AEW EVP Cody Rhodes was on a recent episode of Talk Is Jericho where he chatted about “Go Big Show” and the process of filming the show. Rhodes also discussed his thoughts on AEW’s first year.
“Somebody asked me, grade it, and of course, as part of the company, you not gonna give it a bad grade, but I said A, and there’s room for an A+ because we know where we need to grow,” Rhodes said. “AEW’s first year, if it was its last year, thank gosh it wasn’t, it’s still been the greatest year of my life. Learned a lot of lessons and learned some hard lessons about the burdens of management. If you weren’t popular before, you’re definitely not going to be popular as you enter that space.
“It is surreal, the numbers. That’s why I love the data, and you’re great about the data, ‘The Demo God’. I love when [Chris] Harrington shows me this spreadsheet and talks about our international deals, and we’re having these calls. I was on the phone with Microsoft the other day. What am I doing? But then I know what I want. I know what we’re talking about, and that blows me away.
“I told Tony, ‘Do not give me this job unless you want me to really do the job, really embrace it,’ which would probably include pissing you off from time to time. He’s never been pissed at me, maybe he has, but that’s been the most exciting thing is the brain trust here amongst the talent, the EVPs, the management [and] the committee.”
Rhodes has been paired with WWE Hall of Famer Arn Anderson in his big matches. He noted that while on-screen he doesn’t do a lot, he praised his work behind the scenes.
“Arn’s out there with me by the ring pretty much doing jack s–t except holding his play card up, but what Arn does back here, my gosh,” Rhodes remarked. “I literally want to look at them like, ‘where you been?'”
He also praised everyone behind the scenes, and later, Jericho brought into perspective the youth movement mixed with that veteran presence. He noted that Cody is the same age as Dusty was when he took more of an executive role and that AEW President Tony Khan is the same age as Vince McMahon when he took control of WWE.
“I know one of the things when we first started was, well who’s running this place? Who’s the who’s the boss,” Jericho recalled. “Think about, I’m not sure how old Dusty was when he started taking more of a corporate side. I’m sure he wasn’t much older than you are right now (Cody confirms the exact same age), and Tony Khan is the same age that Vince McMahon was in 1982 when, guess what, he took over the WWF.
“So you can’t [say], ‘Oh, these guys are too young.’ This is the same age as your dad was and as Vince was. This is why our company, I think, thrives more because we have youthful set of views combined with the experience, combined with the passion and the desire.”
That reminded Cody of a piece of advice Konnan gave to him. He talked about how knowing what young people are into is part of AEW as a whole.
“Konnan of all people, I don’t speak to Konnan a lot, but he had told me his secret to success,” Rhodes revealed. “I asked him, ‘Any advice?’ His secret to success was always being around young people. Hey, I’m going to listen to hip-hop. Even if I don’t like it, I’m gonna listen to it. I want to know what they’re talking about, and that, to me, is the brightest part of the AEW current picture, the youth that is on the roster and the youth that is in the creative, the direction.”
Jericho has touted AEW’s performance in the 18-49 demo calling himself “The Demo God”. Rhodes discussed why that key demo is important and his goal to reach younger viewers.
“We joke about the demo, but it’s not a joke,” Rhodes noted. “There’s a potential, this is for any show, if you don’t look at that, you’re going to age out. One of the reasons I’ve turned my act around into a bit of a squeaky clean act is because it’s really not an act anymore. I want to engage a young fan base and not just the young and affluent and cool. I want to engage kids because the show has a lot of grittiness, a lot of violence [and] a lot of adult content. I want to make sure they know, hey, there’s guys doing right, and there’s guys doing wrong.
“That’s here too, just like all great wrestling shows when they’ve been great. The youth we have and the demo is really not a joke at all. Anyone who’s not scared and I’m not talking about our competitor. I’m talking about any show. If you’re not in the youth, in terms of if they’re not watching your show, you should absolutely be terrified. 50 plus means you’re losing your audience. Again, this is about TV in general not about WWE and not about AEW because we see all 50 shows.”
Jericho also asked Rhodes what AEW can improve upon. Rhodes noted one of Jericho’s complaints about similar storylines being featured on the same show where Taz was trying to recruit Will Hobbs and he was trying to recruit MJF. Rhodes noted that there should be more communication amongst everyone in the locker room to avoid those situations.
“To me, one of our biggest pros is also our biggest con, no pun intended. We have such freedom,” Rhodes stated. “So such freedom, sometimes, means that things are too similar on the same show. Well, this guy’s asking me to join Team FTW. Well, this group, they’re asking if he’ll join in this. So that’s one of those areas where that freedom is fun and pro, they’re not worried about the traditional rules. It’s punk rock, but also, you have to be disciplined so that it doesn’t desensitize the show.
“Eight times out of ten, we’ve got the flow right, but on nights that we have and it’s where our own freedom has been our biggest enemy, but I’d rather that than a sanitized C+ show. To me, the thing we need to work on the most is not taking the freedom for granted and maybe a little bit more of communication between the boys themselves. ‘Hey, I’m doing this. It doesn’t mean you can’t, but what else can you do? You’re super talented.’ I think that would go a long way.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.