“I have loved my time at AEW. Amazing locker room. Amazing fans. Amazing people. The ‘revolution’ was indeed televised, and I’ve been incredibly lucky to be part of that.” – Cody Rhodes
Is this a work? Is Brandi Rhodes going to up and leave the company with her husband in the middle of a building program with Dan Lambert and Paige VanZant? Will Cody Rhodes go back to the very company which led him down the path to start AEW in the first place?
Professional wrestling is great, is it not?
From the standpoint of an AEW fan, this stings a little. While I am not the biggest Cody fan, his presence was comforting to AEW overall – much in the same way Tommy Dreamer was to ECW. There’s a lot to unpack here, and a lot of possibilities when it comes down to Cody’s future in the industry.
“It’s not the path that you think.”
When you read through all of this, keep this quote in mind. Cody uttered these words at the end of Sammy Guevara’s vlog on a Dec. 2021 edition. This was in reference to his own future in AEW.
Whatever this is, it’s been likely in the works for some time.
Whether or not it means these new unfoldings are fully fleshed out or not remains to be seen. However, this is an important context going forward.
This is the one option I see happening the least. Remember, it was McMahon’s glass ceiling, nonsensical booking, and general treatment of many talents that led to Cody’s frustrations in the first place before leaving. In 7 years time, not much has changed in Titan Towers since his departure.
It’s hard for me to believe that he would want to go back under any circumstance unless it benefits the Rhodes’ brand. That being said, it would be a slap in the face to AEW fans if he did sign a contract with the devil himself.
In fact, if he did head to WWE, I would hope at the least that he would retain a level of creative control. I would love to hear him cut an impassioned promo on a Monday Night Raw where he states that “AEW is too big for me now, so I had to come here!” — or he bad-mouths AEW on WWE TV in the ultimate heel turn.
Vince would never likely let that happen in a million years, though. However, most wrestling fans know that AEW exists by now, but the bubble that is the ‘WWE Universe’ needs to be popped – it would truly be best for business. If this means Cody is the vessel for future cross-promotions, this is perfectly okay – albeit unlikely.
I understand that Cody really doesn’t have anything left to accomplish in AEW, but it’s no reason to leave to go to the very place that represents everything he once hated.
An ode to his father Dusty, Cody could attempt to put NWA back on the map. Keep in mind that Cody, with all of his great ability, has never really won a world championship in any major promotion. He has captured the NWA World Heavyweight Championship with his win against Nick Aldis at All In in 2018, but the reign was very short-lived (one month). He did hold the Ring of Honor Championship one time, but I wouldn’t put them in the echelon of major wrestling promotions — even though they’ve literally created wrestling legends within the promotion itself.
Perhaps a program with good friend (and current NWA Champion) Matt Cardona is in order? From there, Rhodes could travel the globe with his name and defend (successfully) the historic NWA Heavyweight Championship in multiple promotions — including AEW, or even WWE.
The NWA remains mostly neutral, even with working relationships with Impact and AEW.
Fantasy booking moment: Having Rhodes defend the NWA Championship at Wrestlemania against A.J. Styles, or against Kazuchika Okada in New Japan would be a “shut up and take my money moment”.
In this sense, Cody would become a true world champion, and wrestling legend, in every sense of the word.
Could the American Nightmare return to New Japan? Again, it’s possible, but something I see as unlikely. While winning the IWGP Championship is a potential box that wants to be ticked by Cody, I don’t see this happening either.
He does have a newborn, and jumping across the pond seems like a bit of stretch. Much in the same way touring full-time with WWE seems out of the question. However, I wouldn’t completely count it out. In storyline, he forced himself out of the AEW World Championship picture forever, so if he’s to win world championship gold, it very well could be in New Japan.
Impact/Ring of Honor/GCW/MLW
Quite frankly, this just wouldn’t make sense. These are great Indies promotions to keep an eye on, but he’s simply too big for them at this point. The dude has a successful show on TBS with the Go Big Show, and image is important to maintain. Unless you apply the NWA Heavyweight Champion scenario here, nothing else makes sense.
Speaking of the Go-Big Show, Cody could try his hand at acting again. He has had past roles in Arrow and Warehouse 13, and he’s at the point of his career where he doesn’t have much left to accomplish.
While collecting world titles in WWE or New Japan might be an important career milestone, he already became an integral part of AEW – the first real competition to WWE in two decades. Cody had a large hand in starting a wrestling revolution, so I don’t believe a world championship alone is going to be a reason why he leaves a company.
Perhaps he lands a few acting gigs…
It’s a Work!
It seems odd to me that Paige VanZant would be brought in to start a program with Brandi Rhodes knowing full well that she may be leaving soon. Brandi was actively working on an in-ring comeback.
It’s also a bit odd that Cody would cut the promo he did a few weeks back establishing his crucial part in creating AEW, bad-mouthing WWE, and claiming he would never turn heel – only to do the most heelish thing possible to many AEW fans and join Vince’s Evil Empire.
While unheard of in recent times, it would be entirely possible for Vince McMahon and Tony Khan to work together for the sake of mutual profit. A cross-promotion would likely have fans tuning in to both products. As someone who hasn’t watched a full Raw or Smackdown in years, I would honestly tune in for a cross-promotional event, given the proper context.
We’re in an age of media where two brands do not have to compete at the same time, on the same night. The fan bases are separated enough where having a little fun in the name of professional wrestling history would probably be welcomed among the high levels of incivility as of late.
However, it is Vince McMahon, and I wouldn’t trust him to any long-term storytelling, even if it means a mutual profit were to be made.
Could this be a work within a work at this point? Or perhaps he just returns to AEW in a few months while “leaking” troubles within the company to dirt sheets to push him to an uber-heel status when he does return.
I don’t think this is a legitimate work, though. If anything, this could be a long-term worked shoot — if that makes any sense…
Finally, Cody could simply take a short break, do some Indies dates, flirt with a WWE contract – only to eventually come back home to AEW. The hard truth is that AEW did become too big for Cody in his position. When you bring in names like C.M. Punk, Bryan Danielson, Malakai Black, Christian Cage, Adam Cole, and now Keith Lee — the competition isn’t what it used to be in 2019. It’s much, much harder.
Especially when you consider the influx of rising stars in MJF, Darby Allin, Sammy Guevara, Jungle Boy, Lee Moriarty , and even Hook.
As an EVP, there will always be an accusation of some level of nepotism or creative control. Even though Cody had a fair amount of losses, the minute he went over Malakai Black, Darby Allin, or Sammy Guevara, he was immediately accused of putting himself over.
Black is finding success with Brody King, Darby and Sting are fan favorites, and Guevara is a popular TNT Champion. Triple H, Cody is not.
Wherever Cody does land, whoever hires him will be getting a great talent who has evolved into one of the best in the world over the past few years. Until then, I will raise a glass to Cody and Brandi for their dedicated and undeniable work in helping create All Elite Wrestling.
Thank you, Cody, and good luck! Don’t fuck it up…