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Legacies, Paper Bags, Mustaches and Face Paint: Is WWE Wasting Cody Rhodes? by Mark McAllen

World Wrestling Entertainment has seen many men and women walk through their doors since the company’s inception; and in the words of William Shatner’s narration to the intro of WWE Network’s Breaking Ground, “They all… want to make it… to the top.” However, the reality is not everyone will. Even those that seem to have the total package (charisma, looks, wrestling talent), can’t seem to grab that brass ring. For example, in the 90s Lex Luger was the guy who the WWE was trying to turn into their next big star. For many different reasons this didn’t work out, and wrestling fans have seen this kind scenario play out a ton of times.

With that said, I’m sure many wrestlers must keep their expectations in check. Becoming and staying the face of the WWE is incredibly tough and only some have done it. Maybe guys aren’t destined to be the face of the WWE, but they can still make it to the top. ‘Mr. Perfect’ Curt Hennig never once won the WWE Championship, but I’d definitely say that he made it the top; and by “making it to the top” I mean that he had a very successful wrestling career, is considered one of the greatest pure wrestlers of all time, and is a WWE Hall of Famer. One can build a successful mid-card career and still, in a sense, make it to the top.

Since many wrestlers are obviously experimented with in the mid-card scene more than the main-event scene, we see this push/de-push scenario happen more frequently with these second tier guys. One of these mid-card wrestlers who has seen many different ups and down in his career so far is Cody Rhodes.

Cody has been with the WWE for 10 years and of those 10 years he’s been on the main roster for 9 of them. Cody is of course the son of legendary WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes and half-brother of WWE veteran (also a likely Hall of Famer) Goldust. Upon debuting on Monday Night Raw in the summer of 2007, Cody had a lot to live up to. He had just turned 22 years of age and had a legendary reputation behind him. However, Cody didn’t let the expectations weigh him down and overcome him as it has to so many other multiple-generation wrestlers.

In his first three years with the company, again, just three years: Cody became a three-time WWE Tag Team Champion (first with Hardcore Holly and the other two times with Ted DiBiase Jr.), became part of a Randy Orton led stable alongside Ted DiBiase called The Legacy, main-evented many Raw’s, lasted until the final three in the 2009 Royal Rumble match, feuded with the McMahon Family, fought a re-united D-Generation X (HHH and Shawn Michaels) at SummerSlam with his tag partner DiBiase, they then defeated DX at the following PPV Breaking Point (making Shawn Michaels submit), and then went on to have a triple threat match against Randy Orton and Ted DiBiase at WrestleMania XXVI, a match in which Orton defeated Rhodes and DiBiase.

rhodes hbk

Wow! Talk about making an impact in your first three years as part of the main roster. Usually when a wrestler achieves this much success so early in their career, it’s only natural that things hit a lull and you sort of have to re-boot. After his loss to Orton at WrestleMania XXVI, Rhodes was drafted to the Smackdown brand as part of the 2010 Draft (back when Raw and Smackdown were their own brands with separate rosters). It was when Cody debuted on Smackdown where his journey of identity crisis first began. Cody began running with a new narcissistic gimmick where he declared himself the best looking wrestler in all of WWE and demanded to be called ‘Dashing’ Cody Rhodes. A series of videos aired where Cody gave grooming tips. He didn’t do much as ‘Dashing’ Cody Rhodes other than winning the WWE Tag Team Championships with tag partner Drew McIntyre (which was just really a makeshift tag team) and dropping the belts roughly a month later.

A big moment in Rhodes’ career came when Rey Mysterio legitimately broke his nose during a match. After being off television for a few months, Rhodes returned wearing a transparent protective mask and declaring himself no longer dashing. “Un-dashing” Cody Rhodes would (along with assistants) hand out paper bags to the audience to put over their faces because their ugliness offended him, he’d use his mask as a weapon during matches, and he’d even put a paper bag over his opponents face after he defeated them. In August 2011, Rhodes defeated Ezekiel Jackson (remember him?) to win the Intercontinental Championship. This was his first singles title with the WWE.

