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AEW Dynamite vs. WWE NXT: Who Won the Dec. 18 Battle of the Wednesday Night War?

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterDecember 19, 2019

Photo courtesy of WWE.com

In the final broadcast of 2019 for both NXT and AEW Dynamite, both brands pulled out all the stops to deliver a show worth remembering. Both can head into the new year with their heads high.

On TNT, AEW brought out all its biggest guns to close out the promotion's first year in the business. Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, Chris Jericho and The Young Bucks all took to the ring one last time in 2019, and all performed to their normal high standards.

But competing with NXT was always going to be difficult. WWE had spent weeks building up this card, and it almost felt more like a Takeover special than a regular episode of television. There were five matches that were 10 minutes or longer, and each one was well-conceived, meaningful and performed at a high level.

When NXT is hitting like that, there are few promotions capable of staying out of its dust, let alone keeping up. But AEW, to its credit, made it a race.

Let's take a closer look at each show before rendering a final verdict on the night's proceedings and seeing where we stand as both sides of the Wednesday night wars declare a temporary truce for the holidays.

        

AEW Dynamite

Where: Corpus Christi, Texas

Main Event: The Young Bucks vs. SCU (tag team titles)

Match of the Night: Kenny Omega/Adam Page vs. Lucha Bros

Moment We'll Remember: The Dark Order invading the ring en masse, putting a beating on The Elite and adding new members to their growing horde. The promotion's top cult has become a compelling act thanks to a series of interesting promotional videos on AEW Dark over the past couple of weeks.

All Elite Wrestling @AEWrestling

https://t.co/vhy4dgh3ze https://t.co/fvd2gieyc5

What Worked  

All Elite Wrestling on TNT @AEWonTNT

.@boy_myth_legend ALMOST GOT HIM ‼️‼️‼️ #AEWDynamite https://t.co/gVmJr4I7b2

  • More than 22 years ago, a scrappy, undersized kid shocked the world on national television, pinning one of the biggest stars in professional wrestling. That young man's name was Chris Jericho, and while his win over Scott Hall at the height of the NWO's powers didn't launch the talented cruiserweight to immediate superstardom, it did put him on the fandom's radar.

    This week on Dynamite, it was Jericho in the role of the establishment stalwart and "Jungle" Jack Perry as the young upstart with a chance to propel himself to the top of AEW's title picture. In a cool twist, Perry didn't need to actually win the match to be considered the victor. He just had to last 10 minutes with Le Champion. When he survived those final seconds, locked into the deadly Walls of Jericho, his star had never shined brighter. Add his name to the long list of rising AEW prospects with incredible futures.

  • Adam Page and Kenny Omega gave the Lucha Bros all they could handle in the opening tag match. It was a barn burner, head-to-head with an equally great match down the dial on USA Network. That's what's so great about Wednesday nights—there's so much high-level wrestling that it's hard to keep up with it all.

    The Elite fell short when Page accidentally clobbered Omega with a powerful lariat. There were no ill intentions—it was just a mistake. These things happen in wrestling, and I'm glad they didn't use this as a pretense to break this team up. Instead, it's just one more straw piled on a camel's back that is starting to feel a little flimsy.

    Meanwhile, Kenny's friend, Michael Nakazawa, seems like exactly the kind of person susceptible to the Dark Order's message. This is a story worth keeping an eye on.

  • Cody Rhodes and Darby Allin are a pair of opposites, a goth skater kid who grew up on the streets and a Christian Louboutin-wearing member of wrestling royalty. Pale blonde hair is seemingly their only commonality—but they make a fantastic team.

    There's something about the way Cody's matches are structured that makes them stand out. The individual sequences are often less complicated than the type of extended movie-style stunts a team like The Young Bucks pulls off with ease. But that just makes the big moments in a Cody match mean more. Everything builds to that moment, and the crowd has a chance to anticipate it and enjoy the payoff.

    This team has a lot of potential. After they settle once and for all who the better wrestler is, I hope we see them again.           

            

Missed the Mark

All Elite Wrestling @AEWrestling

.@callmekrisstat keeping that pressure onto Baker! Watch #AEWDynamite NOW on @TNTDrama 8e/7c #AEWonTNT @AEWonTNT https://t.co/UYE7nfdqdg

  • I remain a Kris Statlander enthusiast. She's the best prospect in women's wrestling, and I believe she's going to be an enormous star for years to come. But at this point in her career, it's asking a lot for her to be centered like this while also learning how to perform on the big stage under the brightest of lights.

