Sports

Wednesday Night’s Alright: NXT And AEW Go Big And Go-Home

Here we are in the third of four weeks in which only one of the Wednesday Night Wrestling shows actually airs on Wednesday. First AEW Dynamite got moved around due to TNT’s NBA coverage, and now NXT is spending two weeks on Tuesday due to USA’s coverage of the NHL. Rumors have also started that NXT might move to Tuesdays for good, and I promise if that happens I will split this column up and start covering these shows separately. But for now, welcome to Wednesday Night’s Alright (plus sometimes other nights, too) on Uproxx Sports.

Nefarious Heel Behavior: Doctor Britt Baker DMD

The All-Out PPV is this Saturday, and Tony Schiavone was trying to interview Big Swole about what kind of match she wants to have with Britt Baker there, when Britt interrupted first by having Rebel deliver a pizza to Tony during the interview. Then while Swole was laughing like “Oh come on, a pizza? And do you think we can’t recognize Rebel?” Britt attacked Swole from behind, driving her face into the pizza and then putting her in the Lockjaw hold.

Everybody loves a wrestler revealing that they’re healed from an injury by attacking someone, and Britt pulls it off perfectly here. Nobody knows what a Tooth & Nail Match is, but this segment made me excited to watch it no matter what it is. Of course, then they revealed that it’s going to be on the pre-show, even though they’ve been building to it for literally months. So that’s a shame. But this segment was still great.

Runners Up

The Young Bucks continue to be jerks, going as far as pouring a beer over an Adam Page fan’s head this week. I’m coming around to believing that they’re evolving into heels on purpose, with Hangman being set up to become a babyface loner, but it could still go either way. I’m not entirely sure that Kenny Omega and the Bucks, as real-life teetotalers, understand that although being an obnoxious drunk is a heel trait, drinking casually is a babyface trait. And while standing up to that obnoxious drunk might be something a babyface would do, telling your friend who enjoys a couple of drinks every week that he’s a worthless alcoholic just because you disagree with his choices is absolutely what heels would do.

MJF gave out this week’s most brutal beating, attacking Jon Moxley with a fury we’ve never seen from him before as the show drew to a close. But I have to say, I’m not wild about that from MJF. I like Maxwell as an obnoxious rich kid who occasionally punches somebody in the face with his big-ass ring on, and I don’t need him to be as brutal and hardcore as Moxley. I understand the thinking that they want him to look like a credible threat for All Out, but shouldn’t MJF be a threat by being sneaky and paying bigger guys to interfere for him? Not everybody needs to be an undershirt-clad brawler.

Lingering Problems: Some Of These Booking Decisions

The prelude to MJF beating up Jon Moxley was Moxley beating up MJF’s lawyer, Mark Sterling, in a match that went on for a while without ever seeming like a real wrestling match, and for some reason held the Main Event slot on this go-home show. I get that Moxley is the top guy, but a match like this makes no sense in the Main Event. Even one of the multi-man tag matches would have fit in the slot better—at least the guys in those matches are pro wrestlers both in and out of character.

Runners Up

And then there’s NXT. They’d never put somebody who can’t wrestle in the Main Event (or even someone like Mark Sterling, who can wrestle but is playing a character who can’t). What NXT is more likely to do is put four of their very best wrestlers in that Main Event, and then give it the entire second hour of the show and end it without a proper winner.

In the Fatal Four-Way Iron Man Match for the NXT Championship, everybody had one fall apiece until the very end, when Finn Bálor and Adam Cole each scored an additional fall and tied. William Regal came out and announced that they’ll have a one-on-one match to one fall next week, and honestly my first thought was relief that at least Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa were knocked out, because as much affection as I have for those guys, I’m still burnt out on long dramatic matches involving them. Then I realized that line of thinking was silly, because why did Gargano and Ciampa have to be in this match either? If you wanted to get to Finn Bálor versus Adam Cole, you could have just done that match this week.

I realize the answer is “Ratings,” but I don’t accept that. Once you’ve gotten me to watch the show, I still reserve the right to expect it not to leave me unsatisfied.

Best Promo: Jon Moxley

This was honestly not a strong week for promos, but you can always count on Jon Moxley to be good at talking. I really enjoyed his casual dismissal of MJF as a threat. I suppose the lesson is supposed to be that Jon was wrong to be so dismissive, since MJF then beat the crap out of him, but I don’t really accept that, for reasons I explained above. Based on all of MJF’s previous behavior, and his likely future behavior now that this one episode is over, Jon was absolutely right.

Runners Up

On NXT, Tegan Nox and Candice LeRae both talked separately about their friendship, which was good character stuff without having the shape of traditional wrestling promos. I do wonder, though, if all this talk of Tegan and Candice being former best friends is making Tegan’s former former best friend, Dakota Kai, jealous.

Back on AEW, Jericho cut another promo on Orange Cassidy. No Jericho promo is ever exactly bad, but we sure have heard a lot of them in this feud.

AEW also did a segment meant to build to Saturday’s Casino Battle Royale, and boy was it a mess. They basically put every heel manager and their guys in the ring at the same time, and then they all stepped on each other’s lines and generally seemed confused about what was going on. Eddie Kingston is one of the best promos working, but you put him in the ring with a bunch of 70-year-olds and there’s only so much he can do.

Best Match: Thunder Rosa vs Serena Deeb

You could have given me a hundred tries last week, and I wouldn’t have guessed that Serena Deeb would be in this week’s best match. For that matter, I probably couldn’t have guessed which show she’d be on either. But she was Thunder Rosa’s opponent on AEW, to get everyone hyped for Rosa’s match with Hikaru Shida at All Out.

You could tell this was a really good women’s match because Jim Ross kept saying things like “Believe it or not this is actually technically a very good wrestling match, folks!” I like Jim Ross. He’s a genuine legend. But honestly? It might be about time to let him retire for a least weekly commentary. Replace him with Veda Scott if you can. Then AEW will start sounding more like the future and less like the past.

Anyway, commentary aside this match was so great that a lot of smart marks on the internet have been saying it was too good—that Rosa should have squashed Deeb to make her look strong going into her fight with the Champ. I don’t really agree with that. I think showing what Thunder Rosa can do is more important than making her look so powerful that there’s barely a match.

Also, cards on the table, I’m holding out hope that AEW might hire Serena Deeb full-time, which would be all the more reason to give her some offense. I’d like to see Deeb stay in AEW, not just as a wrestler, but in a backstage role working with the women’s division. We all know that AEW’s women need some time and attention, and as the only female coach to have had a full-time position at the WWE Performance Center and not work there currently, Serena might be the perfect person for the job.

Runners Up

NXT opened with a really fun six-man street fight, with Breezango and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott taking on Legado Del Fantasma. It’s weird seeing that sort of match open a weekly TV show, but these guys gave it there all, and Tyler Breeze wielding a fire extinguisher is an image that will stay with me.

There were several matches this week that felt like they could have been great if they had more time. Bronson Reed versus Timothy Thatcher was one of those, although it became all about Reed’s feud with Austin Theory. The match that opened Dynamite, between Best Friends and Proud & Powerful, had a similar vibe.

And then there was that Four-Way Iron Man Match on NXT, which I really wanted to like. There were some great spots in it, but that ending was a problem. Plus, honestly, somebody needs to explain to NXT and AEW that match length is not the ticket to quality.

That’s all for this week. I’ll have a review of AEW All Out on Monday, and then be back next Thursday to talk about Tuesday and Wednesday one more time.

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