After WWE announced August 20 that its developmental brand, NXT, will make the jump to television on Wednesday nights and compete with All Elite Wrestling, we appear to be in for another edition of high-profile promotional wars.
AEW announced in May it will begin airing a live weekly show on WarnerMedia's TNT starting October 2. NXT, meanwhile, began airing as a live two-hour show every Wednesday on the USA Network on Wednesday (though the show's second hour will be preempted for the first two weeks).
Not only will both AEW and WWE televise shows on the same night, but they'll also fill the same time slot from 8 to 10 p.m. ET.
The wrestling community is a tight-knit one, and that includes the wrestlers themselves. The commencement of the "Wednesday Night Wars" now pits two talented rosters—both of which include members who have crossed paths on the independent circuit before—against each other in the hunt for ratings.
But what happens when two of those opposing members are in a genuine, non-scripted relationship? That's what AEW's Britt Baker and NXT's Adam Cole now have to keep in mind as their respective companies battle for supremacy.
Baker, who signed with AEW in January and has already presented herself as one of the top wrestlers in the company, told Bleacher Report she was attracted to the start-up brand's ambition as well as the opportunity to work with executive vice president Kenny Omega, who is one of her favorite wrestlers. AEW's less-stringent schedule also lets the certified dentist continue her practice in Florida.
It's there in Orlando that Baker lives with Cole, the reigning NXT champion who joined WWE's developmental brand in 2017.
"He's my biggest fan and my biggest support," Baker said. "He's the first one to give me feedback, good or bad. He's a wrestling genius. I value his opinions more than anybody's. When I was on the indie scene, he would come to my shows even when he was signed to NXT. He would still come watch me."
The support changed a little once the Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, native signed with AEW. Due to WWE's newest rival gaining national traction as a direct competitor, Baker says they have barred Cole from attending any AEW events.
The 28-year-old says it started last year before the new company was officially even a promotion at All In, an independent show put on by now-AEW executive vice presidents Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks.
"Adam's not allowed to come," Baker said. "He's literally told by his employer. He was going to come to All In last year, and he got a phone call saying he couldn't come watch me wrestle. He didn't find out that was the case until he already booked his flight, but he came to Chicago anyway for moral support and to hang out with me. He watched All In on his phone in the hotel room."
When asked to comment, WWE denied Baker's claim and said "there is no policy" of sorts denying their talent from attending the shows of significant others who work for competing promotions.
Baker still attends Cole's matches at marquee NXT events after running the idea by AEW brass.
"That's a conversation I had with The Young Bucks early on," Baker stated. "I love going to watch him wrestle, especially the Takeover matches. Those are huge for him. He gets so excited and nervous. The Young Bucks, who are some of Adam's best friends, said, 'Absolutely go. We're never going to tell you not to watch.' Kenny [Omega] even said it'd be weirder if I didn't go.
"AEW's not some cult telling me to not support my boyfriend. I support him, and no matter where he goes, I'm always going to support him. That's never going to change."
Despite the inconvenience, Baker and Cole are learning to embrace the competition between both shows. As key members of each roster, they possess unique perspectives on this budding rivalry that's already beginning to shake the wrestling landscape. When they found out that both weekly shows would be taking place at the same time, the banter began.
"Adam came home from an NXT taping when he found out," Baker said. "Usually the first thing he'll talk about is how the taping went. This time, the first thing he said coming into the door was, 'Babe, we're running right against you on Wednesday nights.' And I was like, 'Well, that's fine because more people are going to watch AEW. Take a backseat, and people will catch up on the WWE Network.'"
AEW's first show on October 2 will feature Nyla Rose vs. Riho for the promotion's inaugural women's championship, The Elite (Omega, Young Bucks) vs. Chris Jericho and two mystery partners of his choosing and Cody Rhodes vs. Sammy Guevara.
NXT's televised show began two weeks earlier and featured Velveteen Dream vs. Roderick Strong for the North American title, Matt Riddle vs. Killian Dain in a street fight and a No. 1 Contender's match for the women's championship between Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, Candice LeRae and Mia Yim.