Hello and welcome back to the Wednesday Night War series! This week follows on from when AEW Dynamite trounced WWE NXT in the ratings, but could it happen again? This post is a day late due to other things getting in the way, so I’m sure many of you’re already aware of the final ratings. Regardless, I’m writing this without the result in mind; at least til the conclusion. Feel free to check out all the previous editions of the Wednesday Night War series via the links below.
Wednesday Night War – Week #18
The previous week saw a spike in the ratings which I’m sure surprised many in the Wednesday Night War; including Triple H and NXT. But could they do it again with another quality night of wrestling?
– If there’s one thing they are doing right, it’s producing exciting tag team action. Stick that in the opener, and it provides great results. The AEW tag team division is one of the most stacked in the world, and for a while they were struggling to find balance; but it’s gradually getting there. And while I was initially critical of a thrown together team like Kenny Omega and Hangman Page becoming champions, I’m sure they will eventually put over a full-time team in the biggest way possible.
– Orange Cassidy and The Young Bucks having a faux Super Kick Party was worth the price of admission. A definite lazy thumbs up from me.
– Some fans were surprised how good Santana was in his interview with Jim Ross, but followers of Impact Wrestling will remember his promos when he (& Ortiz) was part of LAX with Konnan. These kids will go far, especially with such a great mentor in Chris Jericho.
– Darby Allin scribbling his promo ‘Sammy Guevara style’ was another highlight. Apparently, Sammy has herpes for kissing Chris Jericho’s ass too much. This is gold.. and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
– Dustin Rhodes and Sammy Guevara worked a solid match with Jake Hager providing interference. They’ve subtly built this feud between Rhodes & Hager for a long time, which finally culminated with a harsher tone in this episode. We’re finally seeing Hager wrestle for AEW at Revolution, and I can’t think of how they could’ve built this better.
– Britt Baker is not great at promos, but the fact she still got the AEW faithful riled helps her considerably. She was corpsing at the “Whataburger” chant though.. someone send for the man!
– Riho vs. Nyla Rose was PPV quality and ended with a satisfying result. Had Riho retained? It’d be difficult to imagine her losing it any time soon, as no one’s ready to take it (except maybe Hikaru Shida?). I have to hand it to AEW for not only booking this, but allowing Nyla to address the uneasy reception after her victory. It goes down in history, marking the first time a transperson has won championship gold on worldwide television.
– Nice to hear the crowd pop when Jericho mentioned Jeff Cobb. And what a great debut as well! He’s giving me an early ‘Taz’ vibe. Yeah, so he’s not exactly young.. but at least he looks it and is a pure athlete. I’ve not seen too many of his matches, but he’s always impressed me. His only weakness is a lack of character, but AEW can fix that.
– Highlighting how young MJF and Jungle Boy are shows the potential of AEW’s roster and how far they have to go. We’ll possibly be watching these guys two decades from now, as two of the biggest stars in all of wrestling. MJF’s pre-match antics (stirring the crowd) were simply hilarious, there’s not many heels like him at present. I was hoping he’d attack Scooby Doo for nuclear heat.
– Pac is yet another highlight, and what I loved about this promo is how he echoed fans comments about Kenny Omega’s recent ‘mediocrity’. He’s like a shadow of his former New Japan self, and Pac was happy enough to take all the credit for his downfall. It’s still a very one-sided feud, but at least Pac is keeping the interest going with some well-produced segments.
– Not a fan of the main event, and I think that was more Jon Moxley than Santana. I know how quick and exciting Santana can be, but Moxley’s style hindered what could’ve been a memorable match. This is becoming a trend with him, and it seems he only brings it on PPV, or when he’s working for New Japan in a hardcore environment. Luckily, this short match was more about the introduction of Jeff Cobb than stealing the show.
With AEW winning in the ratings for the sixth straight week, can the NXT talent overcome the odds by breaking the streak in the go-home show for NXT TakeOver: Portland?
– Velveteen Dream playing some major mind games with Roderick Strong. I only just remembered this week they were feuding before Dream got injured, so it makes sense from that perspective. Another good thing was Strong putting over Bronson Reed in the opener.
– Honestly bro, the Broserweights segments were some of the most entertaining pieces of television I’ve seen from NXT in a long time. I’m hoping they keep this format for a while, because it’s major character building and they’re a natural fit. I already loved Pete Dunne, but seeing him be the polar opposite to the controversial Riddle is something I never expected to enjoy so much.
– The Cruiserweight division is the healthiest it’s ever been. Bringing in NXT and NXT UK guys, along with 205 Live mainstays to the brand, makes it worthy of watching. The 205 Live show is still too quiet for my taste, but the NXT fans appreciate the quality wrestling and you can’t go wrong with Jordan Devlin (as champ), Angel Garza, Lio Rush, Isaiah Scott, Tony Nese, Travis Banks and more. This week’s match between Lio Rush and Angel Garza wasn’t as exciting as their title match, but they have great chemistry and it’s impossible for them to work a bad match together.
