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Everything happened so quickly. When famed wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer said that he didn’t think anyone other than WWE could sell out a 10,000-seat arena, former WWE superstar Cody Rhodes and some fellow Ring of Honor (ROH) wrestlers took him up on the challenge by pulling together for a mega-event of independent wrestling called All In. The show sold out in 30 minutes, packing more than 11,000 fans into the Sears Center in Illinois, just outside of Chicago, and broadcasting to even more on PPV and streaming services around the country. To put the success of the show into further context, it was the first wrestling event not put on by WWE or WCW since the early ’90s to draw more than 10,000 fans in the United States. Just a few months later, Cody, along with his wife Brandi, a former WWE ring announcer and wrestler, officially announced All Elite Wrestling (AEW), a new wrestling promotion that will showcase talent from the U.S., UK, Japan, and beyond.
Cody Rhodes—son of wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes and brother of superstar Goldust—decided to cut ties with WWE in 2016, shortly after his wife left, and both entered the world of wrestling outside of the grasp of the McMahon family—performing for companies like ROH, Impact Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and more. Now Cody serves as executive vice president of AEW, along with Matthew and Nicholas Massie (aka The Young Bucks), while Brandi has also joined on as the company’s chief brand officer.
Backed by president and CEO Tony Khan, co-owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, AEW’s goal is to be inclusive to both wrestlers and fans, and it hopes to open up new opportunities for women across the industry—even those who are “past their prime” in wrestling.
“All Elite Wrestling is the new alternative in the professional wrestling business,” Brandi Rhodes told us. “For the longest time, there has been mainly just one force driving the professional wrestling industry and the people behind. All Elite really just wanted to provide an alternative for people who were looking for anything different, and what we offer is some of the best talent in the entire world—male and female.”
Rhodes wants to drive home that wrestling is for everyone, so wrestlers come as they are, and fans do the same. The company recently partnered with KultureCity, an events company that focuses on making all large-scale, public events and arenas sensory inclusive. KultureCity caters to people with autism, PTSD, high levels of anxiety, recent stroke victims, and those who are bothered by loud noises, bright lights, and things that sometimes we take for granted, according to Rhodes. “It can really derail someone’s ability to enjoy an event,” she said. KultureCity provides sensory rooms for individuals to retreat to if there is a situation. If some form of sensory overload happens, they can retreat to these rooms and be cared for properly by trained staff, then go back and enjoy the event instead of leaving.
Women will definitely have a larger role in AEW, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. They won’t have to worry about what will happen to them 10 years (or more) down the line, or if they get injured and can’t jump in the ring, according to Rhodes. “For female wrestlers, it’s always such a thin line, because every sport has its age limits, but when it comes to women, we seem to reach those age limits more quickly,” Rhodes said. “So making the choice to be involved in the pro wrestling industry is always looked at as a short-lived choice, and there are very few and far in between opportunities to continue a career in wrestling if your time is up as a wrestler, as a female.”
Rhodes said that women within the AEW will have opportunities to stay in the industry long after their prime. “What All Elite Wrestling does is it just creates more opportunities for women. We’re obviously a growing organization, and we plan to be around for a long time to come. It’s just going to provide that much more opportunity for these women to continue to be in the industry that they grown to love, and most of us don’t want to put it down at some point.”
In the months that All Elite came together, Brandi and Cody were already growing their AEW community with wrestlers like Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, “Hangman” Adam Page, and WWE alum Chris Jericho. And the signings aren’t stopping there: the company reveals new talent every week on two YouTube channels, Being the Elite, which is more comedic and gets into the storylines of wrestlers, and The Road to Double or Nothing, showcasing wrestlers’ personal lives and journeys.
Rhodes is excited for this next journey in wrestling. As chief brand officer, she’s dedicated to community outreach, marketing, and partnerships with like-minded people, making sure that their mission of a diverse, inclusive wrestling alternative is always front and center. And when it comes to in-ring action, she’s also hard at work for AEW’s first live broadcast event, Double or Nothing.
“This is the first, inaugural event for AEW,” Rhodes said. “There’s really a lot weighing on it, because it’s going to showcase so much of what the identity of AEW is going to be going forward. People are going to be able to look forward to some of the best wrestling that they’ve ever seen—male and female matches. They’re going to get introduced to a lot of brand new talent that they may have not seen before. They’re going to see a lot of their favorites really going to be a grand display of everything that’s to come with this company.”
On May 25, AEW will broadcast their first live event, Double or Nothing, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas; the event will stream live on YouTube.