We're less than one month away from AEW's first official event, Double or Nothing. The startup promotion is still going through its growth phase and that means adding new talent to the roster.
"I know from a talent number we are nearing 40 talents under a certain type of contract with us. So, there is more talent than a lot of people know, because you know, slow and steady on our road to Double or Nothing on May 25th ," said Cody. "We don't want to just put a splash page down on everybody. We want you to slowly learn about them. That is the biggest thing for me; the road to Double or Nothing series that I put on the Nightmare Family YouTube channel, where we also announced your [Jim Ross] arrival. And even those that know you [Jim Ross] so well for so many years I still wanted to treat it like it is everyone's first day, and tell me who this is, which is especially helpful to the guys with these younger guys.
While Cody is no Vince McMahon in terms of being fascinated with wrestlers' physiques, he did reveal that those in charge at AEW went on a "hoss hunt." They are looking for wrestlers 6'2" and above who can turn heads with their looks and also perform in the ring.
"We went on this big hoss hunt and we want to find some big boys," stated Cody. "You can't replace that if that makes any sense? If you see one of those guys or girls that walk by an airport that makes you turn your head, that is still a part of wrestling - that going to the circus scene and you look at them and say, 'damn, what do you do?' I believe that is going to help us. We have a young and light-heavyweight roster, but to add that buffet to big, bigger, I want it all."
Even though many of Cody's friends such as The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega hold executive positions, that doesn't mean all of his friends are going to just be given jobs. He talked about having to say no to many of his friends who came knocking on his door.
"I don't know if I had a hard time to say no as much as I have been able to say that the door is unlocked, but it's kind of up to them to kick the door down," admitted Cody. "The best example of all that is when I left WWE, I did that full year before I fully signed on for one year with Ring of Honor. I did a full year of every indie under the sun. The best one, the worst one, the most niche one, the most mom and pop, I did all of that. That is the type of thing that kind of thing that helped me gravitate towards Matt and Nick Jackson and getting into New Japan and the first Tokyo Dome show I did and things of that nature."
Cody didn't just rest on his laurels or his family connections to get where he is today, he worked his tail off. He wants the same from AEW talent and, in a way, he echoes Vince McMahon in that he wants prospective AEW talent to grab the brass ring.
"People know what opportunities exist and it all lies on putting in the work," said Cody. "You have to put in the work, and I swear by that. My wife is the same way. In this era of entertainment in general; content is king. It's no longer, 'oh this great show is coming on and has a great marketing appeal, and it's all marketing.' Now the sizzle and the substance have to match otherwise you get a big drop-off and we want our sizzle and substance to match. To answer your question, it hasn't been hard to say no because most people know to not ask unless they are out there doing the work. It hasn't been hard for me yet."
Along the lines of his gimmick, AEW strives for only elite talent. Thus, Cody says that many current WWE performers wouldn't even be accepted into AEW.
"Honestly, I've kind of jokingly said that it is five percent and I'm talking Jim Ross, Cody Rhodes and Chris Jericho, maybe a few others," Cody replied on the percentage of WWE talent that would be accepted in AEW. "It's not the same. Having that equity with WWE is wonderful, but like I have been talking, you have to be able to cut it and meet the standard that people have into their bell-to-bell contest. That number may increase, being that this opportunity that exists for the boys and girls to make more money, whether here [AEW] or there [WWE], for the boys and girls to have options. That number may increase.
"If they can play, they are going to play, but right now the recruitment was more about…I use the term 'Tier 1.' It was more about freshness, if that makes sense. I want to build a new class of guys. I have been there before where nobody has my back, nobody is my ally, and I don't want to get into sour grapes over it but I know that it is one of the things that I look forward to the most once we really get into the schedule is the fact that these fresh faces...take Darby Allin for example who was just announced. I don't want them to feel like they were set up and that was it. I want them to feel that they were set up to win and set up to succeed and then they went out there and hit it out of the park, so yeah.
"WWE at the moment I would say five percent at the current makeup, and that may increase. But right now there are a lot of faces you have never seen, and a lot of people you would be surprised once you do see them."