We’re now a week removed from last Wednesday’s landmark night for All Elite Wrestling. Although we’ve yet to see the precise direction the company and their partners are going with the overthrowing of Jon Moxley, the coronation of Kenny Omega and the arrival of Sting, over the past several days we’ve watched the after effects of that show trickle down toward AEW’s latest partner promotion — Impact Wrestling.
We know the story by this point: Last week’s episode of Dynamite drew 913,000 viewers for TNT, a number which obliterated NXT. That’s a number that the AEW faithful tout as being the game-changing moment for them, and they’re right. It’s a big deal; it also isn’t, at least not without a repeat performance. On the flip side, WWE faithful have chimed in and parroted the usual anti-AEW tropes, citing their failing to hit 1 million; they’re also right, and very wrong.
It’s funny how that works out. The subtext here is both sides of this fictitious scuffle are off base.
Since “Winter is Coming” many have voiced their opinions on what last week means in the grand scheme of things, and frankly no one knows; we’re merely 7 days removed and little has happened. However, what we can isolate for now are the numbers as we have them currently. Beyond the obvious argument made in this column previously, last week’s show built off the Omega-Moxley hype drew well for the show and TNT, falling in line with the previously argued (and backed up) point that Omega draws eyes to screens and venues. It’s not even debatable after last week, there’s a trend where if he’s the central piece of a promotional push the numbers (live audience, ratings, tickets, etc.) increase.
However, last week means nothing this week; this week tells us another piece of this story insofar as can Dynamite hold on to its viewers from last week? Can NXT rebound? What affect does Sting have and how did Omega winning and the subsequent Impact Wrestling revelation affect both Impact’s programming and this week’s episode of Dynamite.
It’s not a secret that Impact’s history is a hair short of an utter train wreck after a point in their lifespan, yet admirably so they always manage to hang around. Those fans are without any hesitation devoutly loyal, how else could they survive through such front office insanity? For better or worse they have survived, however the company at its best never had a great TV deal and that certainly isn’t the case now — it’s available as a simulcast on Twitch after all, and is available in the United States on a network available in 50 million homes.
To offer perspective on how poorly it draws audiences there, it rarely charts in the ratings. However, last week it charted in the top 150 cable programs with 166,000 viewers. This landed them in the #123 spot on the chart, and admirably so they did it on their own merit. With that as our baseline, how would the fallout of the Impact AEW title heist from “Winter is Coming” affect Impact’s viewership this week?
That question was completely answered on Impact’s end by late Wednesday. Looking only at the live numbers on Twitch, as Wrestlenomics’ Brandon Thurston noted on Twitter in his graphs, Impact’s Twitch stream began at 8 p.m. Tuesday at just over 23,000 live viewers and increased to 34,546 by 8:04 p.m. As you can see here that trend increases over the course of the stream, topping off at 50,934 when Omega’s interview began at 9:50 p.m., ending at 52,492 at 10 p.m.
Each of these numbers are relevant as the previous live stream high for Impact on Twitch was approximately 17,000. At no point was the show below that mark — Omega tripled the number of viewers watching live on Twitch alone. That’s an extra 35,000 viewers (likely globally, mind you) Omega drew in above the organization’s previous high. On top of this, the company is claiming 750K people watched Tuesday’s Impact (likely some WWE-style creative math).
Shifting focus toward the promotion’s AXS numbers, which came out hours before Dynamite aired, this past Tuesday’s episode of Impact drew 221,000 viewers, building off last week’s 166,000. They also increased their share in the 18-49 demographic to 0.08 (+0.03). This leads us to the same conclusion as with the Twitch numbers: when it comes down it to, the end-of-show angle last Wednesday with Omega and Callis pickpocketing the AEW championship from Moxley spurred substantial increases for Impact in their viewership; likely a combination of their own audience and AEW’s with a skew toward the latter. Ultimately however, most of Impact’s socials saw increases (unique or not), and for now it seems the company is benefitting from the AEW Dynamite rub.
