Is this the beginning of a new “Wednesday Night War?”

Bradley Piros , Sports Editor

It’s no secret that the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) has dominated the pro wrestling scene for over a decade with no real “competition.” Small independent companies have always been around, but that’s all they’ve really been; small Indy house shows. Impact Wrestling, ROH (Ring of Honor) and NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling) are the three that come to mind that have had quality shows and a few big name superstars in the past, but no company or new brand has ever worried WWE.

That was until AEW (All Elite Wrestling) was announced. This new brand had the entire pro wrestling community buzzing and speculating about who they will or won’t sign, the big new TV deal and if they could give the WWE a run for their money.

Over the past couple of months since the announcement, it’s without a doubt that the brand has the talent to go far (along with the financial backing and a new TV deal), but what got them here?

When the clock hit midnight on Jan. 1, 2019, non-wrestling fans were just out celebrating the beginning of a new year like everyone else, but us wrestling fans had something else in store. On Jan. 1, Cody Rhodes along with his good buddies, The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), announced the creation of AEW. The three men, dubbed as “The Elite” signed as the first talent to the brand as well as all being Co-Executive Vice Presidents. The president of the company is billionaire Tony Khan. Tony and his father Shahid Khan are the financial backbone of the entire project and without them, the company would’ve probably never gotten off the ground. The Khans are part of the ownership group to the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and the Barclay’s Premier League’s Fulham F.C.

Since then, the company has announced many names and has had a few very well received pay-per-view events such as their inaugural event “Double or Nothing” back on May 25 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. They have also come to an agreement on a spectacular TV deal 10 days before that pay-per-view. On May 15, the company announced a partnership with Warner Media to run on a weekly schedule every Wednesday. The program begins tonight and will be aired on TNT weekly. TNT is ironically the same network that ran WCW’s Monday Nitro back in the late 90s and early 2000s that sparked the “Monday Night War.”

So, let’s talk about some of the names and matches that got people talking about AEW. At Double or Nothing, the main event was Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega in a No. 1 contender’s match for the inaugural AEW World Championship. Jericho of course was in the WWE, which got people thinking about other soon to be free agents that might jump ship to AEW. Another big instance of that was Dean Ambrose, now under the new name Jon Moxley. There was also Neville; this guy is a true spectacle to watch and the WWE never fully utilized him, so when he got the chance, he left. Neville was a part of the atrocious 205 Live show that was meant to be a more high flying and fast paced brand of wrestling, but the WWE just never really showed it any love. Neville was the champ for quite a while and put that brand on his back but when he left, no one really cared about it anymore.

AEW knows the competition they’re up against and that’s why they put up a rather intriguing card for tonight’s premier. First up is Rhodes vs. Sammy Guevara. I haven’t watched a lot of AEW, but from what I’ve heard, any match with Rhodes is an instant classic and Guevara is one of those Indy darlings, so that should be interesting. Next is a match between Nyla Rose and Riho for the AEW Women’s Championship. Rose won a 21-woman Battle Royal match to earn the opportunity. Omega and the Young Bucks will take on Jericho and two mystery partners. Will one of those partners be CM Punk? Who knows? Watch and find out I guess. To round out the card, Adam “Hangman” Page will take on PAC, formerly WWE’s Neville. There are a couple other matches along with potential surprise debuts and an appearance by Moxley to round out a stacked card. It’s going to be an exciting night, but what are things looking like from across the pond in the WWE?

It can’t be a war if there aren’t two participants. That second party is the WWE’s third brand, NXT. The “Black and Gold Brand” used to tape their shows and run them two weeks after they actually happened, leading to multiple instances of matches getting spoiled and leaked in advance, which was no fun. To fix that problem and to go head to head with AEW, WWE announced that NXT would go live on the USA network every Wednesday. The first live show was two weeks ago and it absolutely delivered.

WWE CEO Vince McMahon is a smart man, which is why this brand went live. It helps too that the brand has a true creative genius in back, Paul Levesque, better known by his in-ring name: Triple H. Combine those things together and it led to a completely stacked card with three insane title matches.

First, let’s talk about a little bit of NXT’s history. It began as WWE’s third brand and was initially supposed to be a developmental brand for up and coming stars. The brand has seen so many epic champions that would in the end get called up to the main roster. Insert Bobby Roode, Seth Rollins, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn, Johnny Gargano and on the women’s side in Bayley, Sasha Banks, Asuka, Shayna Baszler and so many more. The brand has so much talent and that’s why some people, including myself, mark it as the best wrestling promotion in the world. Let me tell you why.

So, everyone knows the marquee event WrestleMania, the “show of shows” for the WWE’s main roster. For NXT, those big pay-per-views are called NXT Takeover’s. There have been some iconic matches in other promotions and I won’t deny that, but NXT is electric. Everything from the crowd, location, commentators, matches and wrestlers make these shows something you don’t want to miss. I could type an entire article about the 20 best NXT matches (which I just might do later), but I’m going to focus on what’s still to come.

I mentioned the three title matches on NXT Live that will take place tonight; let’s talk about those. First will probably be the Street Profits vs. Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly (who represent the Undisputed Era) for the NXT Tag Team Championship. I went to a NXT house show over the weekend and the two teams fought then and it was spectacular. I expect them to kick it up a notch for live TV. Next is a match for the NXT Women’s Championship between the challenger Candice LeRae and champion Baszler. I got to see both of these ladies in action over the weekend but not against each other. It should be great as well. Last and certainly not least is Matt Riddle vs. Adam Cole for the NXT Championship. I got to see Riddle but Cole wasn’t on the tour. Riddle has been booked to the moon and it’s clear that Triple H has high hopes for him, I just don’t know if the Undisputed Era should lose any of their belts yet.

You can probably already tell, but I’m a big NXT guy. There are so many names I didn’t talk about that are so exciting to watch. Insert Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic, Pete Dunne, Rea Ripley, Tomasso Ciampa, Velveteen Dream, Bianca Belair and once again so many others, and you have a star studded roster. I’m excited to see if NXT can say as hot as they have been the first two weeks on live TV, but only time will tell.

I love NXT and I’m excited to try and get into AEW. Wrestling is at its peak right now and no matter where you look, there is a promotion putting out great matches and including enticing story lines.

People are out picking sides and I think that’s dumb. If you’re a true wrestling fan, just watch it all. Sure, it’s a lot of TV to watch and not everyone has time for that, but if you do, I encourage you to check these shows out. If you’re a long time, die hard wrestling fan, you know the deal, but for people trying to get into the sport, tonight’s the night.