Last night I watched the opening for Monday Night Raw for the first time in possibly years. I wasn’t disappointed, nor was I entertained.
Cody Rhodes was just “there”.
And this leads into the entire point of this article, summed up below with one glaring truth:
Cody Rhodes left AEW because he didn’t want to be a part of a revolution he was no longer the face of.
I can prove this. Let’s dig in.
A Series of Unfortunate Gimmicks
If we examine Rhodes’ early days as a WWE performer, we find one unbridled truth: it was a bit inconsistent. He spent the early days of his career as a tag team wrestler, teaming with the likes of Hardcore Holly, and more notably, with Ted DiBiase Jr. as part of The Legacy.
In fact, if we take a close look at all of this different personas, one thing stands in common: It just didn’t quite hit the mark.
From “Dashing” Cody Rhodes, to “Noseguard” Cody Rhodes, neither gimmick really landed. He soon captured the Intercontinental Championship to little fanfare. After a short stint with Damien Sandow as Rhodes Scholars (which included the Mustache Mountain version of Rhodes), he morphed into Stardust.
Through all of these gimmick and persona changes, nothing seemed to quite work out. So he requested his release from WWE.
Fair enough, right?
The American Nightmare is Born
Cody floated soon after, likely in an attempt to find himself on the Indies. This has led to many success stories, including Drew McIntyre, who was able to repackage himself and get over so much that WWE would eventually re-sign him.
This was a similar story for Rhodes.
From What Culture Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, and New Japan — Rhodes was everywhere. He formed an alliance with Bullet Club in 2016, and soon found himself in good company with Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, and The Elite shortly after.
After an open challenge from Dave Meltzer that an independent wrestling event couldn’t move 10,000 tickets, Rhodes and The Elite accepted the challenge…
All Elite Wrestling
All In took place on September 1st, 2018. It sold out within 30 minutes. The event also featured a great matchup for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (a title his father held) against Nick Aldis, which he won (and dropped soon after).
It was just a few months after that trademarks were filed, and All Elite Wrestling was born. He had a few very solid feuds in those years: Jericho, Brodie Lee, MJF, and multiple runs as TNT Champion.
By 2021, Rhodes and Tony Khan had been negotiating a new contract for some time. What likely made this difficult is the fact that Cody booked himself into a career corner. When you decide to “never” compete for the AEW World Championship, you limit your opportunities a bit. That and names like Punk, Danielson, Black, Cole, and others were arguably more over than he was (and could ever be).
This was Cody’s decision.
But remember when I said on Raw that Cody was just “there”? The same can be said through his AEW run, if I’m being honest…
Jon Moxley is violent and unstable. “Hangman” Adam Page is a liberal beer-drinking, cowboy. Bryan Danielson is the best technical wrestler in the world. Britt Baker is a conceited dentist. MJF is a complete and utter douchebag. C.M. Punk is the straight edge anti-hero. Malakai Black is a dark cult-like figure.
Cody Rhodes is…the American Nightmare. Whatever that means…
Get my point? Unless you are on elevated legend status like John Cena, Sting, Triple H, or even Jeff Hardy — it’s hard to get over just by being yourself as you are. Even then, legends like Steve Austin and The Undertaker still have identifiable qualities/gimmicks about them. Even when we take a look at Dusty Rhodes, the “common man” gimmick was something fans could identify with.
Cody Rhodes is…what exactly is he aside from the son of Dusty Rhodes? He’s now working for the same man who humiliated Dusty Rhodes in his very short WWF run (89′-91′) with the ridiculous polka dot attire.
Sure, he was a good asset to AEW, and a great in-ring worker. However, when names like Punk, Danielson, Black, and others showed up, Rhodes seemed a little less important. In a lot of ways, Rhodes was simply better off at being an EVP.
But you can only cut so many promos bashing your former employer while maintaining relevance for so long…
It’s one thing to leave for greener pastures. It’s another to help jumpstart a rival competitor because your former employer is everything seemingly wrong with the wrestling industry — AND THEN GO BACK when you aren’t the center of attention anymore.
Remember, these are just some of the things Rhodes has said in the past, and in what would be his last AEW promo (possibly) ever:
From Cody’s 1/19/22 Dynamite promo where he gave a shout out to C.M. Punk’s pipe bomb promo for planting seeds of what would become a wrestling revolution:
- “I carried every ounce of anti-monopoly sentiment on my shoulder (WWE), I held every grain of the revolution in my hand…”
- “He (Punk) gave one of the most important addresses in the history of our sport”
- “We’re not in the business of renaming people”
- “ReDragon graduated hip-toss class (NXT) with flying colors”
- “You have been conditioned for 20 years that any title that doesn’t have the word ‘world’ in it is a secondary belt”
And I’ll mention again that McMahon truly mishandled Dusty Rhodes when he was still able to go at a solid level in WWF during his run. But none of that matters to Cody Rhodes. While he away was filming reality television shows and sporadically competing for mid-card belts, AEW was moving along just fine without him.
And I think that ate at him more than he would ever admit. Revolutions require humility and sacrifice — Rhodes is unable to do either.
The Hard Truth About Cody Rhodes
I will always be grateful for Cody Rhodes. He helped start a wrestling revolution of sorts, and I’ve rarely missed a Wednesday Night Dynamite in years. I still don’t have anything bad to say about him — but I will be honest.
More than likely, it’s in his contract that he will win a WWE Championship. And rest assured, once the fanfare dies down, and newer talent comes up, and McMahon ultimately decides to protect his baby Roman at all costs: Rhodes will fade into the background — like he always does.
And that’s because Cody Rhodes will forever just be “there”.
He will never be content, as he’s never been content. The track record speaks for itself:
He was never fully happy with his first WWE run, he was never happy enough on the Indies to fully commit to one promotion over another, and once he was no longer the face of the ‘AEW revolution’ — he dipped out.
Once Cody is no longer content with his current WWE run, he’ll dip out on them as well. He may have won a world champion “for his father”, and he’ll get his 15 minutes, but the Cody Rhodes hoopla will be much ado about nothing.
If I’m being brutally honest, WWE has just overpaid and oversold what amounts to an AEW mid-carder. Rhodes reminds me of the Quarterback equivalent of Carson Wentz or Kirk Cousins. Good enough to win you some football games and an occasional playoff appearance — but not even Top 10 material.
This isn’t a bad thing. As Lance Storm once said on an episode of Figure Four Daily in 2019:
You can’t make every single person the top guy and there is no shame in being a well-utilized middle guy.
Cody Rhodes can main event here and there, but he’ll never become a top Wrestlemania-level draw unless the talent around him is so mediocre that he is the only one to stand out. Not that it’s impossible given McMahon’s heavy reliance on nostalgia over building newer stars.
Once Cody Rhodes was notably no longer the center of attention in AEW, he fled. His ego became too big for his own good, and it’s under the guise of doing “what’s best for business” in his words.
In reflection, Rhodes stated the following regarding his last Dynamite promo reference above:
“That interview looks a lot different now. I think everyone knew, respectfully, that something was wrong. I wasn’t mad at anybody, I was so happy we set the table and Punk came, Bryan came, Cole came. Great. I can go do my thing now, and that’ll be there for MJF and be there for Sammy and the kids.”
In other words, he simply couldn’t keep up with the insane amount of talent that AEW has to offer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I’m disappointed in Cody, but I wish him the best. Perhaps he will prove myself, and possibly many others wrong. But always keep in mind, and you can hear it in his overly dramatic in-ring promos, that Cody has never been content when he’s not front and center.
Cody Rhodes isn’t undeniable, he’s simply unquenchable.