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NXT/AEW Wednesday Night War: Week 7 Winners and Losers

Off the back of an entertaining Full Gear PPV event, All Elite Wrestling looked to carry some momentum into Dynamite and regain some of their lost viewership. Meanwhile, over on the USA Network, NXT seek to continue their climb and overtake their rivals in the Wednesday Night War. What will this instalment of the battle bring?

Starting the Show

Following a video recap of Saturday’s Full Gear event, AEW Dynamite kicked off with an update on the condition of Kenny Omega following his brutal bout with Jon Moxley. Informed by JR that Moxley will kick off the night’s competition shortly, we peek into the medical examination of Omega. We learn that he, unlike Mox, has not been cleared to compete and Kenny does a fantastic job of carrying on his face the mental pain of his opponent being cleared before him. This is real emotion on display or, at the very least, a stellar and convincing reproduction of it. Back in the ring, Jon Moxley makes light work of Michael Nakazawa before taking to the microphone. Mox rubs the victory into Omega before sharing his reluctant respect for him. Following this, Moxley effectively calls out the entire roster, claiming they don’t have the balls to confront him. Ultimately, he is proven correct, with no-one answering the call in that moment.

NXT launched itself onto the airwaves with a recap of last week’s show, combined with the opening music video. The only thing that would have made this more perfect is fully putting up the NXT titlecard at the crescendo of the music. I’d love to see NXT open in this way going forward; it’s super fresh and very unique. The show proper got underway with the NXT Cruiserweight Championship match which I, for one, highly anticipated. The match met all expectations and continued to demonstrate the ability of the Cruiserweight roster. The early commercial break really broke the flow of this match but the match overall was a delight to behold. I’m a little disappointed with the ending but I’m satisfied in the fact that it means this will not be the last time we see Garza and Rush face off in the near future.

Match of the Night

In my opinion, the match of the night belonged to “Hangman” Adam Page and PAC. The raw emotion that carried into their second match was unmatched and lacked the errors that other top matches from the night had. This match put PAC over, big time, as he took his underhanded, bastard tactics to another level rendering Page unconscious and refusing to relent. Great story, great action, match of the night.

Honourable mention for the Cruiserweight Championship match. The end of the match combined with the few moments in which each superstar stood waiting to be hit or for moves to be delivered pushed the edge to Hangman vs. PAC.

Biggest Shocker

For me, the biggest shock of the night is that NXT didn’t payoff the best possible outcome in the night long women being attacked, Baszler needing a fourth member deal. Sure, Kay Lee Ray is fine but everything pointed to a larger conspiracy that would have seen, if I were writing the show, Dakota Kai join Team Baszler. Kai left last week’s NXT livid and emotionally devastated that she had been supplanted for Team Ripley. She was presented as a weak, feeble person that didn’t have the resolve to fight for her place, let alone fight against some of the toughest women in the business. Imagine then, that driven by the negative emotions of last week, Kai took the decision to reach out to Shayna Baszler and join her War Games team instead. Asked to prove that she was ruthless enough to join her team, Baszler instructs Kai to make and impact, which she does by taking out all of Team Ripley with Shafir and Duke feigning injury to cover her tracks. During the main event, Shayna Baszler’s music hits and Kai rushes to the ring through the crowd, standing alongside Mia Yim, whom she’d sworn to protect backstage. Shayna tells Yim she isn’t there to fight, she’s here with video evidence proving who attacked all the other women backstage. The video shows a person brutally attacking Ripley and co before telling Shafir/Duke to take a dive; that person turns around and is revealed to be Dakota Kai. Before Yim can react, Kai kicks her in the head and drags Io Shirai to the ladder, where she climbs and secures the victory. The event ends in the same way but with Kai in the place of Kay Lee Ray as Bayley jumps Baszler.

That should have been the shocking moment of the night… but hey, what do I know? By the way, because they didn’t make it explicit on the show, it was Bayley…

Fun moments and other good stuff

  • Great to see the Luchasaurus back in the ring. Here’s hoping we can see more singles action from him, leaving Jungle Boy and Marko to handle tag division duties.
  • Finn Balor’s verbal tirade transitioning into a War Games build transitioning into a Roderick Strong vs. Keith Lee match. See also bad stuff below.
  • Darby Allin is big time over. I came into this night thinking that AEW needed to find a good feud for this kid that can payoff with a big PPV match, focusing on what he can do in the ring rather than his more risque style of wrestling. Accepting Jon Moxley’s open challenge accomplishes half of that… but a match with Mox is never not going to be high risk. Here’s hoping it won’t be one-and-done next week in Indianapolis.
  • Nice little rivalry building between Shawn Spears and Joey Janela. Their payoff will be a good opportunity for them both to demonstrate the technical aspects of their repertoire and put on a great match for the audience.
  • A feud in which the hatred was between Pete Dunne and Killian Dain was evident has morphed effectively into a chaotic, three-way war – adding Damien Priest. Priest definitely isn’t a third wheel in this situation and will add a dynamic element to this Triple Threat match, in a Survivor Series weekend dominated by Triple Threat matches.
  • A lot went down in the Chris Jericho initiated talk segment, all of it good. We saw a coming out promo for MJF, followed by an ego-off between arguable the two best heels in the company, followed by the debut of Wardlow. Cody’s quest for revenge should dominate Dynamite for weeks to come, with Cody being denied his retribution all the way to the next PPV event. By the way, as a subordinate of MJF, the Burberry tie is a nice touch.
  • There’s not often much worth hearing during a backstage brawl so using the commercial break splitscreen for the majority of the altercation between the Young Bucks and Santana/Ortiz was an excellent use of time.
  • Mia Yim took an absolute beating tonight. Major respect, hope she’s okay for Takeover: War Games.

