The early days of AEW discussed by Cody Rhodes.
Cody Rhodes is a full year and several months into his WWE return run. In 2019, Rhodes alongside Tony Khan, Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) launched All Elite Wrestling.
Rhodes departed the company in February 2022. He reflected on the early days of AEW as he was being interviewed by Chris Van Vliet. Rhodes feels that maybe he wasn’t fully ready to lead as an Executive at the time. He shared that him being in that position did not rub everyone the right way.
He added that he had his respective vision, Kenny Omega had his, The Young Bucks had theirs and Tony Khan had his own on top of it being his money that was being poured into their company.
I think the wrestling took a backseat right away (when I became an Executive). Because I thought, my bigger mistake — and this wasn’t an AEW mistake, this was a Cody mistake. My biggest mistake was thinking, I’ll stay as good as I am in the ring only wrestling twice, three times, maybe just once a month. Sorry. And the Gen Z crowd out there is about to lose their mind, and I hope they understand what I’m saying, you have to do live events. You cannot learn how to work a live audience unless you perform in front of a live audience. So I was getting worse, as was everybody. Some of the best wrestlers, you name them, in that first year, the crowd was incredibly generous to us because we were new, we were fresh. Some of the stuff isn’t going to hold up just because we weren’t able to do this on the regular and get it down and sharpen our tools. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s nobody else, but you have to be able to do it. So that’s an area where I think I was suffering from immediately. But you (Chris Van Vliet) mentioned taking pride in the Executive element. So you were there when I was still running those meetings, I really loved it. But from an ego standpoint, from an optics standpoint, that was really cool. But I also really loved leading, and I just maybe wasn’t ready to fully lead at that point. And it didn’t rub everyone the right way. Why is he running the production meeting? Why is this and that? And then you know, your vision, Kenny’s vision, Matt and Nick’s vision, everyone’s visions, that one thing. But you know, Tony has a vision and this is his money, and then let’s see how that plays out. But that was a good time. I’m glad you had a good experience because when we left, there was this whole disinformation campaign that Wade Keller put out, and I’m not even mad at Wade Keller, no heat with Wade. But I could tell what was going on. Again, you didn’t talk to any real source. No, I was an Executive, as a member of management. I was happy, wanted to help and took huge pride in us being a professional organization and that shows amongst the roster, the locker room, my kids, the people I didn’t recruit, people I did recruit. Yeah, there was such a fog of misinformation of when I left that. It’s fun to see in the (Peacock) doc itself. You know, that wasn’t the case, it was just time.
Circling back to the topic of his return to WWE, Rhodes revealed that he showed Kevin Dunn, Executive Producer and Chief, Global Television Distribution, a video of one of his AEW entrances.
He explained to Dunn that-that is what he wanted presentation-wise. Dunn understood and said they were going to improve it. Cody shared that Dunn is big on the ‘woah’ in his song and wanted to emphasize that. Rhodes said there were some different entrances that they tested out that the public did not see.
So you know, the ‘woah’ had been in different versions of Downstait music for me. Yeah, the woah had been present. So I think really you’d have to say Kevin Dunn, because Kevin, he looked at an AEW entrance of mine, and I said it has to be this. This is what it is. I’m not, you know, calling any shots. To be fair, this is what I would like, this is representative of who I am. And he was of the thought of, ‘Great. We are just gonna make it a little bit better, we’re just going to make it a little bit better.’ And we tried some entrances that the world never saw, just different things during the day, we could do this, do that. And he set it up where it was most conducive for Monday Night Raw with the way the staging is on Monday Night Raw to do that and not have to build the Codyvator every day at three o’clock in the afternoon and maybe, maybe save it for — let’s save it for a pay-per-view or a WrestleMania, which we did. But he’d have to be to blame for the woahs, because he loves the idea of singing, loves it, and you can hear him calling for that, ‘I want to see people singing, and you can hear it.’ And that’s just never anything that I thought about. But I can say one of the most important things with the logo, I knew wasn’t gonna change as I got the tattoo. He (Vince McMahon), again, laughed (when he saw the neck tattoo) but that was one moment where I said, he had mentioned that there’s all kinds of designs we could do and I told him, ‘Well that one we’re pretty locked in on.’ But the one thing I was really clear about of all things, the music has to stay the same. And the reason the music had to stay the same was the music wasn’t just at AEW. The music was at Ring of Honor, New Japan, every independent I could possibly go to all over the world. That was the music, including the line that I recorded on my iMac in my living room, gosh knows when. The, ‘Wrestling has more than one royal family.’ For sure they were going to take that out, for sure. No way, somehow, someway, we’ll get there and it says sports entertainment. Like, will be dubbed over the ‘wrestling’ but no, they kept it, let it be. And there was a version of my song, if I can find it, I’ll send it to you. There was a version of my song that was different, that was an option. And I just thought I think the audience would be really mad. Kingdom is, ‘I’ll follow you to the end.’ We can’t discredit that. We have to, we have to have it. So that was probably the most important piece of, okay, we’re gonna bring the Nightmare brand as it is. The most important piece is that song. I didn’t know it, but I was fighting for it.