– It was a slow burner, but in the end Johnny Gargano vs. Cameron Grimes was an unexpected pleasure. Grimes has come a long way since he was boring folks as the Impact X-Division Champion.
– Mark Henry did more for the Keith Lee vs. Dominick Dijakovic match at Portland, than the previous wins over Priest and Dain combined. This is how you build a title match! Their history speaks for itself, you just needed someone like Henry to sell it to the audience. I’m looking forward to this match more than any other at Portland.
– It’s a little late, but Bianca Belair is finally looking like a real challenger to Rhea Ripley. We all know she isn’t gonna’ win.. but at least she’s seen some benefit from this lackluster rivalry.
– Tommaso Ciampa is still one of the best promo guys in WWE. He tells a story so well, but again, this heat doesn’t feel organic like some of his previous feuds. At least we got one last decent promo before Portland this weekend.
– NXT’s main event was way better worked than Dynamite’s, but that’s the only positive I can take from it. I guess Kushida needed something after being dumped in a bin last week.
– Last week, Roderick Strong was bullying people with the Undisputed Era, but this week? Velveteen Dream is threatening to take his family. It was shocking, but in a confusing way. Heel Dream is the best, but Roderick didn’t deserve that.. unless Dream is still sore about his couch being set on fire (months ago)? It felt like a gross overreaction, like a desperate attempt to salvage something from this feud. The only way this works is if Roderick dumps the Undisputed Era and turns face.
– I’ve completely soured on the Dakota Kai vs. Tegan Nox thing. Candice LeRae is slotted in there, just because. And while there’s some good action, they’ve not sucked me in to this story at all. The three of them are struggling to get over.
– Where’s Finn Balor? We saw a somewhat heated exchange last week, but Gargano’s here and Balor’s not? Where’s the epic brawl requiring referee’s and half the roster to pull them apart? Where’s the hospital trips? Again, it feels like a throwaway feud which they may be regretting.
– And again with Tommaso Ciampa and Adam Cole, there’s no one-on-one altercation. They have a brief staredown after Tommaso slowly makes his way to the ring. Adam Cole says he’ll take the title back over his dead body and the show ends rather abruptly. Want to see what happens next? Well, you can only see it on YouTube. Seriously.. they put the last bit of action between these guys on a YouTube video which you have to go looking for. And it was Ciampa who got the upper hand.. so Cole’s been made to look a chump for this entire feud. If Cole somehow finds a way to retain at Portland? It will make no sense whatsoever.
After AEW impressed us last week, it seems they did it again. Most reviews for Dynamite were positive, and I found it difficult to pinpoint anything overly negative. As a huge fan of NXT for years, TakeOver: Portland feels like the worst built event in recent history; I’m not inspired by anything outside of Keith Lee & Dominick Dijakovic. The main event feels like a foregone conclusion, and if The Broserweights take the belts from Fish & O’Reilly? It will complete the dismantling of a group struggling for months. The writing could be on the wall here. Is the Undisputed Era ready to move along to Raw or SmackDown? Has this been NXT’s plan all along? Will Roderick Strong turn face and stay in NXT, while the other’s move on without him?
I feel like NXT has done its best with who they have, but this PPV hasn’t grown in the way they were expecting. Worlds Collide, the Dusty Tag Team Classic, and the Royal Rumble all hindered its progress. Hopefully, they can get back to winning ways after Portland, although it’s talent dependent. Much of the cream of the crop has already moved on to other shows. AEW however, is beginning to take great strides by creating new stars who will sell for years, if not decades. They are listening (to the fans) and changing the game, meaning WWE may have to adjust their formula to compensate. NXT hoarding talent is no good if they can’t put them to good use.. just look at Kushida.
The biggest takeaway from this week’s Wednesday Night War? Both shows lost viewers again. NXT wanted a gain going in to Portland, and Dynamite flops around with no logical pattern; somehow losing 12% viewership. It’s safe to say they’ve plateaued and this is as good as it gets for the time being. With that said, NXT has proven difficult for me the past couple of weeks, while AEW has gone through an incredible transformation.It was only a month ago when I was berating AEW for their average shows.
For those who have followed this all the way, you know I’ve done my best to be critical of both sides. And for months, NXT has been the better product despite losing in the ratings. Yet on week #18, AEW goes ahead for the first time since week #9 (7-6-5); but we know NXT has what it takes to fight back. We know NXT has the talent to do it, but it’s just not clicking at the moment. Again, that’s not me saying NXT is terrible! No way. It remains one of the best shows you can watch in the world of wrestling, and I’m still enjoying it.
Are you guys still liking this series? I was considering hanging it up by the 20th episode, but if there’s still interest I’ll keep it in my schedule. Do you agree AEW has turned a corner? Is NXT struggling, or am I just being daft? Please let me know in the comments. Thank you very much for reading! See you next week for more Wednesday Night War.
Credit for the below Wednesday Night War image goes to WDesigns.