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All Elite Wrestling’s Chief Branding Officer Brandi Rhodes made it known this past Wednesday that AEW will be “totally inclusive” no matter race, creed, color, gender or sexual orientation. The clever nickname of Chief “Brandi” Officer was formed by fans, but Brandi isn’t making light of the role as she wants everyone to know that you can, “Be who you are, and come as you are. Because we’re all going to come together as a community to change the world.”
I re-read that tweet after finishing up a recent conversation that I had with her husband Cody, and that ideal of “be who you are and come as you are” rings true in several aspects of the company’s mindset. Many touchstones of AEW’s operations has that communal approach, even when it comes to in-ring action.
When I asked Cody about the different wrestling psychologies he and his co-EVPs Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks differ on, Cody was quick to bring up a mantra the group together calls “The Blanchard Rule.” Now I’ll be paraphrasing the following, but it’s basically as long as the crowd loves it, then roll with it. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 30 superkicks” as Cody referenced or a slow-paced methodical match that develops over the course of time, if the crowd’s into it, then that reaction is the bell of success ringing. Cody is very much for tossing those old ideals and rules of the right way to do things out the window, bringing in an acceptance of ideas and a willingness to go against the grain of convention.
The same applies for All Elite’s production collaboration. Just like he did in the post-press interview at AEW’s Ticket Announcement Party, Cody gave big time credit to Keith Mitchell and his production team for the work they’ve done. He grew up around Keith during the producer’s days igniting WCW Monday Nitro so there certainly is a special bond between the two professionals. Cody mentioned that it’s typical for wrestlers and the production crew to stay isolated in their own worlds from one another, but since the two do have that connection, Cody has taken a lot of insight from Keith’s craft and it could be something beneficial for all parties involved.
Being a husky owner myself, I had to ask Cody what it’s been like having his four-legged companion Pharaoh with him in the house and on the road from time to time. Huskies are notoriously smart and stubborn breed and Cody said that Pharaoh is 100% husky, so he tries to hide when it’s time for he and Brandi to leave the house. (He’s great with other dogs and particularly delicate with his “Cheese Boys” brothers he shares his habitat with.) Cody credits Brandi for training him so well, but as behaved as Pharaoh is, it was never part of the plan to have him become such a star in the public limelight. It also wasn’t to have him enter the stage with him at the Sears Center during All In. A miscommunication with the handler in Gorilla led to Pharaoh putting his paws in front of the 11,263 in attendance.
“I saw Brandi’s eyes light up,” Cody said, as both had concerns with how their furry family member was going to handle all the Chicago chaos. Cody felt a little assured knowing he had no pyro and Pharaoh handled his impromptu moment like a Jackie Fargo strut in Memphis. Now Pharaoh loves and flourishes in that public role. Cody even noted that he and Brandi have found themselves stepping aside as fans want some shine from the stoic Siberian.
Pharaoh’s star power may have been unexpected, but the pup’s presence yielded positive results for PAWS in Chicago during All In weekend. $10,000 was raised and donated to the local animal shelter. Cody says that they want to look into a local Vegas shelter to enjoy the same benefit. He stated it’s unknown if Pharaoh will be at the festivities during Double Or Nothing weekend, but there are talks about bringing Hangman Page’s Ultra Tito in for the occasion.
And while Cody makes it clear that All Elite and Starrcast are on totally separate islands from one another, he understands what the special moment will mean for fans that the two different entities will be raising their banners in Vegas this coming Memorial Day weekend.
Starrcast is all about celebrating the legacy and history of the one true sport while Cody sees Double Or Nothing as a moment for people to “look into the future” with AEW, mentioning the names of Sammy Guevara, MJF, Joey Janela and the diverse range of talent the company’s revealed up to this point.
Even as Cody enjoys looking down the road, there are times when it’s beneficial to take a peak in the rear view mirror from time to time. With both of us being in our 30s, I asked him what video game consoles were in his household, Cody told me he grew up as a Nintendo kid. He started out naming Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past, Super Mario World, Street Fighter 2 and the challenging Joe & Mac’s Caveman Ninja as his pixelated primers, but found his true gaming fandom in the Nintendo 64. It didn’t take him long to credit the system as the go-to console for great wrestling games.
It was about a month or so back on Twitter in which Cody commented on a photo of N64’s four horsemen of wrestling games, saying how cool it would be to use that AKI engine again, but with a modern roster. Being someone who played WCW/NWO Revenge for eight straight hours on Christmas morning of 1998, the spectacled, bowl-cut thirteen-year old in me asked about the possibility of AEW making something like that a reality. Cody said the one problem around marketing a product akin to such greatness is that would be for a niche market. “You and I would love it,” Cody said, but modern-day gamers who’ve had something as visually gorgeous as Red Dead Redemption in front of their retinas may have a bit of a gaming generation shock when picking up the sticks. He made mention that the merchandising realm of the business is out of his element (that’s Dana Massie’s bag), but who knows? Cody noted Kenny’s relationship with team Razer and interest in esports (Cody loves the genre’s rise in popularity) could open doors for several possibilities in the gaming world. Maybe seeing a simplified mini-game to compliment a bigger title could satisfy all parties down the road.
I closed out the interview asking what every wrestling reporter would want to know of one of today’s top stars in the business—what does he predict is going to happen on Game Of Thrones when the series returns in April? Knowing that the show is off-canon from George R.R. Martin’s books at this point, Cody wasn’t even going to venture a guess, but did say how he felt a connection to the Jon Snow character and loves talking to his sister about the fun similarities his family shares with the infamous Starks of the north. Cody mentions how the series has seriously changed the landscape of how fantasy & sci-fi entertainment are being handled nowadays.
I followed up with who he thinks will sit on the Iron Throne as we see those final credits scroll. Cody wasn’t in favor of speculating who will sit as the head of Westeros, but chooses to just enjoy what Winter has coming.
Cody Rhodes: Why The Jon Snow Of Wrestling Isn’t Focused On The Iron Throne