The Wednesday Night Wars are in full effect.
About two decades ago, WWF and WCW engaged in a ratings war that would set the tone for sports entertainment the rest of that decade and into the 21st century. Future Hall of Famers and some of the greatest icons in the history of the sport were created as a result.
Fast forward over two decades later, and a new sports entertainment war has been waged. On one side, we have the beloved subsidiary of the WWE brand, NXT. On the other side, we have a new wrestling company taking the industry by storm, AEW Dynamite.
Last night was a historic night in many ways, but the prevailing talking point seems to be which brand has the upper hand. The winner can be determined by a variety of metrics. While we have yet to get the raw numbers, preliminary results have shown that there was significantly more interest in AEW.
Personally, we should not take the numbers from last night at face value. NXT has been on the USA network for a couple of weeks now, so the anticipation isn’t as apparent.
On the other hand, AEW Dynamite had its debut. Therefore, it makes sense that more people tune in to see how they would make their first impression. Regardless of what the numbers will tell us, it is very clear that there is one universal winner. That would be us, the wrestling fans.
First, let us address the debut of AEW Dynamite. 14,000 eager fans packed into the nation’s capital filled with excitement and adrenaline. As the name suggests, the show was, well, dynamite.
Watching the show felt like we were getting a PPV free of charge. All across the night, we got what wrestling fans care about. This included quality matches, character development and moments that would make us want to tune in next week for more.
At this moment, if you are not a fan of SPOILERS, I’d suggest you click away.
AEW Brings The Dynamite
We started out the night with a spirited battle between pioneer of AEW, Cody, and a young, talented heel in Sammy Guevara. A simple story was told, but it was enough to engage the crowd heavily.
Next, we got some character development in rising heel star MJF, and we had a match that was simple and accomplished its purpose. That was followed by Hangman Page’s best performance in AEW in a spirited battle against PAC, who remains undefeated in AEW competition.
Personally, one of my favorite moments of the night was the AEW Women’s championship match between Riho and Nyla Rose. I understand that it was kind of sloppy and unpolished at times. Towards the end, however, it picked up in a big way and the crowd got into it. The championship itself, however, is not nearly big enough for me.
Finally, in our main event, we got a six-man tag team match that transformed into a handicap match. One one side, we have The Elite in Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks. On the other, we have AEW World Champion Chris Jericho and LAX. The match was hot, intensive, and drama-filled.
We got Jon Moxley making an appearance and having an intense brawl with Omega throughout the arena. This means we got to see more of what makes The Young Bucks especial, as Matt and Nick went wild for the duration of the match.
Arguably the most entertaining portion of the match was what came in the aftermath. It was run-in after run-in including special appearances by Dustin Rhodes and the Debut of Jack Hager.
Sometimes, the best moments in sports entertainment comes when there are more questions than answers. AEW Dynamite provided the perfect balance of spirited in-ring competition with character building and drama throughout the night. It was about as impactful a debut for a wrestling show could get.
AEW Dynamite was faced with stiff competition in NXT, and they were far from slouches. There was an interesting formula NXT used, because it felt like I was watching a Takeover event, but in reverse.
The Black and Gold Responds
NXT made a bold decision in having their NXT Championship match go on first. I loved the decision, as it is a great way to make an impactful beginning. Adam Cole and Matt Riddle are two of NXT’s aces, and boy did they ever deliver.
It was a Takeover-caliber main event with heart-stopping near-falls and high paced action. It was an especially gutsy performance by Cole, considering he was working with a fractured wrist.
Before the crowd even had a chance to fully absorb what they just saw, we get one of NXT’s most successful alumni, Finn Balor, returning. If you want to make an early impact, that’s pretty much how you do it.
The women also came out to perform to a great degree, as Io Shirai continued to impress against Mia Yim. Shayna Baszler and Candice LeRae also had a quality outing as well. Even the shorter matches such as Danny Burch going up against Pete Dunne were quality outings. Johnny Gargano and Shane Thorne also had what would make for a solid RAW main event.
Finally, in our main event, The Undisputed Era and the Street Profits had a spirited back and forth. It showcased the strengths of both teams, and concluded with a very hot finish. We thought we would get another NXT that saw The Undisputed Era standing tall once again, but lo and behold, the returns didn’t stop.
Former NXT Champion Tomasso Ciampa, who had to relinquish the NXT Title due to injury, returned to take a good look at the title he never lost.
If you never watched NXT before and I told you that this was an NXT Takeover event, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. We had three special title matches, angles progressing and returns all night. It was simply a rock and rollin’ two hours of sports entertainment.
Whatever the raw numbers show, it is beyond evident that the true winner of the Wednesday Night Wars is the fans. I was afraid that both shows would spend a lot of time taking shots at their competitors. AEW happened to fall into that trap too often at their PPV’s.
Instead, both shows simply focused and what they do best and gave fans two great options in the Wednesday Night Wars.
Would you like to know what the best part about all of this? This was only the first week of them going head to head. Can you imagine the high bar that the two brands will continue to set for each other?
Make no mistake about it. Each brand is trying to attract more fans and viewership. That’s simply the business side of things. From a competitive standpoint, you could just tell that there was a sense of urgency on each show.
As each show goes on, each brand will want to become progressively better and provide fans with their money’s worth. Competition is always great in sports entertainment. WWE has never had any serious competitors for what seems like forever. Therefore, there was no motivation to put on a better product.
While I don’t expect RAW and Smackdown to start delivering weekly banners, it is clear that the lion’s share of interest will be the Wednesday Night Wars. I want each fan to simply sit back and enjoy what we are about to witness every week.
While we can clearly debate which show was better than the other, we shouldn’t use one show to degrade another. AEW Dynamite and NXT have some of the best performers on the planet. Going forward, we will now get to see them for free week after week.
I cannot remember the last time I was this excited to be a wrestling fan, but Christmas is going to be coming for me every week. AEW or NXT may have more viewership on a week-to-week basis, but at the end of the night, it will be the fans who are the true champions of the Wednesday Night Wars.
If you want to compare which show was better this week, I’d give a slight marginal edge to AEW. NXT had the better matches, but AEW felt like a bigger show, especially from a historical standpoint. That said, either show is a great way to occupy two hours.
No matter what side of the spectrum you are on, let us all appreciate what we have before us. Cheers for the future of sports entertainment. A Wednesday Night just got a little better.