It seems as though Cody Rhodes was back in WWE for what seems like the blink of an eye. It was in that short amount of time though that he had three tremendous matches with one Seth Rollins. Those matches will of course go down in history. But what of his time in AEW?
Business insiders and hardcore pro wrestling fans know the ultimate truth, but for the casual fan, most probably had no idea that Cody was even gone, and for the AEW fan and lapsed WWE fan, the reason why Cody left AEW is perhaps still a mystery.
Enter Pro Wrestling News Hub, and yours truly; I’ll lay it all down for you folks and have you understanding just why the American Nightmare, Cody Rhodes returned to WWE after all this time, leaving a company he actually helped found.
A brief history on the Rhodes family
You had the Guerreros, the Harts, the McMahons, The Von Erichs, the Colons and you had the Rhodes family. There are others and please forgive me for not including them here, but any omission I make is strictly for the sake of brevity, dear readers.
But the Rhodes family is indeed a royal family of professional wrestling, Dusty Rhodes setting down the foundations of where the rest of the family would go in the business…essentially his two sons, Dustin Runnels (Goldust) and of course Cody himself.
Dusty rolled through the NWA like he owned it and in essence he did, in terms of popularity and match history that is. The man laid it down for sure and built for himself quite the legacy. When it was time to hang up the boots he did so, later booking in WCW and then WWE…specifically for WWE development and was instrumental—very instrumental—in the development of stars in NXT, until his death in 2015 that was.
Cody’s development and early run in WWE
Of course Cody was a product of WWE. Really he was a product of his dad’s, his father taking him under his wing from when he was 12, teaching him, but as far as training and development, he was essentially homegrown as the expression goes, going through the WWE developmental program.
This was in 2006. The developmental territory back then was Ohio Valley wrestling…a developmental territory for WWE in which stars like Randy Orton, John Cena, Batista, Bobby Lashley, Shelton Benjamin and even Dolph Ziggler would pass through on their way to WWE’s main roster.
The same would go for Cody. He would hit WWE’s main roster by 2007, teaming with Hardcore Bob Holly, who was a veteran of the industry and company by that point.
His run in WWE—his first run would be a roller coaster ride, the best of it perhaps being his tenure with the faction known as Legacy…it was compiled of three men that were second and third generation pro wrestlers, Ted DiBiase Jr., Randy Orton, who acted as leader, and Cody himself.
Eventually they would disband and the rest of his WWE run was laced with frustration, he eventually being given the gimmick of Stardust that he essentially ran with, but the ceiling was felt by him and the fans and eventually in 2016 he asked for his release from the company.
Taking the independent circuit by storm
He set out to build a legacy of his own. He once said of Triple H when he left:
“Hunter…took it very personally because he had done so much for my dad at NXT. There was one conversation where he said, ‘I’m shocked that you feel this way after everything I’ve done for your family.’ But I told him, ‘I’m not my dad. I can’t stay here out of loyalty to you for giving my dad a job in 2005. I get it, and the little boy in me really appreciates what you did for my dad. But I’m not him. He’s not here anymore. I’ve got to be me.’ …
I think Hunter, he’s been in wrestling long enough that he knew, ‘Oh, this is a real one. He’s not asking for more money. He’s not asking for a title shot. Nothing would matter at this point.’ I let the burn get too bad before I said anything, if that makes any sense…”
-transcription by Wikipedia
There was frustration there too from Triple H it seemed, and that frustration on both sides would let itself be known as the years progressed, but perhaps it was that same frustration that lit the fire beneath Rhodes as he worked ROH, NJPW, Impact and other independent promotions relentlessly, collecting belts along the way, smashing expectations and gaining a notoriety for himself that was well deserved.
And what was all of this building to you might ask?
The building of AEW
Without Cody Rhodes AEW would not have come to fruition. The same can be said for Tony Khan and the other EVPs of the company. Love them or hate them, you must call a spade a spade.
And it was in AEW that Cody reached that status he had looked for all his life. There was frustration there too, from the fans as well eventually, and they let him know it, but it was in AEW that he was able to make the statement he had always wanted to make, and he made it loud and clear.
It was at AEW’s first ever show, Double or Nothing, that he was able to smash the throne of Triple H, or a likeness of it at least, and in a sense that sent a message too.
A message that Vince McMahon heard loud and clear it would seem.
Why did Cody Rhodes Leave AEW?
A statement the man made himself can sum that up most perfectly, dear readers. It was while he spoke to Variety about his decision that he made it clear enough. Here’s some of what he had to say on the matter:
“I chose to remain silent about my departure from AEW and I’m going to keep my word… There’s no shoot interview. There’s no nefarious tale that’s going to be told. There were all these different theories and none of them are correct. I mean, there were things about money and creative control. They were printed as fact and it’s been a very difficult two months to see that, when the reality is it was just time…
It was a personal matter and we couldn’t move past it. I have nothing but respect for Matt [Jackson], Nick [Jackson] and Kenny [Omega]. I’m rooting for Tony Khan. His name is going to be in the history books as someone who helped to bankroll and support this entire alternative and revolution that AEW became but for me, it was just time to move on. I get an opportunity at my dream; I get another chance at it…
I told Vince McMahon, Bruce Prichard and Nick Kahn — this very small circle of individuals — I told them what I truly believe and it’s that I’m the best wrestler in the world. And to go further with it, I actually don’t think there’s a close second. But with that said, the opportunity now exists to prove it, and that’s what I’m most excited about…
It’s a completely different individual returning to the game…It’s a different brand. It’s someone who’s experienced all the wonders of independent wrestling, of traveling internationally, of being able to get on the ground with the fans that make this whole ship move. But different person or not, I’m still that little kid that I mentioned in an AEW promo that wants what my dad didn’t get, and I’m not going to say it out loud because I don’t want to jinx it…
(H)e went to Madison Square Garden, stood across from Superstar Billy Graham and he held it in his hands, the goal of mine (The World title), and it was taken away because that was the context of the match. I understand that now as an adult, but as a kid, that was the only reason I ever wanted to get in, so that I could get what he didn’t get.”
-via Variety (Transcription- comicbook.com)
So there you have it, folks. He wanted that world title, or rather wants it, and that seems to be motivation enough and reason enough.
*Also very important to remember: Because of a storyline in AEW, he would be unable to contend for the AEW World championship – a promise he made, and one he refused to break, so his choices were pretty obvious.
Where do we go from here?
He returned to WWE at WrestleMania 38 and it was there that his feud with Seth Rollins began. It was a few short months later that he would tear his pectoral muscle and even wrestled with that injury at Hell in a Cell unbelievably—also against Rollins. The word ‘masterpiece’ certainly comes to mind.
He is rumored to be returning at the Royal Rumble and is also in the running for a championship run, which many hope will come to fruition, and in the end, that championship—the WWE or Universal championship (or both) is why he headed back to WWE in the first place, as stated above in his statements…the one title (a World title in essence) that eluded even his own legendary father.
Here’s to making things right, no matter the obstacles, to making them right.