Cody Rhodes likely won’t crack the Top 10 Best Wrestlers of All-Time. Most people would probably spitball 20-25 others before calling on the son of wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes.
Cody is 37 and certainly no longer in the “prime” of his career. The beauty of wrestling is that he can still go another 8, 9 or 10 years. The saying is better late than never. Because of his late bloom, he likely gets overlooked.
However, his legacy is much more important than cracking a top 10 best wrestler list.
When it comes to the sport of professional wrestling, I am not sure there is a more important person in the industry over the last 10-15 years. John Cena maybe? That’s it. There are only a handful of guys who I would deem more important all time.
Cody is the catalyst for breaking the entire industry. He broke the wheel. Because of that (maybe I’m nuts), I put him on the level of Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin in terms of importance to the industry.
WWE has DOMINATED and MONOPOLIZED the entire landscape of professional wrestling since putting the final nail in the coffin of the Monday Night Wars. That was until Cody.
When Cody left WWE, there was always the chance of returning to the mainstream with WWE being the vessel. No one expected that vessel to be through a company that Cody would help start. That of course being AEW.
It all came to a head when he headlined Wrestlemania 39.
Cody started in Ohio Valley Wrestling better known as OVW (old WWE developmental) in 2006. By 2007, he began working with Hardcore Holly on the main roster. He eventually got his first taste of gold winning the Tag Team Championship with Holly.
Eventually, he turned on Holly aligning with Ted DiBiase forming The Legacy. The two shared success as Tag Champs and eventually aligned with Randy Orton to form an entertaining stable. That lasted until 2010.
Then it was time for Rhodes to go solo.
He started working the Dashing Cody Rhodes gimmick. I absolutely loved him in that role. He played the handsome narcissist very well. I honestly thought the Dashing gimmick could have carried him to the main event scene for years. It was brilliant.
After taking a 619 from Rey Mysterio and breaking his nose legitimately, he then got repackaged as un-dashing. He wore a plastic mask to protect his face. He began handing out paper bags to fans. He would cut promos about how Rey Mysterio took away his handsomeness. He was just very dark and somber.
Again, I actually loved the gimmick. He went on to win the Intercontinental Title and brought back the white strap.
By 2012, he formed Rhodes Scholars with Damian Sandow which was forgetful to say the least. In 2013, he started working with Goldust. That is of course his older brother, Dustin.
In 2014, they began to experience problems as Cody began to have an identity crisis, dropping matches left and right. After soul searching, he debuted Stardust. I remember the debut and just thought to myself “what in the actual fuck.” He ran with that gimmick until 2016 when he departed WWE.
Because of how good Cody is, the gimmick actually grew on me and other fans as silly as it was.
From 2007-2016, Cody had moments of mild success in WWE. Ultimately, no one would call it a successful run. I would characterize it as memorably forgetful. I know that is a paradox obviously. What I mean by it is there was nothing noteworthy he did on a grand level. But, he did the best he could when he was given bad idea after bad idea.
After leaving WWE, Cody began building himself across the globe. He spent time in the Indies, then Ring of Honor, TNA and eventually NJPW.
Thus The American Nightmare was born.
Much like everyone else who goes to NJPW, he joined the Bullet Club. As per usual, he played a large part in the in-fighting of the faction. That in-fighting led to a split where Rhodes along with Kenny Omega, Hangman Adam Page, The Young Bucks and Marty Scurll formed The Elite.
After wrestling writer Dave Meltzer made a comment about American promotions not being able to sell tickets because of WWE, Cody and The Bucks hosted All In as a stand alone event. It sold out in less than 30 minutes with nearly 12,000 tickets sold.
Eventually, Tony Khan decided to file a trademark in Jacksonville, FL forming All Elite Wrestling.
While guys like Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley helped legitimize the brand of AEW because of their star power in WWE, Cody was the catalyst for it all. He flipped wrestling upside down and turned it inside out.
He was the WWE cast off who forged his own path. With a little bit luck on his side (Tony Khan), he gave WWE the first taste of competition since the Monday Night Wars.
As his popular them song “Kingdom” by Downstait proclaims…
My father said
When I was younger
Hard times breed better men
You took it all away, I give it all away
Can’t take my freedom
Here to change the game, a banner made of pain
I built my kingdom
Now you bow to me
You took my dreams but not my name
You’ll follow me until the end
I am my kingdom
The entire song is quite literally an ode to what he has done for wrestling. In poetic fashion because of his father Dusty, he fought through the hard times. He changed the game. He built his kingdom.
Eventually, the Kingdom that is AEW turned on him. He became very Cena-like to AEW fans. I never understood it because in the back of my mind, he is the person who helped make me fall in love with professional wrestling again. I was so sour on WWE that once AEW was announced, I quit watching. Wrestlemania 39 was the first event I have watched since March 2018.
He could have turned heel in AEW and likely stayed put. It would have worked. He spent time getting many of the stars of today over in AEW. Guys like MJF who defeated him after a long build. Then Sammy Guevara who was the very last person he faced in AEW for the TNT Title.
Due to his earlier feud with Chris Jericho, he set a stipulation that if he lost, he would never be able to compete for the AEW Title. Shockingly, Jericho won. He wasn’t focused on being THE guy per se with AEW. He was an executive and it seemed as if he wanted to promote it and be the face without being the guy who won everything. I liked it. I think that ultimately became his demise for the fans.
Because he couldn’t challenge for the major strap, the TNT title was born. Even though it was successful defenses, his regular defenses helped put many younger guys over. Some even earning AEW contracts like Ricky Starks, now a massive fan favorite.
He also had a feud with Shaq which helped put Jade Cargill over. She is now the TBS Champion and undefeated in AEW.
He built the kingdom through selflessness.
Because of unfinished business, he eventually returned to WWE.
Now, the wrestling world is behind him.
He is the kingdom now.
I had most of this typed up prior to the result of the losing effort to Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 39.
My initial reaction was WHY! Take the moment while it is there. If the plan is for him to win at WM 40 or Summerslam, too many things can go wrong. This felt like the biggest moment since the YES movement.
No, wrestling isn’t always about appeasing the fans and what they want. I get that. But, this moment was monumental. After sitting back and taking time to digest, maybe it is a good thing to savor it.
If there is someone who has my confidence in wrestling, it is Triple H. After the losing effort in which it was interference over and over, maybe the long build is the play.
I wish I could say I am excited to see it unfold.
But then the Raw after Mania comes. It was a dud and we find out Vince McMahon was back in gorilla position for WWE. Now, I unfortunately have a feeling that old dumpster fire of a man is going to fuck it up royally.
I hope not because Cody Rhodes deserves better.
He helped fix a very broken industry for talent and fans. He deserves THAT moment. If nothing else validates it more for me, the “Woah” from the fans during his entrance sends goosebump down my spine every time.
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