It’s been a year and a half since All Elite Wrestling debuted its weekly television show, Dynamite, on October 9th 2019. Around 75 episodes later, the programme has been named Best Weekly TV Show by the Wrestling Observer two years in a row (if you recognise that) and is considered by many fans to be a return to the high-quality wrestling programming of yesteryear. Should NXT follow suit?
From day one, AEW has been in a weekly battle for rating supremacy against WWE’s NXT brand. Like Dynamite, NXT has been a critical smash with many believing it to be a better overall product than Raw and Smackdown. The four-time Best Weekly TV Show winner moved to Wednesday nights to try its hand at both a national TV spot and to rub shoulders with the Elite.
In recent weeks, however, numerous reports have suggested that the USA Network is intending to move NXT to a different night following Wrestlemania season this April. For some fans, the ratings war has been a great motivator to ensure each show produces maximum quality programming every week. For others, it’s an unnecessary process that stunts the momentum of both shows as they try to reach mainstream audiences. To say that the battle for Wednesday nights has been as significant and enthralling as the original Monday Night Wars would be a lie. Having said that, if NXT were to move nights, would it really be as much of a loss as the one WCW suffered in 2001?
Here is why NXT should move timeslots and concede the Wednesday Night Wars.
Numbers Don’t Lie
The black and gold brand made the switch to Wednesday nights on the USA Network two weeks before Dynamite’s debut, in what many believe was an attempt to halt any momentum that AEW had on the run-up to their premiere. Both of NXT’s pre-Dynamite episodes drew over a million viewers each which, for a network debut, was impressive.
It’s the last time to date that NXT has hit over a million views.
Dynamite drew a fist-pumping 1.409 for their debut on TNT which outperformed the expectations of the network and wrestling critics alike. This was swiftly followed by two further million-plus ratings.
Overall, in the 70 times that both shows have gone head-to-head, AEW has dominated with 59 victories. NXT has scored nine wins with the remaining two weeks being recorded as draws.
It should be remembered that AEW has existed for just under two years, with Dynamite being even younger. A few years ago, the idea that a promotion that has no history could go up against a global conglomerate with a 40-year head start in producing television would have been unthinkable.
Again, the war was never AEW’s intention. Whether or not WWE was always planning to take NXT onto a major network is unknown, however, the rapid speed in which the announcement was made is a tad suspect.
NXT Is Reactive, Dynamite Is Innovative
On the WWE Network documentary series ‘The Monday Night War: WWE vs. WCW’, multiple interviewees, including Booker T, spoke of how WCW would regularly keep tabs on WWE programming and attempt to counter everything in order to not fall behind. Vince McMahon said that he only focused on his show and never reacted to WCW. 20 years later, the process seems to have been reversed. In spite of the ethos that helped them through the Monday Night Wars, WWE has been blatantly reactive to AEW on a number of occasions.
The most obvious example of this is the now regular ‘special’ episodes of NXT that are announced in tandem with ‘special’ Dynamite episodes. Notably, on June 3rd, 2020, AEW announced the two-week Fyter Fest specials for July 1st and 8th. On June 24th, NXT announced they would resurrect The Great American Bash for a two-week special also on July 1st and 8th – the Bash was created by Dusty Rhodes, father of AEW EVP Cody Rhodes, ouch!
On December 9th 2020, AEW announced their New Years Smash editions of Dynamite for December 30th and January 6th. Nine days later, WWE announced their New Year’s Evil edition of NXT for, you guessed it, January 6th. Prior to AEW’s formation, NXT – much like Raw and Smackdown – seldom held ‘special’ episodes, hosting five in seven years. Since Dynamite has been on the air, NXT has produced 10 in just over a year.
These aren’t criticisms, by the way, I personally love the ‘special’ episodes as they always have a PPV feel to them which is ideal for free TV. I do, however, have two issues with this from an NXT perspective. Firstly, by taking place opposite Dynamite, such editions of NXT will not reach the maximum ratings that they deserve. As mentioned before, NXT has consistently been the strongest programme in WWE and yet doesn’t have the numbers to reflect that. It’s an injustice that can be rectified by NXT moving to a separate night where, in my opinion, they could challenge Raw’s faltering numbers and get the viewership that the show deserves.
Secondly, with Vince McMahon outwardly calling out WCW for being too focused on his product, it does seem odd that his company is essentially doing the same in regards to AEW. Then again we know that NXT is Triple H’s baby so perhaps we should spare Vinny Mac from any hypocrite allegations.
Both Will Flourish
There’s been a couple of occasions where both NXT and Dynamite have aired unchallenged due to network requirements or holidays. These instances are the key to my argument as to why NXT and Dynamite would be better off separate. The last time that NXT aired unchallenged, they drew a strong 0.8 whilst Dynamite drew over a million in their last unopposed broadcast.
The point is that whilst both programmes are on the same night, we can’t yet see their true potential. Can NXT stand out as the true third brand of WWE and rival the ratings of their red and blue counterparts? Can Dynamite be the first non-WWE show in over 20 years to consistently rival the flagship programme of Raw?
I would suggest that these questions can only be answered if NXT was to bite the bullet and change to a Tuesday or Thursday night. It’s as much in their best interests as it is in AEW’s, as the NXT product doesn’t deserve to be overlooked by a television audience that seems to have made up its mind. Unlike the frightfully poor WCW storytelling of 2000/2001, NXT shows no signs of creative stagnancy and is still flourishing in that department. Dynamite isn’t necessarily better than NXT either, with the black and gold brands women’s division for example being vastly superior in terms of booking and attention. But the numbers don’t lie and NXT needs to realise that.
NXT and Dynamite on different nights equal better ratings for each, greater significance for NXT as a brand and the opportunity for AEW to really show what they’re made of.