SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Earlier today, AEW executive vice president Cody Rhodes held a press conference for assembled wrestling media. Below are the highlights of that conference:
-Rhodes mentioned he is looking forward to his match with Lance Archer, but was also reflective and celebrated last year at the MGM Grand and the just-announced TV deal at the time. Spirit still exists to push boundaries and grow, but wanted to do so safely and responsibly. Apologizes for any tech issues, more folks on call than usual.
-First question asked was if there were major card changes from pre-pandemic to now. Rhodes responded that 90 percent was kept, “was given a curve ball at plate but hope to connect.” Rhodes followed up by saying that a bright spot of this period of time backstage was Tony Khan. Cody specifically praised Khan for big time leadership and “putting this together along with Kevin Sullivan and Jim Morris.” Cody finished celebrating stars like the Young Bucks and Hangman Page being at the PPV as well.
– A comparison of Cody’s mindset as an EVP and performer going into Double or NOthing this year to last year when the promotion was a young upstart was asked. Self awareness is key for Cody, and he wants to make sure Double or Nothing “has a diverse palate of matches,” as well as seeing folks like MJF and Jungle boy as “young Stunning Steve and Natural Dustin Rhodes.” Goal is to make the show the “Best damn buffet.”
-Next was a question regarding how different the approach has been to shows since their shift to closed arenas. Cody mentioned that just to get into the hallway of his office, Cody has to get a temperature check in the parking lot, and then again in the hallway. Ring crew works overtime to sanitize, and best attempts are made to prevent cross-contamination. Cody also cited Doc Sampson and the med team’s work have been above and beyond to make sure everyone is tested. Cody also said with no one in the crowd, there is no one to toss his belts to, and it’s their job as talent to make sure they’re entertaining and also relish the challenge. He applauded Chris Jericho in particular for stepping up. Cody really enjoyed the idea that “swords have been sharpened” with regards to how much talent has learned since the start of the pandemic.
-Cody was asked with the addition of the new championship, the question of how TNT Championship will work with ranking systems as mentioned by Tony Khan. Cody said that the TNT Champion will not be ranked. Rhodes followed up and said Moxley has “Big Platinum” which the rankings will reflect contendership for, but titles won’t be seen as one and two per se. Cody also couldn’t say TNT title is the “workhorse/mid-card title.” Top 5 will all be non-champions and has bent toward number 1 contender getting the shot at the AEW Championship, due to Khan’s influence in that regard but “we’ll see where it goes.”
-Cody was then asked about the anniversary of “Empire Strikes Back” and Brodie Lee’s debut on AEW. Cody is proud of Brodie stepping up as a leader. Cody was always in locker rooms with great leaders without bullying, where the focus was on respect. He Brodie as well as Shawn Spears have done that well. Lee’s match is a proving ground against Jon Moxley and he looks forward to it. Cody also noted that AEW went from light-heavy company to a much larger profile of super-heavyweights. In terms of “Empire Strikes Back,” Cody will have to wait to celebrate, as he gets nervous before PPVs so he’s focused on his match and will get to that after. If it’s like normal, Brandi will fall asleep by Hoth Battle and he’ll be engrossed.
-Up next was a question regarding Daily’s Place and its fit in the AEW base of operations. Cody says that it is a special place as AEW’s home arena. Cody further mentioned that the parking lot was where the initial AEW press conference was. Cody said there were a lot of tools to use in the space as well as more areas you may see on TV.
-With Florida opening, Cody was asked if as states open would AEW do empty arenas elsewhere? Cody said plan is to stay in one spot, mitigates risk, and it’s easy logistically to do so. He said he hopes fans can come back eventually, but if it was up to Cody, stay there until fans can come in – and even after. He said it’s no secret fans are starting to show up in the parking lot to show love while social distancing.
