MR. TITO: Could Cody Rhodes Actually Succeed in the WWE as a Babyface World Champion?

I hate to write this kind of column, while also being the person to be the only one online to discuss this… Look, I’m a fan of Cody Rhodes and I wish nothing but the absolute best for him as a professional wrestler. Love his family, as Dusty Rhodes was a NWA legend and an all-time great. His older brother Dustin Rhodes, also known as Goldust in WWE, is one of the most underrated in-ring talents in this industry. I also think very highly of Cody’s wife, Brandi Rhodes, whom I believe that BOTH WWE/NXT and AEW under-utilized. She’s smart, beautiful, and capable and it baffles me how the McMahons and the Khans cannot figure out how to use her.

Furthermore, you may go back into my column archives from the early 2010s where I argued that WWE was wasting Cody as a younger in-ring talent. Cody was one of the many talents who began to get overlooked thanks to WWE overpushing Roman Reigns. I was heavily rooting on Cody as he attempted to reinvent himself with New Japan, Ring of Honor, and other independent promotions. He proved the WWE wrong on their talent release… Then, for me at least, he was the biggest selling point for All Elite Wrestling (AEW) as he could finally showcase his talents on a big stage with a whole new variety of talents. While he had some great matches in AEW, maybe his focus was too much on being an EVP and not remaining hot as a top talent outside of the WWE. Then, during 2022, he returned to the WWE at Wrestlemania 38 and he had a great feud with Seth Freakin’ Rollins.

Did you read all of that?

Are you sure?

It not, re-read those 2 paragraphs.

Are you sure that you aren’t skimming and avoided those first 2 paragraphs that PRAISED Cody?

I’ll move on, regardless, as most will probably just read the column’s title and ASSUME what I’m writing about. Wrestling’s cancel culture is going to take me away, ha ha, he he, ha ha.

Are you sure that you’re ready for legitimate opinions regarding Cody Rhodes and his quest to become the undisputed or combined WWE World Champion?


On Monday Night (2/6/2023), Cody Rhodes was in the ring and cutting a promo when Paul Heyman interrupted. Now, we’re often killing the WWE Creative Staff for their scripted lines… IN MY OPINION, this was one of the best written promos that we’ve seen from the WWE and the Creative Team has been mostly on fire with anything associated with the Bloodline. Cody started off with lines about thanking Paul Heyman giving Dusty Rhodes a much needed financial hand and it legitimately moved Paul Heyman, as his eyes were really swelling up. Heyman felt that and you felt his sincerity in his response… Then, Heyman cut a promo in response discussing how Dusty was important in mentoring the FCW and early NXT wrestlers, which includes Roman Reigns and wasn’t involved with Cody’s training. Heyman concluded with a microphone dropping moment that Roman was the son that Dusty never had and something to the effect of him liking Roman over his own kids.

This was a great segment… Don’t get me wrong… But for this feud, Roman Reigns has MEGA HEAT as a heel. Soon, you’ll see the fans in Montreal about riot over what Roman is likely going to do to poor Sami Zayn. To be a babyface in the WWE environment, you’re going to need to do more. The TONE of that promo on Monday Night by Cody was lacking, in my opinion, as he doesn’t seem as comfortable as a WWE-style babyface. His characters, since leaving the WWE, have been very serious in nature whereas WWE wants more “larger than life” characters to lead the charge against the heels. Cody is a great in-ring performer and a great talker as a tweener or heel type character, but “larger than life” for what the WWE expects out of its top babyface wrestler?

If you just go back to 2015-2020, the WWE tried that with Roman Reigns to force him into the “larger than life” character that Vince McMahon and other officials in the WWE knows what draws with longtime WWE fans. They want walking superhero characters who have a great look, can cut great promos, and make you believe the wrestler is super-human and can overcome anything. Cody, unfortunately, is slightly lacking in that “larger than life” area that Rock, Austin, Hogan, Macho, Undertaker, Goldberg, Sting, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and sometimes Batista had. He’s too serious as a character, much in the realm of Bret Hart. Hart being way too serious didn’t help the decline in the United States, though in hindsight, the WWE would be in worse shape without him.

My worry with Cody Rhodes defeating Roman Reigns to become dual WWE Champion is this… After Roman Reigns, what does he do next?

Other superstars ran into that problem after their big moment. Ultimate Warrior wins the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 6 but that was the peak of his career. WWE’s business significantly declined after that, insomuch that they later had to return to Hulk Hogan not once (WM 7), not twice (WM 8), but three times (WM 9) because nobody could replace Hogan’s star power. The better comparison could be Shawn Michaels from Wrestlemania 12. HBK was an overpushed babyface back then and after he defeated Bret Hart at WM 12, he had a very weak group of opponents for feuds. Triple H comes back from a torn quad as an overpushed babyface during 2002 and wins the WWE Title… Immediately irrelevant as champion, hands it off to an aging Hulk Hogan. Remember Chris Benoit? He finally scored a WWE World Title at WM 20 and after that, well, he lost his drawing power and lost the title by SummerSlam. Yes, I’m well aware what Benoit later did, but let’s focus on 2004 before he did that horrible stuff.

