On October 2, 2019, All Elite Wrestling aired the first episode of their new weekly wrestling program, Dynamite, scheduled for Wednesday nights, starting at 8 p.m. EST. On the same day, having already moved WWE NXT to the USA Network for half of the two-hour show, WWE debuted the first two-hour NXT episode for the exact same time slot: Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. EST. The subsequent head-to-head programming and race for ratings was termed “Wednesday Night Wars”. The title mirrors “Monday Night Wars”, which originated when WWF aired Monday Night Raw opposite WCW’s Monday Nitro, resulting in a similar ratings battle.
The first year of the Wednesday Night Wars has come to an end, and though people from each side of the battle field would claim to not care about the ratings, wrestling fans paid special attention to the differences, similarities, and viewership statistics between the shows.
Bell To Belles paid special attention to the use of the female roster in both NXT and Dynamite, because, well, that’s what we’re here to do: empower, support, and advocate for women’s wrestling.
Why should we care?
When AEW arrived on the scene, one thing they continued to push was that they were a company who planned on doing things differently. Brandi Rhodes specifically noted in their very first press conference after forming the promotion that the women’s division would be treated better than any other in the industry, and that women’s wrestling would always remain a priority for AEW.
One of the easiest ways to determine whether a promotion values their women’s division, is to see how the women were used. How much time did the women compete on any given show? How many matches did women participate in? Where were women placed on the card order? What’s the title scene look like?
And though these factors are certainly not the only ones to consider when determining if a women’s division is valued, it’s easily measurable and comparable, and acts as a good starting base for further evaluation.
So, we did just that. For the first full calendar year of the Wednesday Night Wars, the number of matches, match time, card order, and title scene were evaluated for both the division as a whole and for each wrestler individually, then compared to see how each women’s division stacked up against each other. Statistics were pulled from profightdb.com, cagematch.net, and through the programming itself, when confirmation was needed.
For the purpose of these statistics, episodes that fell within that first year were recorded, and only matches that made it to air were counted (no dark matches). Appearances and promos were not counted for these stats, only the matches themselves, to further the point that women’s wrestling is best promoted through actual wrestling.
Without further ado, the following table outlines the stats pulled from the first year of Wednesday Night Wars.
|WWE NXT||AEW Dynamite|
|Number of total matches (division)||97||53|
|Percentage of total matches||97/306 = 31.70%||53/268 = 19.78%|
|Total match time (division)||732:33||368:26|
|Average match time (division)||7:33||6:57|
|Highest card order (with frequency)||Tie (11 times): Main event and half way through card||2/5 of the way through card (14 times)|
|Lowest card order (with frequency)||5/8 of the way through card (1 time)||6/7 of the way through the card (1 time)|
|Number of main events||11||0 (one match was last match on card, but not main event of show)|
|Cards with no women’s match||0||3|
|Cards with >1 women’s match||41||2|
|Average number of matches (individually)||6.4||3.9|
|Number of women who competed||41||35|
|Top 3 women – Number of matches||Dakota Kai (24), Candice LeRae (19), Io Shirai (19)||Hikaru Shida (21), Britt Baker (14), Nyla Rose (13)|
|Top 3 women – Total match time||Dakota Kai (238:23), Io Shirai (214:59), Candice LeRae (207:10)||Hikaru Shida (170:40), Britt Baker (109:00), Kris Statlander (102:18)|
|Titles competed for during show||NXT Women’s Championship & WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships||AEW Women’s World Championship & NWA Women’s World Championship|
|Title matches||6 NXT Women’s (4 main events), 2 WWE Women’s Tag Team||6 AEW Women’s World, 1 NWA Women’s World|
|Show title holders||Rhea Ripley, Charlotte Flair, Io Shirai||Rhio, Nyla Rose, Hikaru Shida|
|Number of episodes||52||51|
General analysis and conclusion
The results can be summarized by saying the women of NXT were seen more often, for longer periods of time, and given a better card match placement, more often.
If the reader is to agree that the measurements used are indicative of a well-treated women’s division, then the clear conclusion is that NXT women are treated more fairly. As stated above, these are not the only indicators of a valued wrestler, nor should they solely be used to measure value of a women’s division.
Regardless if you believe the results indicate NXT treats their women’s division better, AEW has failed to follow through with the promise of creating a unique atmosphere for women’s wrestling, at least not for the better. Fans were excited when joshi wrestling was introduced through AEW’s recruitment process, and there was promise in that AEW could sign the women underutilized in other promotions, or those still in the indie scene.
Numbers, though, can be used as more than just a snapshot in time. They’re used to define a trend, and the trend in this case doesn’t sit well with women’s wrestling fans.
We’ll play devil’s advocate, and admit it’s only the first year for the new promotion. So while there’s room for improvement, there’s time to improve. Let’s hope women’s wrestling fans will get to see that improvement soon.