Room for improvement

  • If the Cruiserweight and United Kingdom Championships are now truly NXT titles, they need a fresh design, replacing the front and center WWE logo with an NXT based design. Without that, it’s a constant reminder that you changed the names without much reason.
  • I loved Finn Balor’s rant about how soft NXT has gotten but Gargano’s injury really hurts Balor. I would have hoped Balor be confronted by someone who he might face at Takeover: War Games. Riddle already has a match… Balor won’t be joining the War Games match… what’s left for him to do at the first major event since his return? Do they take Riddle out of War Games? Cancel my last. After writing this, they did indeed take Riddle out of War Games and put him in a one-on-one with Finn Balor. Kudos.
  • Enough of the stupid Librarian crap, seriously. If Shane Douglas couldn’t pull of this kind of scholarly elitist gimmick, Peter Avalon sure isn’t going to.
  • Two squash matches in the programme does not a quality wrestling oriented show make.
  • Forced Star Wars reference from Nigel McGuinness and Beth Phoenix.
  • Why is All Elite Wrestling obsessed with battle royals? And giving out trinkets like medals and rings? Very strange.
  • Rules go out the window in AEW tag team matches. Officials rarely keep illegal competitors on the apron, hold them to account for being in the ring too long. The referee would have clearly seen Jake Hager attack Kazarian outside the ring, he was looking right at him. Rules matter.
  • I really, really don’t like a mid-card (at best) guy like Scorpio Sky kicking out of the Codebreaker, beating the World Champion, or handing Chris Jericho his first loss. The only legitimate reason to potentially do any of those things would be as the launchpad for a main event push for Sky, which I don’t see being their end game. Where can this go, other than making your company’s top guy look weak?

What the ratings said

This week, AEW Dynamite improved to 957,000 views on last week, failing to break back through that 1 million barrier. NXT slid backwards to 750,000 viewers, failing to capitalise on the promise of RAW and SmackDown superstars boosting the show’s appeal. The viewers lost from the early weeks of the Wednesday Night War do not seem to be returning for their Wednesday night pro wrestling fix.

And the winner is…

Deciding a winner this week was tough and there were times that I thought I’d declare week 7 a tie but, ultimately, less went wrong on Dynamite and the story wasn’t left with a gaping hole in it in the same way NXT did (see rant above). Furthermore, while the Full Sail crowd were engaged and vocal, as always, the reactions from the Nashville audience were at another level, especially during moments like MJF’s promo and Cody’s arrival. It takes a lot to top an NXT crowd and that should be recognised. This week, AEW put on the better television show. Overall, the war is 5-2 to NXT but with a stellar event this week, the All Elite crew prove they ain’t licked yet. The war wages on…

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 5 Winners and Losers (and Week 4 recap!)

After a week’s hiatus due to trading at MCM Comic Con, I am back with my Wednesday night winners and losers for week 5.

Week 4 Recap

While both AEW and NXT both continue to decline in the ratings, the quality of both shows remains consistent with plenty of top quality wrestling action and promotion. While AEW once again came out on top in the ratings war, its viewership dropped under a million for the first time, only producing 963k views for the live broadcast. NXT drew only 698k viewers but in my opinion produced a better show, with the Finn Balor heel turn bookending a night of fantastic story, character development and wrestling. Let’s see what each show offers in week 5 and how that influences the ratings.

Starting the Show

The cold open for Dynamite was both incredible and disappointing in equal measure. First of all, it’s fantastic to see AEW finally putting content before their opening music and, in this case, two items. Tony Shiavone waiting for Cody to join him for the journey from private jet to arena is a nice, unique idea. It does two things: 1) highlights Cody’s position as a player in the wrestling industry with all the pomp and circumstance that affords; 2) adds a level of realism, using “dead time” like a commute for interviews. Cody is, or should be, a busy man and shouldn’t have time to waste on self promotion. Using this time for that is exactly what a company executive does and should be doing, maximising their own productivity. I like it a lot. It could only be made better by having this segment as an “earlier today” segment because the notion that Cody Rhodes turns up late to his own company’s flagship television show is, quite frankly, ludicrous.

