WWE NXT Leaned In On Blackness And Now It’s Destroying AEW Dynamite – Selambe

One week after losing to WWE NXT in total viewership, AEW Dynamite lost to WWE NXT yet again in total viewership, but also in the 18-49 demographic.

AEW Dynamite posted a shockingly low 502,000 viewers with a 0.16 rating in 18-49. Only two preemption episodes of Dynamite have ever garnered lower than 502,000 viewers, which was down 26% from last week. Despite coming one week after Dynamite went head-to-head with the NBA Finals, this is by far the lowest viewership of the year for Dynamite and comes at a disastrous time with the promotion deep into negotiating a new TV rights deal with Warner Bros. Discovery.

WWE NXT, meanwhile, drew 724,000 viewers—up 1% from last week—and posted a 0.26 18-49 rating. This was NXT’s highest 18-49 rating of the year, and it was No. 1 on cable Tuesday night. “With NXT growing so fast and AEW being down, or even staying the same, [NXT beating AEW in viewership] will happen more often and could end up as a regular thing,” said Dave Meltzer in the latest issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. In fact, ratings-wise, no wrestling show has risen more in 2024 than NXT.

This is because WWE NXT bet on Black.

WWE NXT Bets On Black, Destroys AEW Dynamite

WWE NXT’s world champion is Trick Williams. The NXT North American champion is Oba Femi. NXT’s women’s North American champion is Kelani Jordan. The No. 1 Contender for the NXT Championship, who won NXT’s Battle Royale to kick off the program, is Je’Von Evans. The No. 1 Contender for the WWE NXT North American Championship is Wes Lee. All the aforementioned talent mentioned are Black.

Despite having a Black world champion of its own, AEW is unapologetically building its entire promotion around AEW International champion Will Ospreay. The talented free agent signing had two segments on Wednesday compared to Swerve Strickland’s one segment. A “wildcard” spot in the men’s Owen Hart Tournament to crown the next No. 1 Contender is widely believed to belong to Ospreay despite the fact that he will be competing for the world title on June 30’s Forbidden Door pay-per-view.

The head-to-head wrestling ratings war is no longer WWE vs. AEW. It’s NXT vs. AEW, and NXT is winning in a landslide.

NXT and AEW’s viewership was not without controversy this week as NXT’s final numbers were conflated with fake numbers that were floating around earlier in the day. PWTorch was duped by these numbers and issued a retraction. The next day, AEW Dynamite’s final viewership came in so low, many felt this was another instance of ratings fakery.

As confirmed by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, it wasn’t.

WWE NXT Vs. AEW Dynamite Ratings

  • AEW Dynamite Total Viewership | 502,000
  • AEW Dynamite 18-49 Viewership | 0.16
  • WWE NXT Total Viewership | 724,000
  • WWE NXT 18-49 Viewership | 0.26

Many have rushed to blame the Juneteenth holiday for Dynamite’s low viewership. This is not the case. Juneteenth is more to blame for NXT’s resurgence given its celebration of Blackness. Just one week ago, Trick Williams invited Cody Rhodes—who is notoriously popular with the Black community—to the cookout. This represented something of a changing of the guard in pro wrestling, right down to the way it was covered by the wrestling media. Bryan Alvarez of “Wrestling Observer Radio” hilariously confused this term for Williams inviting Rhodes to an actual cookout.

WWE NXT is changing before our very eyes, and despite its lack of name-brand star power, NXT is destination programming for young viewers, and is setting the tone as the coolest brand in pro wresting. It’s no secret that Black culture dictates what’s cool and where cool comes from in pop culture. Shawn Michales, NXT’s booker, has recognized this and now NXT has basically turned into Black Twitter Tuesday; a wrestling show where hip hop superstar Sexxy Red can be seen twerking on the same night where articulate-yet-terrifying West-African North American champion Oba Femi can dissect his opponents physically, verbally and mentally.

As NXT continues to celebrate its Blackness, its forthcoming move to CW will be a boon for the network. Seeing that CW reportedly paid between $20 to $25 million for the promotion annually, it’s starting to look like they got NXT for a steal.

AEW, on the other hand, is closing in on crisis mode. Last week’s low viewership number was seen as an anomaly due to competing against the NBA Finals. But with no Finals in sight, and in a year where NXT has posted multiple alarmingly low numbers, NXT has some soul searching to do. WWE Raw competed against the NBA Finals, but because they advertised something fans wanted to see (the debut of the Wyatt Sicks), Raw viewership was its highest since April. As a wrestling fan, I’ve enjoyed AEW’s last couple episodes of Dynamite, but something is failing to connect with a mainstream audience.

In its most important year to date, AEW needs to make major changes to its products in short order.

What do you think?

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