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Good riddance to the so-called WWE NXT-AEW Wednesday Night Wars

Image courtesy All Elite Wrestling
Image courtesy All Elite Wrestling
Andrea Hangst
Modified 05 Mar 2021

In late summer of 2019, WWE announced that the Black and Gold brand, NXT, would be moving off of the WWE Network and on to USA Network just two weeks before AEW Dynamite was set to premiere on TNT.

It appeared at face value to be a calculated move by WWE to run its most wrestling-centric product head-to-head with their new, big-ticket competition. After all, WWE has been no stranger to counterprogramming efforts in the past.

However, nearly a year and a half into what fans and pro wrestling media have dubbed the "Wednesday Night Wars," it appears that the experiement is not paying off as well as WWE and NXT had hoped. AEW Dynamite has continued to out-perform NXT on Wednesday, including in the coveted 18-49 year-old demographic. What looked to be a boon for the wrestling industry now appears to have diluted fan interest across the board. While recording both shows on DVR is certainly an option fans have availed themselves of, the competition has done more harm than good.

As such, it appears that WWE will no longer have NXT go directly up against AEW Dynamite starting next month, with NXT heading to Tuesday nights on USA beginning April 13. This is a win-win-win — for WWE NXT, for AEW and for fans, of either or both promotions.

The WWE NXT-AEW Wednesday Wars are unecessary and often, toxic

While it's nothing new for WWE to act out of spite against its competition, in 2021 that doesn't carry the same weight or same threat. This is is mainly because ratings don't matter the way they used to in an era where so many viewers schedule DVR recordings or have cut the cord. Money — as in, advertising revenue — isn't as tied to ratings as it used to be and television rights fees are more complicated than counting viewers.

But these new WWE-AEW "wars" have suddenly turned a whole cadre of wrestling fans into ratings experts — or at least self-appointed ones — who then turn that into tribalistic arguments, particularly on social media or in comments sections. No fan is required to support all promotions, just as no fan should be shunned for liking nearly all pro wrestling that the world has to offer. In an era where total pro wrestling viewership is a small fraction of what it was in the "Monday Night Wars" era between WWE and WCW, the goal should be more people watching pro wrestilng, period, without regard for judging what pro wrestling they are choosing to watch.

Further, by pitting WWE NXT against AEW directly, it dilutes both products. AEW could easily be on a streak of one million-plus viewers per week, and NXT could likely get past the 700,000-odd viewers that has generally been its ceiling since moving to USA. There will be no forced choice between the two, or the requirement that fans stack the shows back-to-back for four hours of wrestling in one night or having to wait a day to watch WWE NXT or AEW.

And fans of one brand or the other were always going to be pitted against each other organically. Forcing even more of that aforementioned tribalism by WWE NXT running against AEW every week just creates a more toxic pro wrestling discourse. It acheives nothing, for either brand, for either promotion. In about one month's time, maybe we can all calm down a bit and just enjoy pro wrestling, whether that be all of what is on offer, or just some of it.

Published 05 Mar 2021, 03:21 IST
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