Cody Rhodes got what he wanted, but what’s next?

Cody Rhodes got what he wanted, but what’s next?

Welp. Here we are again.
Screenshot: WWE

When you get Cody Rhodes’s entrance at WrestleMania this past weekend — the drawn out silence before to build anticipation, the house lights being cut, importing his elevator through the stage from AEW, and 70,000 people losing their shit, it would be impossible to argue that Cody Rhodes was wrong in any way. His ensuing match with Seth Rollins was high quality, as Cody’s matches tend to be. That wasn’t really ever the problem.

Cody was certainly available to all media outlets afterwards, which again is a Cody staple when things are going well. Dude loves to talk about himself. And he’s mostly earned the right, given what he’s accomplished. But the seeds for what drove him out of AEW and to the now-welcoming arms of New York are still there to see.

Cody certainly had a host of reasons for jumping, and to be the first to go the other way, from AEW to WWE, but all of them seemed to be a celebration of himself. The main one of course, having just had a baby and wanting to maximize his earnings because of that, makes total sense. Wrestlers only get a short window to be the main guy and the check that comes with it, and having children is a spur to most to be as financially supportive as they can. Good on ya for that, Cody.

But it’s important to see where Cody came from to try and figure out where it’s going to go. Cody left WWE because he felt he wasn’t valued. He wasn’t the first to leave WWE and then fashion a good career around the globe, but he was the biggest name and one of the very few to leave voluntarily. And he certainly was the biggest name to immediately carve out a big place for himself in Japan with NJPW and on these shores with ROH, invading the Bullet Club and tussling with Kenny Omega for leadership of that group being the main story that traversed both of those companies.

Cody then was the driving force behind All In, the indie PPV that begat AEW as a company. Cody helped get AEW off the ground, on TV, and through the pandemic. He was a major creator of the first company to stake out a place on TV and be a competitor with WWE in two decades, at least in terms of being a viable place for wrestlers to go to be on TV or for fans wanting something different.

And we’re not even done! Cody put on banger matches at the company’s start, and then put over guys like Brodie Lee, Darby Allin, Sammy Guevara, just to name a few. He made these guys stars like they either never were in WWE or never had a chance at being. All of that in the span of three years or so. It’s mind-boggling.

And he fucked it all up.

The AEW crowd, mostly, didn’t turn on Cody because they were supposed to. They did because he was so up his own ass that he wouldn’t let anything happen without him. The 50-50 booking that he forced upon fans and Andrade or Malakai Black smacked of WWE protecting stars to the detriment of overall storytelling. His forcing himself on cards with the likes of QT Marshall only did so more. Oh, and he solved racism. Cody wasn’t content to just be part of the scene and ride its ebbs and flows. He had to remain above it, and the fans wouldn’t go along.

All of which made Cody a mid-carder. Some of that was by choice, as he took himself out of the main title scene to leave room for others, which he should be commended for. But then he seemed miffed that Tony Khan didn’t sense that he had to pay top of the card prices for a mid-card performer, as well as giving him the say over creative that he wanted. Cody was fine playing the revolutionary and maverick when he was treated as the main guy and being cheered for it everywhere. All that fell by the wayside as soon as he wasn’t.

So now he’s in WWE, with a fanbase that isn’t quite as discerning as AEW’s. His name and the seeming “win” of luring him out of AEW will give him buzz for a while. But Cody was certainly happy to turn on everything he told us he stood for just a couple months earlier in his last promo or AEW. There were the love letters to HHH, even though we all remember him smashing that throne. We know his thirst for mainstream success, or to basically be The Miz, with his allusions to his game show and reality show and other projects. Which is fine, making a living without breaking your body must have some real appeal. But you can’t be that guy and the leader of the wrestling revolution too. And you can’t be all of that when you also want to be the face of AEW, a company that is supposed to be about “professional wrestling” instead of “sports entertainment,” i.e. cutting out all the bullshit that Cody has been chasing.

And there he was, telling us that in his first meeting with Vince McMahon that Vince told him “it’s not broke and that’s what we’re buying.” Cody can do all the things he was doing in AEW. Except…it was broken. The fans turned on it. They weren’t booing the character. They didn’t want to see Cody at all.

Now, the two audiences are very different. AEW is a niche crowd more beholden to indie values, which was never going to be receptive to WWE presentation, which is basically what Cody was doing. WWE audiences will be, along with everything mentioned above. He doesn’t have to worry about anyone booing him for months.

But WWE is far more fickle of a place. That buzz will die down. Remember the Hardyz getting the same welcome at a surprise entrance at Mania. Within a year they were basically scenery again. Vince can get bored quickly and go back to his favorite toys. If Cody doesn’t get into a program with Roman Reigns, how much else is there? Even away from the main title scene in AEW, there were plenty of dance partners to do good work with who the company really cared about. Cody did it for a while, but then it wasn’t enough for him. In a place where there basically is no mid-card?

What kept Cody from going totally into the trash in AEW fans’ eyes was that mostly, the matches were good. But he won’t get the same chance to do all that with New York. He can’t bleed everywhere. He can’t be so methodical in his matches or promos with just 10 minutes of TV time. He is less likely to get a chance to spend weeks and months on a story. And then it’ll just be him celebrating himself while refusing to be anything else without the matches to back it up. Heels celebrate themselves, but Cody won’t do it.

Maybe he can make enough out of this grace period it will carry over. And if it doesn’t, he’ll just be a joke everywhere but the bank. But we know how he handles that. 

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.