BOSTON, MA — One of wrestling’s most seismic changes is taking place, though it isn’t happening inside the ring and it won’t be televised.
The “Women’s Revolution” includes more than female wrestlers. Away from cameras, wrestling’s closed-door meetings now include a new voice: Brandi Rhodes.
Rhodes is All Elite Wrestling’s Chief Brand Officer. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Rhodes is one of the few female executives within pro wrestling.
Women make up a fraction of wrestling’s workforce. The majority of writing teams for wrestling’s televised programs now, and historically, have been comprised of men.
“I won’t accept there never being creative output from women,” said Rhodes. “If you won’t take input from a woman, then your mind is completely closed.”
The historic gender imbalance is also responsible for the long-standing history of men writing the majority of on-screen segments for the women.
“I don’t book the women’s division, but I provide a voice from the women to the men to get their voices out there,” said Rhodes, sitting backstage eagerly awaiting the start of AEW’s live Dynamite show. “I’m sure it’s annoying after you’ve been involved in wrestling for all these years, and you’ve had all this success, to have a woman come in and say, ‘Hey, that’s not how we like to do things.’ But you’re not a woman. And women hate being told by men how they’re going to think, how they should be, and what they’re going to feel.
“There are plenty of smart women that are interested to work in wrestling. It’s part of my job to remind people that there still aren’t enough women in wrestling.”
Rhodes also brings a skillset to AEW that no one else offers. The new company is thriving through its first two weeks of television, standing out due to unscripted promos from Chris Jericho and appointment viewing every time Jon Moxley steps into the ring, as well as Rhodes’ intelligence and tenacity in board meetings. Though Rhodes’ backstage work is not seen by the audience, the results are clearly visible.
Rhodes was the driving force behind bringing KultureCity—a nonprofit dedicated to fighting for inclusion and acceptance of all individuals—into a partnership with AEW. This has led to the creation of sensory inclusive wrestling shows.
“We’re trying to make it easier for people all across the board,” said Rhodes. “Parents to engage with their kids, or adults with sensory issues, PTSD, extreme anxiety, autism,” said Rhodes. “We’re educating venues about KultureCity, too, and it’s really great that people are saying how great the experiences are.”
Her marriage to wrestling royalty (and AEW Executive Vice President) Cody Rhodes has provided her with a unique mindset on the inner-workings of the business. But part of her strength as CBO comes from an outsider’s perspective.
“We need to remain open-minded,” said Rhodes. “Sometimes wrestling tends to be in this bubble, where nothing else exists but wrestling. We need to reach other areas of entertainment, like when we worked with Stephen Amell or the crossover with DC Comics. We need to remember we’re not too big, or a bully to anyone else in entertainment.”
For a second straight week, AEW won the ratings battle against NXT. But Rhodes chose not to celebrate, instead stressing that the only focus for AEW is improving the show on a weekly basis.
“We’re not focused on a rating,” said Rhodes. “We’re focused on being our best selves every single week and providing the best show we can possibly provide. We’re going to keep focusing on what we’re focusing on, without getting sidetracked with ratings or competing against any one group.”
Asked whether AEW is less of a WWE alternative and more of an answer to fans’ long-standing frustrations, Rhodes remained focused on the needs of her company’s fan base.
“AEW is centered around the fans, more so than any other company that I’ve been involved with, and that’s because of the way the company came together,” said Rhodes. “We want to keep the fans as part of the process, not just as an outside, external factor. For us, that makes tough decisions that much easier.
“We’ve had such an outpouring of support and we are so grateful for it. That weighs over anything else for me and for us. We know that those people are extremely important. If you love this, we’re so thankful for it.”