Cody Rhodes talks Malakai Black, Bray Wyatt, future of AEW
AEW has become the it thing in pro wrestling – no apologies there to WWE, which prefers the euphemism sports entertainment, obviously ashamed to cop to being what it is, a rasslin’ company.
Rumored to be on their way to the Jacksonville-based startup, rumor not quite being the right term, because they’re almost certainly on their way, are former WWE champions CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt, the legendary “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
One of the originals, Cody Rhodes, son of the legendary “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, talked with reporters this week about the state of the company, on his way to a hiatus to tape Season 2 of “Go-Big Show,” a surprise hit last winter for TBS.
Rhodes, in addition to being a wrestler, and two-time former TNT champ, is an executive vice president with AEW, one of the founders, in essence, along with money man Tony Khan, and Elite members Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks, Matt and Nick Jackson.
The company has been built around storylines involving those Rhodes and The Elite from Day 1, but with the pending arrivals of guys like Punk, Bryan, Wyatt, Flair, in addition to the relatively recently arrived Christian Cage, Malakai Black, Andrade, Miro, Paul Wight, Mark Henry, there’s a forecast from some quarters of growing pains being in the offing for AEW as it heads toward the beginning of Year 3.
Rhodes isn’t worried, because this has been the plan all along.
“It’s not unlike the world that Tony comes from already, the world of the NFL, and football in the UK. If there’s a free agent out there that can move the needle and be something significant for us, I personally, I’m not saying this from the company perspective, personally, I think you have to go after them. And does that change the landscape of the show and the roster? For sure,” Rhodes said.
The interview was conducted on Tuesday. A night later, Rhodes would lose in a well-done “Dynamite” main event to Black, in what played out almost like a squash, with Rhodes getting little offense, Black dominating basically bell to bell, then scoring a shocking, sudden pinfall on a superkick.
Rhodes then, after the match, hinted at retirement, unlacing a boot to leave it in the ring, before being attacked by Black, setting up an angle for when Rhodes returns from taping “Go-Big Show” in a couple of months.
Meantime, the booking put Black megaover, which fans had been waiting for since WWE botched his main-roster run following a dominant stint in that company’s NXT developmental territory.
The buildup to the match included a backstage attack perpetrated by Black last week that was classic heel attacking babyface – Black literally decked out in all black, Rhodes, sitting at gorilla, wearing a white suit.
Oddly, at least, unpredictably, Black got more than his expected share of cheers from the live crowd during the attack.
Is this an instance, one reporter on the call asked, in which reading the crowd might make Rhodes think that he should consider turning heel?
“You mentioned Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. There’s a lot of fans who thought Luke was a whiny farm boy and Darth Vader was the coolest thing on earth. I’m a Luke guy. Hopefully, there’s some Luke guys in the crowd. I’m sure there’ll be some Darth Vader people in the crowd. That’s great,” Rhodes said.
“You pay your money to sit in the seats, you can do whatever you ever you want to do,” Rhodes said. “I’ve had some really wonderful advice from an extremely polarizing babyface in our industry that has kind of helped me through this current time. And without divulging too much of that, one of the best things was, I have to stay true to who I am, I really do, and that I look forward to doing.”
Rhodes opened the chat with reporters with a statement about how he wouldn’t address rumors, meaning, please, no questions about Punk or Bryan, in particular.
He did, later in the call, address a question about Wyatt, who was a surprise release by WWE last week.
“I can’t comment on if I see a spot for him when it comes to us, but I can tell you, an incredibly creative individual and an incredibly creative, man,” Rhodes said. “Whenever I see someone like that lose their job or, you know, move into the next phase in their career, as someone who left WWE on my own, at the time, that was super unheard of, to leave, I just, I can’t be everyone’s sounding board, but I really want to be because, you know, I’ll give you an example. I’ll pivot away. I would have never thought that Matt Cardona was going to end up being the GCW champion and getting pelted with trash, but I should have thought he would be doing something.
“Circling back to Bray, I can’t comment on if he fits in with us, but I can say, if he has an ounce of passion for this, that guy can fit in anywhere, because he’s a very special, special talent. So that’s really all I can say there,” Rhodes said.
One last item: the awful trash death match that was last week’s “Dynamite” main event.
The Chris Jericho-Nick Gage match didn’t get “Dynamite” canceled, but it could’ve gotten Khan sued, with glass flying into the crowd on multiple occasions – and it famously earned AEW negative publicity in the form of a rebuke from pizza chain Domino’s, which issued a statement about how it is going to review its ad buys on the program going forward after Gage used a pizza cutter to slice open Jericho moments before a Domino’s spot aired on a picture-in-picture screen.
From Rhodes’ answers on the match, it doesn’t seem like it’s his cup of tea, either.
“I think the answer to your question about, does it have a place in television? Well, we were the number one show on cable, and that is a huge honor,” Rhodes said. “That’s a huge honor and responsibility to our fan base during the Olympics. We’re the number one show on cable. So, yes, I think it does have a place. I don’t think it’s something you will see often. That’s just my opinion.
“There are wrestlers on our roster who try to present a little bit more of a family aspect of what they do, a little bit more clean cut. There are wrestlers that are a little bit more geared towards children in terms of building a younger fan base. And that’s really what makes this wonderful buffet of wrestling,” Rhodes said. “So yeah, I do think there’s a place for it. I don’t think it’s something you’ll see often on our product, but there’s definitely a place for it. And kudos to those guys for for putting themselves through that and having a great main event.”
Story by Chris Graham