Rhodes had a lengthy run with the Intercontinental Championship lasting 236 days, nearly eight months. During his time as champ: Rhodes defeated many challengers, debuted the return of the old-school (but now current) white Intercontinental Championship belt, and re-kindled his rivalry with Randy Orton. Rhodes feuded with Orton in many brutal contests where Orton busted Rhodes open with the timekeeper’s bell causing Rhodes to bleed profusely and require nine staples to the head. This only added to Rhodes’ un-dashing gimmick with him declaring how scarred he was. Eventually Orton broke Rhodes’ nose, which signaled the end of Cody’s un-dashing gimmick claiming he was set free. The reason for removing his mask permanently didn’t make much sense to me as I thought another broken nose would only fuel the un-dashing fire, but I shrugged it off. Rhodes was eventually going to take off his mask anyway. At the time he was white hot carrying the IC Title so might as well take off the mask now I guess. Rhodes wound up losing the IC Title to Big Show at WrestleMania XXVIII after making fun of Big Show never winning on the grandest stage of them all. Rhodes won back his championship from the Big Show about a month after losing it, but didn’t hold it for long as a returning Christian defeated Rhodes for it. I was bummed out when Rhodes lost the IC Title to Big Show because I was really hoping he was going to beat the Honky Tonk Man’s record IC Title reign of 454 days. Cody was only 26 years old at the time and of course still had many years ahead of him; but whatever, I shrugged it off. On to bigger and better things I guess, or so I thought.

After several unsuccessful attempts to win back his Intercontinental Championship, in 2012 Rhodes joined forces with Damien Sandow and the tag team of ‘Team Rhodes Scholars’ formed. Although never winning the Tag Team Championships and lasting only about six months, the two were incredibly entertaining and injected a much needed breath of life into the tag team division. Their gimmick was that they were smarter than everyone else. Sandow was still doing his Intellectual Savior of the Masses character and Rhodes sported a mustache… which I guess made him smarter? Anyway, it added for some entertaining Cody’s mustache chants and Cody growing facial hair was pretty much his gimmick for almost a year. That’s right, his entire character was based around his mustache.

More recently, Cody teamed with his half-brother Goldust and soon became the Stardust character that he is today. They won the Tag Team Titles together twice but eventually broke up because Stardust felt that Goldust was holding him back. He had his feud with the star of ‘Arrow’ Stephen Amell which led to a tag match between the two at SummerSlam, a match Rhodes’ team lost; and that’s pretty much it for Stardust/Cody. He’s been floating around for months now doing virtually nothing and it’s frustrating. It’s tough to just shrug things off anymore and say “Cody’s young and talented, they’ll figure something out for him”, because it’s been 9 years and he’s not getting any younger.

Stardust and Goldust

The light at the end of the tunnel is that Cody, although he’s been around for seemingly forever, is still only 30 years old (he’ll turn 31 in June). If he’s anything like Goldust, and remains healthy, he could have another 17 years of wrestling ahead of him. There is time for him to turn things around, but I feel like that time needs to be now. Especially with the all the talent currently on the roster and coming to the roster in the next coming months, gaining an important spot on the roster is becoming more and more difficult. I think the avenue for Cody to go down would be one of a tag team wrestler, and I feel re-uniting Team Rhodes Scholars is the way to go.

While Rhodes hasn’t been doing anything relevant for months, Sandow is quickly falling into the “he’s still employed?” category because he’s never really on TV anymore. It bothers me that Team Rhodes Scholars even broke up in the first place because if they never stopped teaming, Rhodes and Sandow would have been dominating the tag division for three and a half years now instead of breaking up and not really doing anything significant. I don’t get why we can’t have tag teams stay together for long periods of time. I also feel that two guys like Rhodes and Sandow could hang with The New Day as personalities that could elevate the tag division and make it feel just as important as whatever the storyline for the WWE Championship is.

Cody recently teased that he may be done with the Stardust gimmick on his Twitter account which is a step in the right direction. I would have liked to see a story leading up to the Royal Rumble where Stardust was getting aggravated about his current stance with the company and his losing streak, angrily wiping at his face paint and occasionally dropping his Stardust voice. This could have been happening for weeks where you can tell something’s wrong with Stardust and when the Royal Rumble match rolls around ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ hits and Cody Rhodes has officially returned. He could have even starting teaming up with Sandow during the Rumble, dumping guys over the top rope and even having a spot where they do their signature handshake that leads into a Sandow cartwheel. Team Rhodes Scholars is back and you can go from there.

rhodes scholars cartwheel

A feud with The New Day would be a lot of fun and there’s a lot of fun tag teams on the main roster and in NXT that I would like to see Rhodes Scholars go up against. In my 2016 TJR Predictions I predicted that there would be a “Tag Team Revolution” in 2016 and reuniting Team Rhodes Scholars would be a nice addition. Having more than one tag team feud happening at a time is possible, and I think Rhodes Scholars can help spread that layer of importance to tag team storylines. A reunion can still easily happen this year, so let’s make it happen!

With all this tag team talk taking place, I do think Rhodes has all the tools to make it as a singles star. I just think there’s a lot of singles stars on the roster right now and someone like Cody, with a proven track record of tag team success, can turn the tag division into a revolution rather than just The New Day show.

Are you a fan of Cody Rhodes? What has been your favorite run of Cody’s so far? How would you like to see Cody be handled in the future? Keep the conversation going by leaving any of your thoughts in the comment section below.

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