NXT was set up for success. Part of a big angle with the main roster for the first time leading into Survivor Series, WWE's newest national brand was primed for a huge show.
And make no mistake: it delivered in a big way down in Orlando, Florida.
But up the road in Charlotte, North Carolina—the traditional home of WWE's loyal opposition, the dearly departed World Championship Wrestling—AEW was broadcasting the nearly perfect "go home" show leading into its Full Gear pay-per-view Saturday on B/R Live.
It was another strong week overall, with both groups continuing to push each other to greatness. The competition has led to a wrestling renaissance of sorts, and Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden will be there every step of the way, analyzing both offerings and, because this is war, choosing a winner each week.
Where: Charlotte, North Carolina
Main Event: Kenny Omega/Adam Page vs. Sammy Guevara/Chris Jericho
Match of the Night: Trent vs. Pac
Moment We'll Remember: Cody Rhodes, in the middle of the ring, delivering the promo of his life on the go-home show for the company's first pay-per-view powered by national television on TNT.
Analysis: The first hour may have been the single best 60 minutes of television AEW has produced in its short history. It opened with an absolutely stellar action match between Pac and Trent and then mimicked a religious revival as Cody made his case against Chris Jericho ahead of their world title match Saturday.
"You've taken to calling my lot entitled millennials. You've called me an entitled millennial b---h," Cody told a rapt crowd. "...You talked about my silver spoon. Gosh, it must have been so difficult being the upper-class son of a famous hockey player. It's almost like we shared the exact same silver spoon, you stupid d--k."
This was fantastic wrestling TV.
By the time the two men squared off to close the show—with each of the opposing sides in the major matches at Full Gear joining an increasingly wild post-main event brawl—you believed they might hate each other and that they were ready to give it all to prove they are the best in the world.
And that feeling, my friends on both sides of the aisle, is why we watch, isn't it?
What Worked: Sometimes a match can elevate the participants by their mere presence in the ring with established, popular talent. But when they step in with Superstars like Jericho and Kenny Omega and look like they belong?
That's how stars are born.
Sammy Guevara and Adam Page both looked like they were born to wrestle main events. That's a pretty big deal.
AEW also showed it isn't aren't afraid to poke a little light fun at itself. Jericho produced his own version of the Cody Rhodes feature, a send-up of the overwrought, emotional videos meant to help the audience relate to the performer as a person.
It was pitch perfect and actually a little brave. Those videos have been the promotion's most effective sales technique to date. Poking holes in them requires a bit of artistic courage, and it worked really well.
Combined with Brandi Rhodes' avant-garde video teasing the return of Awesome Kong, you had a pretty interesting mix of styles and formats. That helps keep things interesting instead of becoming a monotonous blur.
What Missed the Mark: The Dark Order remains the one major exception in AEW's string of artistic successes. The group's gimmick remains a little unclear, and the fans, who seem to be wildly enthusiastic about just about every performer on the roster, remain distinctly disinterested.
AEW is also at a crossroads with Shawn Spears. After a solid program with Cody, he's slipped down the main card and is struggling to find his place. AEW has more top performers than it can possibly use at any given time, and it's uncertain who will fall out of the mix first.
Where: Orlando, Florida
Main Event: Keith Lee/Matt Riddle/Tommaso Ciampa vs. The OC
Match of the Night: Shayna Baszler vs. Dakota Kai
Moment We'll Remember: As the main event came to a close, Matt Riddle almost catapulted to his own doom, catching his feet on a Fosbury Flop and nearly crashing and burning on the floor.
Analysis: The show opened with The OC, a reminder that WWE can insert major game-changers from its established brands at will. They made short work of The Undisputed Era in the parking lot and then quickly laid claim to the main event against an NXT all-star team of sorts.
This was all tons of fun and well-executed wrestling storytelling, allowing the top of the NXT card to prove they are every bit the equals of WWE's best Superstars.
As the show closed with all the major players on screen, similar conceptually to AEW's show-closing segment down the dial on TNT, two men commanded the eye: Adam Cole and Finn Balor. That's the money matchup, and Cole in particular has the energy and presence of a huge potential star.
What Worked: The women continue to be one of the areas NXT excels, a differentiator as AEW struggles to launch its own division. The champion, Shayna Baszler, is arguably the best female performer week-to-week in the world, and there are a number of competitors capable of pushing her to her best. It's been a real joy over the years to watch this division continue to thrive, even as its top performers graduate to the main roster.
NXT has also adopted the cruiserweight division from 205 Live, and they show up in a big way inside the ring. Angel Garza and Tony Nese had one of the strongest matches on either show, and the potential exists for these great wrestlers to find a home in front of an audience more amenable to giving them a chance to prove themselves.
What Missed the Mark: Santana Garrett made her debut against Taynara Conti in a match that never quite made it out of the starting gates. Awkward and poorly performed matches are commonplace in pro wrestling—but not on Wednesday nights.
That makes flops like this one stand out.
Overall: I was really impressed, once again, with both promotions' depth of talent and the infectious enthusiasm of their audiences. We're being encouraged to choose sides; even this column is built on the idea that you have to pick one or the other.
Still, I hope you're finding time for both. In the six weeks they've been on the air, both programs have established themselves as the cream of the wrestling television crop.
Overall: AEW (5), NXT (1)