AEW Vs. NXT: Who Won The First Battle?

A war fought on seven fronts.

Cody Montez Ford
Chris Jericho/WWE

The following criteria is important, because gauging the success of a pro wrestling television show is not as simple as determining which promotion presented the best matches - even if AEW and NXT emphasise in-ring action above all else. If critiquing a pay-per-view via the star rating system fails to capture what it achieved, big picture, this is especially true of TV: ultimately, a wrestling TV show, any TV show, requires a hook to convince the audience to return next week.

Ahead of the first battle in this Wednesday Night War, for this writer's money, NXT failed to accomplish this when unopposed, which might account for the (albeit minor) viewer drop-off. NXT tends to build its storylines in much the same way Randy Orton builds his matches: the progression is logical, if unexciting. It's all very solid, and very familiar: the heel does what a heel does, the babyface appears to confront them, or vice versa, and a match is all but announced and carried almost entirely by the reaction of the crowd. It all feels like a way to arrive at a match graphic, and not a match loaded with an earned, emotional hook.

The destination is almost invariably sublime - realistically, bar three main roster classics, a list of 10 Best WWE Pay-Per-Views Ever could easily be dominated by TakeOver events - but TV is about the journey.

Which promotion best convinced you to call shotgun?

7. Atmosphere/Presentation

Cody Montez Ford

If you're a lapsed fan piqued by echoes of the old war that once captured your imagination, AEW looks like the big-time spectacle, and NXT looks like the cult concern. AEW's production looked striking. Magnificent.

AEW packed out a huge arena, and those who packed it received virtually every second in full, enthusiastic voice. The pyro added to the sense of occasion, the distinct set design with its separate tunnels, "camps", reflected the sports-oriented focus (that hasn't fully materialised with the promised statistics) and, broadly, it felt like a major event of the sort that breeds trust in this capitalist world - how can that many thousand people be wrong?, etc.

NXT looks sleek in a way that doesn't compromise its marketed, cult aesthetic, but still, it looks small-time and intimate - exclusive, perhaps, which might alienate the curious viewers who haven't been given much reason to care about the characters under NXT's match-heavy format. AEW ran a video package promoting the opening match, and NXT didn't - and that opener was for the top prize. AEW provided fans with more reason to invest with traditional storytelling devices.

And, since the comments section likes to tell me that stories matter more than "flips" and "no selling"...


(AEW 1 - 0 NXT)


Michael Sidgwick is an editor, writer and podcaster for WhatCulture Wrestling. With over seven years of experience in wrestling analysis, Michael was published in the influential institution that was Power Slam magazine, and specialises in providing insights into All Elite Wrestling - so much so that he wrote a book about the subject. You can order Becoming All Elite: The Rise Of AEW on Amazon. Possessing a deep knowledge also of WWE, WCW, ECW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Michael’s work has been publicly praised by former AEW World Champions Kenny Omega and MJF, and surefire Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Cody Rhodes. When he isn’t putting your finger on why things are the way they are in the endlessly fascinating world of professional wrestling, Michael wraps his own around a hand grinder to explore the world of specialty coffee. Follow Michael on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MSidgwick for more!