The Wednesday Night War has been moving along at a healthy clip the past couple of weeks: Fanboys are hurling bad faith arguments at each other. AEW is referencing things that happen on NXT. People from both companies are slinging mud on Twitter. But I want to really look at the way we discuss the Wednesday Night Wars and ask, is it fair? Honestly, not really. Come, my dear reader, let me explain.
AEW announced Dynamite would be airing on Wednesday nights before WWE moved NXT to the USA network. Granted, NXT was coming on the network at that time and one might argue that AEW was the first one to take the show, but that doesn’t seem likely. There was little reason to want to go up with the network exclusive show. So I believe it is fair to say that WWE was the one who looked to actually create a ratings battle when moving NXT and making it two hours. McMahon wanted to go head to head with AEW and they wanted to do so with NXT.
Which leads me into what I believe has been an interesting dynamic in the conversation around WWE and AEW — it has been mostly whether AEW is good or not when compared to NXT, not WWE as a whole. Granted, this is also pretty obvious because of the choice to have NXT go up directly against AEW. It allows WWE to avoid putting any of their widely-panned shows against AEW and make it seem as if it’s not the WWE as a whole against AEW ,but simply NXT. This sort of dynamic is only reinforced by the fact NXT is largely considered separate from the rest of WWE in terms of creativity.
Because of this, we lose sight of the bigger picture. Twitter happily compares AEW ratings to NXT ratings. They compare AEW matches to the matches directly counter to them. They also compare tone and style between the two shows. And these are not necessarily bad things to do — after all, comparisons between the two are inevitable and it is a more than valid thing to do.
Yet it is important that we don’t lose sight of who AEW really is in competition with: WWE as a whole. AEW shouldn’t be compared to NXT alone. In fact, I think it is a bit unfair to do so. NXT‘s style is extremely different from its opposition. For one thing, it mirrors the more match-heavy style of NJPW, and grounds itself in realistic plot lines which revolve around matches. The show is extremely different from most other ones we have in America.
AEW may have some of those elements, but Tony Kahn’s interpretation of “sports-centric” is extremely different from NXT‘s. Kahn’s world is one where the rules, records, and other such trappings of a sport are present but with more eccentric and possibly supernatural characters; it’s like if the MLB had teams of aliens and cults competing for a spot for the wildcard in the playoffs. If AEW was to be compared to anything related to WWE, it would be closer to the main roster with characters such as The Fiend and people spraying green mist.
The fact that AEW and NXT are opposite each other in programming is the only reason why the two are compared. Granted, it is still a reason, but in the age of DVR and online streaming, it is not as good a reason as it once was. This dynamic of online streaming also leads me to ask, honestly, what is at stake here for NXT? It is not likely to just vanish. Even if the show tanks in the ratings NXT will always have a place, whether that be on live TV or online. It’s Dynamite which has everything to lose.
If this is a war, it’s no more than a proxy war, at least for WWE. Putting their smallest foot forward they avoid any damage to their main promotions and force the comparisons to NXT, a show which is not representative of the company as a whole. The Wednesday Night War doesn’t include Monday or Friday whatsoever. And Vince is afraid to invite those comparisons.
I am in no way advocating that comparisons between the two Wednesday night shows is bad or even unfair. I am not saying that AEW is above criticism, I myself have criticized AEW multiple times and expect to do so again. What I am saying though is when we, as wrestling fans decide which show we watch live on Wednesday night and which one we watch the next day, we shouldn’t simply be looking at it as NXT vs. AEW. It should be deciding if we are looking to support a mainstream, big budget alternative to WWE or if we are fine with having no choice but to watch yet another cockold plotline on Raw.
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