All Elite Wrestling has staked its claim as a WWE competitor based mainly on two things: cutting-edge wrestling matches and state-of-the-art storytelling. And it has delivered exactly as promised, each week doing something to make its universe a little more vivid and fun.
WWE's response has been interesting. Rather than retreat to its own areas of traditional strength, it has elected to meet AEW on the new promotion's chosen battleground. NXT is doing what AEW does—and sometimes doing it better.
While neither show can match the larger overall audiences of the famous Monday Night War of the 1990s (or even the contemporary ratings of Raw or SmackDown), the result has been an aesthetic revolution, the future of wrestling being presented in real time to a devoted following of hardcore fans.
Every week, Bleacher Report analyzes both shows to see what worked and what missed the mark. And because everything is more interesting when there are stakes, we choose a winner. Who won the week of November 13, 2019? Let's explore both programs to see.
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
Main Event: Chris Jericho/Sammy Guevara vs. SCU (Tag Team Championship)
Match of the Night: Adam Page vs. PAC
Moment We'll Remember: MJF and Chris Jericho sharing the spotlight and delivering an electrifying promo as they bonded over a mutual disdain for Cody Rhodes. When an injured Rhodes made his awkward way to the ring, business really picked up as we saw the debut of Wardlow—bedecked in a suit and Burberry tie to make his allegiance to MJF crystal clear.
Analysis: We are still very much in the honeymoon period with AEW. Every week seems to bring a new "first."
Nashville was no exception.
For the first time, fans got a taste of how the promotion would follow up a pay-per-view. The answer, like just about everything else the promotion has done do, is "very well, thank you." There was a nice mix of reliving the glorious moments from Full Gear while also maintaining a focus on the future.
This episode was about transitioning into the next set of feuds and programs. It left us with as many questions as answers—and that's a good thing as AEW moves into its second act.
While it's not entirely clear who to credit, creatively AEW continues to have the Midas touch. Sometimes the wrestling business is about delivering surprises. Fans love the shock of a new athlete making their debut or a wrestler turning unexpectedly to the dark side after always treading the straight and narrow path.
But more often, fans just want the wrestling equivalent of comfort food. The best moments tend to be the ones that everyone sees coming—because they are the things that make sense from an intuitive and storyline perspective.
The example here is the booking of Darby Allin vs. Jon Moxley for next week's Dynamite. When Moxley challenged the locker room, looking for someone with the spirit and moxie to face him in the ring, I immediately thought of Allin. When he accepted Moxley's offer later that night, it just felt right.
It seems simple, but we've spent a decade watching promotions fail to do the obvious again and again, ignoring both logic and fan demand. AEW is a breath of fresh air.
What Worked: There were very few misses on this show. Even the Dark Order, an act that normally leaves me cold, delivered a solid match with Jungle Boy and Marko Stunt. They made Stunt, a Riho-sized man, look strong and capable, then made themselves small in support of a returning Luchasaurus. As a group, they made him look like, well, a prehistoric monster.
There was a lot going on in the main event. Scorpio Sky pinned the world champion, something that should be a fairly big deal in a promotion built on wins and losses. That followed a disjointed match for Jericho and Guevara, who never quite seemed to be on the same page. Guevara perhaps took too much onto his own narrow shoulders, leaving Jericho to pay the price in the end.
I can't imagine this will go unremarked by Le Champion.
The bout of the night was the rubber match between Page and PAC. Cut down for television, it was like their previous matches with all the slow parts eliminated. That made it a ton of fun while it lasted.
As good as Page vs. PAC was, it's hard to match the action that occurred backstage between the Young Bucks and Santana and Ortiz. While SCU holds the straps, the Bucks are able to command a championship-level respect by virtue of their crowd-pleasing virtuoso performances.
Missed the Mark: AEW has one glaring weak point: the women's division. While Riho has established an immediate rapport with fans, challengers for her title haven't clearly come into focus.
Brandi Rhodes and Awesome Kong bring a unique energy to the women's division, a mix of black magic and even darker intentions. It's a desperately needed narrative injection into a division that has mostly been left behind in the storytelling aspects the promotion has otherwise excelled at.
Where: Orlando, Florida
Main Event: Io Shirai vs. Mia Yim (Ladder match)
Match of the Night: Main event
Moment We'll Remember: Mia Yim, plummeting off one ladder and crashing through another at ringside. It was the culmination of a brutal ladder match that saw Team Baszler earn the advantage in the first Women's War Games coming up at NXT Takeover.
Analysis: In the early battles of the Wednesday night wars, AEW had a distinct advantage by simply presenting a coherent vision. NXT's show felt disjointed. The pieces were there for something truly great, but the creative team couldn't seem to figure out who they wanted front and center.
The result was a bit of a mishmash that never really gathered momentum or steam.
With TakeOver: War Games on November 23 and and Survivor Series the following day, that's no longer a problem. WWE has programs to move forward and a plan of attack. The result is a show that moves at a great clip and has a clear direction.
It's been amazing the past two weeks, especially the women's division, which continues to shine as the best in the entire sport. Finn Balor's presence provides some big-show polish, and he makes the others in the title scene look more important by simply interacting with them as peers.
This mix of storytelling, competitive squashes and indie-style work-rate bouts is NXT at its best. Hopefully it'll maintain this focused approach as it moves forward.
What Worked: The show opened with an absolute barnburner between Angel Garza and Lio Rush for the cruiserweight title. It's great to see these talents and this belt in front of an interested, engaged audience, instead of burned out, WWE main-roster casuals.
They delivered a really strong match and got the reaction they deserved instead of polite silence. It's a good fit.
This show also marked Keith Lee's arrival as a possible main event player. His previous matches with Dominik Dijakovic have been good, but he showed big league presence here, delivering a confident challenge to Undisputed Era with a star's unshakeable aura of excellence. His potential is limitless.
Missed the Mark: I didn't like the way they stopped the Mia Yim match after Io Shirai accidentally busted her open with a ladder. Female wrestlers aren't delicate china dolls and don't require special consideration that makes them appear less rugged and tough than their male counterparts.
Blood, delivered the hard way, is part of the sport. When used right, it's an absolute show-stopper, creating moments fans never forget. Look no further than Becky Lynch to see how the right visual can change an entire career's trajectory.
But instead of letting Yim finish a classic bout with blood pouring, the medical staff intruded on the match. It forced a delay and made Shirai, just on the offensive, pretend she suddenly couldn't set up and climb a ladder for what felt like forever.
Let them fight.
Overall: AEW delivered a really strong show, mixing promos, backstage segments and hot matches flawlessly. It's just that NXT did the same, and its was a little more polished with matches that hit a little bit harder.
A fierce battle, but there can be only one winner.
Overall: AEW (5), NXT (2)