Disclaimer: IF he signs with WWE. I feel like I should make that abundantly clear before the title is taken way out of context.
Before I share my probably unwarranted take on this, let me clear the air with something:
Cody Rhodes changed the landscape of the wresting industry. His efforts helped pave a new path for wrestling fans like myself who have long been jaded with WWE’s product. In many ways, he truly did start a revolution — and I will always be grateful for that.
As an AEW fan, I’ve been there since All In 2018, to their first Dynamite and beyond. I’ve attended a live show, and have put hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars into this brand. Cody Rhodes has a large part in that.
That being said, by definition, if he signs with the Evil Empire he would be a sellout. And let’s not get the two ideas confused…
There is a difference between being “in it” for the money, and de-prioritizing your wealth a little in the name of your core values. We’re all socially conditioned to be “in it” for the money, and that’s okay if it’s being made honestly. But when you attach morals and values with it, the situation becomes complex.
a betrayal of one’s principles for reasons of expedience.
Or as Wikipedia better put it:
Does this ring true, though?
Over the past few years Cody Rhodes has been brutally honest about his former employer. Let’s dig into just a few quotes from past interviews and promos:
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”
Unless this is all one elaborate ruse, these are the words of a man who has long been jaded with WWE for some time. But there’s more…
In 2019 at Double or Nothing, Cody smashed a throne with a sledgehammer during his entrance; a clear shot at Triple H’s history of “burials”.
Also in 2019, during an in-ring promo Cody stated that “This isn’t like the other wrestling company we came from,” – he also added that there is no imaginary fourth wall, referring to the WWE Universe.
From 2020: “The number one thing I learned, other than to reconnect with the fans and get the love from them that I had needed at the time, is not to be in a bubble. For a decade, I had been in the bubble of WWE, and then the fact that AEW was able to happen proves that there was things outside the bubble…”
So is Cody simply all talk?
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Rhodes and TK had been negotiating a new contract for some time during 2021. 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 was a decision that he made.
Cody’s character is of a man driven by achievement and a historic bloodline to live up to. Was he ever realistically going to be happy only fighting for the TNT Championship? That’s not to say he couldn’t have non-title feuds with top players, but it becomes that much harder when your perceived as an EVP with “political pull”. Hence, every time you go over a younger talent, some annoying marks will complain.
So what is Cody to do? Take a backseat to all the championships so he can take a larger executive role within the company? This certainly didn’t stop the Young Bucks or Kenny Omega from attaining gold. It’s not as if he wasn’t generally booked strongly over 2021, even as he reportedly lost his booking power to Tony Khan.
This wasn’t an easy decision for Cody, if all the rumors are to be believed. And I can see it from Khan’s perspective as well. If Cody can never compete for the world championship, and his role is always limited one way or another — his value drops a bit. He’s not going to be as valuable as Danielson, Punk, or even future headliners like MJF and Darby Allin.
A Slap in the Face
That all being said, if Cody shows up this weekend at Elimination Chamber, or eventually returns to WWE, it will be a slap in the face for many AEW fans.
It will, by definition, be selling out.
You can’t on one hand tear down just how bad WWE was at times, and how they’ve monopolized and sterilized the industry; and then when the money you think you deserve doesn’t come your way, high five your way back into the same environment you once bashed.
WWE hasn’t changed at all since Cody left. In fact, it’s probably gotten worse. They can tout record Billion dollar profits all they want; but when you make deals with the Saudi government worth $50 Million a show, deals with NBC and Fox, and release over 200 wrestlers in two years — of course there will be a profit made.
Amazon made record profits last year as well, yet they treat their employees like dogshit. A profitable company doesn’t automatically equate to a great working environment.
I wasn’t there at the negotiation table. I don’t know how much TK offered Cody, and inevitably, Cody does have a family to support and deserves to earn what he’s worth. But when you paint yourself as he did over the years, and talk about revolutions, only to join forces with the very ideologies you started a revolution against…
…then man, perhaps you aren’t a revolutionary. Revolutions can’t be bought.
And that’s how this is wrapped up. Nothing is official yet, and as of now, rumors are just that. Hell, Cody may appear on an episode of Dynamite next week, or even at New Japan’s Golden Series event this weekend.
From all accounts, Cody Rhodes is a good dude. He was liked backstage, and his heart always seemed to be in the right place. However, something has shifted, and this is more than just a larger paycheck.
Just a few weeks ago, Cody stated that he never turned heel because the fans cheered him when he needed it the most. Now it seems that he is turning his back somewhat on those same fans.
“Before there was a forbidden door, I’m the one who built it!” – Cody Rhodes
And if we are to believe the reports, Cody Rhodes will have gone from opening the forbidden door to going to a place built with glass ceilings.
It may take us a week or so get the taste out of our mouths after slapping us all in the face, but rest assured, AEW will be just fine. The revolution will continue — just without the Nightmare Famiy.