With 2021 coming to an end, most are looking back at the year for perspective. I’m looking ahead to next year, 2022: the year of Cody Rhodes.
The biggest heel in professional wrestling; the power hungry son of a bitch who uses his sway as Executive Vice President to go back on his word and once again challenge for the AEW World Championship, ending the title reign of our hero, Hangman Adam Page.
And if doesn’t happen, it’s the biggest missed opportunity in wrestling history. It’s also a major red flag for a burgeoning company.
Some people claim Cody refuses to turn heel. Some people claim we’re working ourselves into a shoot. It’s become so meta and honestly, I think that’s become the point. Dissecting Cody Rhodes’s career motivations—both shoot and kayfabe—feels like a never-ending road of left turns in the dark with no headlights.
First, the promo. When Cody challenged Chris Jericho for the World Championship in 2019, he promised that if he lost he would never challenge again. As jaded pro wrestling fans, we take any stipulation with a grain of salt. After all, it’s fiction.
But why did he say that? Even if I didn’t ultimately “believe” Cody would never challenge for the world title again, I did give AEW the benefit of the doubt, and knew that for better or worse, they would honor this storyline.
But it’s nearly 2022. And fans are starting to realize it wasn’t a storyline, a picture-perfect paved boulevard for Cody Rhodes, the man whose entrance music literally tells us he’s wrestling royalty, to turn heel and go for the world title anyway. We’re starting to realize that this isn’t about wrestling characters or long cons or gimmicks or any of that.
Cody Rhodes just doesn’t want to be a bad buy.
It was evident when AEW was created that the EVPs were hyper aware of WCW’s pitfalls and decided to go overboard in the booking decisions of their top talents. The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and Cody Rhodes all sputtered out of the gate and, while I think it was with the best intentions, I think it hurt the momentum of the company.
Now that it’s been established that Tony Khan has all but taken the reins away from the EVPs creatively, I wonder if that promo would have made it to air. I wonder if he would have been more cautious to handcuff his biggest babyface from ever challenging for the World Title again. But here’s the thing: Tony can just write that storyline now.
The Codyverse, as it’s been dubbed, has consisted of Cody Rhodes booking himself in self-indulgent storylines that seemingly have absolutely nothing to do with anything else going on with the rest of AEW. His feuds with random midcarders and wrestlers quite frankly not on his level gave off the impression that maybe Cody didn’t want to do this anymore.
Perhaps it was Wade Keller who put it best when he said Cody was the kind of kid who would just rather not play dodgeball in gym class than play dodgeball and lose. Maybe he felt that he couldn’t keep pace with this new breed of wrestler, with all of the roster acquisitions of AEW. And with Cody’s affection for old school wrestling, the Codyverse gave Rhodes an out where he could exist in a world where it was always 1988 and he didn’t have the pressure to put on a main event by the standard of modern wrestling.
But it went on too long. The fans told us that. They booed. Now it’s become the defining trait of a Cody Rhodes segment, so much so that he’s having to either ignore it or embrace it in a meta way where he acknowledges that he knows we want him to be heel. I mean honestly, isn’t that exhausting to just read? It’s wrestling! Keep it simple.
Imagine the promos. Imagine the character work. Cody could use the Codyverse to his advantage, talking about how much better wrestling used to be, how his style is so much more efficient. It writes itself. The arrogance would be radiating off the screen. But he has to want it.
And it seems that, for whatever reason, odd as it may seem, Cody just doesn’t want to play a bad guy. Why would Tony Khan be okay with letting Cody Rhodes portray such an inauthentic character? It goes against everything this company stands for. They listen to their fans. But they seem unwilling to budge on this. The time is now. Not in a year, when people are hungry for another name or ready for someone else to get an opportunity.
It’s now or never. Come on, Cody. We’re booing. Give us a reason.
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