Riding high from victories in the ratings and within WWE at Survivor Series, the NXT brand took some swagger into Wednesday night with pre-advertised Tag Team and Cruiserweight Championship matches. Not to be outdone, though, AEW Dynamite itself awarded a special ring presentation and a World Championship match on its programme. It’s all to play for in Week 9! Who will come out on top?
Starting the Show
After a video recap of Takeover: War Games, NXT gave us another music video opening as Josiah Williams (that dude that once rapped Adam Cole to the ring) performed to a backdrop of the NXT roster celebrating around the ring with video of Survivor Series dominance interspersed. The party is interrupted by The Undisputed Era who, of course, have come to claim the victory for themselves. The good times and brand solidarity is over. From inside the ring, flanked by Dominic Dijakovic, Keith Lee, and Matt Riddle, Tommaso Ciampa tells The UE that their days of dominance are over, starting with Lee and Dijak taking the Tag Team Championships on the night. As Ciampa continued to make clear his intentions for Adam Cole and the NXT Championship, Finn Balor joined the Erra on the ramp, accepting a challenge for a match with ‘Daddy’ later in the night. With the match supposedly set, Keith Lee beckoned Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish into the ring for their Tag Team Championship match, aka “Basking Season.” During the commercial break, Bobby Fish picked up would could potentially be a very nasty injury and was replaced by Roderick Strong. Gotta love the Freebird rule! Overall, the match was fine but the dark cloud of Fish’s injury hung over the whole match. The match ended after a distracted Dijak falls victim to a high/low from Strong and O’Reilly. The distraction came in the form of Keith Lee launching an interloping Adam Cole into the front row of the (fake planted) crowd and Lee then apparently forgetting that a match was going on.
Not a fan of this match ending… especially considering that Fish may be out with injury, it would have made more sense to ride the momentum of Survivor Series and put a belt on Keith Lee. From a Roman Reigns fist-bump on Sunday to a strange Scooby Doo I ruh ro moment on Wednesday. Shame.
The open for AEW Dynamite was led by one Soul Train Jones… the guy looks familiar but I can’t quite put my finger on it (sarcasm, folks). After a slow… one… word… at… a… time… introduction, Le Champion, Chris Jericho, makes his way to the ring for his Thanksgiving Celebrashon – the greatest celebrashon in pro wrestling history.
After introducing his new line of champagne, A Little Bit of the Bubbly (is there anything they won’t market?), Jericho is joined by the rest of the inner circle. After a fairly drawn out gift giving session that included Chris Jericho’s dad getting cheap heat from the Chicago crowd, Justin Roberts being forced to read out a thank you note from AEW and TNT and various other bits. All this led me to believe that there would be somebody of significance hidden in the giant inflatable cow outside the ring, or perhaps the stegosaurus but, in fact, SCU were amongst the marching band that accompanied the shows open. Overall, SCU failed to get a reaction anywhere near the caliber heard during Jericho’s celebrashon. Slightly disappointing payoff for the segment, especially since the Inner Circle got away pretty much unscathed.
Match of the Night
The in-ring action was really the only thing going for both shows this week, with the majority of non-wrestling action lacking in sense or coherence on the most part. This week’s top contest came from AEW’s rematch between Kenny Omega and “The Bastard” PAC. A quick, impactful start quickly took the pair outside of the ring, leading to a textbook somersault plancha from Omega, taken and sold perfectly by PAC. As the show went into commercial, the action slowed to avoid breaking the momentum of the contest with a break. In the split screen, we could see a number of rest holds and resets so that when the programme returned, with its advertising commitments met, the impact and technicality could ramp up once again. Strikes were the order of the day in this match and while that can sometimes ruin a match (because the strikes aren’t executed or sold well) that was not the case here. As the match drew to a conclusion, the grappling turned to a series of counter-pins with Kenny Omega eventually getting the upper hand for a three count.
Honorable mention for the Cruiserweight Championship match. Were it not for the botched “Come-Up” spot due to a miscommunication between Lio Rush and Akira Tozawa, they may have picked up the crown.
