New York Comic-Con just wrapped on another successful year at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in midtown Manhattan this weekend. All Elite Wrestling invaded NYCC fresh off giving TNT their biggest debut for a new show in five years with All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite on Wednesday, October 2nd. On Friday, the wrestlers and stars of All Elite Wrestling (AEW) came to discuss their new Wednesday night show and describe what sets them apart from other wrestling companies in the world. Current AEW World Heavyweight Champion and Fozzy lead singer Chris Jericho was there along with stars Jon Moxley, Nyla Rose, “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry, Kia Stevens — who wrestles as Awesome Kong and appears on Netflix’s Glow — and last but not least AEW’s Chief Branding Officer Brandi Rhodes. I guess packing wrestlers into tight spaces was not a great idea, as later in the day at their AEW on TNT panel, all hell broke loose!
As a lifelong wrestling fan, getting to talk with some of the biggest stars in the industry was a jaw-dropping experience. One common thread we heard during our roundtables was how much creative freedom the wrestlers of AEW have, especially when compared to another popular “Sports Entertainment” company several of them used to work for. Jon Moxley was wrestling for WWE earlier this year and upon leaving, shed light into the behind the scenes creative process for that company.
Geeks of Doom: You have to be seen as an inspiration to many frustrated wrestlers in the world, especially in WWE. Can you speak about the differences from a creative and personal creativity standpoint that sets AEW apart?
Jon Moxley: That’s the great thing about what’s going to be the difference between the two products. It’s going to be a more authentic representation of the individual. People can unabashedly and more passionately do what they want and do what feels right, whether that’s smashing somebody with a steel chair or delivering a certain type of interview. There’s a lot less control put on the performers. The authenticity of the individual I think will be a hallmark going forward.
When discussing Wednesday’s premiere episode of AEW Dynamite on TNT:
Jon Moxley: It was so much fun seeing the collaboration between the wrestlers. We had zero writers in the building. ZERO! I mean the show that is going on tonight on FOX (WWE SmackDown), they probably have thirty to fifty writers and ten to fifteen producers. We have zero writers, and that makes it so easy to put everything together. It’s fun and there are so many ideas floating around and no stupid scripts. It was a real team atmosphere. There’s no corporate speak, no company line, nothing like that exists.
The most veteran wrestler in AEW is their World Champ, Chris Jericho. Jericho has been in the industry for nearly 30 years, and wrestled in every major company. He also saw the last wrestling “ratings war” from both sides (WCW and WWE).
Regarding the “new Wednesday Night Wars”:
Chris Jericho: I don’t watch what’s on other channels when our show is on. I can’t control any of that. All we can control is the product we’re putting and making sure we’re the best we can be. We didn’t start a war, we didn’t counter-program against anybody. Those are reactionary moves. We created such a huge shift in the industry just by being in existence without having one minute of TV time, that when we finally put on that first show, it shut a lot of motherfuckers up. And then when the rating came out, that shut even more people up. Especially the 18-49 male demo, we had the second highest in that demo that whole night. The only ones who beat us were the dastardly villains at Major League Baseball with the wildcard game.
Geeks of Doom: Chris, you can argue no one in wrestling has been more innovative than you. From the “Man of 1004 Holds” to “The List of Jericho” to “A Little bit of the Bubbly,” you turn these things into money makers for the company you work for. As a senior member of the AEW roster, how do you teach this to this new crop of up and coming superstars we’ll be seeing on TV weekly?
Chris Jericho: I don’t know if you ever really teach it but what we can do is, and this is why I really love AEW, there’s a lot more improv. It’s not overly scripted. You have to watch the crowd and live in the moment. So when someone throws a weiner in the ring [someone threw a frozen hot dog into the ring during AEW Dynamite], you CAN’T not acknowledge the fact that there is a hot dog, but you have to be careful not to make the hot dog the star and have the fans chanting “Weiner” all night long. I can’t go too far, but I can acknowledge it, get the reaction, get the laugh and then go back to business again. That’s what I want to instill in our talent who might be wondering, “Am I allowed to do this?” You’re allowed to do whatever you want as long as it makes sense and you’re not hurting somebody or being vulgar. But if there’s a moment where you can do something to take a match from one level to a higher one, you better do it. Guys in WWE would be terrified to because they’d be scared of what would happen to them. We want people to be artists, to be creative, and to be a professional, that’s why they’re here.