There are many other modern examples, not exclusive Wrestlemania of a wrestler finally winning a WWE World Title and then immediately loses fan interest.

The problem that I see with Cody is that unless he enters into a LONG feud with Roman Reigns, he has a very dire list of opponents. Brock Lesnar would be the only one who could be fresh to Cody, but if you’ve seen one Brock match lately, you’ve seen them all. Same routine of Germans, brawling on the outside, and usually a short match with lots of finishers hit or attempted. Gunther could be interesting… But otherwise, it’s a lot of Kevin Owens, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Seth Rollins (again), Bobby Lashley, Miz, and many of the NXT call-ups or released return wrestlers that Triple H cares about. With 3 hours of RAW and 2 hours of Smackdown to see these guys each week, it’s tiring… Many of those guys have been multiple time world Champions and they lack drawing power because they are over-exposed.

Now, if Cody were to win at Wrestlemania 39 and then Roman Reigns wins it right back, we’re back into the same situation… Who does Roman Reigns have to face? Same old tired wrestler and he’s already burned out that Brock Lesnar match card. Hence why the Sami Zayn stuff works because it’s a new thorn in Roman’s side that he has to deal with. We all know that Sami has a slight chance, at best, to win (anything can happen), but from a storyline standpoint, Sami Zayn made the Bloodline interesting again after getting somewhat stale, themselves, during 2023. Watch what happens in Montreal at the Elimination Chamber PLE or PPV on February 18th. That place is going to go wild!

If I were the WWE, I’d be very careful with Cody Rhodes here… Obviously, it seems that the Usos will screw Sami at the Chamber and Cody will make the save after a beatdown. Montreal will cheer because Cody is saving Sami, but will that matter elsewhere? Would Roman have to resort to something more violent to generate heat or would he be limited in the PG Era? If this were 20 years ago, Roman would grab Brandi by the back of her hair and taunt Cody some heat. You cannot do that now… If he makes fun of Cody being Stardust, that just reminds people of what Cody was before his 2022 WWE return: a midcarder. It would be nice if Cody could get some Legacy help, but Orton remains out and Ted Dibiase Jr. is long gone from the business.

There is always a risk of Roman Reigns getting cheered heavily at Wrestlemania 39 against Cody Rhodes. Fans can be picky, yet they’ve been purposely tuning into Smackdown to see the HEEL Roman Reigns rule the Bloodline stable. Roman is the draw for WWE with the bloodline as a heel and any other wrestler on the WWE roster is WAY behind him. WWE would be on the brink of a disaster if Cody was going to win the WWE Titles at Wrestlemania 39 but the fans were cheering for Roman. Worse yet, what if the Rock does show up and costs Roman the match against Cody. Well, everyone will talk about Rock vs. Roman actually happening.

Hell, the bigger problem maybe that Rock vs. Roman Reigns ISN’T happening. For 2 years now, and maybe we would just gather up pitchforks to chase the Observer Boys… But for 2 years, we’ve heard rumors that Rock vs. Roman Reigns was going to happen and it would be “saved” for the Wrestlemania in Los Angeles. Well, here we are for Wrestlemania 39 and there’s no Rocky. Thus, it could be argued that the WWE is “settling” for Roman vs. Cody, instead. That’s a big problem. What if fans chant “WE WANT ROCKY” throughout this match?

To me and this is unfortunate, Cody Rhodes still has the “AEW Stench” on him. Those years were unkind to him, though it earned him lots of money and maybe helped him make a bigger return splash into WWE. What I worry is that we’re placing too much faith on him based on his performances against Seth Rollins. Besides the Fiend (Bray Wyatt) in a red cage with red lighting, can anybody name me a BAD Seth Rollins match? The guy is a superb athlete and works to make any opponent look good inside the ring. Cody worked with the guy repeatedly from Wrestlemania to their cage match. Can anyone name me another great 2022 WWE match by Cody? Nope, everything was Cody vs. Seth. So how do we know that he should be the one to end Roman’s WWE Title reigns?

To me, Cody made the biggest mistake of his career and as EVP of AEW by removing himself from the AEW Title picture. I understand that he wanted to show that because he was an EVP of the company, he could step back and let others shine instead. However, Cody was one of the biggest stars of the company and was a freakin’ founder. He SHOULD have been in the AEW Title conversation and winning it as well. Instead, he lost a match and never fought for it again… TNT Champion. Awesome. Great of you to defeat Shawn Spears, Darby Allin, and Lance Archer, with Spears and Archer not appearing in AEW lately and Darby Allin would be a good Cruiserweight in WCW during 1996. Cody took time off throughout 2020-2021 at a time when AEW needed star power. Anytime he did appear, it wasn’t the best creative or match-ups.

