Given the “swimming with sharks” behind-the-scenes environment of pro wrestling we’ve always heard about, this story has felt inevitable since NXT retreated from Wednesday nights after months of AEW Dynamite outperforming it in their head-to-head ratings battle. A lot of fans have been expecting it since WWE released 13 talents from the black-and-gold brand last Friday.
Now, in the first Wrestling Observer Newsletter published since Bronson Reed & others were let go last week, we have it.
Dave Meltzer’s reporting that Paul “Triple H” Levesque is internally being blamed for NXT not “winning the Wednesday night wars which WWE thought they would win easily.” Further, there are players backstage who’ve been worried they would lose power if Vince McMahon’s son-in-law took over the company. Now they’re using AEW’s success to bad mouth NXT, and by extension Triple H: “NXT is being cast as a product full of independent workers who can’t draw which is unable to attract a younger audience.”
The wrestlers Haitch signed to execute his vision are “pawns in the power struggle.” The releases are the obvious casualties, but Meltzer also says the backstage drama is why Karrion Kross lost twice on Raw while being presented as an unbeatable champion on NXT. Dakota Kai, the current #1 contender for the NXT Women’s title, losing to Aaliyah on last week’s Main Event was also cited as evidence of the politics being played.
To an extent, this makes sense. Triple H was the point person for an effort that failed. He would have been lauded if NXT squashed AEW; he’s gonna take the blame after they couldn’t achieve WWE’s goal.
Whether that was ever a reasonable goal is another question. Dynamite had some built-in advantages, namely being the shiny new toy. It was also a real alternative to Raw and SmackDown. NXT had been the most easily accessible outlet for fans who wanted to rage against the WWE machine. Once AEW came along, they had a flag to fly that didn’t contribute to Vince’s bottom line.
Triple H & team were also still tasked with creating and preparing wrestlers for the move to Monday and Friday night, and hamstrung with the perception those talents were likely to be misused after their call-up came. But still, he was given a blank checkbook to execute his vision. And not enough fans chose that vision over the one Tony Khan put forth with AEW. Consequences were inevitable.
It absolutely sucks that the people bearing the brunt of those consequences are the wrestlers, especially the ones who’ve lost their jobs. Thanks goodness an upshot of the Wednesday Night War is that - more than at any other time this century - there seem to be more opportunities for wrestlers to make a living outside of WWE.
Of course, as with almost all reporting on the wrestling business, there’s always the chance Meltzer’s sources are only giving one side of the story - their side. Leaking this to The Observer could just be part of the larger political game that’s afoot.
That’s part of what a lot of us love about this crazy pastime, though. The behind-the-scenes drama is often just as intriguing as what happens in the ring. Sometimes more so.
Let us know what you think, Cagesiders.