NXT AEW ratings war WWE NXT won the ‘Tuesday Night War’ against AEW Dynamite. Credit: WWE

On Tuesday night, there was more pro wrestling than usual on television. All Elite Wrestling’s flagship show ‘Dynamite‘ moved to Tuesday night due to MLB Postseason coverage on its home network TBS on Wednesday night. However, Tuesdays aren’t a free night in the wrestling world because WWE’s ‘NXT‘ airs each week on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. Eastern. So, for one week, AEW and NXT went head-to-head again after spending about two years doing so from 2019-2021.

Back then, Dynamite would defeat NXT often with ease. Not this time, though. NXT boasted a victory over AEW’s flagship show Tuesday night, and they won the “war” impressively. Wrestlenomics reported that Tuesday night’s episode of NXT averaged 921,000 viewers. Dynamite, meanwhile, averaged just 609,000 viewers.

NXT also scored a 0.30 P18-49 rating versus Dynamite’s 0.26, giving them a victory in that category.

It’s NXT’s highest figure since November 20, 2019, a show that led into Survivor Series weekend that year., which had earned 923,000 viewers on average. They also scored their highest recorded total in the demo since that show as well. It’s a +7% jump week-over-week.

Last week, AEW drew its lowest viewership figure in five months. A week later, they’ve drawn their lowest figure in seven days. It’s the least-watched episode of Dynamite since October 15, 2022, when the show averaged 752,000 viewers. It’s the lowest figure for the show since October 23, 2021, when that episode averaged 575,000 viewers.

If you’ve paid attention to the trends, NXT earning the victory this week shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. On average, NXT is the least-watched WWE show on television. That’s not so much disrespect as much as it’s just the reality. In 2022, the show averaged 623,461 viewers. Raw and Smackdown routinely averaged over 1.5 million and, in some cases, for Smackdown, well over 2 million viewers at times. But with that said, the show has gotten an uptick in viewership since the summer.

An episode featuring Seth Rollins defeating the World Heavyweight Championship against top-flight prospect Bron Breakker earned the show’s biggest audience in years. Since June 20, NXT has averaged 706,267 viewers each week. For the previous four weeks, NXT averaged 791,750. Dynamite still beats that healthily on Wednesdays, but NXT has gotten a lot of forward momentum lately. Recent inroads with superstar Becky Lynch becoming NXT Women’s Champion, the sensational Dominik Mysterio becoming North American Champion, and Dragon Lee’s recent back-and-forth between NXT and the main roster have allowed for more fluidity than ever.

After years of a lot of pretending that these were two completely different universes, a decision that led to extreme fan divide and cultural rot that probably snowballed into AEW’s creation, all the brands feel cohesive. You aren’t getting the same show, week to week, even if some of the characters are becoming more frequent. But the continuity, hard-earned momentum, and generally strong show has won over viewers this summer.

If you want to look at anything as a “loss,” it’s perhaps that the show didn’t draw 1 million viewers, I guess. But with MLB Postseason action and the NHL Opening Night, there had to be a cap somewhere. Considering that both shows didn’t touch 1 million, you can draw your own conclusions.

As for AEW? The criticisms of, and the emergence of issues in the product and the promotion have seemingly accelerated over the last few weeks. The last two, in particular, haven’t really helped.

The preemption didn’t help things for AEW viewers, who have frequently made it clear that Wednesday nights are the nights they tune in for the most. Rampage hasn’t succeeded on Friday nights, and Collision has routinely gotten beaten like a drum anytime a WWE or NXT PLE sits on the same night. Its numbers during college football season haven’t been particularly strong either. Never mind the fact that the centerpiece of that show, or the one that people believed would at least be presented that way, got himself fired before the show could even get to three months.

Last week, we wrote about a perception battle since Dynamite scored a lower viewership figure than NXT last week. Well, now NXT beat it one-on-one. Granted, this won’t happen again anytime soon. But what’s there to make for AEW now? They may average more viewers than NXT, but shouldn’t they? They’re an actual promotion’s flagship show.

