All Elite Wrestling Executive Vice President “The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes recently spoke with TV Insider on a number of topics, including how Cody feels about AEW Dynamite’s first year, how Tony Khan didn’t even flinch when COVID hit, what Cody hopes to achieve in AEW Dynamite’s second year and more.
Below are the highlights:
On how Cody feels about AEW Dynamite’s first year:
“For me, I’m really just gleamingly proud of what everyone has done. I remember telling my mom after the first Dynamite that we’ve changed the business…This business has fed our family since the 1970s. And it has irrevocably changed, and it has changed forever. It was this village that was AEW that did that. The shockwaves sent when we started Dynamite extends far beyond AEW. It has changed every business. It has changed WWE, Impact, ROH, all for the positive. It is very much a rising tide. It’s something that when you put it in perspective, there is a lot to be proud of. It’s not always, “Well, was my match the biggest draw?” This role as executive vice president I’m rooting for every single person on this show. Every single minute, every single second of this show. I’m very proud of this crew and this locker room.”
On how Tony Khan didn’t even flinch when COVID hit:
“The big thing is Tony Khan did not flinch when the pandemic took hold. He took a step back and thought about what this is, and how it would affect our world. The first thing he instituted was testing, quarantine measures. I was proud that we were the first to lead the charge in terms of wrestling and getting tests for everybody, quarantining all talent. It’s a lot of work. It’s definitely a headache and operation overkill, but that’s the only way to run a safe production. Not only that, we partnered with the Mayo Clinic here in Jacksonville for the potential positives we might see. Most of the time false positives.
Then we are even blessed further that we are in Daily’s Place, an open-air amphitheater so we can slowly implement fans coming back in pods only. With entertainment, live concerts, pro wrestling, people want to start filing up these arenas again. We’re on a staircase. We can’t get from the top step from the bottom step in one week. We have to move up the staircase and move up the banister slowly but surely. Otherwise it will ruin it for everybody.
As far as AEW is concerned, the iron was incredibly sharpened by the pandemic. We had a title that was born amid coronavirus. The title goes hand-in-hand with the fact that the world had shut down everywhere, but AEW was able to give you entertainment Wednesday nights. I can’t say enough how proud I am of Tony Khan, Doc Sampson and the team of people that were brought in to make sure talent was safe and the fans were safe.”
On how they try to listen to fan feedback and block out any noise:
“For me, I know that early on I put out a nice post that I wanted everyone’s feedback. I wanted to hear what they liked, what they didn’t, what worked and what they thought didn’t work and why. I still very much stand by that.
There absolutely is this background noise that exists on certain social platforms. Twitter is kind of dying out to a degree in terms of its potency. One of the mistakes I made in management early on is I talked a lot. I talked a lot in terms of the product will be this. This is how the product will be presented. I was basically trying to frame up what our goals were for the company. But when you talk so much, the show almost draws the ire of many fans.
I’ll admit everyone in MGM Grand loved when i broke the throne. But there are people who consider that a very real shot [at WWE]. They take it very seriously. When it comes to social mentions, we have a full data report after every show. If you follow them, you can clearly see where you find actual credible thoughts. It’s then you can see the hurt WWE fan that is pretty much going to say what they want to try and draw attention.
A lot of times we have given them attention. We’re learning slowly and surely that Twitter is really aging out in terms of its value and what it can offer. That’s what I learned in year one. Talk less as a member of management and show more.”
On showcasing who he truly is since his return:
“I think the Cody you’ll see on TV is genuinely who I am. A long time ago I drew some fire online, and probably rightfully so, because I made a blanket statement when it shouldn’t’ have been about there not being heels and faces.
There are definitely heels and faces, but there are also heels, faces and stars. We know and look every Thursday about who is drawing on the show, who is selling merchandise, who is getting general social interest. We know the difference. When I said that, more of what I meant is I no longer play a character on television. Wrestling is so much more real than some people understand. Everything I do is authentic to who I’ve become.
I’m in this upper management position helping Tony lead this ship. That’s a whole new world for me. I’m not just one of the boys anymore. I want their respect more than their friendship. That’s different and me dipping my toes into new water. When it comes to me and what you’ve seen on screen, it’s authentic. I don’t think I’ll ever be a bad guy in wrestling again. It would be swimming upstream. There is so much general data that supports what a young audience I have, specifically to me.
If I can offer them any hope and something to get behind, I’m definitely not going to be turning my back on that by any means. I worked my whole career to have people care about me. Here I am at 35 and the lightbulb goes off and I’m in the prime of my career in the best run of my career. The idea of me ever being a bad guy or a heel, I can’t see it. Never say never in wrestling, but I can’t see it.”
On his experience working on the Go-Big Show for TBS:
“The Go-Big Show was a wonderful experience. To be able to sit there and be entertained and be given the role of a judge for some of these heartland American and international acts during a time like now in a pandemic. It is really good to see the world come together in a sense with some very different acts.
Snoop Dogg is really the captain and the lead of Go-Big Show. On the second night I think he said, “Nobody is here by chance. Everyone here is in an upward trajectory. That stuck with me. I’m there not solely because of my management team or myself. It’s because I represent AEW, and AEW is on this upward trajectory that is amazing. If you think about it where we started and what we’re doing now, the business is forever changed. I don’t mean that with hyperbole or bravado. I say that with pride because I love wrestling and want to see it change.”
On what he hopes to achieve in AEW Dynamite’s second year:
“We have to move from novelty to commodity. One thing we’ve continued to do is recruit. People wonder why we’re recruiting when we only have this two-hour bullseye to hit. We know that this third hour is going to present itself soon. And I don’t mean a third hour of Dynamite. I mean a separate hour on a WarnerMedia network.
We’ll be able to diversify and freshen up the content on a regular basis. That’s why I think recruitment is vastly important, even in this two-hour window. The word was fresh when we started. Let’s recruit fresh. Let’s look fresh. We have to continue to be fresh. Our opponent in this space was unopposed for 20 years. We’ve already been around a year plus and always been opposed.
That opposition will make us continue to pivot and provide fresh content for all the major stars, middle card stars and stars at the bottom of the card. That’s what you want A stories, B stories. Everyone gets to grow that way. I think it’s a matter of keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat. I think we have to push the envelope. I really believe in pushing the envelope. Wrestling is so many things. It doesn’t have a single identity. There is a dog collar match on the show in 2020. There is blood, cursing, unscripted promos.
It’s not trash TV as much as it is artists going out there and painting that picture and playing their own music and building a fan base and letting AEW bring them in as part of the team. I really am excited for what we do in terms of the second year of Dynamite.
We have so many different flavors of ice cream. It’s fun to hear about what some of the armchair bookers would do. I love that discussion. Some good ideas come out of that. One thing I want to hit and stress is the industry has changed. The pay-per-view is no longer the lifeblood of a company. The pay-per-view is not what generates and feeds you. The television does. In our case, Dynamite.
That television contract is what we need to honor more than anything. When people say save it for the pay-per-view, hell no. We still have an idea of long-form and where we want stars like MJF, Darby Allin, Anna Jay of where we want them to be in year two and three. We still have that in our minds. Dynamite needs to be the spot you come to each week, destination programming. Save nothing because you’ll think of something else. We have enough smart people to do it. That’s my thought.”