Updated: Jul 19, 2020
When you hear the phrase American dream, what thought pops into your head? Maybe it’s being successful and being able to provide for your family. Perhaps it’s being the first in your family to graduate from college.
For Cody, that phrase is forever tied to the man he called his dad. Let’s be honest, if you’re reading this, you don’t need an introduction to the American Dream Dusty Rhodes. You know what mentioning that name means to most wrestling fans. Many believe he was the greatest talker ever to grace a mic, a man with the ability to get over any gimmick he was given, including that horrible polka dot outfit. There are so many accolades tied to that name, imagine being the youngest son of that legend. How do you break out of that shadow? How do you distinguish yourself in a business where your father is revered and loved? You do it by being better than anyone ever expected you to be.
Cody Rhodes had an ok to a good career in WWE, but never hit the level of success he could have. His IC title run was forgettable, and his tag team with his brother never really hit the big time. So what do you do when you’re released from the biggest company in the world, and you’ve never won a world title?
You push your name everywhere you can.
After Cody was released by WWE, he would wrestle on the indies, in Impact, in ROH, and ultimately end up in NJPW joining the Bullet Club. Everywhere he went, he left a buzz; fans began speculating on where he’d show up next. How does a guy with no significant singles run in WWE accomplish such a crazy feat? He never stayed in one place for too long. Cody would show up in a promotion to remain for six months and be gone. He never stayed long enough to get stale, never really had any notable feuds, but man did he kick ass while he was there.
However, all of that would change with one feud the world didn’t know they wanted, Cody vs. Omega in New Japan. These two leaders of the Bullet Club clashed and clashed until it finally exploded. Their matches in the G1 and ROH Supercard of Honor were the best of the best. They redefined what it was to be rivals. The athletic display from these two was insane, but their storytelling abilities sealed the deal on this classic feud. The conclusion of this fantastic struggle between two insanely talented superstars was done exactly how it should’ve been.
In what seemed like an eternity, Cody took what many called a break from active competition. What we on the outside didn’t see was the massive plans Cody and his friends had to change the wrestling world as we know it.
January 1st, 2019, was the start of a whole new era of modern wrestling.
We’ve had other companies attempt to compete, but this felt different. Along with the young bucks and Tony Khan, this crazy idea came to life. Wrestlers and wrestling fans alike flooded social media with praise and admiration for Cody and the Bucks. The days after the announcement felt like the entire world could see a different landscape for the first time in what seems like forever.
AEW had major independent players involved, and with the announcement of Chris Jericho, it had a major superstar backing its play. They pulled in former wrestlers to be the backstage producers; they tapped legendary announcers for commentary; most importantly, they had a successful trio of in-ring talent running the company. Their very 1st PPV was insane and featured performers that a significant portion of the country was unfamiliar with, and they let them get over on their own merits. As of today, AEW has locked up a major deal with TNT and shows no signs of slowing down.
So how do you pull yourself out of the shadow of one of the greatest in-ring performers ever to grace the squared circle? You set yourself up as one of the masterminds behind a company that can legitimately compete with WWE. You establish to your roster that you believe in their work and that you have their backs.
You take the mold that everyone thought made a successful wrestling company and throw it straight in the garbage.
Cody, with help from the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and Jericho has managed to do all of that and so much more. He has taken the lessons learned from watching his father wrestle and book territories and shot those lessons to the moon. He has exceeded expectations and set the bar for everyone in his industry. When push comes to shove, and Cody ultimately retires, I genuinely believe he’ll be revered and remembered for being one of the smartest pro wrestlers in the history of the industry.
Follow Mike Ferrell on Twitter @CHAOS_THEORYPOD