Ryback & Cody Did Things Differently
Ryback and Cody Rhodes left WWE within months of each other. Both men were unhappy and felt that they deserved to be in better positions in the company.
Prior to his release, Rhodes was floundering as Stardust. The gimmick had run its course, Rhodes clearly wasn’t into it anymore, and they seemed to have no actual plan for him. Following his big feud with Stephen Amell, which was very disappointing given what they could have done, Stardust was reduced to a jobber role on B shows. The pairing with Ascension could have been a decent mid-level act, but it quickly fizzled due to a string of losses. He was an afterthought in the Intercontinental Title Ladder Match at Wrestlemania and was barely heard from following the event. In May, Rhodes was granted his release.
Ryback was on slightly better ground before leaving the company. He switched to the Goldberg look early in the year and turned heel shortly after. He had an underrated feud with Kalisto heading into Wrestlemania. The two produced solid matches and Ryback had some fun performing planchas and mocking CM Punk. WWE should have put the US Title on Ryback during this time, but didn’t, thanks in large part to his contract situation. Ryback last appeared on WWE TV in May, and was officially let go in August.
Both guys ran into some name trouble. Cody couldn’t use the name “Cody Rhodes” when taking television bookings because that is a WWE trademark. Instead, Cody would just go by “Cody” or “Cody R” or “Cody Runnels” or “The American Nightmare Cody” or “Cody Roads” or “The Stateside Dream Cody.” Ryback couldn’t go by Ryback, again, WWE trademark, so he decided to legally change his name to Ryback. This wasn’t a terrible plan because Ryback is a pretty cool name and no one was booking Ryan Reeves anyway.
Rhodes made a list of goals following his release.
When his non-compete was up, Cody began wrestling all over the world. While I haven’t seen every match he’s done, I’ve seen a handful and haven’t been overly impressed with any of it. His TNA stuff has failed in just about every way, and he’s had just average matches with the likes of Chris Hero, Matt Riddle, and Zack Sabre Jr. He joined the Bullet Club earlier this month, which makes sense because his father joined the original Bullet Club years after it was cool as well.
I wouldn’t call Cody’s Independent run a success, but it’s also unfair to call it a failure as well. It’s only a failure if you overinflated Cody Rhodes’ value. He was always a decent WWE worker who felt underutilized due to his last name and character work. He was never a major star and never a high-level worker. While I expected a bit more out of his matches on the Independent scene, I never expected him to produce classic after classic like AJ Styles following his TNA departure. Rhodes has under delivered, but he hasn’t been a complete flop. Plus, he seems happier and he’s been able to do many things on his check list.
Ryback made a podcast.
After taking a couple of Independent bookings, Ryback has mainly sat in his car and talked about how much he hates WWE and the way they treated him. I haven’t listened to a single second of any of his podcasts or interviews, but 411 posts an update every single day, so it’s pretty tough to avoid his comments.
Ryback’s post-WWE run has been nothing short of disappointing. He was in a higher profile position than Cody was following their releases. Hell, he was in a higher profile position during his career than Cody ever was. He looked to be improving in the ring and on the mic. And he was able to use the name “Ryback” thanks to a legal name change. Instead of capitalizing on any momentum he might have had, he decided to tell stories.
Maybe I expected too much out of Ryback. I enjoyed his feud and matches with Kalisto and thought that he could perform well away from WWE if put in the right situation. I thought he would be hungry to prove that WWE made a mistake for not pushing him more and delivering on the promises that he claims they made. I didn’t think he would get the opportunities that Cody got, but I thought he could do well for himself in Japan, where they would eat up his persona.
It’s possible that we’re seeing exactly why WWE never pulled the trigger on Ryback. He has the look, he says the right things, but he was never willing to snatch the ball and run with it. He wanted to be looked at as a star, but never went out and proved himself as a star. He wanted to be in the spotlight, but wanted to put in the least amount of work to get there.
When Cody left WWE, he talked about being frustrated with creative. He said that he pitched ideas for six months, but nothing he pitched was used. He clearly wanted a bigger and better role for himself. If nothing else, he wanted to do something different in the company. When they didn’t give him those opportunities, he left. And thus far, he’s created those opportunities for himself outside of WWE. Only 31, Cody knows that WWE always seems to want you more when they can’t have you. It may take a few years, but when Cody eventually returns, he’ll be seen as a bigger deal.
As for Ryback, if he wants to eventually return to WWE, he has a weird way of showing it. He’s burning bridges and doing nothing but coming off as a bitter ex-employee. Maybe he’ll make an impact in 2017. Or maybe he’ll keep relying on wrestling news sites to keep him relevant.