This was the much anticipated first night of the Wednesday Night Wars. I can’t lie. It was pretty exciting seeing two big wrestling promotions going head to head again. I record the podcast on Wednesdays so I had to be on spoiler avoidance mode. Ideally, I’ll write something up about the shows each week, but I definitely don’t have the time or mental bandwidth to break down everything so hopefully this format works out unless someone wants to do weekly reviews of NXT or AEW: Dynamite. Now let’s break down the best and worst of the opening night of the Wednesday Night Wars.
Best Overall Match: Adam Cole vs. Matt Riddle
NXT’s opening salvo in the war was a huge one with a fun title match with Cole successfully defending his NXT championship against Riddle in his strongest match on the black and gold brand yet. Cole got to rock the Bob Orton tribute cast thanks to a legit fracture and he’s already using it perfectly. These two had some crisp sequences and really set up some good drama. I was going to gauge NXT’s concern level if they switched the title here, but Cole winning was the smart move especially with so many viable new challengers arriving. More on that later. The real question is what happens with Riddle now? I’d rather him stay on NXT then get superstar swapped to RAW or SmackDown.
Best AEW Match: Adam Page vs. PAC
The match we expected to see at Double or Nothing delivered. Page looked like a big league star more than he did in his AEW title match with Chris Jericho. It’ll be interesting to see if that was more on Page or Jericho in the weeks to come. PAC is 2-0 now in AEW and is already looking like one of the promotion’s two or three best solo stars.
Best NXT Match: (beyond Best Overall Match) Street Profits vs. Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish
It’s pretty cool being in a wrestling era with a faction that most closely resembles a modern day take on the Four Horsemen. Fish and O’Reilly do a Tully & Arn better than anyone and their style meshes so well with any team they can’t have a bad match at this point. The Street Profits are always game and have terrific chemistry with the UE. I also liked the Roderick Strong interference here as it lays some groundwork for the Street Profits to demand a steel cage match.
Biggest Shock: Balor/Ciampa returns to NXT
You knew NXT was on no games played mode when they brought back not just Balor, but Ciampa as well. Balor was wasted on RAW and with NXT being more prominent he’s a terrific and logical addition. Balor has a ton of fresh match-ups in NXT against the Undisputed Era for starters, but if need be, a heel Balor battling Johnny Gargano seems like a big time money feud.
Worst Shock: AEW forgets the purpose of DQs
For some reason the referee didn’t immediately disqualify Chris Jericho’s team in the main event when Jon Moxley attacked Omega. Maybe this is why he’s not the top rated official? This seemed to beg for Cody to run out and take Omega’s place to get some payback on Jericho for attacking him earlier. Instead, it was just a 3 on 2 until Jericho hit the Judas Effect for the confusing and underwhelming finish.
Best Segment: AEW
The Jon Moxley attack on Kenny Omega. Their feud is on another level and is exactly the kind of intense rivalry that will get people to stop flipping the channel and tune in. Moxley ending tonight’s ambush by smashing Omega through the VIP table was a terrific punctuation mark on their ongoing saga while selling the Full Gear pay per view.
Worst Segment: AEW
The Kevin Smith/Jason Mewes interview getting crashed by Angelico and Jack Evans was so bad Ross rightfully called it out as going off the rails.
Best Commentary Team: AEW
Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone and Excalibur didn’t have a lot of chemistry issues and gelled well for their first night together. They’ll only get better. Outside of the occasionally clap back at his haters, Ross seemed incredibly dialed in to his Monday Night Raw style. And it was really fun just hearing Schiavone commentate on TNT again.
Best Line: Mauro Ranallo
“Hitting harder than Ice Cube’s No Vaseline.” Mauro had some gems all night, but as an old NWA fan, I appreciated the deep pull back to the classic diss track.
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Worst Line: Beth Phoenix
Beth saying Shayna Baszler is the most dominant woman’s champ in NXT history. Sure, it’s been a few years, but Asuka literally had to vacate her title cause no one was ready for her.
Best Booking Decision: Riho winning AEW Women’s Title
The thing when you have the plucky outmatched face against the monster heel is you’ve got to let them get that first big win otherwise the face is dead on arrival in rematches. Nyla Rose can always get that win back and chalk it up as a fluke. I’m curious if given AEW’s more realistic slant toward wrestling if the commentary team will mention Nyla potentially having an advantage as the first transgender performer in the women’s roster.
Worst Booking Decision: Continuing Baszler’s reign
This has been such a boring reign as Baszler is plowing through all the contenders. The issue is Asuka already did the dominant champion who has a stranglehold on the title. Unlike Asuka, who largely battled against inferior competition that wasn’t at her level, NXT has plenty of viable challengers who could offer fresher matches and angles with the women’s title like Candice LeRae or Io Shirai (who has by far the best theme in NXT). At this point NXT needs to bring someone special in to finally take the belt away. Hey, what’s Asuka up to anyway?
Biggest WTF moment: Kenny Omega runs out to help Riho instead of Cody
This was weird on several levels. It’s not like Kenny is going to start fighting Nyla to stop her from beating down Riho. Second, the timing of this save was weird since Omega had to immediately return to the ring for the main event. Finally, Omega’s pal Cody was getting savagely attacked by Chris Jericho — the same guy he was facing in the main event. Omega saving Cody from Jericho’s attack only to get ambushed by Moxley would have tied everything together better.
Best Plot Development: AEW
Jericho forming what looks like a faction to take on The Elite is a smart, savvy move right out the gate. Faction wars have historically proven to be great draws and spark up interest in a territory/promotion. And this allows for a lengthy series of matches between various members of The Elite (Cody, The Young Bucks, Omega and Dustin Rhodes?) vs. Jericho’s crew. Jake Hager might not be Lex Luger on the shocking arrival scale, but he was severely underutilized by WWE…like Cody and he’ll be a great addition to the roster.
Best Distraction: Brandi Rhodes
Dynamite could have been the worst show in history and Cody would still be a winner last night. Good grief.
Photo Credit: WWE.com