When you think of professional wrestling families many wonderful and legendary family units should come to mind. from the Harts to the Von Erichs and the McMahons. All of these families had left a lasting impact on the sport that will never be forgotten.
But truthfully not many of them tried to step out of their family’s comfort zones, in fear of not being able to measure up to the lasting legacy that had been somewhat unfairly thrust upon them. However, there is one family that did break the mold more specifically one younger brother, the Rhodes Family!
Early Beginnings in the WWE
Cody Runnels under the ring name Cody Rhodes made his televised WWE debut on a Monday night raw brand in July 2008. In the hopes of following in the footsteps of his legendary father and brother by becoming one of professional wrestling ’s next big superstars!
It has been well documented that the young Cody had much to live up to from both his brother and father. His father Dusty’s legendary matches with the likes of Ric Flair for the NWA championship and WrestleMania moments such as clashing with Macho Man Randy Savage in a mixed tag team match at WrestleMania 7.
His brother was no slouch himself, playing the ever so controversial character known as Goldust, that made such a long-lasting impact that it is still going strong today albeit on a much tamer scale because of WWE’s PG television rating.
Thus began an eight-year journey of trying to live up to his family legacy. I have only been watching WWE since 2011 so I can’t really comment on the first three years of his run, however, I do remember when I saw first saw him in June 2011, on an episode of Friday Night SmackDown.
Wearing his un-dashing see-through mask as he snarled various insults toward the crowd with the Intercontinental Championship on his shoulder projecting himself as a truly arrogant and conniving villain almost out of a movie. His vocal stylings in that promo truly captivated the nine-year-old and even then I knew he was special.
As the months went on he really found his groove as a mid-card champion using said groove to raise that championship to a level that it had not been at in a matter of decades. Once he lost the championship he continued to stay in the mid card for the next few years despite rising in popularity and skill level, which looking back on as a mature 16-year old I do not understand.
Because he truly had, in my opinion, a plethora of skills that could’ve been used in the main event scene at that time.
There was a glimmer of hope in 2013 however when he was turned babyface against his then-teammate Damien Sandow after money in the bank 2013 when he was screwed out of the briefcase, by then the crowd was ready to cheer on a WWE stalwart that had finally “paid his dues “ in the fans eyes.
During that Babyface turn, he had clashes with the likes of Randy Orton and the authority, fighting for his job back after he was unjustly fired. This was a storyline that I personally was extremely invested in!!!!!
After being a babyface for over three years in the middle of the card Cody Rhodes had decided that enough was enough and that he needed a chance to prove himself as a successful entity in the professional wrestling business without his family name.
So on May 21st, 2016, he asked for his release in the following statement which WWE later granted him.
The List of Cody
After that release the entire wrestling world was shocked too it’s very core because even though Cody had been underutilized in his WWE run we never thought he would actually leave because his family lineage was so ingrained in the company’s history.
After that release, Cody decided not to rest on his laurels like some ex WWE stars may have. So he decided to immediately start looking for independent bookings the moment his noncompete clause expired on August 19, 2016, which began the list of Cody.
A play on the WWE’s list of Jericho, but in this version. instead of listing his enemies like the character of Chris Jericho did. He decided to list his goals and go after them one by one almost as if it was a checklist of things he needed for self-fulfillment. On that list, some of the things included dream matches such as Rodrick Strong Adam Cole Dalton Castle and many more.
He did not waste any time immediately going after Chris Hero at Evolve 67 on August 20th of that year. He also went to ring of honor in December 2016 facing The franchise Jay Lethal in his first match there. Who was often regarded as one of the top wrestlers in not only ring of honor but all of the world?
They match ended with a shocking heel turn when he kicked Jay Lethal below the belt and began ranting about how he’s above this company. So as I sat there watching on TV in shock that had eventually turned into boos. I remember thinking to myself “this is the most invested I’ve been in this man’s character for years” and it was the truth I finally had a reason to care about the “ Cody” character once again!
Cody Goes All In
After becoming one of the hottest acts in independent wrestling following that initial heel turn, he knew he needed a way to keep this popularity going. Because after all, every initial WWE superstar that is released is popular on the independents. It takes a real smart businessman to maintain that popularity.
Right around the same time, New Japan Pro Wrestling was attempting to expand into a more western market and they needed a recognizable name in order to do that. Which is why in January 2017 New Japan booker Gedo Decided to use his connections to see if Cody would be interested in joining the bullet club and to my knowledge, the answer was a resounding yes.
So over the past year using the YouTube show “Being The Elite “ alongside the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, Marty Scurll, and Hangman Page. The group has not only revitalized Cody but it also revitalized the ever so popular Bullet Club, giving them a second lease on life after losing AJ Styles and Adam Cole. Who were the leaders over these past few years.
In particular, the Kenny versus Cody debate has become one of the most popular wrestling stories of the past decade or so! Thanks to all the wonderful acting between the parties and the creative freedom that Cody and the boys have been given, that honestly, I doubt WWE had even thought about giving him.
Fast forward 16 months and I just saw Cody live for the second time after leaving WWE, in Royal Oak, Michigan, at the War of the Worlds Tour sponsored by Ring Of Honor Wrestling. The crowd reaction was absolutely electric and he was getting so many guttural boos from the crowd of over 1,000 plus in a way that I had never seen before. While I’d seen people boo heels I had never seen it to this degree because the hatred seems so genuine because he found a way to masterfully play his character using social media in a way that I truly respect.
I also admire the dedication to his craft that he has had over the past two years including throwing a reported 7 figure deal from the McMahon empire in the trash just so he can go out and prove that he deserves it on his own!
Starting this journey two years ago and after the mega fast sell out of All in last weekend, I think I can speak for everyone when I say this Gamble of a lifetime certainly paid off!