All Elite Wrestling have been a success since its inception in January 2019. It seems like nothing has been able to make the wave break. Wrestling fans have been expecting a change and AEW have given them what they were expecting. Something new, something fresh, and mostly something different. Also, a roster made of wrestling legends and indies superstars.
Dynamite‘s 20th episode took place this Wednesday where the Rhodes’ family call home, in Atlanta, Georgia. Since the first episode, AEW have beaten NXT almost every week, ratings-wise. The company has reached 37 million people since it began and has been capturing the youngest demographic in televised wrestling. Figures speak but fans’ appreciation too, on social media and through tickets and merch selling.
AEW Executive Vice-President and wrestler Cody Rhodes took the time to talk to the media this Tuesday about Dynamite episode in his “hometown” and the upcoming PPV, AEW Revolution, taking place on Saturday, February 29.
On Bash at the Beach and more WCW-themed events in the future
“I have a good deal of trademarks to my name, some of them are former WCW events. I’d actually say though it’s unlikely you see many more of those, maybe one. I honestly think it’s so much fun to have this EVPs core and Tony Khan, this kind of creative brain trust, to come up with our own stuff. Bash at the Beach was just meant to be something fun, it wasn’t meant to offend anybody and it wasn’t done in a bitter way. I continue to trademark things that I think my dad had a hand in creating, so it is important for me and our family to protect his legacy.”
On the most underrated wrestlers of AEW roster
“Underrated is a dirty word to me because I feel like sometimes it means under pushed or undervalued. If you’re just taking the word at face value, I think the most underrated guy in AEW is probably Jack Evans. Jack Evans walks around backstage super casual and I don’t think people have any idea of what he’s capable of in the ring and what he’s already done in the ring. He’s just special, he is somebody that I always say I’d really like to get a singles match with. I don’t know if he knows how much we value him but Jack Evans is very underrated”.
On Jeff Cobb signing with AEW
“It’s still in gestation. Jeff works with New Japan, with Ring of Honor, and now he works with AEW. I’m a big fan of Jeff because I like shooters in wrestling. I don’t try to consider myself one with my limited amateur background but I think Jeff is a tank, he is a special athlete. I hope that he may be pursuing a longer thing with AEW but I don’t want it to impede on anything that he’s doing in his soul. If he wants to travel the globe and do all kinds of stuff, then you have at it. That’s one of the great things about AEW, there are no ‘blanket’ contracts. Everybody’s contract is different about what they can do, where they can go. Tony Khan has really tailored and contoured contracts to speak to your sensibility, “hey, this independent means a lot to me” or “hey, going to Wrestle Kingdom means a lot to me.” Whatever they may be is doors open and we’re open for business. We do have Jeff for more than just the Atlanta show but I’d love to see Jeff in a more long-term deal with us, he’s a special talent.”
On the learning experience that four months of Dynamite has been
“There’s been no change as far as the creative. You have the four EVPs, the guys there in the ring, and then you have Tony Khan. That is the creative structure. There’s plenty of advisors and help. How could you not activate resources when you have somebody like Jim Ross standing 10 feet away, Taz, Tony Schiavone, Dean Malenko or Dustin? But we always like to keep our circle, no pun intended, our inner circle small because this was always Tony’s idea to have the EVPs and him be on the creative side of things. We really are forming a team for the long term.
I’ve learned a lot just in the 20 Dynamites. I have learned a lot about the workload that this is going to genuinely take versus the workload perhaps we thought. I’ve learned a lot about being on the other side. Management is unique. You feel like a talent, you feel like a wrestler, but people talk to you differently, the boys and girls are treating you differently. I want to be a leader in the best way that I possibly can, I want to be honest with everybody, I want to try to communicate with everybody. I try to keep a very open communication with all because I think that’s important. Those are just lessons for me, mainly I learned something new every day. I’m surrounded by really smart people in business who, like me, sit in the room and make decisions. That’s why it hasn’t changed because it speaks to the mission we set out on in the first place.”
On being back to Las Vegas for Double or Nothing
“MGM Grand is a magical place. Not only we will be back for Double or Nothing but we’ll be back for an encore with Dynamite on Wednesday. I probably am spoiling it, but with that in mind, going from Saturday to Wednesday, that means that we’re going to load those days up with AEW events. We want the entire wrestling world to come out to Vegas for the Memorial Day weekend. I think Double or Nothing will probably find a home for quite some time in the MGM Grand.”
On TNT 3-year contract extension and how it impacts the way AEW is going after free agents
“I remember thinking at All In that the doors might be open for our peers in wrestling to look at us and go, “hey I want to be part of what they’re doing.” But how long, if ever, do we close the doors after amassing a roster? Across TNT property AEW is reaching 37 million people, having the youngest wrestling audience. Yes, the revolution is real and it’s happening. We’re loving every second of it. I am obviously happy that people are wanting to come to us and the doors will remain open. When I look at free agency, the main thing we still look at is are you fresh? It doesn’t matter how old you are particularly, but are you fresh? Are you someone with something they haven’t seen, that can provide fresh match-ups and can you go bell-to-bell? We still are a bell-to-bell wrestling company but the doors are open. If more people look at what we’re doing and the cascade of events that happened in wrestling since AEW started, that makes me happy. That means more of my peers and more of the people who I have shared these bumps with are getting paid more, are taking care of their families better. It’s a real proud time to be a wrestler, and as somebody who grew up in the wrestling business and was always proud of, I’m proud that that can be happening right now.”
