wrestling / Columns

The Rhodes Not Taken

February 17, 2022 | Posted by Tony Acero
Cody Rhodes AEW Image Credit: AEW

February 16, 2022 may very well go down in wrestling history as one of the most important days of all time, depending on who you ask. With news that was said to “shake the wrestling world to its core,” coming out, and speculation running rampant, I found myself thinking about the man behind the news, and instantly a number of parallels arose that I couldn’t deny yet had trouble working out. As with any situation that goes on in my life that I’m unable to understand, I took the proverbial pen to pad and it resulted in what you are about to read. I hope you enjoy.

Image Credit: WWE

Cody Rhodes was a disgruntled employee of the WWE who sought a brighter stage, one that he created on his own, and a world where he could cultivate and shape those who perhaps did not get the same chance he did growing up in wrestling royalty. It poured out of every promo; he was to start up his own company, for himself and for any number of indy darlings and would-be superstars that were being used incorrectly. He scoffed at the higher-ups of the WWE, and with one sledgehammer to a throne, dynamite (and Dynamite) was ignited with a fury.

I don’t know Cody. I won’t pretend to know Cody. But I do know the humility. Seven years ago, I was a burgeoning bartender, working for a new place that I felt “recognized my talent,” but had no idea what to do with it. I was arrogant, full of myself, and knew that my 70% was better than most others’ 100%. After realizing that I had hit a ceiling, and within a year, a fire started inside of me that made me look to my bar manager and think, “I could do that, and better.” After a year, almost to the date, I had an opportunity to start a bar from the ground up. An ambitious owner with money who wanted to grow, loved the craft, but knew nothing about it, headhunted me and brought me in. Finally, I had the opportunity to do things MY way.

Image Credit: Being the Elite

We all saw the videos; Cody, The Bucks, Omega, Page, running around a city before looking into their phone to announce that there was a new game in town, and it was a force to be reckoned with. Immediately, arenas were sold out, coups were made, “The Forbidden Door” was opened, big signees were made, and AEW was going full force in being a true alternative to the big boy that is the WWE. Cody was part of the brass, but he knew how smart we fans were, and in attempt to do something he unfortunately was stuck on doing his entire time while in AEW, he tried to prove himself to us by giving up his right to fight for the big belt. I’m sure he thought this would eliminate any criticism and comparisons to HHH, something I don’t think anyone did, yet he fought against numerous times.

Cody was given the ball, along with the rest of his team, and I’d say they did pretty damned well. It wasn’t until recently, where the was a complete disregard for direction and audience reaction where the cracks began to show. I won’t speculate; I don’t know the inner workings of either company, but recent rumors are simply that Khan took the book from Cody and spent more time in charge than usual, possibly making Cody seem not nearly as important as he once was.

Image Credit: AEW

In 2019, the restaurant/bar that I was running was going through some drastic changes. The owner had fled to NY (I’m in CA), he was taking money via the GM and having it overnighted to NY where he was building his own bar, and was quietly selling the company without anyone’s knowledge. In October 2019, a man came in to purchase the place at the final hour, literally two hours before someone came to try and close us. Things were changing, drastically, but the new owner and I got along quite well, even if we did not have the same vision. He even offered me stake in the company…eventually. The changes were little at first, then drastic soon thereafter, and it was only a matter of time before I was forced to resign in 2021 after having taken the company to new heights during a global pandemic and surviving it with a solid staff and amazing customers.

If there is one thing we cannot deny; it’s that Cody Rhodes lives and breathes wrestling. His name alone should be proof enough, but not for him. He wanted to earn the name, earn the stripes (dots?), and earn our respect. I’ve been a big detractor of Cody Rhodes and what his character has been doing over the past few months, but I’ll never deny the man his flowers. I feel some will say this is an ego check for him, and that he is taking his ball and running back home, but this moment in his career really made me look back to my exit from what I thought was my chosen path.

Image Credit: WWE

I had it all figured out; I’d give my sweat, blood, and tears to this place that was not mine and make sure I changed as many lives as possible within the company that, again, was not mine. I’d work hard, make sacrifices, take hours and hours out of my day and money out of my pocket to usher in a new roster of would-be servers and could-be bartenders. I’d create an entire training program and use it for incoming hires that may very well not be going the distance. I’d read up on recognizing talent and use the Heyman approach of accentuating positives while working on negatives. I’d have a thousand people under me by the time I was 50 and be known as a great influence…then I had to leave, and everything changed.

Cody Rhodes made a choice; and he likely made it long before any of us found out. As it often does happen, I was asked by numerous people as the news broke just what I thought about the entire situation. Most people felt it to be dumb, obnoxious, a linear move at best, it didn’t make sense, Cody is going to play second fiddle to Reigns, he’ll be Stardust in seven months, etc. Speculation has gone from the ridiculous, like he’ll be trading places with HHH, to the wild, like he’ll be taking over NXT and calling it 3.0 to the nuts, like he’ll be joining TNA. The common thread amongst all of this is that Cody made a mistake; Cody will not be nearly as successful, and Cody walked away from a for sure deal.

In July of 2021, I left the company I thought I’d be with forever and crawled, tail tucked, to the place I worked at six years prior to. Yup, I, like Cody Rhodes, called up my former boss and sold the hell out of myself as a main event player, a solid hand, a teacher and innovator, and worthy of coming back. I left the crude and broken down place I helped build from the ground up for the shiny and squeaky clean pub I started off at. I would take nothing less than the GM position, and I told myself I wasn’t the same person I was six years ago.

Image Credit: NJPW/AXS TV

I’d like to think Cody did the same. I’d like to think Cody understands his worth now, and I’d like to think that he gets the game more than we ever allowed him to show. Above all else, I think he did what he truly set out to do; he changed the world. He built something from the ground up, and he did it so well that it can officially survive without him at the forefront. He did something selfless, something that had little to do with him and his status and his clout; he gave people a chance that would never get one otherwise. He helped push a new era of wrestling into the world, and he was a part of something that we, as fans will never forget.

When people ask me how I feel about my departure of my job in 2021, I have to admit that it was a struggle to even take in. But shortly after it all went down in my personal life, I saw shifts being made, and those who I had a huge part in hiring, training, pushing, motivating, cultivating, were all moving upward into management or other avenues. They each took the time to tell me, and still tell me to this day, how integral I was in their growth. I may be gone, physically, but I left a mark, and I’ll continue to do so.

Image Credit: AEW

Cody Rhodes, love the last few months of him or not, has left an undeniable mark on the industry that has changed it forever. Yes, he was a part of a team that pushed hard for change and for love of the art of wrestling, but he stood out amongst the rest. This is certainly not a knock on Page, Omega, or The Bucks (Maybe a little on The Bucks). Again, I don’t know the inner workings of AEW, but from all that we’ve read, all that we’ve heard, all that we’ve seen go down in the dirt sheets, Cody has been consistent in the idea that he shines best when motivating, inspiring, and pushing people forward who may not have been given that chance. If he is making a return to the WWE, I hope he knows that he is doing it after having helped create a roster of bad ass wrestlers who have already begun the outpouring of adoration and thanks.

OF course, this could all be for nothing, and we’ll see him at the Elimination Chamber with a golden shovel going over everyone in both the men’s and women’s match, but at least for now, I couldn’t help but see the parallels and hoped that perhaps we could see the human behind the ugly neck tattoo.

Thanks for reading!

article topics :

AEW, Cody Rhodes, WWE, Tony Acero