NXT, for all its positive buzz, standing, and impact, is the least-watched WWE show of the three. It’s always been that way too, and back when it was on streaming, it was probably viewed by even fewer people. This is, once again, more just a painting of reality than anything. Dynamite has never come close to Raw or Smackdown. The only time figures appeared even close was in 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even through all of its continued acclaim, the show has lost viewers year-over-year from 2022, down 9, 7, and 11 percent in Quarters 1, 2, and 3 of 2023 this year, according to Wrestlenomics.

(NXT, for what it’s worth, was down 2 percent, but then up 1, and then 8 percent in Quarters 1-3 this year)

What’s worse is that AEW just sunk a lot of investment in Adam Copeland, formerly known to WWE fans as Edge. Copeland signed with AEW after over 20 years with WWE and debuted at their WrestleDream pay-per-view a week and a half ago. Since Copeland arrived, Dynamite has drawn two of its lowest total viewership figures. Copeland and Christian Cage’s in-ring promo peaked viewership last week during an overrun that promoter Tony Khan bought during the show because of negative fan feedback due to production issues.

This week, Copeland wrestled in his first match with the promotion against Luchasaurus in the main event. NXT’s main event featured two former champions and super prospects – the aforementioned Breakker and Carmelo Hayes, a red-hot fan favorite. WWE legend John Cena and venerable manager Paul Heyman were at ringside for some window dressing, and a shocking appearance by The Undertaker (that had been previously teased) concluded the show.

Copeland’s main event with AEW’s resident dinosaur was absolutely no match for the 1-on-1 contest between two prospects that could be focal points of the next foundation in WWE. AEW’s final quarter and overrun averaged 582,500 viewers, while NXT’s final quarter and overrun averaged 913,000 viewers.

It’s also getting difficult to just point to WWE loading up NXT with stars. Asuka returned to the brand to wrestle prodigy Roxanne Perez. White-hot WWE superstar LA Knight served as a special guest referee during a match between Dominik Mysterio and Ilja Dragunov. Also, Cody Rhodes and John Cena made appearances, as well as Paul Heyman, and even The Undertaker. But even without all that, NXT has made sizable gains lately. It’s a hot show. So for as much discussion as there was this week, the following things are true: AEW had to be preempted and go to WWE’s night of TV. WWE was well within its rights to stack up its television show. To that end? So was AEW.

A show referred to as “Title Tuesday” featured only two title matches, as the AEW Women’s Championship and International Championships were each on the line. For some reason, a match between Eddie Kingston and Minoru Suzuki for the ROH World Championship was added 30 minutes before the show that streamed online. It appeared to have no effect on TV, as the show never came close to its competition for the night. Furthermore, TBS Champion Kris Statlander was nowhere to be found, as even amid a ‘ratings war’ against a brand that has been notorious and downright overt with how much they use their women, there was still only one women’s match scheduled for the show. Toni Storm had a part in a silent film her new character made play during a Picture-in-Picture commercial break. It’s hard enough as it is for a silent film to go over, and probably even more difficult to when an advertisement blares on your screen.

If that sounds harsh? It might be, but AEW signed Copeland to a lucrative contract and made a significant deal about it. His debut has earned millions of views on YouTube. Copeland spent over two decades with WWE and then likely gained even more fans with an unexpected run from 2020 to the present time. It’s very early in the game, but the return just has to be better than that. They also simply have to do better and right by their women. It becomes glaring when the two sides are juxtaposed against each other. But expecting two women’s matches on AEW Dynamite might as well be a fool’s errand at this point. Who knows? You can’t knock it ’til you try it, even if it seems like they’re just adamant to keep knocking anyway.

AEW also might have to deal with issues that emerged during Tuesday night’s telecast. Wrestler Juice Robinson flashed a roll of quarters that read “FRIEDMAN,” in reference to AEW World Champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman, or ‘MJF.’ The choice was skewered online due to its insensitivity following the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. The choice to be antagonistic towards Friedman, who is Jewish, was somehow greenlit amid horrible real-life events. MJF did present a defense. But with all due respect, it’s hard to not see it as anything but tone-deaf and completely unnecessary, even if he did approve it… At best. And there are so many more important things in the world than furthering a wrestling angle or bit.

Nevertheless, it’s a win for WWE again. The company is likely buttering NXT up in the hopes of the show scoring a stronger media rights deal for it. If the show performs like it did Tuesday night, that may grow likelier by the day.

[Data cited by Wrestlenomics; Photo Credit: WWE]

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022