I won’t waste too much time here. By now, everybody has read the big news. Cody Rhodes is reportedly finished with All Elite Wrestling and is in talks to return to WWE. Most expect a deal to be done soon, so by the time this is posted, it may have already been confirmed. For me personally, I believe it all and suspect he’ll come back to WWE imminently. This is NOT a work or whatever other nonsense people try to yell online. This is all very, very real.
Now before giving my thoughts on present day, let’s rewind a bit…
Cody Rhodes is no different than many others before him. He felt he was ‘stuck’ in WWE and was never going to reach his true potential in the main event…so he left. Heck, go dig up my old columns from years ago. I was singing from the rooftops how he deserved more. Every year, he is my ‘one to watch out for.’ The Stardust crap was just that – crap. Whether it was his idea or somebody else’s, who cares? It stunk and did him no favors. Eventually, he said screw it and left.
Out of respect for his family’s tie to the industry, WWE actually obliged. No fuss, no controversy, no noise. They let him go. A wise move considering that was done in good faith, just as he now may be coming back. See why you never burn bridges folks?
As history showed us, he worked various promotions and had his dream match bouts that he had made a list of on Twitter, and Cody Rhodes was on top of the world. Outside of WWE obviously…but he was proving his point. By then, a similar group of guys also wanted to stick it to WWE and start up their own company. A wild idea but all it really took was one rich man with connections. A rich dude with money to blow. That is all any startup company ever needs – a rich dude.
Enter Tony Khan…but really, his father, Shad Khan. He is the one with the money here folks. Don’t forget that. Thus, All Elite Wrestling was born after the success of All In a year prior which was funded by Ring Of Honor and blah, blah, blah. You know the story.
To the shock of many, Cody Rhodes put a stipulation on himself just mere months into the birth of the company that if he lost to AEW Champion Chris Jericho, he could never challenge for the top prize again. Ever again. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Well, he lost. I understand what he was trying to do here by showing he wasn’t going to be champ and hog the spotlight but ouch! Within a few months, he was basically putting himself in the mid-card forever. Okay…strange…
As time wore on, it always felt like a square peg in a round hole. I don’t know. I admit. I have not really been watching the product as of late, but anytime I read a review or saw a clip online, Cody Rhodes’ stuff always felt completely out of place. The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and Chris Jericho, Darby Allin, Orange Cassidy were doing their wacky crap, and there was Cody trying to cut passionate promos and deliver good, solid story telling matches without all the flips and no-selling we generally getting. He was presenting PRO WRESTLING. AEW was…not.
He won the TNT Title a few times, but his time on air became less and less. Cody did more charity work, did more reality television, did some stuff with the Turner networks. All in good fun and fit with his desire to be a ‘big’ star with his wife, Brandi. I get it. I’d do the same also. I would want to spread my wings and fly a little too. No shame in that. However, that was not translating to the actual wrestling presentation. AEW had taken a left turn from their initial mission statement and were showing no signs of reeling it back in.
Christian was signed, Sting, Mark Henry, Big Show, Adam Cole, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Aleister Black, Keith Lee, Andrade, Jon Moxley Matt Hardy, etc. No doubt Jeff Hardy is on his way as well. Cody found himself slowly losing momentum and no longer standing out as a big name. Heck, his stroke had to have been gone behind the scenes as well, once his buddy Zack Ryder couldn’t even get a contract. Minus a few quick appearances on air and then bye bye Zack. Not a good sign for any kind of ‘power’ backstage. Yet, more and more guys were getting deals, including many former WWE stars.
Sure enough, rumors popped up back in spring 2021 that things were no longer very rosy with The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and the entire backstage structure. They all came out and kinda, sorta denied it, but the honeymoon was over. Cody was painted as being distant or sitting in his own locker room. All that nonsense that comes out whenever there are ‘leaks’ backstage. Fast forward a few months and Fightful.com (great source by the way) breaks the news that Cody no longer has a deal. His contract was up, and even though the TNT Title was in his hands, there was no legitimate contract. Just a handshake deal with Khan to work for the company.
Shocking it went from being an executive that helped launch AEW from the ground up, taking it straight to WWE…to having no deal in place and barely even being on the television show. Now that brings us to present day. After six weeks of negotiations, no deal was struck. Cody lost the TNT Title and vanished. Just like that, he was a free agent, so why not talk with WWE? Why not send out feelers elsewhere? You are searching for a new deal and ABSOLUETLY want to be paid like Punk, Bryan, Cole, etc. All these guys just brought in.
Screw whatever ‘budget’ Tony Khan may be trying to balance. That is a load of BS. Just use your eyes and see all the new signings and big money deals in the past few months being handed out. Cody should go for a similar deal, and if he can’t get it in AEW, WWE might? Maybe? Turns out that answer is yes. Rumors have been flying that Vince McMahon loves the idea of stealing away AEW’s executive and staple member (Cody) and flaunt him all over WWE television in the build up to WrestleMania. All feuding aside, that is a major coup for any business – stealing away a key member of a competitor. No different in wrestling.
I believe Cody Rhodes is going back to WWE and will be treated as a big deal. Go on him for getting a fat contract and more chances to expand his aspirations beyond just the wrazzlin’ business. This ties us back to my opening sentences. Cody Rhodes felt stuck in WWE years ago. Like he had to go out and prove himself. He did that and then some. Drew McIntyre was fired from WWE as a low card act. He returned bigger and better than ever, won the Royal Rumble and main evented WrestleMania by defeating Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title. Bobby Lashley flamed out in his original run with WWE. Came back over a decade later more of a STAR and is now a two time WWE Champion walking into Mania as The Destroyer.
Will Cody see similar success? I hope so. At just 36 yaers old, he has plenty of time to shine and now brings a knowledge of behind the scenes as well. Something WWE apparently is lacking right now – how to keep the machine running backstage. I don’t know if he will get the WWE or Universal Championship, but it certainly beats winning the TNT Championship for the fourth time. I have no issues with Cody dashing back to his former home. It gives WWE a spark on the Road to WM and shows us that things are not all rainbows and sunshine in AEW. I love it…
By Justin Watry (Twitter: @JustinWatry)