The Wednesday Night War officially kicked off last night, with AEW’s premiere Dynamite episode on TNT opposite WWE’s NXT airing on USA Network.
The companies threw major haymakers right at the start of the fight.
NXT opened with Matt Riddle vs. Adam Cole in an NXT Championship match. The match ended with Finn Balor hitting the ring and announcing that he was returning to NXT.
AEW opened with Cody Rhodes vs. Sammy Guevara in an entertaining and fast-paced match that the company was hoping would set the tone for AEW Dynamite. After Cody’s victory, AEW champion Chris Jericho attacked him from behind and viciously beat Cody all around the ringside area.
AEW’s first show was very good despite not being as polished as the WWE product. There were small production tweaks that could have been made, but the gritty feeling of the broadcast made it endearing in a time where WWE’s production is so crisp and clean, it almost doesn’t feel real.
AEW crowned its first Women’s Champion when Riho beat Nyla Rose. Pac defeated Adam Page and MJF picked up a win over Brandon Cutler.
In the main event, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks were defeated by Chris Jericho and his partners, Santana and Ortiz, who were wrestling their debut match for AEW after jumping over from Impact Wrestling last month.
During the main event, Jon Moxley attacked Omega and put him through a glass table backstage. Then after the match, Jericho and his team were beating on the Young Bucks when Cody ran down to make the save. That brought Guevara back to the ring and he attacked Cody, kicking him in the crotch. Dustin Rhodes ran down to save his brother but the crowd then exploded when Jake Hager — formerly Jack Swagger — hit the ring and gave the heels the ultimate advantage.
The show ended with Jericho’s team standing tall.
For now, AEW has set up its major players. On one side there’s Omega, the Young Bucks, Cody and Dustin. On the other side there’s Chris Jericho, Santana, Ortiz, Guevara and Hager.
Moxley, meanwhile, is a loose cannon who is somewhere between a heel and a babyface. Pac and Page are at the top of the second tier that also includes Pentagon, Fenix, SCU and MJF.
For being a new company, AEW’s roster depth is impressive. The women’s division lacks top-tier talent, but that could change in a few years as contracts expire — like Tessa Blanchard, for example — and they’re able to create some of their own stars.
For a debut episode though, AEW hit a home run.
There was also a noticeable contrast in how the shows looked. AEW was in front of 14,000 people in a major sports arena. NXT was in a smaller studio setting at Full Sail University.
The fallout from the war’s first night was that WWE might have won as far as match quality, but as far as interest, AEW owned the night.