The Tuesday Night War between AEW and NXT isn’t about Pro Wrestling
The Wednesday Night War between All Elite Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment third brand NXT ended on April 7, 2021 from the decision of NXT moving permanently to Tuesday night. That war returns, albeit for just one night, in a Tuesday Night War between AEW and NXT.
AEW Wednesday Night Dynamite was pushed to Tuesday due to Major League Baseball playoffs as the Atlanta Braves play the Philadelphia Phillies at 5PM and the Los Angeles Dodgers play the Arizona Diamondbacks at 8:30PM. They also can’t just move to TNT on Wednesday because their original reason of switching to TBS, the National Hockey League, is having their season opener on Wednesday between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins. AEW was left with no choice but to change nights, and Thursday on TBS is taken up by more playoff baseball. It’s either move to Thursday on TNT, or stay on TBS and run head to head against NXT.
NXT and the WWE have responded to the head to head schedule by going full force. The first 30 minutes are commercial free. Appearances by John Cena will be in the corner of Carmelo Hayes while Paul Heyman stands in the corner of Bron Breakker. Why? Who cares why. Asuka will face Roxanne Perez because reasons. And there will also be a special announcement from Cody Rhodes. I’ll get to him later. Don’t worry. I will get to him. There is expected to be an appearance by The Undertaker because nothing says future of WWE quite like The Undertaker showing up. There is also expected to be an extended overrun.
Tony Khan isn’t taking it sitting down. He’s also doing 30 minutes commercial free. He has booked some major pay per view quality matches on Dynamite nobody expected like Hangman Page versus Jay White and Swerve Strickland versus Bryan Danielson for a shot at the AEW TNT Championship. Jon Moxley, who was out with an injury, will get his rematch against Rey Fenix for the AEW International Championship. It will also feature Adam Copeland’s first match in AEW against Luchasaurus and Hikaru Shida’s chance to regain the AEW Women’s Championship against Saraya. There will also be an overrun. Tony also added a YouTube “Buy In” match where Minoru Suzuki will face NJPW Strong Openweight and ROH World Champion Eddie Kingston at 7:30PM on YouTube.
The Wednesday Night War
The Wednesday Night War ended back in 2021. All Elite Wrestling were considered the winners of the Wednesday Night War due to the fact their 18-49 key demo won almost every week from October 2, 2019 to April 7, 2021. What was the reason for the war? Did AEW not launch their show on the same night of NXT? Originally, All Elite Wrestling owner Tony Khan wanted his show on Tuesday. It was supposed to be Tuesday Night Dynamite on TNT. When this was being discussed, NXT was on the WWE Network and not cable. July 24, 2019, it was announced that Dynamite would be a Wednesday show. Tuesday and Thursday were used for NBA on TNT and Monday was an NFL night. Just a few weeks later WWE announced that NXT was moving from the WWE Network to the USA Network to premiere on September 18, two weeks prior to the debut of AEW Dynamite.
Why do I detail all of this? These “wars” are very easy to buy into propaganda on either side. AEW wanted Tuesday. They were pushed by their network to take Wednesday. Wednesday was when NXT aired on the WWE Network but it was at the time a taped show which could air on literally any day of the week. It also wasn’t on cable. WWE made sure they had something going head to head against the debut of this rival wrestling company. And now, four years later, we have AEW Dynamite, a regular Wednesday show, moving temporarily to Tuesday because their network needs the timeslot for MLB Playoffs. They are being bumped off of their own night. NXT is responding to this by beefing their show up. AEW is responding to that response.
AEW vs. NXT: Why They Fight
It is also important to recognize that NXT, while usually treated as a development brand, has been beefing up their show for the past few months with more WWE main roster talent. Becky Lynch of all people is currently NXT Women’s Champion. WWE recently signed a new television deal for Smackdown, while the Raw and NXT deals are still being negotiated. WWE wants the biggest deal possible for NXT. If they can convince a television network it won’t just be a development product but a major TV show that can beat their top competitor in a head to head competition, it means more money and a more secure timeslot. The TKO (WWE and UFC’s new company name after the merger) stock took a major hit when Smackdown on NBC didn’t get the increases the speculators thought. They don’t want that happening again. This head to head is very important to WWE.
As for Tony Khan, my original advice was in quoting Sun Tzu. If NXT is going to stack a show against you? Let them. Let them throw every bomb they have and just side step it.
"If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest."
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War https://t.co/6y5dFBwMVG
— W̷r̷o̷t̷ ???? (@AaronWrotkowski) October 4, 2023
Tony did not do that. He’s going bomb for bomb. He’s treating this as a serious challenge. This show is also on his birthday so he’s likely a bit influenced to want to make sure he doesn’t look like he’s rolling over and taking a punch in the chin with no reaction. He’s showing he wants to face the challenge and not back down, regardless of what the final outcome on the ratings are. It’s the kind of thing that has made some AEW fans look at this card and wonder why Tony isn’t putting shows like this every week. Jay White versus Hangman Page is the sort of match I saw main eventing a pay per view in the future for the AEW World Championship and instead it’s just a Tuesday night match? When was the last time we had Chris Jericho, Hangman Page, Bryan Danielson, and Jon Moxley all in singles matches on television? It hasn’t happened. Throw in Adam Copeland and an AEW Women’s Championship match. The subservience to the tag team and trios divisions are washed away to focus on just straight up one on one bangers. We’re going to hear a lot of people asking, “Why can’t you do this every Wednesday night?” for weeks to come.
