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USA Network’s ‘NXT’ Climbs in Ratings With WWE Invasion Angle, Finishes 9,000 Viewers Shy of AEW

We’ve got ourselves a Wednesday Night War?

Buckle up, wrestling fans: We may have a “Wednesday Night War” on our hands after all. And all “NXT” needed was for most of “SmackDown” to get stranded in Saudi Arabia. We’ll explain.

On Wednesday, USA’s “NXT” drew 813,000 total viewers, 384,000 of which came from the advertiser-sought adults 18-49 demographic. On TNT, direct competitor “All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite” drew 822,000 total viewers, 450,000 of which came from the main demo.

In other words, AEW beat NXT by a mere 9,000 total TV viewers. The gap among young adults was larger, however, with the TNT pro-wrestling series boasting a 66,000 — or 15% — advantage.

Last week’s “NXT” averaged 580,000 total viewers, 232,000 of which came from the key adults 18-49 demographic. That episode was vs. Game 7 of the World Series, which hurt.

With Wednesday, Oct. 23 also competing against the 2019 World Series (Game 2), we have to go back to Oct. 16 for the last time “NXT” and the AEW series did not duke it out directly with Fox’s Fall Classic. The Oct. 16 “NXT” episode drew 712,000 total viewers, 260,000 of which came from the key demo.

So “NXT” soared 40% in total viewers week over week, and was +66% among young adults. Versus the last non-World Series night, those increases are +14% and +48%, respectively.

But what does Saudi Arabia have to do with all of this? Last week, the vast majority of WWE’s “Friday Night SmackDown” wrestlers were stranded in the middle eastern country after putting on Thursday’s “Crown Jewel” pay-per-view in Riyadh. This led to a mad scramble to put on Fox’s live Friday program, a problem solved by flying in a bunch of NXT wrestlers.

The NXT brand “invaded” Fox’s “SmackDown” that evening, leading to a retaliation storyline last night on USA.

NXT used to be a feeder system for WWE. It is now considered its own distinct wrestling brand. Though talent still moves “up” to the WWE main roster on either “Raw” or “SmackDown,” other wrestlers have been moving back “down” to NXT lately, most notably former NXT and WWE Universal Champion Finn Balor.