When I returned to the World of Professional Wrestling sometime after WrestleMania XXIV, Cody Rhodes was one of the many people I had no knowledge of, other than finding his surname familiar. At the time he was tagging with Bob Holly who was acting as his mentor, and though he split with Hardcore and turned heel soon after, you can see aspects of his influence remaining in Rhodes (the Alabama Slam, his kick to the stomach/low blow while holding opponent against ropes thing). Rhodes’ heel turn was actually quite innovative (even if it employed a lot of artistic licence/Wrestle-logic to allow it); the debuting Ted DiBiase claimed he was going to win the Tag Team Championships from Rhodes and Holly, and he would do so because his money and influence had allowed him to get a partner to guarantee it. As it turned out, Rhodes was that partner:
Him and Ted DiBiase (Priceless) made for an excellent tag team; one of the best of that period for sure, but it was in Legacy that both DiBiase and Rhodes started to shine noticeably bright. Obviously, most immediately, Rhodes got to associate, on a weekly basis, with Randy Orton. But that came with a lot of related positives: more mic time, longer matches, more promotion, and of course, better opponents – often the marquee adversaries of Orton like Triple H and John Cena. Their highest point, arguably, came at Breaking Point, when not only did they get to take on the legendary DX in a memorable PPV match, but we saw a really rare sight – Shawn Michaels tapping out, and it was to Rhodes and DiBiase.
Unfortunately for the two younger members of Legacy, Randy Orton was getting pops every week, despite supposedly being a psychopathic heel. He had to turn face, and he did so, in part, against his ‘Legacy brethren’. Being in a high profile match at WrestleMania XVI against Randy Orton seemed like a great opportunity, and it was, but they were never really allowed to capitalise on that opportunity and fell away from the main event picture. It has become an urban truism that in most prominent tag teams there is a Shawn Michaels and a Marty Janetty (one being the star, and the other … not so much), and in Legacy, post-WrestleMania, most expected DiBiase to be the former and Rhodes the latter, but instead, it has turned out the other way round (though DiBiase is by no means a ‘Janetty’ yet). While DiBiase has gotten lost in the shuffle for the most part, Rhodes has gone on a long but sustained journey to credibility, and now it seems he is destined for the absolute top.
So, What Sets Him Apart
Rhodes is different, and in a lot of ways. Even more than other second/third generation wrestlers, Rhodes is a throwback to the ‘glory days’ of legends like his father, ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes and the territories. He just has such a refreshingly classical style, right down to the lack of knee-pads and re-birth of the classic Intercontinental Championship. Rhodes is smaller and not a natural talker, at least for the WWE mold. He could have allowed this to let him get lost in the shuffle, but instead, he used it to make him a palpably ‘different’ character to the rest of the roster, and has done so by making the most of his gimmicks. After WrestleMania XXVI, he was given his ‘Uncommon Son of the Common Man’ gimmick, which he did his best with bit obviously didn’t connect. His ‘Dashing’ gimmick, which seemed to have a lot more of Rhodes the man in it (apparently he got most of his grooming tips from Randy Orton). That gimmick, inspired in part by graphic novel characters, was unique (and again, something akin to more old-skool ‘pretty boy’ gimmicks) and he really made the most of it, rapaciously defending his face and bolting the ring to check his face in the mirror whenever it got hit. He was doing well with this gimmick, but when he changed to the masked ‘Grotesque’ gimmick, he really thrived, and he’s embraced that most of all; using his mask as a weapon, covering his face during pins so people wont stare at him when everyone’s attention is on him, and his use of paper bags to humiliate and cover the lying eyes of fans and opponents. Add in to that his general, delusional Mr. Hyde demeanor, and you have a unique, stand-out gimmick. He’s finally found his voice on the mic with this gimmick, which is again unique, and his wonderfully polished, classic in-ring style has never been an issue. He has finally become the full product.
When Did Rhodes Become Part of the Future of Wrestling?
There are a few moments in Rhodes’s career which might be called ‘break out’. Joining Legacy, feuding with DX, WrestleMania XXVI against Orton, the beginning of the ‘Dashing’ gimmick, beating Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania XXVII, to name just a few great ‘moments’ from Rhodes.
The moment I started to believe that Rhodes was an absolute shoe-in for future ‘top guy’, however, was when he re-established the classic Intercontinental Championship (pictured above), a belt worn by the likes of Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, Bret Hart, and Randy Savage. On the surface, it was just a token gesture, but it was more than that. It was an instantly recognisable gesture of intent about making his championship prestigious again, about making his career notable, and about standing out as a special and elite talent. He is succeeding with all of these goals, and in doing so, is making himself a must-see at the top of the card.
If you watch Rhodes in the first video embedded in this post, and compare it to the Rhodes in the video above, you can see the amazing growth of him as a sports entertainer. Rhodes is currently feuding with Randy Orton, and it doesn’t seem like that will end too soon. This is different to his previous feud(s) with Orton as it is on his own, and not with DiBiase, yet plays more on his whole, storied history with The Viper, right back to Legacy.The only way this can go forward though is if Orton actually challemges for the title. A higher calibre of challenger only helps the prestige of the title, and I think this should, and hopefully will continue for some time. I’d like to see Rhodes keep the title for quite some time, successfully defending against high-card talents like Orton, Sheamus, Sin Cara etc and really keep the prestige of the title, and him as champion, sky-rocketing. Perhaps he could be champion for Daniel Bryan to challenge at WrestleMania – it’s certainly a match-up i’d like to see. Saying that, I can’t see it happening. More likely he’ll keep the IC title even longer, and at some point in the new year, finally become the World Heavyweight Champion, and one of the faces of the Smackdown brand.