Feb 22, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; AEW President Tony Khan during AEW Dynamite at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

With TBS’ coverage of the MLB Playoffs forcing AEW Dynamite from its usual place on Wednesday to Tuesday this week, AEW’s flagship show went head to head with WWE NXT for the first time in a year.

And while WWE won the highly anticipated ratings battle, as expected, that didn’t stop AEW owner Tony Khan from throwing shade at his competition.

“This week, 2 active decades-long ratings streaks from 2 great legends were ended,” Khan wrote on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday. “With all due respect, until this week’s head-to-head AEW on TBS vs WWE on USA, neither John Cena nor Undertaker had ever been on a WWE show with under 1 million total viewers + under 400k in the demo.”

It’s not difficult to see what Khan is getting at, as WWE loaded up its NXT show with main roster talent and legends — including Cena and The Undertaker — but failed to draw a Raw or SmackDown level rating. Although not necessarily inaccurate, Khan’s post also lacks context and fails to mention that NXT was going up against strong competition, including the MLB Playoffs and Dynamite, itself, and that the appearance by The Undertaker was unadvertised.

It’s also worth noting that Dynamite is AEW’s flagship show, while NXT is WWE’s third/quasi-developmental brand. Yes, WWE loaded up the NXT card, but the fairest comparison between the two companies would be for Dynamite to go head to head against Raw or SmackDown.

What makes Khan’s insistence on drawing attention to the ratings in this particular insistence is that nobody expected his show to win the head-to-head battle, especially since it was taking place on the night that NXT typically airs. If anything, one would expect the son of Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan to take solace in Dynamite being competitive in the key 18-49 demo (NXT won that battle .30-.26) rather than taking public potshots at WWE.

While wrestling wars are often messy — and WWE has fired shots of its own — it’s notable that Khan has thrown shade at his competition several times this week, both on social media and during an appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. It’s worth wondering whether Khan is feeling the pressure of AEW’s recent run of poor ratings, especially with the company’s media rights deal with Warner Bros. Discovery reportedly set to expire in 2024.

[Tony Khan on X]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.