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NXT/AEW Wednesday Night War: Week 9 Winners and Losers

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.

Biggest Shocker

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.

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NXT/AEW Wednesday Night War: Week 8 Winners and Losers

Going into the eighth week of head-to-head ratings competition, the NXT brand has its work cut out for it, attempting to produce a go-home show for not just one but two big pay-per-view events this weekend. All Elite Wrestling enter week 8 with several burgeoning storylines to develop in front of their Indianapolis crowd. Will Dynamite on TNT continue it’s ratings dominance or will NXT on USA finally top the newbies? Let’s get knee deep in some week 8 Wednesday wrestling!

Starting the Show

Kicking off the viewing this week with NXT, we are treated to RAW Women’s Champion, Becky Lynch, dropping a promo befitting the Full Sail audience – referencing her time in NXT listening to fans sing her entrance music, Bayley’s soccer mom hairdo and Shayna’s stepping up to her.

The latter of these things led to Lynch calling out the NXT Women’s Champion but, on this occasion, the challenge was answered not by Baszler but by Rhea Ripley leading to Lynch’s first match on the black and gold brand in over four years. A nice little match between the two, of course, leads to outside interference from Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir, who attack both Lynch and Ripley in a strange attempt to develop both the War Games and Survivor Series matches they are in.

With a brief recap of what set the match up, All Elite Wrestling kicked off Dynamite with an incredible matchup between Nick Jackson and Rey Fenix. I’m not always the biggest fan of the ‘spotfest’ style matches that wrestlers of this kind offer but this pair were able to expertly combine a lot of misdirection and counter moves with their highspots; you never got the impression that either of them were waiting for the big move to come, as is often the problem in these matches. Without any interruption, Dynamite went straight from their first match into their second and allowed the match between Dr. Britt Baker and Hikaru Shida to establish before going to commercial break. A good, wrestling focused start on Dynamite this week.

Match of the Night

The Dynamite opener between Fenix and Jackson takes the title of match of the night, this week. Not only was it refreshing to see these two outside of the tag team environment but it allowed them to put aside some of the, admittedly very few, issues from their previous tag team meetings. The match was a good length and gave the impression that each competitor was only ever one good move away from victory. If the match itself wasn’t good enough, the non-handshake from Fenix sweetened the deal. Fenix is gonna take out your brother, beat you clean, give you some kudos with a clap but ultimately refuse to pay you any respect. Wonderful, oft-unused heel psychology well utilised.

Honorable mention for The Revival vs. The Undisputed Era. The Revival continue to be the standard for tag team wrestling across the whole industry and bring the absolute best out of any opponent – it just so happened that on this occasion they were facing another of the best teams around in their own right. The official was a little loose with the tag team rulebook and the commercial breaks really killed momentum, which is why, for me, this match slips to second place on the night.

Biggest Shocker

The biggest moments of the night came from beloved NXT alumni steping back into Full Sail University. Perhaps the most concentrated example of that was in the Matt Riddle / Ricochet match. What started with Ricochet came to feature Cesaro, Shinsuke Nakamura and the already reabsorbed Finn Balor. Great to see them back on the wrestling show again.

Fun moments and other good stuff

  • The Dark Order promo was nice. Empathising with the poor guy at the subway station set up the premise for how people could be duped into joining the cult of gimp mask furniture people.
  • Using Kona Reeves as cannon fodder for a surprise appearance from Ricochet was a shrewd move. Riddle vs. Ricochet is definitely the match we needed to see from the brand dilution caused by Survivor Series.
  • Good to see Billy Gunn. How is he able to use the Billy Gunn name? Did he legally change his name?
  • The Revival’s match was a massive throwback to their glory days in NXT. Lots of fantastic teams have come and gone through the brand but none quite embody tag team wrestling in NXT like The Revival.
  • Jericho is very… “sorry”. Cute little setup to a title match next week on Dynamite. Scorpio Sky isn’t going to win, and nor should he, so a quick throwaway match on a pre-holiday edition is perfect.
  • Dominic Dijakovic has no fear! Straight freefalling from the top of the ladder onto another below was a scary looking moment but he landed perfectly – square and straight. Nice ending.
  • The PnP / Private Party contest was a fitting tribute to Matt Travis. Such as shame for things to end for him how they did. R.I.P.
  • Ciampa – “This is my house, motherf***er.”
  • You can print money with Darby Allin. The commentators alluded vaguely to the similarities he shares with Jeff Hardy and I think this appeal is equal, if not greater, than his. AEW should be using him to connect with younger, teen audiences. Dynamite seems a little too much like a millennial-fest right now.

Room for improvement

  • The match between Dr. Britt Baker and Hikaru Shida continued to highlight that AEW have pushed the wrong women to the top of the division. These two have credible looks and put on high-quality contests whenever they’re in the ring; either would make a believable, credible, marketable Women’s World Champion which is not something I can say about Riho.
  • No USA Network logo on the back of the RAW t-shirts is a branding fail
  • You get a battle royal! And you get a battle royal! Battle royal for you as well!
  • What was the point of the battle royal anyway?
  • The Revival should have been in the Survivor Series Tag Team Triple Threat as SmackDown Tag Team Champions; their presence will be missed on the big show.
  • Dakota Kai’s angry face is awful; she looks like Angry Miz Girl, pouting like a skinny child.
  • Lots of sloppy, slow, suspension-of-disbelief-breaking moments in the Kay Lee Ray / Dakota Kai match. Hanging back waiting to be hit, slow motion running to wait for opponents to get into position. Less than ideal.
  • You get a ladder match! And you get a ladder match! Ladder match for you as well!

What the ratings said

Score one for the black and gold guys! Bolstered by extremely popular main roster WWE Superstars, this week’s episode of NXT brought in 916,000 viewers to the brand. This is their best rating since September 25th and one of their best full stop. In comparison, AEW Dynamite drew 893,000 viewers, down 7% on last week. With their victory, NXT finally put the 1 in 7-1.

And the winner is…

Great programming all round from both companies, as we’ve come to expect, but I feel that AEW Dynamite was the more coherent show this week, flowing very well from start to finish. NXT was just so busy and while trying to serve as a go home for both War Games and Survivor Series, it really struggled to be that for either. The 67 brawls between brands meant that none of them really had an impact overall… “Oh, we’re cluster-fighting again.” This victory means that AEW continue to close the gap on NXT at 5-3. The mind boggles why each of these shows are not the top rated wrestling products on television in the ratings… they consistently blow RAW and SmackDown out of the water. Wednesday nights are for real.

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 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.