-When Cody was asked about the biggest AEW accomplishment so far, Cody said that the AEW Unrivaled toy line stood out. Rhodes was really proud of the ability for those toys into kids’ hands like it would when he was a kid. Cody added the shows done at the Nightmare Factory, which isn’t officially affiliated with AEW but is a personal project of his. The shows there reminded Cody a lot of The Replacements movie with Keanu Reeves. Some folks may not be “replacements” anymore contract-wise as well, in terms of “extras” that wrestled at that location and Daily’s Place in the time since.
-In terms of post-pandemic, Cody said the one change that may endure could be the handshake going away. Cody gave a brief history of the handshake and how going forward that may mean that death of the handshake as “the” show of respect. Cody said he had chatted with Colt Cabana on the varied reasons wrestlers had learned to shake hands. Cody said another layer of knowledge in terms of how the company handles crises was instrumental.
-When asked about measures in place if someone got coronavirus, Cody detailed the scheduled out blocks of testing under quarantine measures. Rhodes said that if someone were to test positive they would get the swab test, and would not be near any other staff crew. Medical / Wrestling / Staff have been divided to prevent cross pollination. As a result of the delineation, a positive test wouldn’t shut down production.
-Cody turned the table on the next media member, Emily Pratt, and asked her what her favorite interview drink was. Emily said hers was a Red Bull, and Cody responded that he’d begun to drink the Bang Peach Mango drink. Cody was trying to go back to coffee, particularly since this was the first generation that had aspartame and were not aware of its full effects.
-Cody was asked what the positives have been without fans. Cody responded that every aspect of a good wrestling match depends on the crowd. As a result, working for a crowd that’s at home is a lot of hoping and guessing. Ultimately Cody sees the current situation as an opportunity to become a better performer and wrestler.
-Regarding how Mike Tyson was able to come in for the TNT Championship presentation, was Tyson part of the original plan? Rhodes said that he and the AEW brass met Tyson at Double or Nothing last year, and that Tyson’s appearance came together as a “final touch” to the show. Cody said that Tyson’s a big fan and they wanted someone with an element of prestige.
-With regards to whether fans/media will see the TNT Championship belt before Saturday, Cody repeated he hasn’t seen it yet, and wants a surprise. Cody mentioned that he realized that leaks happen, but wanted to have the mystery a while longer.
-On the next breakout main eventer from the mid-card, Cody “doesn’t like to give it, MJF is destined for something incredibly great. Very different, very adaptive type of wrestler.”
Cody said that MJF’s match with Jungle Boy in particular is one to watch as both are still growing, putting on “drug-free, healthy size.” Cody also mentioned Sammy Guevara has been great on television every week. In addition, Rhodes said that Hikaru Shida is a really good candidate on the women’s side – just “really wholesome.” Wardlow is another one that’s great. Cody says it’s his job to show they are not just stuck in the mid-card. He suggested the Best Friends stepping up potentially with their Buy In match, then cites Trent as a great singles competitor if given the chance.
-With regards to anything creatively being done in an empty arena that didn’t work, Cody said that adding wrestlers to the crowd has helped with removing utter silence. “That scares me half to death, silence,” he said. Usage of microphones when not with an audience is a stickler for Cody.
-Question was asked about the show in Rochester being rescheduled. “Hey, we’re gonna make it to Rochester!” Cody said. No show has been cancelled, all have been merely postponed. He said we should see new dates in the next two weeks. Cody specifically said only live event plans that may take long to renew are international dates.
-Final question was if Hardy was an official member of The Elite? Cody said that Matt Hardy is “wonderful.” He said he had him sit and tell stories to younger guys and they appreciate Hardy’s presence. He said The Elite more than anything is The OG – Kenny Omega and the Jacksons. Extended Universe Elite is Marty Scurll, Hangman Page, Matt, Cody. Cody finished by mentioning he “goes hard on Nightmare Family out of respect of The Elite,” not wanting to ride their coattails. Said Hardy got “battlefield promotion” to Elite.