Week 3 of the Wednesday night head-to-head battle between All Elite Wrestling’s “Dynamite” on TNT and WWE’s “NXT” on USA Network is now behind us.
We saw good matches, some intriguing ones made for next week, and some commentating that needs to be reevaluated.
Each week, Sporting News will give you the winners and losers from the “Wednesday Night Wars.”
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Winner: Darby Allin
You might ask how the loser of a world championship match can be regarded as a winner? It’s quite simple, actually. There were those who wondered why Allin deserved to be in the match against the top name in AEW so early into the promotion’s existence.
He proved why on Wednesday night.
The no-disqualification aspect of the bout played to Allin’s strength and he delivered in spades. Even though you knew Jericho would win heading into his title defense against Cody at Full Gear (more on that in a minute), the crowd believed Allin had a chance. Except for the skateboard spot, Allin pulled out all the stops to get the crowd more behind him.
Allin doesn’t lose anything here as Jericho needed the help of fellow Inner Circle member Jake Hager to retain the belt, so he remains strong despite the defeat. He’s a younger version of Jeff Hardy and is building his fanbase with each passing time he steps inside the ring.
Loser: Riho vs. Britt Baker happening on free TV
Nothing against the match because it wasn’t bad. But with a better backstory behind it, this could have gotten the proper attention from the soldout crowd that it deserved. The match was cold, and the crowd sat on their hands until the final moments. It should have been built up for Full Gear and not for an edition of ‘Dynamite’.
AEW has to remember they are still new people watching the show on television and inside the arena each week. If you don’t explain who Riho and Baker are, why should people care about them? This is something they need to remember going forward. Yes, they are the new kids in town, but the honeymoon period will eventually wear off. The sooner they start doing this, the more it will help them in the long run.
Winner: Keith Lee vs. Donovan Dijakovic
By far, the best match on NXT this week. Guys who weigh around 300 pounds aren’t supposed to move like this. What Lee and Dijakovic can do once they step inside the ring is quite breathtaking.
Their matches in PWG were better than what we saw on Wednesday night, but this was the best of their three bouts so far in WWE. What they showed this week is a small sample size of what Lee and Dijakovic can really do, and the crowd ate it up with chants of “Both these guys” and “This is awesome”.
They do big man moves like powerbombs, vicious forearms, and power locks, but then you get inverted hurricarranas from Lee. Imagine if WWE would give them 25 minutes and let them bring out the entire arsenal. You’d likely see the match of the year in WWE.
Loser: Tommaso Ciampa’s return
The fact Ciampa returned only seven months from neck surgery is a testament to him and how hard he worked to come back five months earlier than expected. But the ball was dropped here.
A comeback of this magnitude should have been built up for several weeks with the return set for the Takeover event in November. Instead, Ciampa was used to kick off the show as a ratings ploy against someone who is a lower level talent in Angel Garza.
In what should have been a one-sided squash match to make Ciampa look invincible, Garza was given too much offense for a little over three minutes of action. A golden opportunity wasted in what should have been a historic moment considering Ciampa was the NXT champion before having to relinquish the belt to have the neck surgery.
Winner: Cody video package
If you weren’t sold on AEW world title match between Chris Jericho and Cody at Full Gear, then you were after this excellent video package. They are telling the story of a guy who is an executive vice president of All Elite Wrestling in his quest to win his first world title (even though he was the Ring of Honor and NWA heavyweight champion).
They did an excellent job of talking to his wife Brandi, his mother, mentor, and good friend Diamond Dallas Page, Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone, and MJF. What Ross said about Cody needing to be the wrestler instead of the corporate guy gave the package the extra shot in the arm to drive home the point of Cody needing to be 100 percent focused on becoming the champion.
After seeing this, one has to think Cody is now winning the title. Right?
Loser: No promos from Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega to hype Full Gear
Moxley and Omega headline Full Gear on Nov. 9. Three weeks into “Dynamite,” and we still haven’t heard cut a promo to promote the match. They faced in a tag team bout with Omega teaming with Adam Page and Moxley with PAC.
The face-to-face spot they did in the middle of the ring was tremendous. The crowd ate it up, but there needs to be more. People want to see the match, but in the business of selling pay-per-view and subscriptions, you need to spell out to this new audience you are trying to cultivate why these individuals want the match and what a win means to them in the grand scheme of things. There are still three more shows, so hopefully there’s a couple promos before the event.
Winner: Io Shirai
If there’s a better female wrestler than Shirai, I’d like to meet her. She’s flawless in the ring and makes everything look so easy even in a match against an unproven Kayden Carter. Look at the way she does the deadlift German suplex, and the height she got on the springboard dropkick was breathtaking. The way she’s positioned as the monster heel is perfect for her character-wise.
Her promo work has gotten a lot better since she came from Stardom to WWE. Wrestlers coming from Japan have had a tough time learning how to cut a good promo. But she’s taken the time to learn English and is getting better and more confident each time out which has helped her overall character.
It’s only a matter of time before she wins the NXT Women’s title (why she hasn’t already won it is another topic for another time). A program with Rhea Ripley isn’t a wrong way to get to current titleholder Shayna Baszler.
Loser: Beth Phoenix
Phoenix got picked on last week, and here we are again. She just isn’t showing any week-to-week improvement. Nothing coming out of her mouth feels organic which is what you should want from an announcer. Phoenix’s had a difficult time finding a happy medium between loud and talking normal.
It’s nearing the time where it should be considered to having a two-person booth like Smackdown has with Michael Cole and Corey Graves and going with the Mauro Ranallo and Nigel McGuiness duo each Wednesday night. You don’t want it to get to the point where fans aren’t going to watch because of an announcer. Phoenix has a lot to offer to the current wrestlers, but it should be in a behind the scenes type of role.
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