SteelChair Wrestling Magazine had the chance of joining Thursday’s media call where AEW’s Executive Vice President and TNT Champion Cody touched on a variety of topics such as the Full Gear card, his match against Darby Allin on PPV, building young talent, the highly-anticipated new show on TNT, and the incredible loyalty of the UK fans, and much more.
On his ‘Full Gear’opponent, Darby Allin
“I had a conversation with Jim Ross about Darby. Who is Darby going to be in the future for AEW? Where does he play, and how it’s a tough draw for him to be in there for me while I’m still on the climb up of this rollercoaster. This run that I’ve gone on is genuinely unexpected. I can’t apologize for my own hard work. I’m very excited about it – it’s what I’ve dreamed of my whole life. But this is a very different Darby. This is a Darby, who now has experience with Jon Moxley. This is a Darby, who is not bewildered by the big lights anymore. He is one of the most dedicated wrestlers at AEW. He doesn’t party, he doesn’t politic, he consistently thinks out his own brand and how his brand can lean in to the AEW brand. He is a loner, but I don’t think he realizes he’s also a leader because of how he leads by example.
“When this match was brought up to me, it’s already a vastly different match because I’m dealing with a different Darby, and he’s dealing with a different me. I gained 14 real pounds during my hiatus, and I’m continuing to bulk and cycle through Full Gear, all the way to Revolution. Darby’s now in there with a full-fledged heavyweight. The longer this goes, the more in his favour this match will be because he’s got the lighter body fat composition. But I think your hot dog is not going to get cold for this match. Darby has not been able to beat me on three occasions. I don’t think this will be any different. I don’t mean to undersell my own match. I’m not looking past Darby, but I think there were other challengers that could have stepped up. If Darby is the one, if he’s not gonna bend the knee again, I’ll stand corrected on that. I’m very proud of Darby. I solely recruited him when no one else wanted him. So I’m glad to have him in this match. I’m not looking past him at all.”
On the TNT title
“For 20 years, people have been pre-conditioned that other singles titles are somehow less than another title. We don’t have any positioning of our titles other than what the fans dictate. Now, we can do our best to present you, Jon Moxley, as the World champion, the best wrestler in the world, PWI’s number one. I was genuinely super pissed about it. I thought this year was my year. I don’t want to get on a tangent, but I had this big plan to do a centrefold deal where it reveals, and they do pyro… I was ready, and PWI keeps that list so close to the chest. If you ever meet a wrestler that says they don’t care about the PWI 500, believe me, you haven’t met a successful wrestler. Believe me, we all care. I’m gunning for number one.
“That random weird tangent aside, I love – my favourite moment of the night is when I walk from my office to the go position, and I have this title on. It’s such a beautiful physical belt, and nothing feels more like wrestling than having that around my waist. It’s perfect. I think there’s a number of people that, if I wasn’t carrying the TNT title, could carry the title. It really is ‘the’ belt. It is the ‘ace’ championship as Jim Ross has dubbed it. If it wasn’t me, someone like PAC, someone like Darby Allin, Scorpio Sky, Hangman Page, Jon Moxley himself. There’s no singles division better than what AEW has, hands down, in terms of bell-to-bell. That title, if it leaves my hands and inevitably if you win some matches, you lose some matches, it will leave my hands at some point, and when it does, I’m sure the person that’s carrying it will carry it with the same amount of equity it was born with. It is a title that really, really matters, and all you need to do is vanity search it. You’ll see the discussion. When there’s a discussion, that’s a success. It’s the most widely discussed belt in all of the sports, and I am so proud to be the one carrying it.”
