As the war wages into its third week, flanked by a disappointing drop in ratings on both sides of the trenches, both WWE and AEW seek to bounce back with entertaining offerings of NXT and Dynamite, respectively. Who comes out on top this week? It’s time to delve deep into this week’s battle.
Starting the Show
NXT kicked off this week with a match set up during a chuckleworthy backstage altercation during last week’s episode, pitting the returning ‘Daddy’ of NXT Tommaso Ciampa against Angel Garza. While not a barnburner by any stretch of the imagination, this was a good enough match for a TV open and made both guys look good. The contest wasn’t too much work for Ciampa, who has returned from very serious neck surgery in record time, nor does it diminish the rising star of Garza. Garza was simply outmatched by the experience of the former NXT Champion; his time will come. The immediate aftermath of the match saw The Undisputed Era come, en-masse, to ringside, not to confront Ciampa but to deliver a USB memory stick to Mauro Ranallo. The implication is that this stick holds some information damaging to Tommaso Ciampa but viewers will need to stay tuned to NXT to find out what that is. Very smart! Also hyped for this show is a message from Finn Bálor; although, I’m sure viewers were rather hoping to see a return to action from the true Irish ace, as opposed to talk.
All Elite Wrestling opened Dynamite in Philadelphia with a beatdown on SCU by the Lucha Brothers, Fenix and Pentagon Jr. I had complained last week that their face to face seemed out of place and while this blindside attack to open the show was exciting, I still don’t understand its purpose at this stage of the AEW Tag Team Tournament, other than to spoil what the final match is going to be when all is said and done. Perhaps it will become clear as time goes on. With Christopher Daniels out of the picture, in slides Scorpio Sky to join Kazarian against The Best Friends. A highlight of this match was Chuck Taylor removing the not-Chuck Taylors of Scorpio and biting his feet. It’s weird, it’s classless and it fit perfectly into the situation. After what was a solid match with plenty of great moments, the finish of this match was poor. I’m not familiar enough with SCU to know what move they were trying to execute but the powerbomb dropkick certainly didn’t look like it.
Match of the Night
It isn’t a surprise that a Pete Dunne match should be match of the night but his contest against Damien Priest certainly fits the bill. Throughout the match, which was a back and forth contest, the pair had ample opportunity to cement their style (or ‘get their stuff over’ as is said in the business) and there were several credible moments in which you could believe that either man would walk away with the victory. Each time it appeared one man had the upper hand, the other suddenly turned it around with a strong strike, sudden high flying move or, in Dunne’s case, finger snap. Digging deep into the cliche heel rulebook, Priest hit the bullseye in the form of a dirty low blow to attain victory. A loss doesn’t hurt Dunne here but with The Archer of Infamy on his way up, he needed to pick up the win by any means necessary. Solid contest.
The Mox/PAC vs. Page/Omega match was a close second but by the fourth tag match of the event, I’m suffering a little tag team fatigue. Moxley walking out took a lot away from this match, too. He can’t want to get hands on Omega that much. This match should have opened Dynamite this week.
As with last week, this was a night of fairly inevitable wins and losses for both brands with no real returns (Tegan Nox returned on NXT UK, taking the wind out of this return), it was hard to name the most shocking moment of the night… so I won’t! Each brand needs to work harder to provide a moment in their show that can go viral and get people talking, in my opinion.
Fun moments and other good stuff
- Delivering the news of Velveteen Dream’s beatdown via USB stick recording was a clever and unique moment. They could have just had a cameraman follow them but this was different. I like it.
- The video package building Cody up heading into his World Championship match in a few weeks was very well done. There are some out there (that perhaps didn’t see his work in Japan and only have his WWE run as a reference) who still aren’t buying him as a top player in pro wrestling, despite being the head of the company. Solid promos like this help to cement his credibility but I still think he will need one big victory on AEW TV between now and Full Gear.
- Aichner and Barthel are just a pleasure to watch in the ring. Their sudden hard hitting offense balanced with a sprinkling of high-risk make them, perhaps, the most formidable tag team in all of WWE. They need Championships around their waist soon – be they NXT or NXT UK.
- Likewise, it is a delight to have Io Shirai grace us each Wednesday night. She’s just stacking wins right now but I ain’t mad at it. I’m looking forward to having a babyface Women’s Champion so that Io can take her apart and win herself a strap.
- The Lucha Brothers are the standouts of the AEW tag roster. You can’t take your eyes of their matches for fear of missing something. It would be a travesty to not crown them the inaugural AEW World Tag Team Champions.
- While Dijak vs Lee on paper looks nothing more than a Vince McMahon wet dream, the pair continue to demonstrate what ‘big man’ wrestling should look like. Being giant is no excuse for lack of athleticism in modern pro wrestling and the way these two move in the ring sets the standard. DQ end means they’re not done yet, not even close.
- NXT General Manager, William Regal, completely blanking the whole Undisputed Era as they barrack him with hate. What a legend that man is.
- Either I didn’t notice them say it last week or it’s a new name for this week but Bro 2 Sleep is an inspired rechristening of the Go 2 Sleep move.
- While it was disappointing to only get a video message from Finn Bálor, I think we might be seeing a long overdue ‘demon’ next week. The hype is real.
- Subtle change to the AEW name graphic during entrances means you can see the win/loss records a lot more clearly. Didn’t realise until they were changed how much the old style annoyed me.
Room for improvement
- Should finding out what was on the USB stick been drawn out more? I think at least a few segments of intrigue would have been good, personally.
- Proud and powerful is a bit of a strange tagline for Santana and Ortiz… I don’t really understand the context of hit and why it has been attached to them.
- I can’t put my finger on what Taynara is missing in the ring but there’s something getting in the way or her stepping to the next level. Wish I could explain what it is…
- AEW had too many tag team matches. Between the two scheduled tournament matches and the other fillers, it was a little much for my liking. The division is a LOT stronger in AEW than it is in NXT, though.
- I just can’t buy in to Riho as AEW Women’s Champion. The way she is consistently overwhelmed by larger opponents only to defeat them weakens the legitimacy of an already weak women’s roster. The ladies are by far and a way the most disappointing aspect of AEW in its short history.
- The Lucha Brothers send your guy to the hospital and you have no answer for them in the same show, SCU? What is actually poor writing makes SCU look like they lack testicular fortitude. Get some for your fallen angel.
What the ratings said
Dynamite drew 1.014 million viewers this week, down roughly 100k on the previous week. Likewise, NXT dropped to 712k viewers, down around 78 thousand. Ratings continue to decline for both programmes in a worrying trend.
And the winner is…
This week’s NXT was a show of short but satisfying matchups, bolstered by backstage segments and interviews that build towards future events. We are nearing the point where hype for NXT Takeover: War Games hits full stride and so this and last week’s show served to put in the groundwork of wins and losses needed to develop credible competition. While AEW claim to be developing a brand where wins and losses matter, it is NXT leading in that regard at the moment. AEW also continued to build towards their next pay-per-view event but the presentation wasn’t as coherent as WWE’s. I enjoyed what NXT offered more than AEW this week. With this said, Dynamite was very watchable and has some great matchups. Their victory puts NXT at 2-1 at the end of three weeks. If these battles are anything to go by, the upper hand is likely to go back and forth in the coming months.
What did you think of NXT and AEW Dynamite? What were your highlights from both shows? Sound off in the comment section below or join me on Twitter @thejezshow.