Okay, I can safely say I was wrong.
Almost two years to the day of this column being written, All Elite Wrestling took over TNT for the first time with the debut episode of AEW Dynamite.
No one could have fully anticipated the impact that AEW has had in the two years since that first Wednesday night installment of Dynamite on October 2, 2019.
However, many wrestling fans, specifically those who had followed WWE for the majority of their lives before AEW’s debut, were skeptical of the rival promotion at that time in the fall of 2019.
WWE was investing loads of resources into NXT, and began the “Wednesday Night Wars” by moving the weekly NXT show to Wednesday nights just two weeks before Dynamite’s debut.
Big names like Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano, members of The Undisputed Era, and more were running rampant on NXT programming, and WWE packed in more resources with the returns of Tommaso Ciampa and former Universal Champion Finn Balor to add some star power.
At the annual Survivor Series pay-per-view, which has turned into a show centered around brand superiority, WWE had NXT emerge victorious in its war with superstars from Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown.
At the time, it seemed like Dynamite was entering a race where NXT already had a major head start.
I even penned a story a little more than a month into AEW Dynamite’s lifespan explaining “Why NXT, not AEW, is changing the landscape of the professional wrestling world.”
Well, I can safely say that I, like many of those aforementioned WWE fans, was incredibly wrong.
Not only did AEW Dynamite serve as worthwhile competition to the already-established weekly NXT show, they obliterated their WWE counterparts.
On the first night of the “Wednesday Night Wars,” AEW averaged approximately 1.4 million viewers on TNT. NXT’s first two-hour episode on the USA Network, which was held that same night, generated just 891,000 viewers in comparison.
Dynamite took over the key 18-49 demographic, even paving the way for the WWE-turned-AEW superstar Chris Jericho to call himself the “Demo God.”
Even with all of the talent that NXT possessed, it was evident that the show was outmatched when going head-to-head with AEW’s programming.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and the “Wednesday Night Wars” aren’t even in consideration anymore. NXT shifted back to Tuesday nights, and WWE decided to change course with the show as a whole to coincide with the move. “NXT 2.0” was born, featuring a new logo, new colors, and a slew of fresh talent.
Meanwhile, AEW’s been able to turn its roster into a who’s who of wrestling royalty, both with homegrown names and with superstars who decided to make the jump from WWE amid a revolution in the wrestling world.
AEW was able to lure CM Punk out of retirement, bringing the former WWE champion back to wrestling for the first time in more than seven years.
A few weeks later, AEW turned its All Out pay-per-view into the wrestling fan’s version of Christmas Day, providing not one, not two, but three surprise debuts over the course of one show.
After her release from WWE in the first half of 2020, AEW brought in Ruby Soho, formerly known as Ruby Riott, to add some flavor to the company’s women’s division.
A few hours later, AEW landed a major player from the “Wednesday Night Wars” by bringing in former NXT champion Adam Cole, and topped it all off with the AEW debut of former WWE champion Bryan Danielson, formerly known as Daniel Bryan.
In the span of a few weeks, it felt like the entire tide of the professional wrestling scene had shifted in AEW’s favor.
Looking back on that article I wrote in November of 2019, it seems ridiculous that I even had the take that NXT would win the “Wednesday Night Wars” against AEW.
AEW had the talent from the jump, with a roster in 2019 that already included Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, Hangman Page, Britt Baker, MJF, and a wealth of other stars in the making.
The promotion had the basics of the production side down, considering the fact that AEW had run live shows in the build-up to Dynamite’s debut.
There was tons of buzz, and WWE’s programming simply didn’t do enough to blow AEW out of the water in the early stages. Two years later, fans are wondering if AEW can keep up a rapid pace that could do the same thing to WWE.
As much as it hurts to admit that I was wrong, it ultimately is a positive for fans of professional wrestling.
Three or more years ago, it seemed like WWE had a stranglehold on the landscape of professional wrestling, with the ability to hoard any talented wrestlers from the indies due to a wealth of cash and its mainstream attention.
Now, the rise of AEW has given both wrestlers and their fans a litany of options to consider and choose from, and it all has brought some life back to the industry as a whole.
WWE is still a major player in the game, just with AEW chomping at their heels to create competition.
IMPACT Wrestling, formerly known as TNA, has reemerged thanks to its partnership with AEW.
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s own partnership with AEW has opened up other doors for wrestlers around the world, and has created a feeling that you never know what’s going to happen next anytime you watch any episode of AEW, IMPACT, or NJPW programming.
It all has turned those who would call themselves “WWE fans,” back into “professional wrestling fans,” which was a major goal for AEW when Dynamite first debuted back in 2019.
As much as it pains me to admit I was wrong, the bigger shame is that I was so late to hop on AEW’s hype train, almost two years after it initially left the station.