AEW superstar and Executive VP Cody Rhodes spoke to ESPN to talk all things pro-wrestling, including how Tony Khan has yet to release anyone during the pandemic, what free agents AEW is interested in, thoughts on Kurt Angle and Tessa Blanchard and more. Highlights are below.
How Tony Khan has not let anyone on the roster go during the pandemic:
One thing that’s really crazy is that throughout this pandemic, [AEW president and CEO] Tony Khan has not let anybody go. He has not furloughed anybody. If anything, opportunities have been given and some people have seized those opportunities. You look at Ricky Starks. That was never the intention to sign him. The intention was to diversify and offer this wide palette for the AEW open challenge, of all different challengers from different worlds. And kind of acknowledging that wrestling exists outside of our AEW space, which is very important, to stay honest. If I had my way — and maybe I will — that third hour is a space to see some new men and women, including men and women not on our current roster.
Whether AEW wants to bring in anyone from the MMA world:
I like Henry (Cejudo) a lot, only because he’s seen what our family looks like backstage and behind the camera. He’s somebody who is very intriguing. If he had any interest in it, I think this is a company I feel very confident we would know what to do. Pro wrestling is vastly different from combat sports and mixed martial arts and UFC. But there are some people who can blend the lines a little bit. There are people here with combat sports experience and have that under their belts. They can find that really hard element where it works as a pro wrestler. I’d love to see Henry in the ring. I really would. I’d love to tag with Henry. I think he’s great. He’s a former Olympic gold medalist. It’s very important to me that we have a real sports broadcast. I know there are a lot of very meta and very silly things on our show as well. That’s part of the buffet. But when I’m going out there and stiffing each other to high heaven and beating the hell out of each other, I like the sports side of it. I want to strengthen that as much as we can as a company.
What WWE free agents AEW would be interested in bringing in:
I think there are two free agents that are on a lot of people’s radar, that being Miro — formerly Rusev — and Matt Cardona, who was Zack Ryder. Obviously, those free agents should be on any radar. They have literally drawn money. They have TV experience. They have high-profile experience. They have locker room experience. The pros heavily outweigh the cons. Those are two great free agents. I’m not going to go as far to say that if I had to sign anybody, those would be the two that I would sign. But I think they’re great free agents. I think if they have the passion for pro wrestling, they’re going to continue to succeed. Here’s the trick. We only have a two-hour show. And a lot of our roster hasn’t even been fully realized or seen yet. I want to make sure we honor individuals like that. If you bring in a hot free agent, that means someone is going to lose a spot. That’s just the reality of it. In my capitalistic, cold nature that I have, I actually don’t mind that, because that makes everybody else step their game up. But you do want to do it fairly and responsibly. The best wrestlers, no matter where they came from, you’re going to want on your show.
If AEW has interested in Kurt Angle or Tessa Blanchard:
Kurt is amazing. I had three matches with Kurt when I left WWE. That’s a very special wrestler. I’m not sure if he wants to keep doing it, though. I look at someone like that and I look at what is their interest like beyond just being a wrestler. When you’re multifaceted like that and you have an Olympic background, I would just be curious as to where his passion levels lie beyond in ring. I don’t know a lot about the current situation with her and Impact. Tully, her father, is in AEW. That’s more Kenny Omega, [my wife and AEW chief brand officer] Brandi [Rhodes] and Tony carving out the growing and evolving women’s division. They’d have more of a beat on that. She was part of All In for us. And anyone who was part of All In has a place in my heart. On a personal level, I always want all the second- and third-generation wrestlers to have the best experience. She has a lot, a lot of talent. I’m sure it’s something Kenny, Brandi and Tony have discussed.
Whether there’s heat between him and The Good Brothers:
There’s no heat at all. Business is business. I think Karl Anderson, just to see his glow up and him get ripped [was great]. And to look back at what he was able to do in New Japan, that guy is a superb talent. Gallows, everyone loves Gallows. He takes the award for the most carny wrestler in the history of wrestling. He is the king carny. He came to my house prior to their re-signing with WWE. There were some discussions. We both lived in Georgia. He actually told me a number he was offered, got drunk and then — not realizing it — only an hour later told me a different number that was of course higher. I love him. You can’t not love somebody who is that carny and that goofy. There’s no heat with Gallows and Anderson at all. I’m curious where their path takes them next. But gosh, how could you have heat with a guy who told you one price and then an hour later, after some Crown Royal, jumped his price up by a significant dollar amount? That’s just funny, that’s just beautiful. When you have a wrestler like me who takes it so seriously, I like having folks like that around to help balance me out.