WWE must capitalize on AEW time shift

NXT invades the Nov. 1, 2019 edition of WWE Friday Night SmackDown. Photo: WWE.com
NXT invades the Nov. 1, 2019 edition of WWE Friday Night SmackDown. Photo: WWE.com /

WWE is the only wrestling content on this Wednesday, but can they fully capitalize on AEW’s schedule change?

When it comes to content, consistency of schedule is key. AEW Dynamite is going through some schedule adjustments due to the NBA Playoffs for the next few weeks, which means the show will not be on Wednesdays. There must be some concern about how this will impact AEW’s momentum as their weekly ratings were creeping back slowly to that one million point. However, there is another question about how the WWE will react to their competition shifting to different nights for a few weeks. The question is how they will take advantage, but if they even know how to at this time.

The AEW Dynamite episodes scheduled for August 19, August 26 and September 16 are moving to August 22, August 27, and September 17, respectively. This comes at a time when WWE is heading into SummerSlam, one of its biggest shows of the year, and moving from the Performance Center to the Amway Center. Even though WWE could not help themselves and tagged the uber-corny “Thunderdome” gimmick to the shift, it comes at a time where a change in presentation can help perception on the product.

The National Basketball Association took advantage of crowd-less games to build a different presentation of NBA games. Not only are fans presented virtually and artificial crowd noise pumped into the stadiums, the league has created several new camera angles which give fans watching an all new look at the game. The WWE has the financial and technological resources to take similar steps, and information in the press release shows that they are planning to do just that.

Even as WWE heads into this Wednesday with the advantage of their show not having to change nights, the promotion has done very little to build interest in this week’s edition of NXT. AEW does a fantastic job promoting their weekly content, often announcing big matches for the next week in the final moments of Dynamite. One the other hand WWE may announce and promote one-to-two matches in advance, with the rest of the show either being unknown or “promoted” hours in advance. Without any head-to-head competition for the next few weeks, this is an opportunity for the WWE to correct that issue and capture the attention of wrestling fans by building excitement early and often.

The hardcore AEW audience is not going to tune into NXT on purpose alone. The promotion is even airing All Out in two parts on YouTube in an attempt to stay in front of fans. What WWE can attempt to do is siphon off some of those more casual viewers by presenting an engaging product. They may not get many to convert to full-time NXT viewers, but this is an opportunity to increase interest in not only the Wednesday show, but SmackDown and Monday Night Raw as they both continue to suffer vanishing ratings.

Can WWE be trusted to make the changes needed?

The worst-case scenario is that the WWE does not take steps to capitalize on this moment and AEW on new nights completely smashes NXT in the ratings comparison. While many do not like talking about the archaic ratings system, it holds value to those making decisions in the network boardrooms.

WWE has the roster and the resources to put on better product every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The will to do so has to also be there. Right now, the decisions being made by those with power have not created the trust in viewers that the product will match desires or expectations. When AEW took a hiatus at the end of 2019 before the holidays, WWE capitalized and built momentum that chipped into the lead that AEW created. So much so, that it took AEW a few weeks before they regained their wide margins.

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The NBA Playoffs have created a space for the WWE to have an advantage of being the sole professional wrestling offering the next two weeks and once in September. WWE needs to promote and present the best NXT possible during that time to capitalize on the shift. Unfortunately, and rightfully so – there’s little trust in WWE leadership to do just that.