We got to speak with the Kia Stevens (Awesome Kong) and CBO Brandi Rhodes, a jack of all trades as she’s married to and manages husband Cody Rhodes and occasionally wrestles for the company. Brandi discussed her role as CBO and their clothing deal with Hot Topic as well as other branding opportunities being afforded the company. Both she and Kia discussed the familiar topic of creative freedom and authenticity afforded by AEW as opposed to WWE, for whom both worked prior.
Geeks of Doom: I think we fans felt similarly to the way AEW performers felt. We’ve been stifled as wrestling fans for years, where it feels like the other company tells us, you’re getting this with this guy, and you better like it. The crowd Wednesday night on TNT was electric. The crowds at all the AEW PPVs have been electric. I don’t even have a question, as fans we say “thank you.”
Kia Stevens: Well I love, as Brandi said how we can just come up and give a suggestion and not get heat for it. That suggestion might not be used this time, but I’m confident it will be used next time. But it’s a comfort to put out ideas and knowing that their ears are open and they hear me. I feel appreciated. We’re collaborators at AEW, we really are.
Geeks of Doom: You talked about Hot Topic, Kia you obviously are in Glow and that’s very successful. Brandi, your husband Cody has been on Arrow and Stephen Amell wrestled at All Out. Do you have any pop culture or TV connections upcoming, especially with TNT?
Brandi Rhodes: There’s a really cool one coming up but I can’t say anything other than that, but I think I can say it’ll be happening around Halloween. A really cool one coming up that I can’t wait for.
They also were asked and spoke about the importance of being prominent African American women and gave advice to young women of color getting into the wrestling industry as well as succeeding overall.
Finally to our table were “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry and Nyla Rose. Nyla wrestled on Wednesday’s show for the AEW Women’s Title, coming up just short. She is a trailblazer as the first trans woman wrestler to be featured prominently in any major wrestling promotion. Jungle Boy, son of the late actor Luke Perry, features in AEW’s tag team division with his partner Luchasaurus and is in the tournament to crown the first Tag Team Champions. Nyla spoke about breaking through stereotypes and ignoring social media trolls and both spoke about breaking out to mass audiences in their respective divisions.
Geeks of Doom: Everyone has spoken about the creativity afforded the roster. As two of the newer and fresher faces, can you speak to AEW’s creative direction?
Jungle Boy: I think that’s what makes the whole thing cool, that we’re all so different. We have so many different people, we have someone for everyone. We’re coming from all sorts of directions and they know that’s what’s valuable. And they want us to be ourselves and more. Pretty much full creative freedom.
Question: Nyla how does it feel to be a role model for the LGBTQ community and represent them on TV every week?
Nyla Rose: I think it’s cool for a little bit of a different reason. Normally when you have someone in the entertainment industry for the LGBTQ community, usually it’s prim and proper; this is WAY outside the box, it’s something very different. So even within the LGBTQ community, it’s a very different thing. I think it’s cool to see such a detractor from the norm in every sense of the word, while still being totally normal.
Later in the day Friday, AEW held a panel at the convention center in room 1A10, which packed the house and had one of the biggest panel lines I saw in four days at NYCC. Fans, including myself, were turned away and stood outside. Craziness ensued when AEW wrestler MJF interrupted the Q&A and Cody Rhodes, one of the heads of AEW and their number one contender to Chris Jericho’s World Title, surprised everyone by invading the panel and an actual skirmish broke out between him and Jericho to the roars of fans screaming “Holy Shit!” Check out the video here:
All Elite Wrestling is a breath of fresh air in a wrestling industry that’s had one unopposed superpower for nearly two decades. With the creative freedom the performers have, I think AEW is prime to be a major player. All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite appears on TNT Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM. They will soon be premiering AEW: Dark on the AEW YouTube page this Tuesday. Their next major pay-per-view event, Full Gear, will emanate from Baltimore, Maryland on Saturday night, November 9, 2019. For all news, events, ways to watch, and shopping, head over to AEW.