Former WWE Superstar Val Venis made headlines recently by criticizing AEW for - in his words - "portraying a biological MAN winning the Womens championship." He was referring to Nyla Rose, who is the first openly transgender performer at a major promotion, winning the AEW Women's Championship.
AEW EVP Cody Rhodes responded to those comments during a recent media call in which Wrestling Inc. was a part of earlier today.
"It's just disappointing. If you're somebody that grew up liking Val Venis – he's kinda like the Disco Inferno of WWE as I don't think anyone really knows who Val Venis is anymore – but it's disappointing. I don't think he actually means the terrible things he put in writing; I think he's just trying to get a booking. We're not booking Val Venis and you're not gonna be booked anywhere near us," Cody said before adding that the best way to end bigotry is by not even going back-and-forth with people that think this way.
"I'm not giving Val Venis any oxygen when it comes to Nyla Rose. Nyla won the championship because she was the best woman at AEW and that's just it. I think we should all just stop hitting the ball back to those people. It's 2020 and everybody should love everybody in some capacity."
Rose is the second AEW Women's Champion after winning the title from Riho and Cody discussed future plans for the women's division.
"The women's division is growing. When you hear the natural criticisms – you hear the good things and the things people don't like – you've got to keep your ears open and you can't be close-minded about it. One thing that's gonna take time is the women's division," admitted Cody. "It's a merit-based wrestling show and the best wrestlers are gonna wrestle on that show. I think we have some of the best women's wrestlers.
"I'd really like to see Big Swole emerge. Britt Baker is on absolute fire. Nyla Rose becoming the second AEW Women's Champion and had maybe the best match on the best show we've had all year. That speaks to the talent level of Nyla and Riho."
Cody asks fans to be patient because AEW is doing everything in its power to grow the division.
"I think some people are out to get 'woke points' with women's wrestling when in actuality women's wrestling does incredibly well minute-by-minute and with merchandise and ticket sales," revealed Cody. "So, we genuinely want to make it a huge part of our brand. So hopefully more of that in 2020 and 2021 as we go forward."
AEW has touted itself as being progressive and being more open to diversity than how it's traditionally been done at major wrestling promotions. Along those lines, he was asked if signing more people of color is a priority for the men's singles division.
"Of course. The same time we're all talking, I've been taking a deep dive onto YouTube and a guy named Chris Bey who's a prime example of someone who could potentially be useful to our singles division," said Cody. "We haven't spoken so I'm sure he'll hear about this call in some capacity.
"Tony's commitment is the same as mine, Matt's and Nick's. It's a demographic that we do well in but we should be doing much better. I'm dead serious when I say none of us are pretending when we say we want the show to be congruent with what America really looks like in 2020. That would mean more people like Scorpio Sky, more women like Big Swole, more tag teams like Private Party. Yes, that commitment is still our commitment."
Earlier Cody mentioned that some people go for "woke points" by emphasizing women's wrestling. He was asked about how AEW remains diverse without looking like they are going for woke points.
"I think you just have to lead with your content which speaks to who you are as a company. Who's out there front and center on Dynamite versus making a big marketing campaign – there's plenty of things you can create a marketing campaign around that still do mean good will. I just think you have to lead with your content," stated Cody.
"I mentioned we have the youngest wrestling audience in all of top 20 new cable series and most viewers are smart enough to smell when something is being done to check a box and for publicity sake versus just leading with your content. That's why you don't see that many statements made by the EVPs or Tony every week. Who we really are shows on Dynamite and that's how you avoid making it a PR shill versus 'this was the best call because these are the best wrestlers.'"
Cody's full conference call was included on today's edition of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here. The full interview can be heard via the embedded audio player below: