“It has begun” (Shang Tsung – Mortal Kombat)
In the biggest week for pro wrestling, the much anticipated Wednesday Night Wars kicked off last night when WWE’s NXT show (on USA Network) went head to head in the ratings war with the newcomer All Elite Wrestling (AEW), which was finally making its television debut on TNT with AEW Dynamite after months of hype & publicity. AEW showcased their talent and crowned a new women’s champion, while the main event saw Chris Jericho, Santana & Ortiz get the win over The Elite (Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks) while Jake Hager made his debut and Moxley made his intentions known to Omega.
Now I know what some of you must be thinking: who or what is AEW? Good question.
The answer is simple: AEW is the new company that is trying to become the main competition to WWE, similar to what WCW was back in the glory days of the Monday Night Wars. Spearheaded by Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks and ran by Tony Khan (the son of Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars), AEW offers an alternative to the WWE programming we’ve been accustomed to over the years (RAW, SD Live, NXT and PPV’s).
AEW prides themselves on the in-ring product, where wins and losses actually matter and getting away from the heavy promos that WWE is known for.
If AEW is fairly new and just had their TV debut last night, why should WWE take notice? Well, to quote the allustrious rapper/mogul Jay-Z “men lie women lie, numbers don’t!” And well, the numbers don’t lie.
It was reported today that over 1.409 million people tuned in to watch AEW’s debut, which drew more viewers than the 891K that tuned in to watch NXT, according to The Wrap. More importantly is the following:
“Dynamite” more than doubled its competition in the key adults 18-49 demographic, scoring 878,000 viewers compared to “NXT’s” 414,000 (putting the USA wrestling series up 1% from its week-ago broadcast in that metric).
Per Deadline, AEW brought in 1.8 million total viewers and 1.1 million in the 18-49 demo in Live+Same Day, which makes last night the biggest broadcast premiere in 5 years for TNT (which is saying something). WWE themselves took notice, by conceding that AEW struck the first blow in the Wednesday Night War, issuing the following statement:
Now time will tell if AEW can keep up those numbers on a weekly basis, as well as NXT bouncing back to draw closer in ratings to their competitor. There are many things that separate the two brands, but the main difference between AEW and WWE/NXT is the product.
AEW is the cool thing that people like and gravitate to (evidence by the attendance from the PPV’s they’ve run up to this point, as well as the attendance from the DC crowd last night, which packed at least 80% of Capital One Arena). It feels similar to how Facebook was created, became the cool thing to have, and eventually grew into the conglomerate that they are currently. Can AEW be the company that can finally challenge WWE? Who knows.
AEW is not the only show making their debut this week. WWE will respond with the start of their new SmackDown Live broadcast with FOX on Friday before heading into their Hell in a Cell PPV this Sunday.
Nevertheless, AEW struck the first blow and being in the building to watch the premiere show, I can attest that while there are some minor things that need to get cleaned up, AEW is definitely worth the watch and has legitimate staying power.
Flip the page for some info and videos on the key people in AEW that fans should keep an eye on.