AEW Year One: Cody cut the best promo in the company’s first year

AEW, Cody Rhodes (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for WarnerMedia Company)
AEW, Cody Rhodes (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for WarnerMedia Company) /

To commemorate AEW’s first year of operation, let’s discuss what made Cody’s first big promo on Dynamite the standard-bearer for the company’s first year.

Since debuting on television more than a year ago, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) has excelled at one of the many things its main competitor in the United States, WWE, has often lacked: believability.

With a few exceptions, the nascent promotion has lent its weekly broadcast time to a wide range of unique personalities that have established a swift connection with the fanbase using the revolutionary strategy of, wait for it, being themselves and not parroting unnecessary amounts of corporate buzzwords.

Basically, when an AEW wrestler speaks, you’re more apt to hang onto every word they say because you believe their words are coming from their hearts and minds and not from the pages of a script penned by an ambitious and overworked team of writers trying to acquiesce to an unpleasable boss.

This makes picking the best promo from the company’s first year a difficult task. It’s like choosing the best Patrick Mahomes touchdown throw, the worst Star Wars prequel, or the most self-aggrandizing Triple H match.

But even with highlights such as Nyla Rose’s first promo as AEW Women’s World Champion, Britt Baker riling up Texans by insulting their precious Whataburger, Baker identifying the “conspirators” who caused her knee injury, and literally anytime Eddie Kingston or Jon Moxley wielded a microphone, Cody’s promo on the Nov. 6, 2019 Dynamite stands out as the best.

For Cody, who spent the majority of his runs in Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and New Japan Pro Wrestling as a terrific antagonist, this promo — which served to hype his AEW World Championship match against Chris Jericho at that year’s Full Gear pay-per-view — started him on the path to becoming arguably the premier babyface in North America.

Sure, there are a few quips that now seem less than genuine — touting the AEW as “all-inclusive” rings a tad hollow at the moment given the federation’s current struggles with promoting women and wrestlers of color — but in the roughly six minutes Cody stood in the ring with Tony Schiavone, he made every member of that Charlotte, N.C. crowd buy into him and his future plans.

“The American Nightmare” owed much of that to his candor in acknowledging the optics of him receiving a championship match while retaining an executive vice president position, which led to him announcing that he would forego all future world title matches if he lost to Jericho. Right after, Cody turned his ire to “Le Champion”, who maligned Cody as an “entitled millennial” during the lead-up to the match.

Ever the masterful rhetorician, Cody didn’t downplay his fortunate upbringing. Instead, he used it as a cudgel to hammer Jericho for his fraudulent posturing: “I neglected to read [in Jericho’s book, A Lion’s Tale] about the upbringing you had that was so hard. You talked about my silver spoon. Gosh, it must’ve been so difficult being the upper-class son of a famous hockey player. It’s almost like we shared the exact same silver spoon, you stupid d*** (an adjective Jericho has worked hard to prove accurate in 2020)!”

Cody then went in for the kill, calling Jericho a “carny succubus” who needed the very same “entitled millennials” and “impressionable youth” the then-champion took great pleasure in ridiculing to keep him relevant after nearly 30 years in the industry.

Then, after lionizing his accomplishments up to that point and vowing to beat Jericho at the PPV — which didn’t happen — he dropped this teaser for a match that seemed destined to happen before the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt (though we did see a close approximation of it): “The Elite are coming and when The Elite and the Inner Circle square off, it’ll be a match beyond and [The Elite] are going to EAT [Inner Circle] ALIVE!”

The two-time and current AEW TNT Champion has cut a number of great promos since this one. You could even argue his empty-arena plea for his Elite brethren put aside their differences on the March 18, 2020 Dynamite or his heartfelt victory speech after regaining the TNT Title on Oct. 7 are on par with this November monologue. But those promos wouldn’t have had the same impact without this signature soliloquy that laid the foundation for Cody’s character and his goals as an AEW wrestler.

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In those six minutes, Cody sold fans on two matches worth looking forward to, but those pitches could’ve fallen on uncaring ears if the fans felt that even a single syllable was artificial. Fortunately for Cody, his transparency and passion more than convinced them that his mission statement and, most importantly, who he is as a pro wrestler was worth believing in.