Wrestling's newest weeknight ratings war kicked off, and believe it or not, the underdog won. All Elite Wrestling (AEW), the brand new wrestling league premiering its weekly series AEW Dynamite, made its debut on Wednesday on the TNT network. Perhaps not so coincidentally, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) aired their own wrestling program WWE NXT on USA Network at the exact same time. Given how WWE has been established for decades as the world's top wrestling promotion, the odds were against WWE for the ratings battle, but it's now being reported AEW were the first winners of the new "Wednesday Night Wars."
The numbers or Wednesday night's Nielsen Live+Same Day ratings have come in, and AEW has come out on top with a comfortable lead. Across its two-hour timeslot, AEW Dynamite pulled in about 1.4 million viewers, averaging a 0.68 rating in the coveted 18-49 demographic. In comparison, WWE NXT drew 891,000 viewers and averaging with 0.32 for the 18-49 crowd. It's also worth pointing out AEW debuted with considerably higher viewership than the first televised episode of NXT, which earned 1.179 million viewers in its first week. This week's NXT rating is also down over 100,000 from last week, which had drawn about 1.006 million viewers.
Certainly, Dynamite had the perk of being brand new, introducing a completely new wrestling league to an all-new global audience. It featured some recognizable stars, such as Chris Jericho, Cody Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes (formerly known as Goldust), and Jon Moxley (formerly known as Dean Ambrose). Former WWE World Champion Jack Swagger - now calling himself Jake Hager - also made his debut in the company during the show's closing moments. Additionally, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes were present in front row seats during the program, even speaking on camera at one point to promote their upcoming movie Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. In contrast, NXT didn't really have anything fresh and new to offer to fans, though the quality of the matches on the show still seemed to be greatly appreciated by viewers.
To be fair, NXT is not WWE's flagship show, as it serves more as a "training ground" for aspiring wrestlers to hone their craft. Once competitors prove their worth on NXT, they are typically moved to the company's Raw or Smackdown shows on Monday or Friday nights to face more serious competition in front of bigger audiences. WWE is saving the appearance of their biggest superstars for the other shows, and AEW may not have performed as well as it had if it aired on Monday or Friday this week. Still, overcoming a program from the world's biggest wrestling promotion is no small feat. Even WWE recognizes this, as the company has since released a statement congratulating AEW for the victory. "This is a marathon, not a one-night sprint," the statement read in part, suggesting this ratings war is just beginning.
In any case, professional wrestling now seems to be more popular than it's been in years. Without a doubt, introducing some serious competition to the scene can only make both sides work harder to put out the best product that they can. Perhaps there's never been a better time to be a wrestling fan. This news comes to us from Variety.