Last night was the official start of the Wednesday Night Wrestling Wars. It was the first time AEW and WWE (NXT) would go head-to-head on live TV. The Nielsen ratings are in so let’s break down the numbers.
First off, regardless of the brand, 3+ million fans watched pro wrestling on a Wednesday night so that truly is a win-win for everyone.
As you can see above, AEW absolutely dominated in ratings, shares and demographics.
The final result ended with AEW gaining 1.4 million viewers while WWE (NXT) drew 891,000.
AEW Dynamite more than doubled NXT in the adults 18-49 demo, netting 878,000 viewers compared to 414,000.
WWE decided to get in front of the story, releasing this statement earlier today: “Congratulations to AEW on a successful premiere. The real winners of last night’s head-to-head telecasts of NXT on USA Network and AEW on TNT are the fans, who can expect Wednesday nights to be a competitive and wild ride as this is a marathon, not a one-night sprint.”
Don’t forget, WWE already debuted their NXT TV show 2 weeks ago on USA Network. This move was done to get an edge on establishing their time slot and to take away buzz from AEW.
One could argue WWE has been building NXT on WWE Network and via live events for the past several years. This is not some random indy were talking about – it’s a well-oiled machine, headed by Triple H and funded by WWE.
The debut episode of NXT on USA Network drew 1.2M viewers on Sept 19. They did not have any other wrestling competition that night.
Fast forward to Wednesday Oct 2nd, AEW debuted on TNT with 1.4M viewers. This was accomplished while competing directly with NXT.
NXT took a major hit last night, losing 11% of its audience from the week prior. Their official viewership topped off at 891K viewers.
Some fans and journalists have suggested that no one expected NXT to win on the 1st night because everyone would be interested to see what AEW would do. We’re not buying it.
AEW created a major buzz via All In, Double or Nothing & All Out. Fans knew what to expect and they chose it over WWE programming.
It’s not like AEW went against some taped NXT house show. WWE threw the kitchen sink at AEW last night. From adding a 15 min overrun on USA Network, scheduling 3 major title matches, promoting Watch Alongs on all the WWE platforms and even adding the returns of Finn Balor and Tommaso Ciampa – NXT was stacked like a Takeover PPV.
But it wasn’t enough.
Think back to when TNA (Impact Wrestling) challenged WWE in 2010 for round 2 of the Monday Night Wars. On the first night, WWE drew 5.6 million viewers vs TNA’s 2.2 million. TNA would not win a single time in the ratings and the war quickly fizzled out.
Now all bets are off.
Will AEW continue the ratings dominance down the line? Only time will tell but don’t let the spin fool you – this is a huge disappointment for WWE.
To be beaten so decisively by what Triple H joking referred to as a “piss-ant company” back at the Hall of Fame…the game has officially changed.
Current score: AEW 1 – NXT 0.