WWE NXT The Undertaker Bron Breakker Credit: WWE

For the first time in a year, WWE NXT and AEW Dynamite went head to head in a one-off of pro wrestling’s “Tuesday Night War.”

The battle — which came as the result of Dynamite being moved from its usual spot on Wednesdays due to TBS’ coverage of the MLB Playoffs — featured perhaps the most even matchup possible between the two wrestling promotions, with NXT serving as WWE‘s third/quasi-developmental brand and Dynamite being AEW’s weekly flagship show.

Considering the bad blood between the two companies, it wasn’t a surprise to see both shows promote pay-per-view-caliber cards in the days leading up to Tuesday. Both companies also secured commercial-free starts to their shows and larger overruns than usual in efforts to beat the other in the ratings.

Neither WWE nor AEW waited until their respective 8 p.m. ET bell times to get the action going, with Haus of Wrestling’s Nick Hausman reporting that NXT honchos Paul “Triple H” Levesque and Shawn Michaels were looking to send AEW owner Tony Khan a message with their Tuesday broadcast on the USA Network.

“Haus of Wrestling spoke with a fired-up WWE source close to NXT this morning who said tonight will be ‘a very clear example of how and why WWE is WWE, and why AEW has a long way to go,'” Hausman wrote. “They discussed how they felt AEW had been lulled into a false sense of reality that they were somehow an industry leader by continuing to beat WWE’s number three brand in viewership.”

Taking to social media, Khan responded to the report, referring to Levesque and Michaels as “bald ***holes.”

Khan also spent an appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz promoting Dynamite taking swipes at WWE co-founder Vince McMahon and his “misdeeds.”

Suffice it to say, there was no shortage of anticipation for both of shows. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how each of them went with both the good and bad.


The good

NXT made the strategic decision to open with a heavily promoted appearance by one of WWE’s biggest active stars, Cody Rhodes, who was actually one of AEW’s co-founders. While Rhodes’ announcements (multiple NXT tournaments, including one named after his father, the legendary Dusty Rhodes) were predictable, they still felt like big deals. It was also a nice surprise to have Rhodes announce that he was serving as NXT’s guest general manager for the night, creating a show-long thread.

Additionally, Rhodes gave a rub to current NXT champion Ilja Dragunov and announced a surprise appearance by WWE star L.A. Knight. It says a lot about the depth of WWE’s star power that it can afford to feature Knight—currently one of the hottest acts in WWE—unannounced. Surprise appearances were also made by Rhea Ripley, Jade Cargill and The Undertaker (although the latter was heavily teased).

Like Rhodes, NXT made good use of John Cena’s first-ever appearance on the program, as the living legend was featured in segments with a variety of young stars including Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams. Cena’s physical altercation with Breakker, in particular, really made the up-and-comer seem like a future main eventer.

Breakker also received a boost from his association with Paul Heyman, who currently manages WWE’s biggest star in Roman Reigns. Heyman was also featured in a social media video where he appeared to be trying to recruit the female wrestler Ava Raine, the daughter of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. There was also a great promo package revealing a “mystery man” to be former AEW wrestler Brian Pillman Jr., who it appears will be getting a new name in WWE.

In the ring, the matches were mostly solid, with the best being Dragunov successfully defending his NXT championship against Mysterio with Knight as the referee. The main event—Hayes with Cena in his corner vs. Breakker with Heyman in his corner—featured no shortage of star power, and was likely what the WWE brass had in mind regarding the “message” it allegedly wanted to send to Khan, especially with the show closing with a run-in by The Undertaker.

The bad

While the matches on NXT were mostly solid, they weren’t spectacular, with Dragunov vs. Mysterio being the exception. The women’s match between main roster star Asuka and up-and-comer Roxanne Perez was fine enough in the ring, but the forced involvement of Shotzi Blackheart and Kiana James took away from both the match and the spotlight for Perez and felt clunky overall.

