AEW vs. WWE: Who's Winning the 2019 Wrestling War

With the recent arrival of All Elite Wrestling, Find out who is winning the Wrestling television war between the veteran juggernaut WWE and newcomer AEW.

Complex Original

Image via Complex Original


On October 2, two high-profile, professional wrestling companies clashed head-to-head for the first time—the first showdown in what has become colloquially known as the Wednesday Night Wars. In one corner is WWE, which has commanded the wrestling industry with its glitzy, "sports entertainment" brand of scripted combat. 

In the other corner is All Elite Wrestling, the brand-new upstart promotion. Bankrolled by the Khan family, which also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, AEW has positioned itself as a threat to WWE's dominance. It offers an alternative to disillusioned fans who feel that WWE has fallen into a creative rut.

Every Wednesday night, the WWE’s NXT and AEW’s Dynamite square off. Currently, Dynamite is AEW's only television show and features the company's top stars. NXT is WWE's developmental league, where newly signed talent and homegrown wrestlers get acclimated to the "WWE style" of doing things. 

But in practice, many diehard WWE fans regard NXT as superior to the Raw and Smackdown "main roster" shows, with a greater emphasis on in-ring action, improvisation, and personal expression. What it lacks in mainstream star power, it makes up for in heart and quality.

For the purpose of this analysis, we'll be comparing the Wednesday shows—WWE NXT and AEW Dynamite. Who's been coming out on top for the past two months? We'll break it down and let you decide.

Best Presentation


Best Talent

Finn Balor

Best Highlights

Chris Jericho

Best Matches

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Even though AEW has the best individual moments, NXT has the best matches—the best non-verbal storytelling with a beginning, middle, and end. Flips and daredevil stunts are no substitute for in-ring psychology. Matches are comprised of individual moves, yes. But those moves need to add up to a bigger picture and point. NXT is masterful at that. And while Cody Rhodes consistently kills it and had one of the best matches of the year (his bloody, personal victory against his brother Dustin Rhodes at AEW Double or Nothing), he can only be in one place at a time.

Take, for example, the recent NXT match between The Revival and The Undisputed Era on the November 20 episode of NXT. Neither team does anything, from a purely technical perspective, that The Young Bucks can't pull off on a weekly basis. But what both WWE teams do, better than anyone, is sell their confrontation as a legitimate contest, where there's a winning side and a losing side. Slower pacing generates suspense and narrative stakes. Logic takes precedence over stunts.

WWE NXT still maintains a layer of kayfabe, where you can watch it, accept it as an athletic contest, and suspend your disbelief. But too many of AEW's matches throw all pretense of kayfabe out the window; you're meant to accept, from the outstart, that what you're seeing is a performance. If you want to watch matches where every move matters and every punch hurts, then NXT is the clear winner.

Winner: WWE

Best Storylines

Nick Jackson, Matt Jackson, Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes

Best Commentary

Jim Ross

Best Ratings

Jon Moxley looks on during the Dominion 6.9 In Osaka Jo Hall of NJPW

Who's Winning?

Awesome Kong, Brandi Rhodes, Cody Rhodes, Nyla Rose, and Jungle Boy at TCAs 2019

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