Today, WWE and AEW are going head to head for the first time on television since October 18, 2022, when AEW Dynamite beat NXT in the ratings. That night, AEW had 752k overall viewers and a 0.26 in the ever-important 18-49 demo vs. NXT’s 676k overall viewers & 0.18 in the 18-49.

Last year, NXT was main evented by Cora Jade against Raquel Rodriguez and a Shinsuke Nakamura appearance, while AEW went with Adam Page against Jon Moxley. AEW has largely publicly taken a “we’ll run our own race” stance when it comes to competing with WWE—they definitely want to do well, obviously, but they didn’t go all out, and neither did WWE. Both companies were content with where they were and didn’t feel much pressure to try to do well at the expense of the other.

This year? This year is Daffy Duck spinning his beak back around his face while declaring this means war. That’s one company; the other company is also Daffy Duck, because neither is doing so well right now that they’ve earned the right to be compared to Bugs Bunny. Pre-WrestleMania WWE was Bugs Bunny. They’ve lost some momentum since then, having largely stagnated where before they were growing for the first time in literal decades. Right now, the best I can offer WWE is Porky Pig. AEW, in this awful analogy, is the Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes gif, but being loaded on a 28.8 modem.

What’s the best salve for bruised egos in a wrestling war? The Eric Bischoff Special: a one-off win in a ratings competition that isn’t going to change anything about the actual direction of the companies. This is outright an attempt to flex on the opposition in a competition for vibes. Vibes, Tony Khan shitposts, and just the absolute dumbest online discourse.

Both sides are trying – possibly too hard, frankly, given what’s at stake. AEW’s rolling out Bryan Danielson vs. Swerve Strickland, Jay White vs. Adam Page, Adam Copeland vs. Luchasaurus, Powerhouse Hobbs vs. Chris Jericho, Saraya vs. Hikaru Shida, Jon Moxley vs. Rey Fenix, a MJF appearance, and a pre-show of Eddie Kingston vs. Minoru Suzuki. They’re not pulling punches, but the names are all regulars outside of Murder Grandpa, and all the matches fit within their current storylines. There’s no Goldberg-Hogan with a week’s build here.

However, NXT is taking a week off from that pesky “development” nonsense. Becky Lynch & Dominik Mysterio have recently become regulars on the show, which has boosted the ratings, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the appearances of some decidedly already-developed names.

They’re rolling out Paul Heyman, Asuka, Cody Rhodes, John Cena, and The Undertaker—best wishes to all these young up-and-comers.

There’s a possibility that WWE has played their hand too strongly here. Given everything they’ve pulled out (including the potential for more retro surprises, a card they love to play any time they want to pop a rating), if they don’t have a better rating by a noticeable margin than AEW, they’ll come off looking foolish for making such a big deal of this in the first place. The mood in Stamford won’t be too celebratory if they tie in the demo after pulling out all the stops.

I wouldn’t bet on that happening, though – AEW’s momentum has cratered this calendar year, and while WWE does not seem to be actively growing, they’re still near a high point in their popularity. Cody Rhodes should be safe to be a little sloppy at a post-show press conference. But AEW losing again in a year of losses won’t be nearly as notable as a stumble from WWE, which hasn’t stumbled badly in public in quite some time.

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