It's kind of a given at this point that the wrestling on Wednesday nights is going to deliver. While the audience is smaller than the one that tunes in Mondays and Fridays, it is treated to two shows with similar but distinct visions and two rosters of wrestlers willing to take creative risks in the name of artistry and excellence.
It's a lot of fun to be a part of it.
But it's not nearly enough to simply say "Hey, both All Elite Wrestling and NXT are great wrestling television. You can't go wrong with either and both is better." Because this is America and America doesn't believe in ties.
We want winners—and this column delivers. Every week we'll watch both shows, break them down, and declare a victor. You can render your own verdict in the comments.
Where: Chris Jericho's Rockin Rager at Sea Cruise Ship
Main Event: Jon Moxley vs. Pac (No. 1 Contenders match)
Match of the Night: Omega/Page vs. SCU (tag title match)
Moment We'll Remember: "Hangman" Adam Page leaving The Elite in the ring and going to celebrate with the people in the stands, downing beers and crowd surfing through the audience. He is one of the more complex, nuanced characters on the show and AEW has stuck with him despite some early struggles. He's going to be a huge star in this industry.
—This show was on a boat. What more need be said?
—Dynamite opened with the first title change in AEW's short history. Before this episode, the inaugural champion in each division remained unbeaten.
Kenny Omega is among a handful of the best singles wrestlers in the entire world, but longtime fans know he's just as good, if not better, in tag action.
While he doesn't have the chemistry with Page he had with previous partners, the two are so incredible that they can beat any team in AEW without always being on the same, um, page.
SCU was the nice choice to emerge as the division's first champions, but they work better as an opening or midcard act, bringing a level of familiarity to matches with new and emerging talent.
It's time for the tag division to take the training wheels off and really start delivering on its immense promise. Page and Omega are a better fit for the gold with that mission in mind.
—Early last year I interviewed Priscilla Kelly after an independent show in an Atlanta bar. She's a sharp young prospect with a ton of potential, the perfect fit for AEW's growing women's division.
Of course, this is burying the lede: A full-blown heel turn from Dr. Britt Baker that left iconic announcer Tony Schiavone mouthing "what the f--k" under his breath as she disrespected him in front of a national television audience, calling him a "sh--ty barista."
Baker's delivery wasn't perfect, but she has a natural heel quality I think she'll be able to tap into with time. The dark side is going to work better for her in the long run, and Schiavone was the perfect universally admired foil for her wrath.
—What can you say about Chris Jericho that hasn't already been said? The man strutted down the ramp, serenaded by his own song, on a cruise bearing his name, holding a legitimate world championship in a major promotion at the age of 49.
He may or not belong on the Mount Rushmore of modern wrestling, but it's no longer ridiculous to consider him among the other greats of the Attitude Era. He's outlasted them all and continues to thrive despite the seismic change in the industry both behind the scenes and in the ring.
Jericho and Santana/Ortiz kept the crowd engaged throughout a six-man tag bout with Jurassic Express, somehow making me completely forget the huge size differential between The Inner Circle and Marko Stunt, which was lost in the back-and-forth drama.
That's the sign of a good match, so count this one in the win column.
—Everyone talks about MJF's great heel promos. And he's on a level above everyone else in the game in this category. But that singular focus means his ringwork often goes completely undiscussed.
Like his interviews, MJF's wrestling stands out in a promotion filled with high-spot artists and high-fliers. He's a bumping heel like you'd see in the 1980s, with his most spectacular moments in the service of his opponent. In a business where everyone is obsessed with getting their "stuff" in, that's pretty refreshing.
—Was there ever a question that Moxley was going to be the top contender for Jericho's title? While the result was fairly predictable—and I doubt a single soul on that boat expected Pac to prevail—it makes sense for AEW to make wrestlers earn the right to fight for gold. It fits its ethos and commitment to making wins and losses matter.
The match itself bordered on great, though it never really hit that final gear to push it into that realm. Moxley is a consistent performer and Pac lived up to his nickname by going after the bigger man's injured eye.
Missed the Mark
—This was an excellent episode in a unique setting. The closest I can come to a quibble is the flat finish to MJF's match with Joey Janela. I don't dislike the budding battle between Janela and his ex-girlfriend's new man Kip Sabian, but I'd prefer the hijinks come after the match, not during it.
Where: Winter Park, Florida
Main Event: Keith Lee vs. Roderick Strong (North American Championship)
Match of the Night: Main event
Moment We'll Remember: Keith Lee, basking in his own glory on the stage as the NXT Universe saluted him. Wrestling's top big man just won his first major title. Something tells me it won't be his last.
—The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic has done a great job of creating new contenders over the years, but I'm not sure I'm sold on The Grizzled Young Veterans joining those ranks.
They do just enough each week to eek their way onto this side of the ledger. But, as an act, they're missing that edge, that little something to make them stand out from a thousand other tag teams over the years that were serviceable but ultimately forgettable.
Going over The Undisputed Era is a big deal. We'll see, over time, if they're worthy of the honor.
—Almost every week NXT delivers a competitive squash, allowing some up-and-comer to get a minute or two to shine against a star before eating a pinfall.
This was not that.
Finn Balor absolutely smashed Joquain Wilde. And you know what? It was glorious.
—Last year, it was Ricochet and Alistair Black as the established stars paired together for a run at the Dusty Rhodes trophy. In 2020, it's The Broserweights, the incredibly charming combination of Pete Dunne and Matt Riddle.
Was there any doubt they'd be a great team? The two exude excellence and could step right into any tag division in wrestling and not miss a beat. Special shoutout to Riddle's double French braid, winning the unofficial braid battle with AEW's Janela this week. It was close, though. Better luck next time, Joey.
—Remember the vicious feud between Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox? Well, you do now after a great video package reminding the audience of everything that went down between the two former friends ahead of their grudge match next week. This was excellent work by both women, passionately delivered and pitch perfect.
—Lee and Roderick Strong have been in the ring together a lot recently. Sometimes that can lead to two performers finding increasingly new ways to entertain the crowd. In this case, it led to a feeling of deja vu. Something felt a little too familiar about the match, each beat, each case of interference by The Undisputed Era, a bit flat and predictable.
AEW was the taped show, recorded the day before and flown to the TNT offices in Atlanta, but somehow this was the one match that felt like it had already been written in stone. Of course, predictability isn't always a bad thing. Lee felt inevitable because he is. I can't wait to see what comes next.
Missed the Mark
—In the second match of the night, Io Shirai and Toni Storm, two of the best women's wrestlers on the planet, were building something pretty nice when Bianca Belair hit the ring. I understand the sports-entertainment finish here as a way to keep both women strong for all the bright things in there future.
But this was two sports-entertainment finishes in a row—two too many. Is this NXT or an episode of Monday Night Raw in 1999?
—Shotzi Blackheart has a ton of potential and clearly no shortage of ideas racing around in her brain. But she's not quite at the place to execute them elegantly just yet. She may get there, but her match with Shayna Baszler looked like a rough draft that needed quite a bit of editing before she turned it in. Unfortunately, the work was due Wednesday night and just wasn't quite ready.
Overall: This was a great night of wrestling from both brands. But, while both are putting out their best efforts, AEW has a gear NXT never quite seems to reach. The top performers, aided by the energy of the audience, can go places few in wrestling can.
AEW has lower lows than the always-consistent NXT. When it is on, though, it is on. And this was AEW at its madcap best.
Overall: AEW (2), NXT (2)