On Eddie Kingston going for the World Championship so fast after being signed
“One thing that comes from the education I’ve had since I was a little boy – I’ve been in wrestling, I’ve seen it, talked about it every day, utter my first words. That education is very valuable when it comes to talent recruitment. I take talent recruitment very seriously, and in particular, if you’re wrestling me, and if I put my name on you, I expect that project to be an incredibly successful project. Ricky Starks was somebody who was out there lingering, and the Voices of Wrestling cast were telling me every five minutes about how wonderful he was, and I already knew he was particularly wonderful, I’d seen. I saw the self-produced vignette he did for the NWA. A very special type of individual. Eddie Kingston was somebody who made waves also with the wonderful social media muscle he has. Both guys, I had the utmost confidence in their ability to deliver, and I’m super happy that I’m the one who recruited them – but it’s just me who opened the door. They are both are the ones who have run with the ball. If somebody handed it to them, it doesn’t matter at this point anymore because they’ve scored over and over again.
“Last night, Kingston and Moxley had a piece of television that has really been a lightning rod this morning and this early afternoon about, just the discussion of promos and interviews, and what Eddie is able to do in terms of… The most important thing in a promo, or in an interview, is that you touch the audience at home, and you touch the audience in their seats. You have to connect with them. Suspension of disbelief is not what sells tickets in wrestling. The personal experience, the connection, a personality connecting to another personality. If you’re watching AEW, you have your people who you want to win. You have your people who you don’t want to lose. You have the people you like to root against.
“Eddie has that ability to connect to an audience. He has it with his wrestling ability in the ring, and he has it with his ability on the microphone. That’s what a wrestler is. That’s what a total package really is. I’m so proud of Eddie, which is such a strange thing to say about such a hard dude. I’m sure he wouldn’t want me saying that about him. I’m pretty sure he’s more of a veteran than me, but I was happy that I was able to open that door. It’s up to him to finish the work when it comes to Full Gear, then he’ll find out, and he probably already knows – the work never ends. I know Eddie Kingston fans from all around the world are excited to see this 18-year saga, where it’s landed in the main event of the biggest PPV and the biggest card I can imagine in years. Just look at this card top to bottom, just look at The Elite matches alone, my gosh, and Eddie to be at the top of the bill with Pretty Platinum, the world championship, that’s got to be a big moment for him. I’m confident he’s going to execute.”
On the disappointment about the lack of build-up of the Hikaru Shida vs. Nyla Rose rematch
“I personally am not disappointed because my outlook on wrestling is there’s a wrestling ring, and we have wrestlers, and we have rankings, and there will be matches. I do understand that, for the last 20 years, fans have been conditioned to think that every match is going to start with an invisible camera and a piece of cake in catering, and someone takes that last piece of cake, and now there’s drama. Now there is a ‘storyline’. In our case, it’s sports-centric. We’re right back to it, and I meant it when I said it. I hope folks aren’t disappointed when they get this actual wonderful match between two incredible female performers. There is no one better than Shida, and I’m talking about our women’s division and our men’s division. But I am aware that for 20 years, they’ve been conditioned that every match needs to have a War & Peace story connected to it. That will not be the case with AEW. We have wrestling matches because we are a wrestling show. It’s in the title. I hope, if there was any disappointment in the build, there will be no disappointment in the execution.”
On how AEW Dark helps new talent
“AEW DARK, the title was mine. I wanted to theme it after the Dark Universe monster movies that never happened, in terms of its iconography and all that. The concept was all the EVPs and Tony Khan, of course, but where it’s at now with so many independent wrestlers who are out of work due to COVID and the pandemic coming in, and so many matches – DARK is a staggering number of great matches every week – that credit is solely Tony Khan and his love for the wrestling economy, bringing in some of the people that you like.
“We’re finding amongst that crop of talent, in a much more conducive environment than a straight squash or a straight enhancement, where these competitive matches exist, we’re finding some real diamonds. I think Red Velvet is somebody that’s going to be a big part of the women’s division. I didn’t think that her first outing. It’s been her second and the third outing and the continued application of what our coaches are giving them. DARK is another really wonderful space for our coaches and talent to go out there with a super long leash and have a lot of fun. We have Jerry Lynn, Dean Malenko, Dustin Rhodes, BJ Whitmer, Christopher Daniels, QT Marshall – we have these coaches from all walks of life and all different styles. To be able to be out there and not be hamstrung by Dynamite itself, or those time parameters perhaps, it’s really created a wonderful thing.
