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WWE vs. AEW – Wrestling Wars 2.0?

AEW Tony Khan & Vince McMahon WWE

AEW and WWE are giving wrestling fans something not seen in the industry for decades – two major promotions battling it out in a war for ratings.

In 2019 TNT announced wrestling in the form of AEW was to return to the channel for the first time in 18 years, and it changed the wrestling world moving forward.

Spearheaded by Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, the new promotion looked, sounded and felt different. There were WCW Nitro comparisons that a lot of old school fans were drawn to and the indie kudos and respect the majority of the roster held brought a youthful and diverse demographic to the company.

NXT was instantly turned from a main roster development brand to a two-hour live show on the USA Network. The two shows would go head-to-head and the “Wednesday Night Wars” was born.

The two shows ran together during the midst of the pandemic. But one thing AEW had on its side and used extremely well was Daily’s Place.

The open-air arena allowed the company to continue to put on their flagship show with a big-time feel attached. The use of the wrestling talent on the outskirts of the ring acting as fans was another huge bonus as it provided a less jarring audio and visual wrestling experience.

This style of show proved AEW to be innovative trendsetters. The use of the arena complete with “live fan” aesthetic caused WWE and NXT to change up their televised shows and add talent acting like fans.

It can be argued that AEW’s progress caused NXT to use counter-programming and possibly “panic book” which affected the feel and flow of the show drastically. NXT, therefore, lost any long-term planning and storylines it may have had and replaced them with randomly booked championship matches and angles.

The former black and gold brand was the first casualty of war and not only moved to a different night but went through a drastic rebrand.

A huge part of the promotion’s success has been its triumph in the ratings and that all-important 18-34 demographic.

They regularly beat NXT in the weekly ratings and have continued to thrive with AEW President Tony Khan and certain members of the wrestling media making a huge deal of the ratings each week.

CM Punk’s debut on the second-ever episode of Rampage drew 1.172 million viewers on TNT with a 0.48 rating in the 18-49 key demographic.

The recent addition of Rampage gives wrestling fans three hours of wrestling to enjoy on a Friday night. The show starts at 10 pm EST on TNT just as SmackDown ends over on FOX.

The October 15th edition of Rampage saw AEW go head-to-head with SmackDown for the first time and the “Friday Night Wars” commenced.

WWE has run unopposed for decades. TNA had a crack at it in 2010, attempting to reignite the Monday Night Wars, but never came close to seriously challenging Vince McMahon. The challenge only lasted several weeks before Dixie Carter’s company stopped running head-to-head and returned to Thursday nights.

WWE ran a “supersized” version of SmackDown, which featured an extra commercial-free 30 minutes to compensate for the show being moved to FS1 instead of its usual home of FOX. The additional time added meant that WWE would overlap the opening of AEW Rampage.

Khan took this as a challenge and fired back with some choice words for WWE stating he couldn’t wait to beat them. He followed his words with actions and counter-programming. Khan swiftly put together a Buy In for Ramage featuring Bryan Danielson vs Minoru Suzuki in the main event.

The show aired on YouTube for free creating a lead-in for the main show. CM Punk then kicked off Rampage defeating Daniel Garcia via submission.

Ruby Soho faced The Bunny while former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos made his wrestling debut alongside The Men Of The Year to take on Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, and TNT Champion Sammy Guevara in a six-man tag team match.

I saw you’re doing a half hour head-to-head with us. I can’t wait to finally beat your main show head-to-head. It’s been a long time coming. See you next Friday for #AEWRampageon @AEWonTNT”

The combination of the counter-programming and WWE having to move channel worked in AEW’s favour. Despite losing to SmackDown in overall ratings, Rampage won the much-coveted 18-49-year-old demo for the 30 minutes when the two shows were in direct competition.

Kahn and talent reacted to the win all over social media drawing plaudits and criticism simultaneously.

One person who surprisingly criticised Khan’s comments specifically was former WCW President Eric Bischoff.

Bischoff was the person who knows what it takes to go to war with WWF/E. During the 1990s the “Monday Night Wars” dominated professional wrestling.

The war led to the business’ most successful era with many fans yearning for business to go back to those glory days.

Judging by Tony Khan’s words and actions he is ready for a war and fans may very well get their wish.