Cody Rhodes won the rubber match against recent rival Malakai Black. The victory came on the October 23 edition of AEW Dynamite, after a bout that many fans praised as the show stealer of the night.
The match wasn’t without its issues however, as The American Nightmare received a massive amount of hate from the opening bell. The Orlando audience rained boos down upon Rhodes, who ultimately emerged with his arm raised in the end. Whether or not this feud is over is anyone’s guess. But the real question is, what happens with Cody Rhodes now?
The youngest son of Dusty Rhodes has become something of a polarizing figure over the past several months. Much of that is due to his own politics, which have become heavily integrated into his character.
The “American” prefix of his nickname has taken center stage, highlighting a hyper-patriotic gimmick that seemed to come from out of nowhere. Of course for fans who have followed Cody since AEW’s inception, this somewhat radicalized take on his character was not wholly unexpected. Cody is unapologetic in his viewpoints. He never shies away from what he believes in. Perhaps this is just a case of Cody being Cody.
But while some fans may appreciate this flag waving frenzy, others are not impressed. They view it as out of place and even out of touch. After all, Dusty was The American Dream in a time when that sort of sentiment wasn’t as unpopular as it is now. However, it’s not just Cody’s image that presents a problem.
The notion that Rhodes’ work in AEW is meant to spotlight him as a top tier main event guy is still very much alive. His critics have claimed that from day one, Cody recreated himself as an elite level performer. What he didn’t receive in WWE, he made possible in AEW. They believe that he uses Tony Khan’s company as the vehicle to get himself over. It’s all about convincing the world that he deserves the adulation AEW heaps upon him.
Despite all of that, much of Cody’s fanbase has gone along for the ride over the past two years. But that support is now indeed fading. Fans are seeing through the character and looking at the man underneath. They don’t like what they see and no matter what he does, Cody just cannot seem to get back into their good graces.
Fade To Black
The rivalry with Malakai Black was perhaps the final strike against Cody, as the AEW faithful sat back and watched the story unfold. Black was presented as the despicable villain, a devious soul who sought to destroy Cody and everyone he loves. Rhodes was featured as the embattled hero, the man who was fighting against the odds to protect those who depend on him. It was Dusty Rhodes versus the world all over again.
But this story never quite worked the way that AEW likely wanted it to. Black was instantly cheered when he debuted and those cheers did not subside when he first laid out Cody in the middle of the ring. Rhodes’ critics now had a real chance to hate him full force, because they saw where all of this was ultimately going. Cody was going to take Malakai down and that’s exactly what happened.
So now, AEW fans are left wondering how the company’s co-founder is going to deal with all of this. Will he lean into the hate he’s getting and finally become the heel that fans want to see? Or will he continue to stay the course and fly the flag despite how much the audience hates him for it? The problem here is Cody’s basic philosophy of pro wrestling.
Cody believes that long standing traditions of good versus evil and right versus wrong, are outdated concepts in the industry. To him, they’re merely tropes that hold no bearing on the business today. Of course, he still works for the babyface pop and he’s always the nice guy on TV. He was also the cigar chomping egotist that ran with The Bullet Club in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Both suggest that Cody is well aware of how important those tropes are and plays along whenever he needs to.
Sins And Spoilers
**SPOILERS FOR THE OCTOBER 26 EDITION OF AEW DARK AHEAD**
But the fallout from Cody’s win over Black on Dynamite now comes down to two things. The first is that Malakai has taken responsibility for Rhodes’ fall from favor with the AEW audience. It was apparently his mission all along and that mission is now accomplished.
This is actually a brilliant move, as it reminds fans of just how evil Black’s character is. It also gives depth to Cody’s current situation and adds another layer to him. He was Marvel’s Captain America before Malakai Black came to AEW. But now? He’s Homelander from The Boys. It’s not quite the truth, but it is a very believable explanation for how everything has changed for Cody’s character.
Cody is evidently also trying something new. In the upcoming October 26 edition of AEW Dark, Rhodes dons a mask and joins Fuego Del Sol in a tag team match. No one seems to know why and Rhodes himself hasn’t made any public move in a different direction. So does this mean that Cody is now trying something fresh, as he did with the Stardust persona in WWE?
— 411 Wrestling (@411wrestling) October 25, 2021
Living The Dream
The fact is that no matter how much his critics rally against him, Cody Rhodes has worked extremely hard to earn his place in the industry. He continues to work hard every day to keep that spot, both on TV and behind the scenes as well. Rhodes is committed to the success of All Elite Wrestling and he deserves respect for that.
He also deserves the benefit of the doubt as it pertains to his character. While he doesn’t seem to be willing to change what that character is, it could very well be that something different is indeed on the way. Becoming a heel now would surely make his haters happy, as they would no longer feel as though he’s talking down to them with his gimmick.
But if that heel turn does happen, he will inevitably become one of the most popular talents on the roster. His gimmick will come full circle and before long, he will once again be the triumphant babyface. So is it worth the trouble to turn in the first place?
Cody Rhodes has proven that he is a company guy. He has given everything he has to AEW and despite what happens now, that will certainly not change. The American Nightmare is what he is and his ultimate fate is unknown. But the man behind it all is all business and there can be no doubt about that.
Tom Clark is a Senior Pro Wrestling Analyst and Featured Columnist for Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Audible, Spotify, YouTube and live every Friday on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live