit, it was QT Marshall that scouted Lance for this company and took him to Tony Khan. Lance is the hybrid athlete that all wrestling organizations should crave to have."
Much of the match highlighted Archer, who physically punished Rhodes and even hit his outrageous ropewalk moonsault. There are few big men that present themselves in the manner in which Archer does, and even fewer with his athleticism.
Creativity was also on display throughout the 21-minute match. With Jake "The Snake" Roberts in Archer's corner, Rhodes hit Archer with a DDT. Archer followed that up by delivering a spinebuster on Rhodes in front of Arn Anderson. Archer also kicked out of Rhodes' springboard cutter at only one, further cementing him as unbeatable, as well as the first Cross Rhodes.
"When I was laying on the mat after the match, I could smell the money in a rematch," said Rhodes, who is also an Executive Vice President for AEW. "From a management standpoint, we're proud to have Lance with us."
The TNT Championship was presented by boxing legend "Iron" Mike Tyson. This moment adds to Tyson's wrestling portfolio, one that is highlighted by his role as a special ringside enforcer at WrestleMania 14 in 1998.
"Mike is an incredibly big fan of what we do in AEW, and there are a lot of big fans of Mike here, too," said Rhodes. "I hope Mike has it in his bones and blood, we'd love to have him back."
A part of the match that certainly resonated with longtime wrestling fans was when Rhodes delivered a Stinger Splash onto Archer. Rhodes–who grew up in awe of wrestling legend Sting, currently a free agent–was asked if the move doubled as a foreshadow for the future of AEW.
"You can read into every step I take, every breath I breathe, and every glance of my eye," said Rhodes. "Look all the way back to All In. This is something that was willed into existence. My life is willing sh-- into existence. If I was a little boy and got to do a Stinger Splash and that’s where it ends, great.
"I don't know what his schedule is like or where he's at in this world, but nothing would please me more than to stand in a ring across from Sting. There has been no contact, but that's my way of reaching out."
A new No. 1 contender for Rhodes’s title will be determined this Wednesday on Dynamite. Rhodes had gone the prior 16 months without a title run, last holding a belt in January of 2019 when he dropped New Japan Pro Wrestling’s IWGP United States Championship to Juice Robinson at Wrestle Kingdom 13. That streak now comes to a close following the victory against Archer.
"I went into Full Gear with Chris Jericho and I was unsuccessful," said Rhodes, who does tremendous job intertwining reality into pro wrestling. "I went into Revolution with MJF and I was unsuccessful. But to be great, you have to win the big ones. I have all these really beautiful stats to my name, but it's nothing like being the first-ever TNT Champion."
Rhodes' history in wrestling is well documented. He is the proud son of Dusty Rhodes, and he has both an appreciation for the past as well as a grand vision for what wrestling can be. Rhodes has continually gambled on himself, believing he could be the face of a promotion when other power brokers clearly did not share that same range of view. But Rhodes has persevered, just like he did in his match against Archer at Double or Nothing, proving again that he can carry a company on his shoulders.
"People paid to see this pay per view," said Rhodes. "They've stood in line to meet me, they've caught weight belts, they've booed me–hell, they've put paper bags on and chanted about my facial hair. I grew up in front of the audience, and I understand this is a privilege and an obligation.
"This was an extremely tough week. We lost Larry [Csonka], we lost Hana [Kimura], we lost Shad [Gaspard]. We needed to bring some happiness, some excitement. We showed up for work tonight, it was a privilege, and I can't wait for the next one."