Interview Highlights: Cody Rhodes discusses working with younger talent and following through, new programming, wrestling Shaq (w/Radican question)

By Sean Radican, PWTorch Columnist (Twitter: SR_Torch)

Cody with his entourage (photo courtesy AEW)

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Cody Rhodes answered question for the media at an online press scrum ahead of AEW Dynamite tonight and the Revolution PPV Sunday night. Below are the highlights from the press scrum: 

Sean Radican (via Rich Fann): You’ve achieved a lot of success working with young talent. A lot of young talent goes to other places like WWE and rarely do they get the chance to break through, but since you’ve arrived in AEW, you’ve worked with the likes of Darby Allin and MJF and they’ve gone on to become top tier performers in AEW. Tonight you get the chance to work with Jade Cargill and Red Velvet. You’re teaming with Red Velvet against Shaq and Jade Cargill. What has it meant to you to not only see your own status as a star grow in AEW, but you’ve also helped boost the careers of so many others both behind the scenes and on TV.

Cody Rhodes: Rhodes said this is a romantic way of describing him. He says he’s heard in other companies about how they’re going to make new stars and then it doesn’t happen or how it’s time to put your foot on the gas with certain young talent and it doesn’t happen. Rhodes said there’s a whole formula to developing stars and its the best formula because they had to do it quickly. Rhodes talks about a long list of names AEW has developed. He said that is our job. It’s our job to make them get an action and media requests. He said it’s the most gratifying thing to hear the reaction for someone you just made. Rhodes said he knows they’re talking inside baseball. He says it’s a very real high when you see people you work with get over.

Rhodes said it’s going to take looking into our own locker room and looking out into the world. Rhodes said Bill Watts found gymnasts and basketball. Rhodes said at his own gym they found Wardlow who is money in the bank. He said Wardlow just borrowed his Bret Hart’s book to read.

Cody is asked about Death Matches. He says they already have a certain identity that have been given to them. He talked about FMW and Terry Funk. Rhodes talks about Matt Tremont in today’s era. Rhodes said anything involving Kenny Omega will be have its own identity. He said he doesn’t know how the explosions are going to work for the match. Rhodes said the most important thing is the title itself and that it remains in the proper hands.

Cody is asked about using legends like Paul White in AEW. Rhodes said White has been a big part of his career. Rhodes said they will always be bonded from working together at WrestleMania. Rhodes said White is motivated and wants to be in AEW. He said White wants to be in AEW in a different capacity and talks about Elevation. Rhodes thinks there’s 3-4 matches there for White as well because he thinks he can still go at a high level. Rhodes thinks White is important for the locker room because they now have so many young people on the roster that are now famous like Britt Baker, Ricky Starks, and Sammy Guevara. Rhodes said White much like Sting can keep people grounded and give them perspective.

Cody is asked what it’s like about having Paul White around at the same time Shaq is coming into AEW given their history together.  Cody is asked about whether or not its a coincidence White arrived at the same time as Shaq. Rhodes said the timing is coincidence despite the history between Shaq and Big Show. Rhodes said the match is about the rivalry between Jade and Brandi, but Brandi had to step aside because she is pregnant and Red Velvet has stepped in. Cody says Shaq brings a lot to the table in terms of bringing in an audience. Cody said he hopes Red Velvet emerges as a star and emerges victorious and become a star because of this match. He said he also hopes Jade because a star as well. Cody said he’s not going to say anything mean about Shaq because he’s entering a different world. Cody said he knows Shaq has trained, but he doesn’t think he has enough gas to compete with him.

Cody is asked about his match tonight and Red Velvet being a Latina wrestler. He is asked about how important it is for him to have a Latina wrestler with him for this match. Rhodes said it’s a beautiful thing to have diversity and to put it out there and have it be excellent content. Rhodes said promoters used to be adamant about having one of a particular demographic. Cody said this was years and years ago. Cody said today the best wrestlers in the world come from all over. Cody said he has taken scouting trips even during the pandemic. Cody said diversity for us is paramount. We want to represent as many cultures as we can.

Cody is asked about the pandemic and getting back on track to where they were going. Rhodes said they were heading to the moon when the pandemic started and references the show at the Prudential Center. Rhodes said the pandemic hit everything hard and a lot of people faced hardships.

Rhodes talked about being able to provide content for TNT right away and talked about the multiple tapings they held after the pandemic started and how they had no choice but to pivot. Rhodes said now that there’s a vaccine, things might be able to in a different direction eventually. Rhodes said AEW has continued to make signings and he thinks they are still on a good trajectory. He references the production team and Tony Khan bringing in indie talent as a vital part of the company as well as their testing protocols. Rhodes said they won’t be the first company to come back. They will come back when it is safe.

