For all the noise about “WWE vs. AEW” and whatever that means to everybody, they don’t really go head to head on our screens very much. WWE pulled NXT off of Wednesdays when it mostly got its brains beaten in by the burgeoning AEW Dynamite. AEW has struggled on the Saturday nights that WWE runs a Premium Live Event on the same evening, but that only happens every so often. There’s been one-offs and such, and certainly the race for headlines, and upcoming free agents, we read about them going head-to-head behind the scenes.
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Tuesday night was one of those one-offs, but a pretty ballyhooed one. Thanks to the MLB Playoffs, Dynamite had to move to Tuesday, putting it right up against a revamped NXT…or at least I’m told that’s what NXT is these days. Thanks to that, we got the return of Cocaine Definitely Not Cocaine Tony Khan. Dynamite has been pretty hit-or-miss the past couple months, but this one was packed with great matches like Swerve Strickland-Bryan Danielson, and Hangman Page-Jay White. Even the women’s championship match, Hikaru Shida vs. Saraya, over-delivered as Saraya looked as good in the ring as she ever has since joining AEW last year. It also included Orange Cassidy reclaiming the International title, partly due to Jon Moxley still being hurt, and the in-ring debut in AEW of Adam Copeland to the main event. Being seam-bursting stuffed used to be a Dynamite calling card, and Khan returned to it last night on a night that he felt AEW needed to win the headlines, and ratings in the aftermath.
And I’m told NXT imported a bunch of WWE stars for appearances, like John Cena and Undertaker, and LA Yeah. How nice.
Most of the build-up focused on who would get the most viewers, who would be able to use those results, and headlines to boost their product going forward, and what direction both companies were headed in. That’s probably more accurate for AEW than WWE, as NXT is still the little brother of its shows. If Raw or Smackdown ever went up directly against Dynamite (and it might in the future thanks to their new deal), AEW’s offering probably gets smothered.
It’s also immaterial.
Those are discussions for boardrooms. For fans, last night was a win no matter which side of the debate those fans land on. Both shows put on the most pristine version of what they do best. AEW put on a raft of great matches, while also triangulating, or even squaring(?) some of their storylines. For instance, MJF not only has Jay White next, but Samoa Joe, and Swerve lining up. Swerve has targets on Page and Danielson and all of the Blackpool Combat Club. Copeland and Christian Cage are all mixed up in it. And the women…well, ok, that’s pretty much where it’s still been but Shida is a good champion who can add more work rate to that title, which it probably needs.
For WWE and NXT, Bronn Breaker and Carmelo Hayes look like genuine stars who can transition to the main roster, and not get a “Who?” reaction, which has been a lifelong problem for NXT. Roxanne Perez can burnish a good match with Asuka on her resume. It makes NXT feel like a bigger deal instead of just WWE Triple-A. That’s what those fans want.
The only misstep was Juice Robinson’s promo on MJF, which involved a roll of quarters which MJF has referenced in the past as something used to taunt him as a child from antisemitic bullies. Robinson has also used a roll of quarters in his hand in his career as a weapon. It didn’t come from nowhere, but it also was hardly the time, or place for such a thing, given events in the world. Even if MJF OK’d it, and even if Robinson’s character is supposed to be “out there,” there are other ways to do that than dancing on the line of antisemitism, if not outright tripping right over it. If MJF didn’t have a problem with it, there were plenty of fans who did, which is what matters. Yes, sometimes you miss long, but this was an area where AEW probably shouldn’t have risked that.
Other than that, Tuesday night was a celebration of the moment wrestling is having right now. It’s perhaps, in total, bigger than it’s ever been, and it got there because both companies have felt, most shows, they have to put on the best show of what they do. Competition is great for fans, even if those fans spend way too much time debating who “won” the competition.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social