Variety’s Joe Otterson has a new piece on AEW to mark their one-year anniversary. The article includes comments from Chris Jericho, AEW Executive Vice President Cody Rhodes, AEW Chief Brand Officer Brandi Rhodes, AEW World Champion Jon Moxley, AEW President & CEO Tony Khan, WarnerMedia’s Brett Weitz, the General Manager of TNT, TBS and truTV, and WarnerMedia’s Sam Linsky, who is the Vice President and Co-Head of Scripted Originals for TNT, TBS and truTV.
Linsky confirmed that there are plans in place to continue expanding the AEW brand across the full range of the WarnerMedia portfolio.
“We have an opportunity to use all facets of WarnerMedia in a way that most places can’t,” Linsky said. “We’ve got a comic book company. We’ve got video game companies. We’ve got merchandising people. We’ve got people who make animation for television. We’ve got reality television producers. It’s all in house. So we have a real opportunity to spread this IP and grow it across WarnerMedia.”
Regarding the AEW toy live that launches in August, an industry advisor for the United States toy division of NPD Group noted that the line is performing strong out of the gate. The line, which includes action figures and replica title belts, ranked as the number three new property among U.S. toys for the month of August. A new property was defined as all toy brands that recorded no sales between January 5 and May 30 of this year.
WarnerMedia seems to be very happy with how AEW has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was noted that AEW’s ability to adapt to the pandemic has only deepened the respect that WarnerMedia executives have for the company. Weitz praised Khan and the company for how they’ve dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think where where the rubber really met the road was during when COVID hit and watching Tony really pivot and grow,” says Weitz said. “And he was able to keep those storylines going and put so many great things together, even through a global pandemic, and that tells you everything you need to know about the DNA of that brand and that guy as a producer.”
It was noted how AEW faced significant uncertainty during the first few weeks of the pandemic. They pre-taped several shows but coronavirus-related travel restrictions quickly found them without a large number of in-ring talents. Khan said he’s proud of those shows from the early days of the pandemic because they kept AEW going.
“After the first two weeks of the pandemic, as our roster started to thin out, what happened was we were forced to do shows with less than 30% of our wrestling roster available to us,” Khan said. “And I’m actually proud of those shows as I am of anything because they kept us going.
“I wanted to film shows to keep the storylines moving so that we could build a testing plan. I always believed that, as we’ve shown, a safe testing plan could be implemented. I didn’t know how long it was going to take to design and get all the tests we would need and get it all set up. But it came together in in about a month.”
An interesting comment came from Cody, who said he hasn’t been the same since hitting the moonsault off the top of the cage on Wardlow during the Dynamite episode from February. Cody said he never should’ve done the move.
“I should have never done it,” Cody said. “Literally I have nightmares about it because the cage was too tall. And I’ve not been the same since I hit the ground. I remember telling Brandi [Rhodes] ‘I think I might have had a mini heart attack.'”
Regarding the Wednesday Night War with WWE NXT, Jericho said there is somewhat of a war, but AEW doesn’t really pay attention to what they do during the shows. He also commented on his “Demo God” nickname, and how he came up with it due to his segments being the highest-rated in the key adult 18-49 demographic.
“I was just really getting into the whole concept of what the demo means,” Jericho said. “There is a little bit of a war, obviously, just by the fact that NXT is on a Wednesday night. We don’t really pay attention to what they do during the show. But afterwards, of course, you check in the ratings?The company really can’t point that out, but I can because I’m a heel and can say whatever I want to incorporate that and no one’s going to get any heat for it because it’s the truth.”
Moxley noted how AEW has allowed him the chance to break free from the creative issues he experienced in WWE, noting that their use of writers has stifled the creativity of the talents in WWE. Moxley said AEW’s creative process makes for authentic moments.
“We let our talent speak in their own voice, say what they want to say, stay with the feeling, and it creates authentic moments,” Moxley said. “And you’ve seen that with myself, Cody Rhodes, Chris Jericho, Darby Allin, and so many others. You have the feeling of being out there on the fly with no script. You just know we have to go off the air at exactly 10 p.m. and I have to smash the champagne bottle over your head.”