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NXT/AEW Wednesday Night War: Week 5 Winners and Losers (and Week 4 recap!)

Apologies to last week’s hiatus, I was away at a conference. Now, 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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