One of AEW's Executive Vice Presidents and the number one contender for the AEW World Championship, Cody Rhodes, recently took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with ESPN Radio about the company's progress since premiering on TNT.
Cody has mentioned in the past how AEW is specifically trying to create an alternative product from WWE, including the way it's directed and shot. He stands by that mindset and the idea that the only thing they want to have in common with other wrestling shows is the ring itself.
"I just see the way that Kevin Dunn shoots WWE, and not so much the booking of it but how he shoots it, it's kind of setting the ball up for [AEW]. We wanted to be an alternative," Cody stated. "Now of course when you're counter-programmed on your night, you are competing. It's no longer just an alternative but we still say that we want to be an alternative because what we're doing is completely different. Here's the only thing you will recognize - the ring in the center of the building. Okay, that's a wrestling ring; everything else that we're doing is a very, very different kind of wrestling.
"And that's why it's sometimes fun to poke fun at [WWE] and not in a mean-spirited way," Cody continued. "All of these rules that have been in place for twenty years, they're not wrestling rules. They're WWE rules. Oh, it's a contract signing so there has to be a fight. Oh, the person can't just look at the monitor, they have to stand to the side because that's how Kevin likes to shoot it. It's some nonsense and it worked for them until it stopped working for them. We're just happy to do wrestling how we want to do it."
Cody noted how AEW has a diverse and open minded group of people helping guide the show behind the scenes. This allows them an eclectic range of input to help with creativity and representing various minorities with respect.
"The good thing about our partners at Warner Media and the TNT family? They weren't there during the Attitude Era or the Monday night wars. There was nobody on staff except for maybe one guy, and that is great. It's all young, open minded, congruent with what an actual snapshot of America and the world looks like today," Cody explained. "It's like a utopia at the moment in terms of synergy that we get from our partners at Warner Media and how they allow us to lead this.
"We're not under the gun; the biggest pressure we're under is our own pressure to deliver because we had such an unbelievable debut - the biggest debut in five years for a Warner Media institution. We were opposed, and to do so well against WWE and to still be doing well? The pressure we're putting on ourselves is ample already."
WWE's Seth Rollins and AEW's Kenny Omega recently exchanged comments back and forth that insulted the quality of the content their companies were putting out. Omega said if pro wrestling was just one big promotion, the NXT talents would be working the dark matches to his main events. He said there is no comparison between the two companies as AEW has real stars and not just developmental talents.
Rollins responded with a similar statement during a recent press conference saying that Omega was working in the minor leagues at AEW, and that he needs to move on and compete against him at WrestleMania one day. Cody took some time to address this ongoing debacle between the two popular pro wrestlers.
"For the developmental comments when they came from Kenny, and then when the minor league comments came from Seth, I think that's just two really great athletes," Cody said. "In the case of Seth specifically trying to prod, or poke, or get under the skin of one another, I don't think it was as mean-spirited as the world made them out to be. I think Seth is super talented; I believe I had his very first dark match in WWE. He's a unique soul, he's super talented, he works his ass off for them when a lot of people in the company just look to collect a check.
"I kind of just sit back in those moments and don't take it personally because part of wrestling is us talking s--t about each other, so, I never take anything personally," Cody added. "And I'm surprised when we're such a 'woke' culture that we take everything as a, 'Stop saying WWE!' Enjoy it; if you don't like this person, perfect. It's more fuel to the fire. And if you do love them, you shout their name from the rooftops. I just look at it as wrestlers talking smack about other wrestlers which is a key component of wrestling in the first place."
Cody finished by complimenting the incomparable performances that Kenny Omega brings to AEW and the world of professional wrestling. He believes that Omega may be one of the top 3 pro wrestlers in the world today.
"I think Kenny is one of the top 5 pro wrestlers - one that the crowd buys tickets for, that communicates to them, and does it bell to bell, so, that's my definition of pro wrestling. I think he's one of the top 5 in the world, probably top 3," Cody specified. "And the thing I like about him is that I think the world is just beginning to see him for the first time. I mean, he was in Japan and New Japan was a thing that came on at 4 in the morning if you did watch Wrestle Kingdom.
"Him going into the match with Jon Moxley, and Moxley being one of the most motivated wrestlers on the planet, I think this is kind of a jumping off point for what Kenny Omega looks like in AEW. And it looks very good. Kenny's amazing and he's trying to do something very different for the women's division with having introduced Riho to us. That alone, I'm very thankful for that because she's amazing."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit ESPN Radio with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.