“The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes has left the company he helped create, All Elite Wrestling. Rhodes was an Executive Vice President at the company since its inception, but recent reports suggest that may have just been a title and not any real pull. Regardless if this was true or not, Cody was one of the first to be All Elite, and his exit has caused shockwaves in the world of professional wrestling. Today I’m going to tell you how we got here, the impact this could have on the business, and what I think will happen.
How We Got Here
Cody Rhodes was in WWE from 2006 to 2016, that part of his story is relevant, but I want to start right after he left. When Rhodes left the WWE, he did what most professional wrestlers do, go to any company or venue that’ll pay you well. In the years following Cody performed for, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, National Wrestling Alliance, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, and many many independent wrestling companies. It was during his stints in ROH and NJPW, that Cody would meet people who’d change his wrestling story. Plus he developed the sweet nickname “The American Nightmare”
Those companies were the beginning of a friendship with The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, Hangman Adam Page, and many more. In 2017 known wrestling pessimist, I mean reporter Dave Meltzer said that an independent wrestling show couldn’t sell 10,000 tickets. Cody and company took the challenge, created the All In Pay Per View, and sold out the Sears Center in Chicago in ten minutes.
All In was where AEW was born in a way, and the event’s success catapulted them and Tony Khan to create a new wrestling haven. Obviously, you can’t just make a company with no names and expect people to watch. WWE had some older talent and expiring deals, so this starts the war. Between 2019 and 2022 many ex WWE employees, on-screen and off, behind the scenes, referees, and every kind of person trading places. This is where Cody’s time in Vince McMahon’s eyes will potentially come back full circle.
The American Nightmare in AEW
Following the first PPV, AEW produced a few more events after announcing their weekly show. Now AEW is official, Rhodes, Young Bucks, Omega are all EVP’s and AEW is born. October 2019 comes, and AEW is on TV every Wednesday on TNT. In the three-plus years spent with AEW, Rhodes won the TNT Championship three times, was a key force backstage, developed new talent, and more.
In late 2021, rumors swirled about his contract situation, I like others paid no mind. Why did I and many others think nothing of it? Rhodes has a reality show on TNT, renewed for a second season already. A competition show on AEW Dynamite’s new network TBS. Rhodes has ties to Turner Media so deep, I couldn’t believe.
Since really AEW’s inception, Cody’s character has been in an existential crisis of being a good guy or a bad guy. Recently he’s done bad guy things but maintained he’s good. Part of this storyline was he’s a free agent. While being TNT Champion, and then while trying to win back the belt this happened.
A reason this was potentially said was so he could challenge for the AEW World Championship. The reason why this is significant is, Cody lost a match very early on in his time at AEW. The catch? With the stipulation being should he lose, he can’t challenge for the belt again. Rhodes challenging for the big AEW strap didn’t happen, and now he and his wife have left.
A popular theory is Tony Khan ran out of money to resign Cody and Brandi. Very slim that’s the case, but it could show the dangerous path AEW is heading towards.
If Cody Rhodes came back to the WWE, that would be an enormous ripple to the system. One comparison has been made, and it’s the only one minorly comparable. Hulk Hogan. Hulkster leaving the then WWF for WCW was enormous. Remember when Tom Brady left New England for Tampa Bay? Not quite that big, but for wrestling fans, it felt that big. Hogan leaving was obviously big in the ’90s, and even Cody coming back would blow that out of the water. But now we have somebody who literally started a whole new company, to TAKE DOWN the WWE. Him joining would be insanity. Rhodes’ ties in the WWE are rooted back to his dad Dusty, and obviously, his decade already spent there. Given the past seven years of Cody’s life, he’s tried to separate himself from his former employer, this would be a lot to unpack.
Rhodes has taken jabs, smashed a king’s skull with a sledgehammer( that’s a shot at the King of Kings Triple H), taken old Vince rejects and so much more. Coming back though could be an incredible tale to tell. It’s abundantly clear Cody Rhodes loves the game. It’s clear that Cody very much thinks of his father Dusty when making all these decisions. Is a return the best choice? Wrestling is a wishing well. Full of dream matches and how we’d run shows. Everyone thinks they’re better than the people doing it. A return to WWE could create a chapter in Cody’s career where everything is wrapped up.
Would it Work?
This situation is very fluid, the news is only 48 hours old. So much is unfolding and right now, it’s just talk. One person says he may be on shows as early as next week. Another says Vince McMahon is booking The American Nightmare in his WrestleMania return match as we speak. Nobody but Cody and his wife Brandi know their future. But, would it work in WWE?
Yes. As I said, Cody could wrap up some loose ends from his first stint, and potentially fulfill the last wrestling goals he has. Obviously, he’d be booked as a star and would get an enormous push. WWE is a world and place full of dreams and what if’s. What if he does indeed return. Many people would call him a sellout, and many more, myself included, would appreciate the potential future in a new home.
In 2022 The American Nightmare Wrestles for ___?
I want to say this first. Regardless of him coming back to AEW, or him returning to WWE, Rhodes’ leaving was the best thing he could’ve done. The stint he had at WWE wasn’t working, he needed to deal with the loss of his Father, and the potential wasn’t seen by the higher-ups. Rhodes knew what he could be, and achieved it. As is the case with so many in this industry, leaving what you know may hurt, but helps you more than that pain.
I’d love to watch WrestleMania Night 1 or 2, and hear “Smoke and Mirrors”. Underrated intro by the way. Cody being back where he had some good and bad times would be awesome. Politics and feelings are going to be too much to overcome in my opinion. AEW is Cody Rhodes, more than just the company he helped create. So much of the talent is similar to him at their age. I just can’t see this not being a work. So far this has generated enormous buzz for himself, AEW, Tony Khan. Inevitably when he walks through the AEW doors again, a real reaction will come, and people will tune in. Whenever he dots the I’s and crosses the T’s, The American Nightmare will once again be All Elite.
For more of Stephen’s work, read his thoughts on the PGA Tour here.