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NXT/AEW Wednesday Night War: Week 11 Winners and Losers

With both shows building towards pay-per-view calibre shows on December 18th, the NXT and AEW rosters are in top form heading into week 11 of the Wednesday Night War. Which show will provide the best entertainment going into their big end of year shows? Time to settle in and find out!

Starting the Show

After a brief promo from Adam Cole (baybay), NXT kicked off proceedings with a match for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship. The tension between Angel Garza and Lio Rush has been building for quite a while now and so this payoff between them – their second meeting for the strap – is hotly anticipated. The contest starts off furiously with Rush jumping Garza during the announcer’s introductions before the action spills out of the ring, each man delivering flurries of frantic punches. Once back in the ring, the action becomes ever so slightly more technical but the emotion of the two men is still evident as a more strike based offense prevails, leading into the first commercial break. Out of the commercial, the match takes to the top rope with Angel Garza securing a near fall with an Avalanche Spanish Fly. This action at the highest point of the ring turns to action at its lowest point, with each man resting on their knees but slapping the suave out of their opponent. The match looks to be over after Rush nails the final hour but, unfortunately for the Champ, Garza crawls out of the ring and is disrobed of his tearaway trousers in the process.

Lio Rush climbs to the top turnbuckle and attempts another Final Hour to the outside but Angel Garza gets his knees up. Throwing his opponent back into the ring, Garza delivers the Wing Clipper but this move only nets a two count. A desperate Garza then improvises, locking in a reverse full nelson style manoeuvre and forces the tapout from Lio Rush.

Not only do we have a new NXT Cruiserweight Champion but during the commerical break that followed, Angel Garza asked his girlfriend to marry him in the middle of the ring. She said ‘Si’. Congratulations to the happy couple.

All Elite Wrestling kicked of the show with Jon Moxley vs a jobber. After Mox made light work of him, and his supposed tag team partner, Le Champion made his way to the ring flanked by his Inner Circle stable. Chris Jericho asked Moxley for a gentleman’s conversation and proceeded to review the history of Jericho vs. Moxley. To a chorus of boos from the Dallas crowd, Jericho suggested that Jon Moxley needed him and extended an invitation to join the Inner Circle. Jericho doesn’t need an answer now… “take the holidays,” he says.

I have many, many problems with the opening of this show. First of all, if this was going to be a promo segment, we really didn’t need the squash match. Just have Mox come out and pick up a microphone; as soon as he’s about to speak, hit Jericho’s music and go from there. As for the invitation to join the Inner Circle… Jon Moxley isn’t going to join the Inner Circle, we all know this up front. This invitation is purely an exercise in putting off the inevitable match between the two until the new year. I agree with the need to wait for this match to happen – it should be the headline of the next pay per view – but d’ya think you could come up with a less predictable way to put these guys in a holding pattern until 2020? This whole thing is completely lacking in inspiration.

Match of the Night

Although it started oddly, the match of the night across both programmes was the Texas Street Fight between The Young Bucks and Santana/Ortiz, PnP. The match proper was able to get underway after Nick Jackson regained the momentum with a wicked Senton Bomb from the top of the entranceway and through a table.

There were a lot of fun garbage wrestling moments in this match, as well as some great technically sound spots. It wasn’t only the competitors taking good bumps, though. Referee Rick Knox sold an inadvertent punt kick like a champ and spent the rest of the match catching z’s under the ring. This match came to an end after The Young Bucks delivered their Meltzer Driver manouver to Santana on top of some steel chairs. The Bucks will go on to face SCU for the Tag Team Championships next week.