“If I was not on Dynamite, I would want to be the king of DARK. Not unlike what Ricky Starks is doing at this moment. He’s very smart. I would want to be on commentary, doing promos, competitive matches, enhancement matches… DARK is very special, and right now, DARK does not exist without Tony Khan and QT Marshall because they stay up all night. Me, I have to get my beauty rest and sleep because I’m still wrestling, but they stay up all night coming up with the best DARK’s with the best people, and it’s really been something that has assisted and supplemented Dynamite, which it was intended to do, helping us find and recruit new talent.”
On finding the Rhodes name back
“When I get the opportunity with the live crowd to send them home with some note, I always assume it’s confidential, which is the silliest thing when you’re talking to a live crowd with cameras everywhere. I’m very happy about being Cody Rhodes again. The details of it all aren’t important, other than it was a very positive, no-hard-feelings on either side type scenario. I will say, though, it’s not something I probably will use in the wrestling space. I’ve gotten very used to the American Nightmare’ Cody. I like how Justin Roberts says it. I just like it, and I’ve liked it for some time.
“Where I’m most excited about Cody Rhodes being available again is when it comes to third party ventures, and things like ‘Go-Big Show’ that I just took part in – the show I was part of that’s coming to TBS. In our wrestling bubble that we’re all in – we’re all a family and a part of all of us – everyone kind of knows the saga of Cody Rhodes. When you dip your toes into different waters and other worlds, they may not understand. They don’t need that pre-existing equity or baggage. So, it’ll be nice to finally tell them what they can credit on the screen and where the SAG credits can go, and things of that nature. It was a very special day. I’m happy it worked out, and I’m very thankful for everybody who was involved.”
On increasing AEW’s presence in the UK
“The goal of AEW from an executive standpoint, from where I sit, is always to expand. That’s to capture international audiences, casual fans, lapsed fans. Chris Harrington put together an intense spreadsheet, and he colour-coded it for the ones of us who didn’t go to college, an intense spreadsheet on how well we were doing. How pointed the data was in terms of families in homes, in terms of 18-49, the actual youth of the United Kingdom, and how plugged in they were. That type of success will hopefully beget more success and more penetration and presence when it comes to our great TV partner that is ITV. So those discussions, to be frank, have happened.
“The discussion of us doing a show in the UK, that’s a no-brainer. I’m not supposed to break any news, and ultimately Tony Khan is steering this ship, but I can tell you flat out – when the world is open again, we will absolutely be in the UK. I don’t think of just one show. There are too many markets, and you’re not a wrestler, in my opinion, until you’ve wrestled in front of a UK crowd. They go a different way and a very special way. I’m really proud of that data. I’m proud to be partners with ITV. It was wonderful to see PAC back on the show this week, Anthony Ogogo, in terms of his commentary learning from Taz and Excalibur at the desk. Our UK presence, hopefully, will have a great 2021. We’re geared and heading that way, and I can’t wait to see what else we do on ITV.”
Full Gear Complete Card:
- The Buy In – NWA Women’s World Championship match: Serena Deeb (c) vs. Allysin Kay
- Orange Cassidy vs Jon Silver
- Elite Deletion Match: Matt Hardy vs Sammy Guevara
- Chris Jericho vs MJF
- AEW Women’s World Championship match: Hikaru Shida (c) vs Nyla Rose
- AEW World Title Eliminator Tournament Final: Kenny Omega vs Hangman Adam Page
- TNT Championship match: Cody (c) vs Darby Allin
- AEW Tag Team Championship match: FTR (c) vs The Young Bucks
- AEW World Championship – I Quit Match: Jon Moxley (c) vs Eddie Kingston
All pics courtesy of AEW