    Even if she's capable of pulling off a feud on two fronts, beefing with Brandi Rhodes' Nightmare Collective while also challenging Riho for the championship, she hasn't established the gravitas with the audience necessary to be centered this way.

    The audience would have loved her in time. I can't help but think it would have been better to let them think they were pushing her on you, and not vice versa.

  • The wrestling internet is abuzz every time a free agent emerges on the scene. Hardcore fans want the promotion to sign everyone with a heartbeat. But what would AEW do with an influx of new talent?

    If anything, AEW has too much talent. Tremendous performers like Joey Janela, Jimmy Havoc and the Best Friends are only featured sporadically. And I understand—there are only two hours to work with on Wednesday nights, which means only a handful of wrestlers can be the focus at any given time. Any additions would mean less time for a collection of young wrestlers already struggling to make an impression on a mainstream audience.

      

Grade: A

            

NXT

Where: Winter Park, Florida

Main Event: Shayna Baszler vs. Rhea Ripley (NXT Women's Championship)

Match of the Night: Main event

Moment We'll Remember: Rhea Ripley, caught in the clutches of the dominant Shayna Baszler, reaches out to grab the referee by the shirt collar, emphatically declaring that she is still awake and in the match.

       

What Worked

  • The show began with a spectacular NXT championship match between Adam Cole and Finn Balor. The audience was electric for this—and rightfully so. The two delivered one of the best television wrestling matches of the year.

    As he did against Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins, Cole absolutely looked like he belonged in the ring with Balor as an equal partner. And to his credit, Balor never once appeared to feel like he was too big for the room. He gave his best effort, and the result was a treat for the fans at Full Sail.

  • If you follow me on Twitter or listen to my podcast, you're well aware that I'm borderline obsessed with New Japan Pro-Wrestling. The action there is as good as any wrestling in the world, and the stories are often told over a period of years, not just weeks.

    As a superfan, I was a little wary of how Kushida, a former standout in New Japan's junior heavyweight division, would be treated in Florida as he attempted to transition to the American scene. It's a difficult move, and WWE has a mixed record with top Japanese talent.

    But this is starting to look like a golden age for wrestlers like Kushida and his peers. Io Shirai, Kairi Sane, Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura have all had significant successes in WWE rings. And if this week is anything to go by, Kushida is starting to find his way too. That's going to be a good thing—both for NXT fans and those of us who grew to love him overseas.

  • Shayna Baszler was the best champion in NXT history. I understand many of you will take umbrage with that, but I'm not suggesting she is the best wrestler to hold NXT gold. Merely that she exudes the kind of attitude and energy befitting a star athlete. She walked the walk the way a top prize fighter does in the broader world outside of wrestling—perhaps because that's the world she occupied for so long professionally as a cage fighter.

    Because of Baszler's sheer dominance, it was hard to even imagine most of her opponents unseating her. She created an air of invincibility, proving tougher, more resilient and calmer under pressure than any of her rivals. It was going to take someone special to beat her and make it believable. Somehow, against the odds, that person arrived in NXT and was recognized as an exceptional talent by the powers that be at exactly the right time. Rhea Ripley was a born star, physically intimidating, with an extraordinary look and the chops to match anyone in the world hold-for-hold.

    This match was the perfect culmination of a great heel run like Baszler's. The villain needs a proper hero to provide their comeuppance, and in Ripley, the Ace of Spades finally met her equal.

              

Missed the Mark

  • While the prevailing culture online in the wrestling world is one of incessant criticism, sometimes a show is just good. This was that show. While "perfect" is a strong word, and I don't think this show was that, nothing stood out to me as missing the mark. Every segment, even the competitive squash match between Shirai and Santana Garrett, hit the mark for me. This was NXT hitting on all cylinders.

        

Grade: A+

               

Overall: A great night for NXT. It spent weeks building to these title matches and then delivered true excellence.

As the year comes to a close, the gap is closing between these two shows, both in the television ratings and as entertainment programs. This is a great time to be a fan, and I can't wait to join you throughout 2020 every Wednesday night to break down the latest in a battle that may rage for years to come.

Winner: NXT

Overall: AEW (7), NXT (5)