The Pub Rules Match featuring the Brawling Brutes and Tyler Bate vs. Gallus was a fun brawl, but lacked investment from the audience and the necessary heat to make it memorable. Outside of Dragunov vs. Mysterio and Hayes vs. Breakker—matches that both relied on main roster talent—it was a largely forgettable night of in-ring action.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the show was the use of The Undertaker. While I can’t fault WWE for relying on one of its living legends, closing the show with the 58-year-old squashing Breakker negated the boost that the 25-year-old star had received from his interactions with Cena and Heyman. For what it’s worth, The Undertaker did proceed to raise the arm of Hayes, but most of the interaction felt forced.

All things considered, WWE mostly did a good job using its main roster talent to put over its stars of the future. But it would also be understandable if the use of The Undertaker left a sour taste in many people’s mouths as yet another example of WWE favoring its legends at the expense of its current roster.

AEW Dynamite

The good

As has been its calling card since its inception in 2019, Dynamite hung its hat on its in-ring action. The show opened with a very strong match between Bryan Danielson and Swerve Strickland, which is the type of clash that makes AEW so appealing in the first place. The match lived up the hype and despite losing, Strickland continues to come off as a future main eventer.

Powerhouse Hobbs defeated Chris Jericho—arguably AEW’s biggest mainstream star post-CM Punk—in a relatively one-sided match. In retrospect, it’s tough not to contrast this with The Undertaker choke-slamming Breakker. While this might not have been a dream match, it was exactly what it needed to be and was an example of AEW utilizing sensible booking.

Orange Cassidy’s surprise appearance and victory over Ray Fenix for the AEW International Championship was a crowd-pleaser and helped reset a feud between Fenix and Jon Moxley that had been plagued by injuries. Normally, I would’ve criticized AEW for advertising Moxley when he wasn’t cleared to wrestle. But doing that helped set up the surprise moment of Cassidy winning back the championship he had legitimized over the past year.

“Hangman” Adam Page vs. “Switchblade” Jay White was another strong match featuring two main event caliber wrestlers. It also provided a platform to further the Maxwell Jacob Friedman vs. White feud, which will likely main event AEW’s next pay-per-view, as MJF is currently AEW’s biggest draw.

Shida’s victory over Saraya (former WWE star Paige) for the AEW women’s championship wasn’t a great match by any means. But the second title switch on the show helped make Dynamite—which was branded as “Title Tuesday”—feel like a big deal.

The bad

Let’s start with the obvious: While the feud between MJF and White has been one of the high points of AEW in recent weeks, Juice Robinson’s reference to using a roll of quarters against MJF, who is Jewish, was totally unnecessary. While the use of quarters is a common thread for both MJF and Robinson as wrestlers, the use of a taunt that’s antisemitic in its nature is especially tasteless following the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel this week. Even if MJF was OK with the angle—and one would hope that was the case—I can’t believe it was approved by Khan.

As far as the rest of the show is concerned, the promo between Christian Cage and Adam Copeland (former WWE superstar Edge) was good, but Copeland’s debut match vs. Luchasaurus left something to be desired. While Copeland is still capable in the ring, he’s also obviously past his prime and Luchasaurus was somewhat of a lackluster opponent for his debut match. I hope AEW accelerates the feud between Cage and Copeland (who were longtime tag team partners in WWE) and allows Copeland to get to more “dream matches.”

Another low point was the campy video package featuring the supposedly injured Adam Cole, Roderick Strong and The Kingdom. While Cole’s video packages with MJF were previously highlights of AEW—and even led to the duo main eventing a show in front of a record audience at London’s Wembley Stadium—these packages with Strong, while amusing, aren’t hitting the same notes.

It was also disappointing to see AEW once again fail to follow up on the cliffhanger from two weeks ago, in which a group of men wearing MJF’s devil mask, attacked White. One would imagine we’ll get a follow up at some point, but the further we get away from it, the more it feels like a story AEW started without an actual plan.

Ultimately, Dynamite was mostly a well booked show—the quarters reference notwithstanding—that featured the great in-ring action that has become the one thing that AEW can always fall back on. Like NXT, it had many moments that made you remember the best the company has to offer—and also some that made you wish it could just stay out of its own way.


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.