Light the Fuse, Dynamite?
The other half of last week’s equation is obviously this week’s taped show which paced its segments along through the first 3/4 of the episode featuring the Young Bucks and Hybrid2 in the opener, followed by segments with Cody and Sting, the Dark Order attempting to recruit Dustin Rhodes, FTR and the Varsity Blondes, and the sit-down chat with Shaq and Brandi Rhodes. These all preceded the Inner Circle, Omega/Callis and main event segment with MJF and Orange Cassidy. The questions, however, are how did this track and did the less action-based, story-driven segments track with viewers who could have very easily shifted over to NXT.
Well, for the “less than a million crowd” you can take some solace in AEW only drawing 995,000 viewers, an increase from last week’s 913,000. While NXT stood strong and held its ground, it only gained 1,000 extra viewers on top of last week’s results.
First of all this tells us AEW drew an extra 82,000 new viewers to their own show, presumably from Impact and overall traction from last week, complemented by their announced segments for Sting, Omega and Shaq for this week. Last week both shows combined drew 1.571 million viewers. This week both shows garnered 1.654 million viewers (second highest combined total since September) with 98-99% of that overall increase coming from AEW booking, promotion and traction from the “Winter is Coming” show, and most especially Omega’s placement on the card and his further promotional appearances on Impact programming.
At least for now, ignoring the weekly fan-made squabbles, AEW can claim a promotional win for booking and promoting Omega and Moxley leading into last week, building out the story while calling back to their past, and with +900K viewers watching executing an angle that has brought buzz to both Impact and AEW.
Further on, they built around that main event with the arrival of Sting, a marquee tag team match and a well-done battle royal. Then of those 913K each person came back this week to follow the program — in addition to the noted increase of 82,000 new viewers — to see the threads followed up on from last week. So in the very least over a two week period, AEW can claim a win for itself in pushing their stories forward and having the audience follow and grow with them. Conversely it appears Omega is indeed a draw, and along with Moxley was the correct choice to be featured in the main event of Winter is Coming. However, just as it was the case last week, can they continue the trend next week?
Previously this column argued NXT didn’t do enough at War Games to drive the audience to tune in and turn out in droves to watch the follow-up to the PPV. While the numbers did go up by 1,000, which shows that the show is at least stabilized and stood strong following “Winter is Coming,” it didn’t do enough to actually draw eyeballs away from Dynamite this week; in terms of straight-up action NXT was the better show. It just paled in comparison to the narrative threads AEW picked up.
Now we can say a little more clearly that as good as Raquel Gonzalez is, the show needed a bigger main event than her and Ember Moon to (potentially) go up against the Young Bucks and TH2 in the main event slot (it actually opened against Balor). That was a great match, but the show could have benefitted from a follow-up to the Finn Balor segment by doing any combination of matches featuring Kyle O’Reilly, Damian Priest and Pete Dunne, while still doing the Kross run-in. They’ve unfortunately put themselves in a bad spot coming out of the women’s War Games match with all the injuries to some of those women, making that difficult to continue.
With that said, NXT did position itself well for next week with the stories and potential matches they setup on the show, more so than Dynamite did. It’ll be interesting to see where HHH and company take the show next week in terms of how they counteract the sustained buzz around AEW, Impact and Omega, while also being aware it’s completely plausible that Impact sets the table for Wednesday night’s event on the Tuesday show considering Impact will be coming off Final Resolution and we have to assume they’re working in tandem.
When it comes down to it, for now and regardless of your stance, the numbers are what they are. AEW is clearly the more consistent show with its ability to book and follow up on matches, and is the show that has grown and shown the most potential for continued growth at this point. NXT certainly has the ability to challenge them on any given week with their talent roster, but the companies are trending in different directions and one has to wonder at what juncture do we pass the point of no return where the NXT project to slow AEW’s progress can be considered a failure.