Cody is asked about Red Velvet being on a retainer contract. He is asked if she might get a full time contract. Cody said the answer is within the question. She’s stepped up and we’ve seen her. He hopes she comes in full time. Rhodes said Tony is careful and diligent about who is signed for the long haul. Rhodes said she has gone from being a replacement to changing the tone of the match. Rhodes said he could get a legal memo at any moment saying she’s signed.

Cody is asked about the AEW Women’s tournament. He is asked if we will see more tournament in general and we will see Cody in more tournaments in the future. Rhodes said tournaments are part of what AEW does. Rhodes said the matches are opportunities to buy more time in the ring in another match. He said his favorite shows growing up were tournaments like King of the Ring and Crockett Cup. He said he’s sure we will see more in the future.

Cody is asked what it has meant to him to work with Sting in AEW. Rhodes said nobody was more of a little Stinger than him. He said his mom would help him put the a Sting paint tattoo on his face when he was little. Cody said the question now is can Sting have a regular wrestling match. Rhodes said he would say he can. Rhodes said Sting’s dynamic motion is still there and that’s dangerous if you’re his opponent. Rhodes said Sting is a full blown heavyweight. He said he wants Sting to be happy and ensure he’s in it for the long haul.

Rhodes is asked about wrestling a non wrestler. Rhodes said when it comes to celebrity matches you have to wrestle. It can’t be they are not from our world. Rhodes said Shaq O’Neal trained for this. He said Shaq doesn’t have the experience. Rhodes said he hopes if Shaq trained and he’s the Shaq everyone knows perhaps they can set a new bar for what a celebrity match should be.

Rhodes is asked about NXT moving to Tuesday nights and if he’s excited to be the only show on Wednesday nights. Rhodes said he anticipated this question to a degree. Rhodes said they will come up with a big statement for the move to Tuesday night. Rhodes said he could make a nice statement, but he doesn’t want to be sassy or a jerk. Rhodes said now NXT is going up against AEW Dark. Rhodes said something else could go up against them Wednesday night. Rhodes said all the wrestlers love each other. The friction is between the management. Rhodes said they need to focus on just making the best show they can make.

Rhodes is asked if anything will change with NWA running their own shows again. Rhodes said Tony will do the best to make sure things continue between AEW, Impact, NJPW, AAA, and NWA. He said it take trust and time. He said AEW tries to treat guests better than their own talent. He said he’s glad Billy is moving forward with the project.

Rhodes is asked what to expect from Elevation. He said it will be similar to Dark, but you will see more interviews and character building. Of course, Paul White will be on the show as well.

Cody is asked about the buzz around his match and being a PPV quality match. He’s asked if there’s anything bad about having the match on Dynamite and not on PPV. He’s also asked about Tully Blanchard getting back into the ring. Rhodes said it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get Tully back into the ring. Rhodes said the match with Shaq fits great on Dynamite. Rhodes said TV money is their bottom line and providing content for Dynamite is important and he doesn’t want to just stretch things out. Rhodes said that their go-homes to PPV will always have a heady hitter. He said they want their go home shows to be significant and newsworthy before PPVs.

Rhodes is asked about AEW’s stance to cross over with non wrestling to bring back fans or bring in new fans. Rhodes said he has taken it upon himself to grow the audience. He said a guy like PAC guarantees they have the best bell to bell wrestling. He says if they bring in someone like Shaq, he hopes people stick around for PAC. Rhodes said you can only bring in people that respect wrestling. You don’t need to chase hollywood types that aren’t into this. Rhodes said Shaq is very much into wrestling and has opinions about wrestling. “My goal here is to always grow our show… we want people who love our sport and our form of entertainment because they make the best guests.”

Rhodes is asked about Maki Ihto. He said she has a connection with the fans. So does Ryan Nemeth. He said he thinks we’ll see Ito in an AEW ring.

Jason Powell of Pro Wrestling Dot Net asked about Elevation, Dark, and Dynamite and it being all taped once the world gets back to normal. Rhodes said he doesn’t have a great answer. Rhodes said he would leave that to the production team to coordinate what’s logistically the best for AEW.

Rhodes is asked about the second TNA show coming. He’s asked if it will be different format. Rhodes said all of their shows will have a different format. He said Dark and Elevation will focus on their younger talent. He said the shows when it comes to another hour of content on TNT, he can only say it has a name that he loves, but he can say what it is. Rhodes said hopefully he can talk about it on the next call. He said it will come in 2021. He said there’s more projects set to be announced involving other AEW talent. He says AEW won’t start moving forward even with the pandemic still going on.

Contact Sean at radicansean@pwtorch.com. Follow him on Twitter @SR_Torch

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