Welcome back for some more Collective Thoughts this time looking at the state of Cody Rhodes’ career in AEW. One of the things that have attracted me to pro wrestling for all of these years is the ability to create storylines that we see in every walk of life, that being the battle pitting good vs. evil, good guys vs. bad guys, or however else you want to put it. After all, what’s the point of anyone coming out in victory if they didn’t conquer the ultimate baddie.
The interesting thing about wrestling is that it is an ongoing commodity that doesn’t stop, which puts the performers in a unique situation of having to live and breathe the character as long as they are put in the role. They will sell less merchandise and will have thousands of people wanting to see them get their ass beat on a weekly basis, but that’s when you know you have them. Old Timers will tell you stories of getting tires slashed and people ready to fight them in the parking lot. Now, that was a lifetime ago, but it is crazy to think that someone could rile up a group of people that much, but the evidence says otherwise.
There are guys that are natural at making people hate them. In the 1990s, it was the Mr. McMahon character, and being pitted against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was just what the company needed to become as successful as they did. Jim Cornette was one of the most hated managers in wrestling for most of the ’80s and he will go down as one of the effective heels ever. A more modern example of a throwback type would be MJF, who plays the character no matter what medium he is in.
The inspiration for this article is less about performers that are great at what they do, but rather a talent that finds themselves becoming stale and in search of something different. Someone like Hulk Hogan is the perfect example of this. He was the biggest babyface the wrestling world had ever seen and dominated an entire decade. As the 1990s raged on though, it seemed like people weren’t as into him anymore. At Bash at the Beach 1996, Hogan famously turned heel with one of the greatest promos of his career, joined the New World and ruled the wrestling world for the rest of the decade. Another modern example of this is someone who finds himself at a career crossroads, no pun intended, and that is Cody Rhodes.
The similarities between Hulk and Cody professionally are a lot closer than people might think it is. I am comparing them as performers, and not as people, in which I assume Cody has a lot more integrity than The Hulkster. Cody didn’t dominate the wrestling world quite as Hogan did, but he has been over for a substantial amount of time. He left WWE and had a nice little run on the indie scene before he and The Young Bucks put on the very successful All In Pay-Per-View in 2018 that would see the birth of AEW as we know it today.
That story is well known, but now with AEW gaining a lot of momentum and other opportunities opening up, Cody has found himself on TV doing non-wrestling shows. Hulk did the same and dipped his toe into the Hollywood waters and it produced such gems as Mr. Nanny and Suburban Commando. Since he has come back to TV, though, the fans have turned on him a little bit, despite his best efforts to remain one of the companies top babyfaces.
Could Cody use a heel turn to have a career renaissance? I think so, but he has to want to be that type of character and believe in it. Cody has been on the record saying that he would rather retire than become a heel on TV, which is a little extreme if you ask me. I think Cody’s morals are in the right place wanting to set a good example for kids around the world, but you’re in the wrestling industry, brother. Sometimes you have to portray a character on TV that some people are going to hate. You’re getting booed out of the building anyway, so why not give it a chance?
All we have heard since the debut of CM Punk in AEW is how this feels like WCW in its peak years. I don’t completely agree with that sentiment, but with some solid booking, AEW has the chance to become something special.
Do you know what put WCW in the position to be competitive? It was the Hogan heel turn. Like it or not, Hogan had the foresight to pick the perfect opportunity and he took wrestling to new heights for the second time in his career.
Cody has the chance to do that as well. It’s a situation where you have to look at the bigger picture and get people talking about the product, and sometimes that takes a leap of faith. Hogan was nervous about doing it himself, even keeping everyone in the dark until the final hours before it happened. I am not saying Cody has to do that, but all I am saying is that if he comes out and spits on the fans that have been booing him, it would be an awesome angle. To put it over the top, he would break the promise to never compete for the AEW World Title and win the title out of spite while holding down all of the young talents that deserve a shot at the gold. Whoops, I’m mixing the two up, but you catch my drift.
I think a Cody heel turn could set the world on fire and would be the catalyst for AEW starting to become a real competitor. He doesn’t have to be an MJF, always in heel mode, but I do think he could be the character on TV and keep the things he likes going off-screen. I mean, who believes heels are bastards anymore, anyway?
Do you think Cody Rhodes could be an effective heel character? Let me know your thoughts over @collectiveheel on Twitter. I will be back next week with the second PPV for WCW in 1999, which is Superbrawl IX. Please, let it be better than Souled Out. Take care of yourselves and each other. I will be back soon with some more Collective Thoughts.