One year ago, AEW was officially formed as The Elite gathered outside the Tokyo Dome and checked their phones. One year later, AEW is the bonafide #2 promotion in the United States, selling out pay-per-views and finding a home on TNT.
AEW having weekly television on TNT was one of the biggest stories in 2019, as was NXT moving from WWE Network to USA and going head-to-head with AEW Dynamite every Wednesday. And while fans may patiently wait every Thursday for the ratings to come out to use them as fuel for the Wednesday Night War, AEW Co-Executive Vice President Cody Rhodes takes a different approach.
“There’s a romantic way to look at the ratings and say ‘Here we are, it’s the late 1990s again. Every Thursday let’s check ‘em,’” Cody told Yahoo Sports. “It’s fun to look at the ratings but I know internally we’re not having any pep rally speeches. Our concern is not NXT and I believe NXT’s concern is not us. If anyone is going to succeed, we cannot be a reactionary brand. One really good, positive takeaway that the ratings war doesn’t show is that there is a lot less crossover between the fan bases, there’s a lot less of the turning the channel between one and the other. That means there’s a lot of people just watching wrestling on Wednesday nights. Making wrestling destination programming again is cool.”
After a week off for Christmas, AEW Dynamite returns to TNT on Wednesday. The show will be highlighted by Cody taking on Darby Allin. That won't be Cody's only involvement in the show as he will also introduce Arn Anderson as his head coach and MJF will name his stipulations for a match against his former best friend.
And while Cody is a featured player nearly every week, he knows The Elite can't dominate the show.
“In my case, it was met with criticism internally because I was in the middle of the hottest run of my career and to take myself out of the title picture [wasn’t a popular decision],” said Cody. “I think we made it clear that we would be listening to fans. Part of listening to fans asking what if this were to become an Elite-only show? I love the Elite, but we didn’t want to monopolize the company so we made sure we put the fresh faces first. That’s the number one thing for recruitment into the company, the number one word, fresh. Everyone has done a great job. Kenny has taken a step back to help build up the women’s division. Matt and Nick have really cultivated a great tag-team group. Tony has kept us all on track. Even with this fandom going on, I’ve been able to do things diplomatically when it comes to our time. We want to make sure that when we said we were going to change the world and give better quality of life to pro wrestlers, that we present more than just the Elite.”
Fightful will have live coverage of AEW Dynamite beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Following the show, Sean Ross Sapp, Alex Pawloski, and Mr. Warren Hayes will review all the action on the post-show podcast.