With AEW already establishing their main championships, it was several weeks back that they announced a new title was going to debut, the AEW TNT Championship. On last week's episode of Dynamite, the TNT Championship Tournament began, with Cody Rhodes becoming the first victor over Shawn Spears in their quarterfinals match. Three more quarterfinal matches will take place within the next several weeks, before they crown the first-ever titleholder.
Before having his match last week, Rhodes spoke with Busted Open's Dave LaGreca and Bully Ray, about how exciting it is to be able to add this new title to the AEW roster.
"The thing that excites me about the TNT Championship Tournament the most, is that it's something that came in a joint effort from AEW and TNT," Rhodes noted. "This is something that - TNT has been really great - WarnerMedia has been really great about the inside of the show and all the research on what they're seeing. They've been a wonderful, wonderful, partner. This is something they were interested in doing, and it went in line with what we're interested in doing; having a premium championship on the show. For us to be able to share in their likeness, and to slap the TNT logo to signify the relationship that we have over the next several years, is really wonderful."
Rhodes noted that all the contenders in the tournament have gotten a sneak peek at the title that they could potentially win in the near future.
"All the guys in the tournament got a brief little glimpse of the belt itself. It's a special looking championship belt," Rhodes stated. "I've always wanted a title tournament like this, and to be in one now, is a wrestler's dream."
With the COVID-19 pandemic, AEW like other promotions, is taking as many precautions as they can to keep their staff safe, and their fans entertained. Rhodes describes all the procedures he and the others are taking, and how valuable it's been to have such a great medical staff on hand during their shows.
"One of the beautiful things about AEW since day one is we don't have a central office," Rhodes stated. "The core management is all over the place. We've got folks in L.A., folks in Canada, myself in Atlanta [and] Tony Khan is in Jacksonville. So, the quarantine element of what's going on state-by-state, and complying with those regulations is easy when you can work from home, and coordinate from home for your weekly show, and then build one of your four pay-per-views.
"As far as the content we have and what we've been able to do in Jacksonville most recently, I was really - I mean- it was step up city, in terms of those shows. I'm really impressed. When we first started, Brandi was very adamant that we have a medical team. I rarely swing by the trainers' room. But, we also have a physio team - you know - all the perks of a high-end wrestling company. Of a major league wrestling company, you have to have those things for your athletes.
Rhodes continues, by discussing how their head doctor, Dr. Michael Sampson, has been a great addition to AEW.
"So, she picks out Doc. Sampson. Who, you know Dr. Sampson, I believe? Doc. Sampson is famous for being the guy who saved Jerry Lawler's life in Montreal, after his heart attack," Rhodes informed. "And, Doc. Sampson to put it frankly, does not take s--t from anybody. He's not a 'Yes' doctor, in terms of if you want things to go on if they're unable to. So he set a really rigorous amount of guidelines and everyone was able to follow them. That was something I was very proud of that I'll never forget.
Additionally, Rhodes mentions that they're doing everything they can to make sure that the wrestlers and talents who can't be there during the weekly tapings can still take part of it, by conducting interviews and promos, which are then added on to their weekly segments.
"You know, you're quarantined in a hotel, so we can keep the numbers under 10 at the actual arena," Rhodes said. "Then, you're sanitizing a car steering wheel driving over to your [hotel] room. Then, the ropes themselves are being sanitized. You're getting your temperature checked. You're getting quarantine questions, that's a page long. All of those things that were put in place were the right things to do. You have to limit the people that were perhaps older individuals, or people with immune illnesses of some kind. You have to limit them from being there or being present, because we don't want to put them at risk. So, you're getting a lot of interviews, remotely.
Rhodes says that Tony Khan has really exemplified his leadership role, which has impressed Rhodes and the rest of the AEW roster.
"It's been an extreme challenge. But, you know, I want to be able to answer all the challenges. In this case, certain people have stepped up - Tony Khan more than anybody in AEW. Bubba will know what I mean, but man, he's a wrestler in terms of having a strong mindset. He's a different type of leader than Vince was. There are remotely different types of leaders. You can tell he's in it for the long run with AEW, and that's really promising."
When faced to open the first Dynamite episode with no live audience, Cody never believed that his words would have such an effect on those watching from home. He compares his experience to that of "The Golden Age of Radio," and how different things were going to become.
"It's funny, I'm in the ring, and there's no one in the audience at Daily's Place," Rhodes began. "So, I'm looking out at the amphitheater bowl, and production had to be under 10 people as well. So, there's only two cameramen in front of me. I can hear over the PA I'm getting the time cues it's 7:55, and we're five minutes till air. Then, I hear, 10-9-8-7. Next thing you know, the hard camera's lights came on and there's no audience, there's no sound, there's no music. And, it was just me talking directly - to what I hope to - was people at home. It really felt like this was a 'Golden Age of Radio' moment. It's one of the most surreal and eerie [feelings] in a way, but also, one of those true moments for me as a wrestler."
You can listen to Rhodes' full interview here . If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open Radio with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.