Fun moments and other good stuff

  • Owing to the distraction of Kushida, Raul Mendoza finally picks up a win on NXT.
  • Who’s QT Marshall? That’s the point. They’ve found the person in AEW they’ve promoted the least to be MJF’s pick to team with Cody. Wonderful interjection of an MJF promo during Cody’s entrance… Maxwell is knocking it out of the park right now.
  • MJF followed this up with another fantastic promo – replying to every insult Cody threw at him last week, making a stagehand that laughed at him kiss the ring, explaining the reasons Rhodes doesn’t just fire him. The eventual match between these two might be the best built up rivalry of any in pro wrestling in the last few years… and there’s still a long way to go!
  • Dakota Kai continues to pick up wins against those who wronged her and is using any dirty deed necessary to do it. Between the underhanded victory and Mia Yim’s post-match attack, these two aren’t done. Let’s raise the stakes next time.
  • Nice little match between Breezango and the Singh Brothers. Good to see both of these teams back on TV and there was a lot more support for the Bollywood Boys in Full Sail than I would ever have expected.
  • Last week, I said that the Dark Order needed to started recruiting wrestlers into their stable and this week… they did that! If anyone at AEW (or any other promotion for that matter) would like some more ideas how to book their show, shoot me a message 😂
  • Any of the options – Keith Lee, Tommaso Ciampa or Finn Balor – will make a compelling NXT Championship match next week but I’m intrigued to see Finn Balor take on Adam Cole. I don’t expect Balor to regain the NXT Championship… barring a bigger event taking place, like Balor forming a stable or similar.
  • Great to see some fresh talent in the AEW Women’s Division picking up a win. There’s still a LOT of work to do, and a championship to remove from the division’s figurehead but you gotta start somewhere.

Room for improvement

  • Last week, I asked for more Jaxson Ryker in singles competition and this week I thought I was getting that with the added bonus of him crushing Travis Banks. I’m really not a fan of Banks, I find everything about him supremely irritating so imagine my annoyance at his winning the match and escaping Full Sail unscathed…
  • Still not buying this #HBIC shtick from Mia Yim. In actuality, she’s about as street as Oxford Street.
  • More fake audience in the crowd at NXT. Just no need for it, really. If you must insist on planting people for wrestlers to collide with, have them dress in their own clothes instead of brand new, jet black, completely unwashed NXT t-shirts. Suspend my disbelief a little…
  • Jake Hager talked too much on commentary. Sometimes silence is golden, y’know?

What the ratings said

Well, can you believe it? In the most unlikely of outcomes, both NXT on USA and Dynamite on TNT garnered a viewership of 778,000 each. Can you imagine the ruckus if there had been a tie during the attitude era? Unbelievable. The current record stands then, at 8-2-1 in favour of All Elite Wrestling.

And the winner is…

While both shows were pretty good, I can’t get over the stupid opening to AEW Dynamite and, therefore, NXT are awarded the entertainment value win this week. AEW are working out a lot of the issues their programme has had the last month or so but there’s still work to be done. When you’re going head to head with another company and want to keep viewers on your show rather than switch over to the competition, a dumb squash match against a no-name isn’t going to get it done… not when the other side is offering a very good Cruiserweight Championship match. Totals for the War to date have NXT in the lead 6-4-1. Both promotions promise incredible shows next week, I look forward to seeing who lives up to the hype!

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.

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NXT/AEW Wednesday Night War: Week 1 Winners and Losers

In a historic moment that harkened back to the glory days of pro wrestling’s most entertaining and prosperous period, the Wednesday Night War – the ratings battle between WWE NXT and AEW Dynamite – got underway last Wednesday night. This inaugural edition of the war pitted a rowdy homefield NXT crowd in Florida against a sold out Washington DC diehard set and featured several exciting and impactful moments now committed to the annals of history.

Starting the show

Without argument, I would suggest, each show needed to start their programme strong and neither disappointed. WWE publicised ahead of time that they would be kicking off with the NXT World Championship match: Cole vs. Riddle. This was a shrewd move by WWE, as this was expected to be NXT’s match of the night (more on that later). AEW, conversely, put their money behind their VP and started the show with Cody Rhodes. Cody is, or at least his group are, the biggest draws in the company. Starting off with Rhodes made a lot of sense. Starting off with Rhodes against a virtual unknown did not. With the story and groundwork done so far during PPV and B/R broadcasts, there were better opponents for Cody that would have made far more sense… Darby Allin or Shawn Spears, to name but two. That said, the match between Cody and Sammy Guevara was one of the highlights of the show. The quality of wrestling on offer was solid, the pair told a good story – strengthened by Cody’s “if I lose, I relinquish my title shot” decree – and the right person won. A solid start.

With his title shot validated, Cody was attacked post match by reigning champion, Chris Jericho. After wasting some time on a hug with Tony Schiavone and a handshake with Guevara, Jericho had barely enough time to put Cody down before the show was forced into commercials… where the best parts of the attack went down, without sound, without commentary and on a tiny, barely watchable screen. I understand why they wanted to keep the action going, with the competition on USA not having any commercials at all for the first 30 minutes but the timing choices made here, and throughout the whole show, left a lot to be desired.

NXT, by comparison, presented the best match of both shows and threw in a surprise return for good measure.

Match of the night

It should be fairly obvious by now that I considered the Adam Cole (baybay) / Matt Riddle NXT Championship contest to be the undisputed match of the night.

The match had all the qualities you’d look for in a five star bout. I could go on about it but if you’ve seen the match, you know how good it was… if you haven’t, stop reading this and go find the match. Now.

Biggest shocker

Each Wednesday night show delivered its share of surprise moments with shock debuts/returns at each event. AEW’s surprise of the night came in the form of the debuting Jake Hager (formerly known as former WWE World Heavyweight Champion and All American American, American, American, Jack Thwagger). The moment was unfortunately diminished by the fact that his arrival was foretold in the dirtsheets and by the blank expression on Hager’s face as he stumbled through the run-in, looking for things to do.

The biggest reaction from the All Elite, Washington DC crowd was for the return of Jon Moxley in the same match. The status of Moxley’s elbow injury and infection was kept mostly opaque and, even if anticipated, the crowd were set ablaze as Moxley crawled in behind Kenny Omega.

The moment of the night over both shows came in the immediate aftermath of the match of the night in the return to NXT of Finn Balor.

On a night where Tommaso Ciampa also returned from injury to the black and gold brand, Finn Balor’s backstep from the main roster is the most shocking. There was a time when leaving NXT meant you would never return but as Triple H looks to put on the best wrestling show, it stands to reason that he’ll bring the best wrestlers back to NXT; especially where daddy-in-law has had them on the main roster without any clue how to use them! Balor in NXT opens so many fantastic match opportunities. Expect Finn to receive a lot of TV time on NXT going forward as we slowly works through the roster, leaving five star matches and red paint in his wake.

Quick notes for improvement

  • AEW went right into the the opening music/video at the beginning. No pomp and circumstance marking their first show, no explanation of why their show is different, nothing. Big shame.
  • NXT’s commercials were too frequent after the initial commercial free period. Thoroughly broke the flow of the matches and I for one, would have preferred consistently timed commercials.
  • Mia Yim looked slow and frequently hesitated throughout her match. Io Shirai managed to carry the match on her own but NXT need to consider whether they want to put Yim in matches with the top tier of talent going forward.
  • I’m already bored of the AEW/WCW comparisons.
  • LOTS of big names missing for AEW. Show people tuning in to your product for the first time who you have. Give them someone to attach to and bring them back next week.
  • The SCU segment was just… weird. Did anyone actually find it funny? Would someone seeing for this time understand what the point was, and why they were shouting SCU? Furthermore, either putting the Lucha Bros in their faces was a tournament spoiler or a bizarre moment between two teams that won’t be facing each other any time soon…
  • Beth Phoenix.
  • Nigel McGuinness.

What the ratings said

The ratings came in fairly quickly on Thursday and gave the Wednesday Night War its first champion: AEW Dynamite. Dynamite amassed a 0.68 rating amongst adults with 1.4 million viewers overall whilst NXT on USA only secured a 0.32 share amongst adults, 891k viewers overall. For reference, the ratings view adults as those aged 18-49. For my money, All Elite Wrestling were always going to win the ratings battle in their debut. NXT is the established brand and watching it live wasn’t as important as watching the history of a brand new endeavour unfold before our eyes.

And the winner is…

While ultimately, the ratings will dictate the winner of the war over time, I will be keeping a record of who is winning the war in terms of putting on the best show. For this debut week, despite AEW Dynamite winning the ratings battle on Wednesday night, I found WWE NXT to be the better show in week one. NXT did not have a bad match, it had the better surprises, the better timing and the match of the night. This is not to say that I found the AEW show to be bad… nothing could be further from the truth… but objectively, NXT was firing on all cylinders Wednesday night, whereas AEW still has a few kinks to work out. I fully expect the bar to be raised again for week two; I cannot wait to check out both shows next week. I leave you with my immediate thoughts, from Twitter as I don’t think I could sum it up any better again…

What did you think of the inaugural Wednesday Night War? Did you prefer one show over the other. Let me know your thoughts in the comments or find me on Twitter @thejezshow.