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.
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.