Pro Wrestling

The Brand Extension #22: Cody Rhodes’ Sprint, Not A Marathon

By former Lords of Pain 205 Live reviewer, “205 Clive“.

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We’ve seen that a lot can happen in twelve months, give or take. An awful lot. If one considers 2020 on its own, which is thankfully nearing its end, taking stock of its landmark events is a tiring task. Professional wrestling, too, is a medium which, thanks to its weekly episodic nature, experiences a similar breathless exercise. Taking that one step further within that bubble, there is a wrestler who seems to have taken that race to accumulate as many milestones as possible – as quickly as possible – to heart.

Cody Rhodes has presented himself as a man on a mission since AEW came on our screens. One where he seems hell bent on having fans chisel out his likeness onto personal Mount Rushmores. In his quest to be in the conversation as one of the greatest of all time, an aura currently surrounds him that is dripping in “megastar”. Regardless of whether or not Rhodes controls his own creative, which isn’t the specific point of this piece, it’s working. And Cody Rhodes knows it.

It’s easy to fall into such a trap of self aggrandising when superlatives are laid at your feet on a daily basis. By fans and content creators alike. On occasion, when the praise is idolising in nature, it comes off as desperate. Like if they say Rhodes is the second coming often enough, they’re forcing themselves to believe it. That he isn’t as average as some detractors say. 

Well, whether genuine or not, Rhodes certainly feeds off and plays into that perceived Christ complex. With it, he’s able to own more prime television and PPV real estate than many. He is among those with the biggest pyro, the longest entrances, the numbers deep entourages. He boasts the most storied matches, in build and in execution, compared to the stunt heavy rest of the roster. Most importantly, his character’s arc in AEW has  progressed much more than any other on the roster.

This begs a question. Is it all too much too soon? For, in just over twelve short months, Cody Rhodes has done it all. A “blood feud” with his brother that I can’t remember anyone begging for till then. An AEW World Title opportunity. With an unnecessary “one time only” stipulation thrown in for good measure. The fallout from this literally resulting in biblical punishment at the hands of MJF in an attempt to muster as much baby-face sympathy for Rhodes as humanly possible. 

Mid-card title creation. The marketing for which he was the poster boy. For which, also, the outcome of its inaugural tournament became obvious early on (let’s not forget, of course, how favourable this is for the oh so important win-loss record). The TNT Title open challenges. Where HE has HIS hand raised by the underdog after his first successful defense, a wall of over the top pyro as the backdrop. Teasing a heel turn. Losing the title. Winning it back. Losing it again. Dying his hair black. Dying it blonde again. Garish tattoos, on his neck of all places, before the glue on his blemish free action figure has even dried. 

Before you catch your breath after reading this litany, bare in mind this is all on screen. Behind the camera, he shares – or at least should share – the responsibilities involved with AEW’s business dealings. No doubt it’s a busy role. One that surely also has many successes to its name. Playing a part in putting out a weekly show, and all the bells and whistles that go with it, are testament to that. Yet what we the public have seen mostly is damage control. Which, in itself, only doubles the duties your job entails. Walking back on, or even boldly laughing off statements of intent made at the height of AEW’s infallibility (before Double or Nothing 2019 was even conceived). Lowering himself to pointless back and forths with Average Joes on social media. 

Unlike many office job training videos, this list is exhaustive. And tired at least is the best way to physically describe Cody at times. Maybe I’m looking for something that isn’t there to fit my own narrative. But it’s hard to deny the increasing weight with which the bags under Cody’s eyes lie. Has he taken too much on in juggling so many pins and spinning too many plates all at the same time? As the criticism of AEW grows, will it all fall down around him? Or is Rhodes putting himself through the rigor so as to ready himself for the next chapter in his life?

Rhodes has already spoken of his want to hang up his boots in five years. Of his political aspirations. His conventional television career, albeit nascent, is beginning to produce a more diverse list of entries on IMDB rather than just wrestling PPVs and comic book adaptations. With TNT executives at his disposal, that particular avenue could lay wide open for him. Especially if he is so regularly presented as the face of the network’s Wednesday nights. 

Does Cody, at this point in his career, consider wrestling as a stepping stone towards a vocation in a different and more full time medium? Does he envision himself as a crossover star similar to the Dave Bautistas, John Cenas, and Dwayne Johnsons of the world? If the answer to this is yes, then is it any wonder he is carving out his own path towards the same levels of wrestling superstardom as those mentioned above? Perhaps with such a timeline imposed upon himself, Rhodes feels the need to complete his wrestling bucket list at such an alarming rate.

If Cody Rhodes is successful with his intended transition into the wider consciousness of the general public, over and above that of professional wrestling, then more power to him. The way he’s going about it is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. A common jibe thrown his way is that he’ll never step out of the shadow of his father Dusty’s legacy. But if he can keep his legs under him in this sprint towards wrestling megastardom, towards becoming a crossover mainstream success story, then he may even surpass the accolades of The American Dream.

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