A collision of history, business and really large humans is coming to Atlanta on Wednesday.
After five months on the road, All Elite Wrestling will be beaming its live wrestling show on TNT to the world from State Farm Arena, its first show in Atlanta.
The face of the promotion is executive vice president Cody Rhodes, a two-time state champion wrestler at Lassiter High School in Marietta.
“This is my hometown, and I get to be the main event of the show,” Rhodes told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday.
He said it isn’t lost on him that the match is on same spot that held the Omni Coliseum, which hosted spectacular matches from legends like his late father “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.
Atlanta’s connection to wrestling goes back five decades, when Ted Turner needed cheap entertainment to fill his burgeoning Superstation, Channel 17.
Soon after upstart All Elite Wrestling announced its Wednesday night shows on TNT, Vince McMahon’s WWE announced it was moving what many wrestling fans feel is its best show, NXT, to Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. on USA network.
This all brings to mind the “Monday Night Wars” of the late 90s when Turner’s Smyrna-based World Championship Wrestling tried to put McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) in a ratings stranglehold.
How’s the current fight shaping up? Longtime wrestling publication The Wrestling Observer reported Thursday that AEW this week had 817,000 viewers (a 12% dip from last week) compared to 757,000 on the WWE’s NXT show. WarnerMedia announced in January that AEW’s weekly Dynamite program had been extended through 2023.
Rhodes and his team have tried to differentiate their program by showcasing diverse talent at all levels of the company, including his wife — wrestler and chief brand officer Brandi Rhodes.
For decades it was uncommon for women, especially black women like Brandi, to be given respectable storylines as wrestlers. Looks were valued over talent.
“I was told the No. 1 thing I needed to do was save my money, because my shelf life was five years,” Brandi Rhodes told the AJC on Friday.
As for her role as wrestling’s first black female executive? “It’s something I don’t think of regularly because it’s such a tall order,” she said.
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Considering their connection and history, Rhodes told the AJC back in August before the weekly program went on air they wanted the first Atlanta show to be special.
“In Atlanta, if you’re going to show up, show up with a big agenda,” she said Friday.
It’s shaping up to be quite a night, with the promotion’s first cage match, featuring Cody himself against the enforcer of a man who took a belt to Cody’s bare skin 10 times until welts formed on his back on live television — but wrestling’s fake, right? The Atlanta show will also feature the AEW premiere of 2004 Olympic wrestler Jeff Cobb, whose build puts some brick houses to shame.
Brandi Rhodes said she expects people to fly into Atlanta to see the history live.
“The firsts keep happening, but they only happen one time,” she said.
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