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Cody Rhodes On Landing Chris Jericho, Plans For AEW & More

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Cody Rhodes was recently interviewed by ESPN. During the interview, he discussed the origins of AEW and what the future holds, his relationship with the Khans and more. Here are the highlights from the interview:

On How Chris Jericho To AEW Came To Be:

I guess Chris is kind of that wrestling outlaw. When he came to be part of All In, I think he saw that we had a bigger picture in mind. For several years now the business has literally been changing, and it’s just ripe for this movement and this revolution and ultimately this alternative, which is what we’re trying to be. He had the foresight to see that. The next piece of that puzzle was he brought us onto the Chris Jericho Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Rager cruise and the magic continued. I think he’s capable of making magic, and I think he wanted to make it with us.

On Whether AEW Will Focus On Established Or Rising Stars:

Probably a mix. My favorite word here is fresh. I want fresh. People who haven’t ever been seen. One thing that has surprised me about independent pro wrestling is the amount of quality men and women on the scene. The stars are just waiting to be under the big lights. Obviously there is a great deal of veterans, but I don’t want to make the mistake of putting that talent on the forefront versus featuring up-and-coming wrestlers. Fresh is everything and nothing is better than when you have a balance.

You add to that one of the greatest wrestlers of all time in Chris Jericho, who continues to reinvent himself — he’s wrestling’s David Bowie — you put him in the same ring with somebody who’s fresh and hasn’t been seen, it just ups that individual’s profile. It’s what we call in the business “the rub.” That’s how I really want to balance it out. I don’t want to lean towards one side. You’ve seen in wrestling, the worst thing you can do is abuse and overuse your legends. You have got to keep it amongst your core contract young and fresh guys.

On How He Met Tony Khan:

I’ve known Tony for a long time. People are just discovering that Tony is a diehard wrestling fan, on the tape-trader level of wrestling fan. We also bond over the fact that we are huge Trekkies — he and I are obsessed with Star Trek. He used to come to WWE events. He’s actually in the front row in New Japan Pro Wrestling, he’s in the crowd at Long Beach cheering, you can find him if you look back on it. So I knew him in a friendly manner long before this ever came to fruition.

On How AEW Came To Fruition:

A lot of what happened stemmed from me, Matt and Nick [Jackson, The Young Bucks] doing All In. We have just the time of our lives and get a lot of great what I guess I call “consumer feedback” from fans for Starrcast, Conrad Thompson’s event, and our event All In. It just seemed to be this kind of renaissance, Woodstock for wrestling, and I just had the idea of, “What if we did this more? What if we did this quarterly or what if we potentially did this weekly?” Everyone said you can’t do that, and I don’t believe that.

The wrestling I grew up on was that every week. It filled your soul up with the goodness. And Tony was somebody who we discussed initially investing in a sequel show. Once I was no longer under contract to Ring of Honor, which was about two months before Final Battle, that’s when we started to get into the weeds a bit on that and talk about the opportunity that exists out there.

On Whether His Creative Approach Will Be Similar To His Father’s:

My dad was executive producer at WCW and was the booker for Jim Crockett Promotions. I learned so much from being his son. I’ll be honest — I don’t like when other people say it, but I can say it — I learned from the things he did right and I also learned from the things he did wrong, because he had to live with them for a good portion of his career. A lot of it is on the board criticism, but I’ve seen that and I feel like I know what to stay away from and know which direction to go.

One thing we are trying to do here is let guys go out there and play their music like they are going to play it. If I invest in a talent like, let’s say MJF [Maxwell Jacob Friedman] for example, it’s not my job to micromanage you. My job is to put a spotlight on you. I’ve seen your set of skills. We looked into you. We recruited you. I’m just using him as an example. Somebody like that, if you are paying them to be on your show, let them go out there and play their own song. Don’t give them a new lyric sheet. Don’t give them a new instrument. And that’s the type of wrestling I grew up on.

If we look at the heyday of WWF in the late ’80s and the type of wrestling that I love dearly, those were grown men who knew what the direction was, they got a finish, they got a time, and they went out there and delivered what they delivered. It wasn’t something that was micromanaged. Maybe slightly consulted or massaged, but they were the stars, so why micromanage them? We will not be micromanaging anybody.

On Wanting To Treat Wrestling Talent The Way Hollywood Treats Its Talent:

You talk about acting and how they treat their talent, my favorite actor was my dad, who was a pro wrestler. It didn’t matter whether it was 4,000, 14,000 or 40,000, he put on a performance on the same level as any TV or critically acclaimed film presentation. He did that. Wrestlers who are able to do that should be treated the same as the actors in the world who are able to that, too, but that’s a long road, admittedly.

The first thing you’ve got to do is up the price point. You’ve got to pay your wrestlers more. And to old-timey, carny promoters who say, “Oh, that’s going to put you out of business,” I disagree with that. I think if you have a proper merchandising and branding arm behind your brand, that you can absolutely supplement that income as well if you’re able to provide genuine content that matches sizzle with substance. We did it once with All In and we plan to do it again with Double Or Nothing.

We want to make this a better world for wrestling fans by making it a better world for wrestlers. So the first step you have is you up that price point and you take care of your wrestlers more. The more that happens, we can continue to go.

A union in pro wrestling — and that’s this thing that people say all of the time, and they don’t realize it — a union in pro wrestling would put pro wrestling out of business. But, with that said, we should be actively working towards some sort of body, and this is outside of what I’m talking about with AEW and as me in the executive role, but we should actively be working to have the happiest talent you can possibly have. Whether that starts as a talent feedback system, or a players’ league, or some sort of body where there’s a complete, transparent communication between those in the office and those in the locker room.

That’s massively important, especially when you are traveling the world. I think taking those steps, even if they are baby steps, is great.

On The Potential For Multiple Revenue Streams:

Unfortunately due to the legality in all of this, I can’t speak on the potentiality of a television deal, but I can say we’ve got Tony and the world that Tony comes from with his business acumen and providing consistent content and what that means for a consumer.

We’re looking at all different avenues but we also have a less-is-more approach. We want to match sizzle with substance, so right now we only have Double Or Nothing happening at the MGM Garden Arena on May 25 and in the following months we are going to have the Jacksonville show, with gate money going towards the victims and families and people affected by the recent shootings in Jacksonville at the Madden tournament. That was something Tony felt strongly about.

Credit: ESPN

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