This is not the disappointment I alluded to, though. Despite not writing about it last week, I watched Dynamite. I sat incredulous at the idea of a time limit draw in the main event – something that just shouldn’t happen – and sat bitter at the terrible show ending AEW had given us. Imagine my shock, then, when in the cold open AEW recapped a GOOD ENDING to the show that NOBODY GO TO SEE! PAC trying to take Moxley’s head off with a chair only to be thwarted by Kenny Omega, Adam Page issuing his Full Gear challenge… that’s how you close the show, not with a close-up of Moxley’s face saying it ain’t right. You’re damn straight it ain’t right. What a waste.

NXT kicked things off with a musical performance by somebody called Poppy. I haven’t thought much of the bands they’ve brought in as #NXTLoud artists in recent years but I dug this group. They also played in Io Shirai but I hope that was a one off, considering how well her current entrance music suits her new persona. Shirai and LeRae is always a solid way to start a show and this match didn’t disappoint. There’s only so many times you can keep putting the same people in front of Io Shirai without killing her momentum, though.

Match of the night

When this match was announced, I had an inkling that it might end up being match of the night and Tyler Bate vs. Cameron Grimes did not disappoint. Throughout the match – which was hard-hitting and made both men look good – I wondered how the were going to give Grimes the W without undermining not only Bate but the credibility of the whole NXT UK brand. It escaped my memory that the only reason Bate was in the NXT arena last week was to support his countryman and fellow British Strong Style member, Pete Dunne. It makes perfect storytelling sense, then, for Killian Dane to seek revenge through the medium of Bate, costing him the victory. Outside interference can often detract from a match conclusion but every element came together perfectly in this instance. Cameron Grimes is on a huge roll at present and, when not putting people down in six seconds, puts out unique and technical contests with a variety of differing styles of opponent. I didn’t much rate his performance during his time in Impact Wrestling but, since arriving in NXT, he has impressed me. Tyler Bate, obviously, can have a five star match with anyone.

Honourable mentions for each show’s opening contests which were each stellar contests featuring future stars of their brands. Guevara has no ceiling if used correctly and you already know how much I rate Io Shirai, if you’ve read this column before.

Fun moments and other good stuff

  • Hikaru Shida should have been in the spot Riho has. Finally some decent women’s wrestling on AEW.
  • Classic distraction methods by Jericho’s heel stable. Professional at the signing, down and dirty behind your back. Cigar was a nice ‘wouldn’t happen in WWE’ touch.
  • There’s an argument to be had that the Lucha Bros are the best tag team in the world right now. I might make that argument.
  • Everything in NXT is so interwoven right now. Individual women’s feuds coming together to meet in War Games, various men forming alliances against the Undisputed Era… all very well managed by NXT higher-ups. Kudos.
  • Speaking of Women’s War Games… yes. It’s about time.
  • Prince Balor, in the spotlight.
  • The dent in the car left by Dustin Rhodes’ head.

Room for improvement

  • Enough of the constant “young talent” comments on AEW. Nobody is accusing you of having an aging roster.
  • The Rick and Morty involvement made no sense. I realise I’m in the minority that doesn’t really like the show but surely the could have animated up a backstage interview or sent the Best Friends into a different dimension, or something. A voiceover ring announcement doesn’t match the hype you made this event out to be.
  • Following on from what I said about their opening, AEW main events seem far too rushed for my liking. Time management is an issue.

What the ratings said

The final game of the Major League Baseball World Series decimated the viewership for both Wednesday night shows this week. AEW maintained its ratings lead but dropped to a very disappointing 759k views, losing roughly 200,000 from week 4. Likewise, NXT dropped another 100,000 or so viewers on their previous week, garnering 580k views. Both AEW and NXT have only ever declined since their debuts however it could be argued that competition from the MLB playoffs is to blame. Wednesday is a tough night to broadcast in, though, with network television offering powerhouses such as Survivor and Chicago Med. Without the baseball to blame next week, it will be interesting to see if our wrestling heroes will be able to bounce back and recover viewers. Time will tell.

And the winner is…

Without feeling a need to beat around the bush, NXT was the better show for the third week in a row. The show is more polished, the rivalries develop better and are more coherent. The in-ring action overall is roughly on par, it is the other elements carrying NXT to consistent victory at the moment. I can feel the development and improvement from AEW each week, though. They’re continuing to try new things and they don’t always hit home. Once they find their groove and fully cement their identity, they’ll be tough to stop. NXT very much knows what it is and their live audience fully buy in to their identity. With NXT’s victory in weeks 4 and 5, it puts their win/loss at 4-1. The biggest shame of all of this is that there had to be a loser, while each show continues to blow WWE main roster shows out of the water while receiving very little ratings reward.

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.