On talent scouting and having a training facility
“As far as scouting talent goes, that’s become something that we’re talking about. I know that I and Taz want to take a trip to the NCAA collegiate finals. The combine itself has eyes on it as far as grooming potentially professional athletes who have a look, a size, and an athletic ability. We are the DIY company right now. You have guys like The Young Bucks who were born and bred on an independent level, they’re still mining the independent scene as well so our eyes are opened. I mentioned the NCAA tournament but at the same time, we’re looking at the hottest independent acts of all pro wrestling, for example, All-Pro Wrestling in Northern Cal or DEFY.
“As far as training schools go, I’ve now kind of taken to a leadership and ownership role at the school in Norcross Georgia which we dubbed the Nightmare Factory. That’s where Sadie Gibbs is going to be training, that’s where Antony Ogogo is going to be training. It is not affiliated with AEW other than its affiliation with me. Maybe it potentially could grow into a full-time situation but we don’t have that many trainee wrestlers at the moment. Maybe we will one day but right now everyone, for the most part, is fairly seasoned or not nursing an injury. The facility will be open to all as far as AEW is concerned. This past weekend Dean Malenko held a seminar and 85% of the roster voluntarily showed up so it seems like if we’re willing things into existence, which is kind of my whole MO, it seems like maybe potentially that spot will become part of AEW in the future. For now, it’s my own thing and a place for people to get reps in, train, nurse injuries, rehab and come back.”
On plans for the women’s division
Women’s division is just growing. When you hear the natural criticisms and you hear the good things about your show, you also hear the things people don’t like and you’ve got to keep your ears open. You can’t be closed-minded to it. One thing that is going to take time is the women’s division, in particular. AEW’s a merit-based wrestling show and the best wrestlers are going to wrestle on that show. I think we have some of the best wrestlers and some of the best women’s wrestlers. I’d really like to see Big Swole emerge, Britt Baker is on absolute fire, Nyla Rose becoming the second AEW Women’s World Champion was an amazing moment and maybe the best match on the best show we’ve done, so that speaks to the talent level of Nyla and Riho. Be patient with AEW because we’re actively doing everything we can to grow the division, to cultivate the division and to make it a very strong women’s division. It’s a special thing right now in wrestling, how popular women’s wrestling has become. Women’s wrestling does incredibly with merch and ticket sales, so we genuinely want to make it a huge part of our brand.”
On signing more people of colour for the men’s division
“Of course. I have been taking a deep dive on the old YouTube and a guy named Chris Bey who is a prime example of somebody that potentially could be good to our singles division. Tony’s commitment is the same as my commitment, as far as a hundred percent it’s a demographic that we do well in but we should be doing much better. None of us is pretending when we say we want the show to be congruent with what America really looks like in 2020.”
(Bey has since signed with Impact Wrestling)
On woke points and the need for it
“You just have to lead with your content and your content is what speaks to who you are as a company, who’s out there front and centre on Dynamite versus making it a big marketing campaign. There’s plenty of things that you can create a marketing campaign around and that there’s nothing nefarious in that. Most viewers are smart enough to smell when something is being done to check a box and for a publicity sake versus just leading with your content. That’s why you don’t see that many statements made by the EVPs or Tony every week after a show because we really are the shows and Dynamite. We lead with what is on the show and go with the best wrestlers for that show.”
On Nyla Rose
“The real way to end some of this bigotry and transphobia and this negativity is don’t hit the ball back, let them talk. Nyla Rose won the Women’s World Championship because she was the best woman in AEW. We should all stop hitting the ball back to those people because it’s 2020, everybody should love everybody.”
On the best and worst moments of the last 13 months
“One thing I’m most proud of is no one here at AEW is taking any type of victory laps. We have our Wednesday show. On Thursday at 4 o’clock or a little earlier, the ratings come out, the feedback comes in but t’s instantly right back to what do we do next week, s far as what we have mapped out long-form but also how do we shake it up. It’s just a really kind of friendly, energetic, passionate environment of people who have come to AEW. The more people who speak out, who work for us, from the luminary legendary figures to the younger roster, the more you’ll hear that is about how everybody really is excited to get there on Wednesday, do the show and nobody wants to leave. That passion, you can’t put a price on it, so I’m very proud that exists within the company. I’m proud we don’t get ahead of ourselves. We’re working very disciplined and we want to make this right for every wrestling fan and create all-new wrestling fans.
“As far as regrets, I don’t think I have a single regret about this. I don’t have any regrets about AEW, it’s gone so well. People will come to the events and they can feel that from me and the other performers in the ring, so no regrets. I’m very proud of everything and I’m very proud of where everything is going.”
All pics and videos courtesy of AEW