KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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PRESS CONFERENCE HIGHlLIGHTS: Cody Rhodes discusses increased workload, importance of AEW Title match with Chris Jericho, outdated ways of evaluating ratings and improvements coming to AEW women’s division
Prior to AEW’s Full Gear, EVP Cody Rhodes held a press conference for assembled wrestling media. Below are the highlights of that conference…
-Rhodes said that this session was good luck, as the press conference prior to Dynamite led to the debut that was so well-received by fans, media, and Warner partners alike.
-Jason Powell of ProWrestling.net opened the questions with how Cody has seen development and crispness of wrestlers going from just All In/All Out to now having weekly TV to build for pay-per-views. Cody responded that Dynamite has been helpful for development, as well as AEW Dark to allow lesser-known talents to shine and learn.
-Cody’s promo from this week was brought up and how he prepared for it. Cody responded that he prepared for the job and the moment, and receiving praise from people like The Rock, as well as coming back to accolades through the “Dusty” position was awesome, but he was more appreciative of how it resonated with fans.
-Cody agreed that the AEW men’s world title match was the biggest match in his career on Saturday, but said one of his mentors, Hollywood acting teacher Howard Fine would say “the truth carries weight,” which in this case referred to the pressure Cody has put on himself to have a good match, as well as the AEW roster’s desire to knock the pay-per-view out of the park. Cody also said his focus was to ensure what was said during the lead up to the creation of AEW “were not campaign promises” and that they will seek to be people of their word in that regard.
-Cody was asked about the chances for a mid-card title, and while Cody didn’t want to have it labeled as such (he cited his time toiling as a mid-carder in WWE) there would be a prize of some sort to bestow upon an up-and-coming talent in the near future. Cody closed this answer with his desire to see Riho’s AEW Women’s Championship and the AEW Tag Team Championships perceived on the same level as Chris Jericho’s AEW men’s championship.
-Cody then was asked a question on rankings and how they would be implemented. Cody said that sometime in the next day or so the top five for all three titles will be published, and the plan is to have them published every Friday after that. Cody said that if they didn’t get published, “you can call me out and internet the heck out of me.”
-Cody then talked about feedback received and applied since their debut on Dynamite. Rhodes said there was a difference between constructive criticism vs. narrative criticism and noted that he sends weekly emails to the team to let them know what he saw and where he thought they could do better. One such example was the audio mix of the entrance music. Cody mentioned that the focus should be on the raucous crowd, but he will try to make sure that the themes are mixed in better as that’s what fans want.
-Cody mentioned that the AEW Women’s Division will start to get more spotlight in the weeks to come. Cody specifically talked about VTR, in-ring, and vignettes and said there’s an issue with visas “in the current political environment” and that puts a dent in their very intentionally-international Women’s Division. Cody also talked about how he’s looking forward to Emi Sakura vs. Riho because of the teacher-student dynamic. Cody then talked about how Kenny Omega wants to try to build something that’s merit-based and different than shows you may watch elsewhere. Cody also cited the southern crowd in Charlotte rooting for Riho in her first appearance there as an example of that idea.
-Chris Mueller from Bleacher Report asked Cody what the biggest lesson learned was in Cody’s time as an Executive Vice President. Cody said the “diplomacy of wrestling” was important when things go wrong or different. In particular, Cody cited that being able to – even in stressful moments – treat each other and staff with respect were paramount to him. Cody also talked about watching coaches such as Dean Malenko work with tag teams in a seminar last week showed him the value of coaches – as well as Arn Anderson’s (unaffiliated officially with AEW) mentoring and helping during AEW Dark. Cody also said he’s the “product of 30 people” in terms of everything from his entrance to his media work and everything in between. Cody’s biggest hurdle was “maintaining the buzz… but we cannot become a reactionary brand.”
-Jeremy Thomas from 411mania asked about ratings, and while initial ratings exceeded expectations, what were the thoughts of the current trend and how could AEW grow their audience. Cody responded that the biggest thing is to get people to talk throughout the week, give them characters they knew such as Moxley, along with people they could grow to learn and enjoy. Rhodes continued and said that a lot of wrestling critics and media will look at ratings like it’s 1997 or 1998, but with the analytics that Chris Harrington and his staff has provided, things have moved past that. Rhodes then proudly said that “six weeks in a row we’ve gone head to head with WWE and six weeks they’ve been on the losing end.” Cody said that speaks to the revolution, as this week stars like A.J. Styles appeared on NXT. To move onward and upward, Rhodes said it had to be from characters, not ads or marketing. “Go out there and get over… we’ve got the best talent and the best damn attitude.”
-Cody said regarding the three judge panel at the AEW Men’s Championship match he would have no say, as that would be a conflict of interest, but per Tony Khan there would be three championship-caliber coaches. Cody bristled at the notion someone on Twitter said this was similar to TNA’s prior attempt at judges, and said that “we’re not making the make-up person a judge.”
-To the question of Turner’s involvement with Dynamite and their view of the AEW presentation, Cody said that it’s been “smooth sailing” as far as production thoughts and gave examples of sky cam, turnbuckle-and-fan cams as innovations provided by Turner to add to the experience, and to continue to add a cinematic experience to pro wrestling.
-Cody answered a question regarding Dusty and how Dusty would view the roster of up-and-comers on AEW’s roster – notably Darby Allin and Private Party – given Dusty’s love for the NXT “kids.” Cody gave the example of Dusty’s first time with ECW and how “The American Dream” went from being nervous to enjoying the fans and the environment – and particularly Dusty’s excitement on the different way fans viewed that product compared to Dusty’s heyday.
-I provided the final question of the session. After reminding Rhodes of the conversation we’d shared during the last press conference on representation in AEW and Rhodes’s follow-up of contacting wrestlers, I asked him how he saw Being The Elite, AEW Dark, and the Road to series vis a vis AEW Dynamite, as with the congested schedule that is a lot of content to digest to stay “current.” Cody responded that he saw AEW Dynamite as the main product and everything else as “shoulder content.” Cody likened the additional shows to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and how you can read a book about a character like Admiral Thrawn and get sucked in, or you can just watch the movies and enjoy – both both sets of fans enjoy based on the level they want.