Devoid of an impactful moments, neither show managed to shock me this week. With a few vignettes to promote the arrival of the Blade, the Butcher and the Bunny, their arrival might have been shocking, rather than confusing.
Fun moments and other good stuff
- Dakota Kai’s broody heel persona is 167 times more entertaining than pouty baby face Kai, but there’s still work to be done.
- Mutual pump kicks to the face by Lio Rush and Akira Tozawa. Fun moment in a fantastic match.
- Xia Li has had a great couple of weeks on NXT television. Perhaps the ambush by Duke, Shafir and Baszler is sign that we’ll soon be living in the era of NX-Li,.. once Baszler is finished with Rhea Ripley, of course.
- Dasha Gonzalez’s Japanese pronouncuation is on point! AEW are lucky to have both her and Justin Roberts on staff… professional wrestling’s King and Queen of enunciation.
- Good to have Dustin back in the ring but shouldn’t that brawl with the Bucks, Guevara and PnP turned into an impromptu six man tag match… playa?
Room for improvement
- No Mauro Ranallo on commentary this week after Corey Graves insensitive comments on Twitter this past weekend. I really like Tom Phillips, he’s been doing a great job at NXT UK, but he’s not the voice of NXT. I hope that Mauro’s doing alright and that we see him back soon.
- While on the topic of commentary, whose bright idea was it to put this random dude, Marco Solis, that can barely speak alongside JR and Excalibur? I understood maybe 5% of what he was saying the whole time he was out there.
- The microphone started off a bit echoey in the arena for AEW but it seemed to get better as the celebrashon went on.
- The hashtag for Chris Jerigoat went up on the screen before the line was delivered. Also, what is it with AEW trying to bring terrified animals out into the arena? Gonna have PETA on your asses…
- The Saudi propaganda machine comes to NXT as they try to make Mansoor a credible competitor outside of his home country. Mansoor is fine in the ring, certainly befitting on the NXT brand but I don’t understand how anyone can see past the fact he’s only there to make Saudi Arabia look good and pick up high profile wins at Crown Jewel events.
- Am I supposed to know who the Blade and the Butcher are? What could have been an exciting, shocking debut (perhaps worthy of the biggest shocker section) was actually a wet fart because of an extreme lack of context. As with Jerigoat earlier, someone jumped the gun and put up the hashtag before they’d pulled the “Bunny” out of the hole.
- “That girl is like a sister to me” says the person who wasn’t pictured with her until they were part of a War Games team. Pull the other one.
- Turning heel hasn’t improved Dakota Kai’s in ring work a great deal… Ms. I’m going to stand here with my head out and wait for Candice LeRae to headscissors me. Look groggy at least…
- No return slap for Lio Rush from Angel Garza? Guess Garza’s happy to be punked. (Apparently it happened on a WWE.com exclusive, which frankly isn’t much use to a viewing audience watching on USA Network)
- I still don’t understand the Dynamite Diamond Ring thing…
- Why specify that “seconds” are banned from ringside if you’re going to involve them anyway? The referee should have called the match there and then if that was the stipulated rule or else it makes a mockery of it. Stupid booking.
What the ratings said
Because of the Thanksgiving holiday in the States, we had to wait a little longer to find out the ratings for this week’s battle but, given the result, I would suggest that AEW would probably have been content to wait a little longer…
Taking their second victory in as many weeks, NXT led the ratings contest with 810,000 views against AEW Dynamite’s 663,000. This is All Elite Wrestling’s worst viewership yet as the numbers continue to drop at an alarming rate, week on week. AEW still lead the ratings war overall at 7-2.
And the winner is…
Boy, oh boy, was this a disappointing week of Wednesday wrestling. Each show planned special spots and moments for their programmes that just failed to connect. Picking a winner from these two shows is a real challenge and, so, I’m not going to. I am awarding a tie to this week. I hate ties, ties suck but a tie is the only fitting response to hotly anticipated shows that failed to deliver. This brings the weekly total to 5-3-1 in favour of NXT. Pray to whichever deity you subscribe to that this damp squib week was just a one off…
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.