AEW has received a lot of heat recently from critics that the show is cold and needs to get hot again. Live events are not selling at the level people expect and the level AEW expected when they booked the arenas (these are major league arenas doing 2,500 and tarping a lot of area) and priced the tickets well beyond the means of a lot of low income fans. Ratings on Wednesday have stayed strong but the weekend shows have taken considerable damage when on the same night of major sports and WWE pay per views. A strong showing against NXT when they’ve stacked the show with John Cena and Cody Rhodes (I promise I will get to him) appearances could do something to reverse the narrative. Unfortunately, that narrative is built on Dave Meltzer and others who saw AEW do competition key demos to Monday Night Raw and a few good houses in late 2021 and assumed that was the new normal for AEW and that they were now competitive against WWE. You can’t be competitive with WWE unless you are equalling them in market share, which AEW was never doing. That perception has now permeated the language of critics towards AEW, and even when they do great numbers on pay per view buys and the biggest ticket selling single event in pro wrestling history with AEW All In at Wembley Stadium, the company is considered frozen cold.
When you’re cold you can do no right. When you’re hot you can do no wrong. WWE is having Roman Reigns make a house show appearance in Kansas City on the 14th of October because the last time they were in town they did over 9,000 for a Smackdown taping and they were just under 4,000 before announcing Roman Reigns to appear. 5,000 people not buying tickets to the show who did back in March, but when you’re hot? You can do no wrong.
Cody Rhodes: The American Stooge
Speaking of doing no wrong? Cody Rhodes. Oh like I said. I would get to you.
Cody Rhodes appearing on NXT (probably to announce the Dusty Classic) on a show going head to head with AEW Dynamite is absolutely rich. He knows what this is. He also knows the entire wrestling community knows he’s the man who every time he had a live microphone and a pebble in his shoe he was ready to blast WWE and the NXT brand. Prior to signing back with the WWE, it was the WWE who was withholding Cody from using the Rhodes last name. He fought them for the trademarks of Dusty Rhodes named events. He helped fuel us vs. them between AEW fans and WWE more than anyone else on the AEW roster. When Cody took a photo with Jon Moxley and they shot middle fingers, it was a middle finger to the WWE. One “personal” disagreement and a WWE contract and now it’s just ah nothing.
Of course, these are just independent contractors and flipping from one franchise to another and changing your narratives happens in sports all of the time. They have no reason to be loyal to one brand or another. Loyalty is for the fans. Johnny Damon played for the Red Sox and the Yankees. Doug Gilmour played for the Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. Who cares? Business is business.
But there’s business and there’s stooging. And Cody Rhodes is a vocal adversary of being a stooge. Showing up on this head to head of NXT and (presumably) announce the Dusty Classic is prime grade stooging. He knows the optics. He knows how it looks. He doesn’t care. Because dancing for the fed right now feels a lot more natural for him than side stepping this conflict, something he has more than enough clout and power to do. Cody Rhodes has the power to avoid this whole thing and say he is just proud to have represented AEW in the past and represent WWE now. He can announce the Dusty Classic next week. This is the man who left Impact Wrestling because his parking spot was given to Alberto El Patron. He doesn’t have to do it. And yet he will, because when Cody walks by? We all say:
Who do I think wins the Tuesday Night War?
I could analyze it. Recognize that going from Wednesday to Tuesday will hurt AEW’s ability to draw on the show; it’ll be in an area WWE has just ran and will run again on the weekend so the house is low (ticket prices won’t help on it either), and look that adding stars to NXT usually pumps their ratings up temporarily (Becky Lynch has helped them greatly in past weeks), and all of these details tell me that NXT will probably win in viewers and possibly in the 18-49 key demo, especially in having John Cena there for no logical reason. I could do that. The analyst in me doesn’t care too much though. This isn’t the war renewed. This is one skirmish that AEW should have sidestepped and WWE only went hard on because they want NXT to get a new television deal and win a meaningless one week. It’s a show where both sides are misstepping here, and it’s easier to just not bet and watch from afar.
You know what I haven’t mentioned much of, if at all, this whole editorial?
What event will have the best pro wrestling show?
I haven’t asked that question because All Elite Wrestling wins by such a disgusting gap it shouldn’t have to be mentioned. It should be brought up by myself and everyone because it’s the only fight that should ever matter. The NXT card doesn’t compare. It doesn’t breathe the same air. It’s such a laughably unfair competition in the ring. But hey, that’s why we don’t discuss pro wrestling when these fights come up.
There is no war if this was about who brings it in ring. That’s why the fight is about something else.