It was awesome to see Cody return to the WWE… But are we over-selling his return because Seth Rollins, excuse me, Seth FREAKIN’ Rollins was his opponent?

Are we possibly over-selling his 2/6 RAW promo because he was in the ring with Paul Heyman?

Two things that I know:

(a) Vince McMahon is usually right the wrestlers that he lets go out of their contracts with few exceptions.

(b) The AEW version of Cody Rhodes could have been better. Maybe he was too busy being an EVP and not a Main Event caliber wrestler instead?

BUT here’s a THIRD thing that I know… Many wrestlers go to New Japan Pro Wrestling and suddenly look like in-ring technicians. Kenny Omega is a prime example… He’s an insane worker in NJPW and worthy of the hype, but in AEW, ehhhhh… Been a lack of stars unless you’re using the incredibly biased scale that Dave Meltzer uses. Will Ospreay is exactly the same. Amazing worker with New Japan, seems to fit right in with the spot heavy, no-selling crowd in AEW and is a part of a few botches. New Japan knows how to book around wrestler strengths and weaknesses… Could Cody be exactly like Kenny and Will? Or is he more like the AJ Styles kind of worker who LEARNS from his experiences in NJPW and greatly improves as a worker?

I just struggle with that AEW run, and I know that I’m not the only one.

I also struggle because I know Cody, if awarded either or both of the WWE Titles, will fall into the same WWE potholes that all World Champions fall into: Lack of Dance Partners.

Roman Reigns became a great heel and his Bloodline storyline has more than carried the WWE. His opponents have been either weak or extremely repetitive during this lengthy run. The NXT or WWE Performance Center is NOT and I repeat NOT training new & fresh talents that can credibly line-up against Roman in the future. Much of our hopes are placed on the son of Rick Steiner and though I really like the kid, do we see those intangibles yet of a major breakout star? I do sometimes, but sometimes I just see a clone of his dad as a steady upper midcard wrestler. The NXT groomed wrestlers that Triple H personally brought to the WWE (not brought back) that became World Champions were Kevin Owens and Finn Balor. Owens has been a durable and reliable wrestler, but a sustainable main eventer, he is not… Finn Balor was demoted to NXT for another run there.

I just feel that the WWE may be settling on Cody Rhodes just because he’s FRESH on that roster… The rest of the WWE performers that are still there either from John Laurinaitis’s FCW years or Triple H’s NXT system aren’t. The guys coming up from NXT aren’t that fresh and exciting, either.

Is Cody, as WWE Champion, as captivating as Roman Reigns as WWE Champion to remain on top and carry a weak roster with NO HOPE IN SIGHT for good or fresh opponents? Roman, to me, just seems on a different planet than the rest of the WWE roster including Cody. Cody is still new, has the heroics of wrestling through that match with a torn muscle, and of course has the lineage of the Rhodes family. HOWEVER, the WWE used that Rhodes lineage before (remember Legacy and teaming with Goldust) and once that “new car smell” wears off, it’s just another used car riding up and down the road.

Everything that I said may not even be Cody’s fault. He rejoined a WWE with a bunch of similar level dudes on the roster and a weaker talent developmental system to train up anyone new to freshen up things. IRONICALLY, it’s the SAME system that Cody Rhodes ran away from during 2016. Except now, he’s a former EVP from the rival company who made a good name for himself outside of the WWE… Like AJ Styles, but he wasn’t relied upon as the top guy for very long stretches and WWE utilizes him in the midcard now.

I HOPE that I’m wrong here at Cody Rhodes. I just think that there are TOO MANY expectations being place on his shoulders to SAVE the WWE from mediocrity or something interesting other than the Bloodline. However, Cody has rejoined the WWE that had the same Creative and Talent Developmental problems of 2016, which BY THE WAY, Triple H was overseeing back then too with a Vince McMahon breathing down his back. “Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana quote

But feel free to attack me here, as I know you will… I’m just eloquently stating an OPINION in a professional manner, using recent examples of Cody’s career along with other babyface wrestler push attempts that the WWE tried and then bailed on. I also know the current WWE infrastructure well and have been very right on my critiques of Triple H’s Talent Relations performance. By the way, how are all of those re-signings doing in the WWE? Care to comment on that one, guys?

Go ahead and call me an “old man” or “disgruntled WWE fan”, or beg Aaron to cancel me. I’m simply stating an opinion that THIS WWE is completely incapable of making new stars, specifically top drawing babyface ones.

Like I said, I hope that I’m wrong about Cody Rhodes… But I’ve seen Cody work in the WWE before and I just didn’t see any intangibles of a top guy from his work in AEW. Just my opinion and it could be wrong…

So just chill… till the next episode!

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