THE POWER OF THE PIN - Jan 22, 2023: The Rhodes Ripple Effect will roll right through WrestleMania
WWE Superstar Cody Rhodes has been riding a seven-year wave of success that should propel him to new heights at the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania
We are less than a week away from WWE Royal Rumble 2023, and if his vignettes mean anything at all, the men's match is Cody Rhodes' to win or lose. He's currently the odds-on favorite to face Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39 for the Universal Championship, and the promotion is hyping it up for all it's worth on television.
The American Nightmare is set to triumphantly return after being out for over six months with a horrific-looking muscle tear. That sounds like a whole lot of long-term storytelling, particularly if he finishes off the script in Hollywood. We have seen him wounded and now fight back, as any hero should.
It's one hell of an angle, one of the best the promotion could have hoped for considering the circumstances. Their creative team took lemons and now they're going to make an ocean of lemonade out of it. Based on the way it's being portrayed, you couldn't ask for a Pultizer Prize-winning novel much better than this one:
But the first chapter of this tale didn't start when Rhodes returned to WWE last year.
It actually began when he departed in mid-2016.
At that time, Cody found himself under the glass ceiling. He was a mid-card guy in a massive media company that didn't seem too interested in 'wrestling'. It was a situation that he knew he had to escape, even though his options were limited at the time.
Still, Ring of Honor and the indy scene were red hot, and the Bullet Club was killing it over in Japan. Rhodes saw a lot of exciting things happening in contrast to the then-bland environment of WWE.
That's when he walked away, with no guarantees, and no destination. Just a belief in himself and in the traditions of his family name
Not long after that, I wrote a column referring to his actions as being akin to 'The Butterfly Effect' - that the courage it took for him to walk away might cause a ripple in the waters of sports entertainment. It had the possibility of inspiring others to seek the opportunities (and potential risks) that lie outside McMahonland. Something that seemed very foolish to do at the time, walking away from money in the pursuit of dreams.
It worked. Not just for Cody, but for others over the following months and years, like a squared circle version of the butterfly effect. It definitely provided a blueprint for later departees like Neville and The Revival. They also took chances on themselves to reinvent their careers elsewhere.
The story referred to it as 'The Cody Effect' - and it didn't stop with Rhodes taking the Ring of Honor World Title and becoming a member of the Bullet Club. It also included him joining his legendary Dad as the only father-son duo to have captured the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship, the prize that is the historical link between their two eras.
It was also a stretch where Cody went from mid-card to main event, and his outspoken nature made him an unofficial leader of the indy wrestling movement. And just like a wave that keeps on going, his influence continued to grow larger and more powerful.
In fact? Without Cody and his willingness to lay down a bet against some serious odds, there wouldn't have been an All-In event, the most successful independent card in American wrestling history. His online wager with Dave Meltzer started it all, and he spearheaded the movement from there.
Meltzer's response didn't sit too well with the second-generation star. Rhodes, determined to break another of sports entertainment stereotypes, was determined to show that it could thrive without the WWE machine. He put his balls on the line and guaranteed that All In would be a huge success.
Much like his famous father, he wasn't afraid to cut a precocious promo if he knew that he was in the right. After all, it ain't braggin' if you back it up.
The success of that singular show led billionaire offspring Tony Khan to launch All Elite Wrestling, being convinced that a second major promotion could be supported by much of the talent. Within weeks, rumors of AEW's eventual birth began circulating.
When the promotion finally launched, who was widely recognized as their spokesman?
That's right... it was Cody Rhodes. Not Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, nor The Young Bucks.
Hell, not even good ol' JR, or Khan himself, got as much face time as The American Nightmare did.
After giving his heart and soul to his new promotion for over three years, he grew jaded - for whatever reason. That's when the waters began churning in Cody's career once more. It was time to change course again.
He had experienced six years of being 'free' to pursue his artistic and business interests, but it was time for things to come full circle
After causing one of the biggest ripple effects we've ever seen in the history of pro wrestling, Cody decided to return to WWE. It was time for the wave that once rolled out for brighter horizons to finally come home to shore.
Not only was embraced as an avenging angel by the WWE Universe, but his return illustrated that the promotion will always be the symbol of excellence. Despite AEW's tremendous success and Rhodes' outstanding individual achievements, the sun still rises and sets in Stamford, Connecticut. Signing away their rival's Executive Vice President and immediately plugging him in as one of their biggest talents proves that.
When he left years ago, he was called on the carpet and ridiculed for making what was deemed a dumb decision. After all only a restless fool would have walked away from all that money. Only someone who had surely lost their mind would put their legacy on the line like that.
But Cody Rhodes did just that back in 2016. He started a wave that not only changed his life but all of professional wrestling when he departed for the first time. That may sound like an overblown statement to some, but it isn't when you look at it in the grand scheme of things. Especially considering all the epic events that have surrounded this singular star.
Now, he has returned like a typhoon, and he's determined to come barreling down the Road to WrestleMania, on his way to Hollywood
So, it's time to sound the storm warnings, because the Cody Rhodes tidal wave is determined to come crashing into the competition at the Royal Rumble. And make no mistake about it, he'll be hitting the west coast sometime around early April.
If Rhodes then surges into WrestleMania and manages to defeat Roman Reigns in the biggest match of his life? The tiny tempest he once created, will have grown into a titanic typhoon... Just as predicted.