Cody Rhodes Before The Nightmare: The Missing Years Between His WWE Debut and The Creation Of AEW

The son of wrestler Dusty Rhodes and the half-brother of wrestler Dustin Rhodes, Cody Rhodes started his professional wrestling career with a short run in Ohio Valley Wrestling in 2006 before moving up to the WWE in 2007. He had a variety of gimmicks and limited mid-card success before being repackaged as a warped spin-off of his brother’s Goldust character named Stardust.

Cody requested to be released from his WWE contract in 2016 due to frustration with the companies insistence that he remain in the Stardust character that he no longer felt was best for his career and story that he wanted to ultimately tell. He had “pleaded” with writers to end the Stardust gimmick for over six months and pitched numerous storyline ideas which had been ignored.

Cody said that before he left he spoke to Triple H who had an executive role at the time.

“Hunter took it very personally because he had done so much for my dad at NXT. There was one conversation where he said, “I’m shocked that you feel this way after everything I’ve done for your family.” But I told him, “I’m not my dad. I can’t stay here out of loyalty to you for giving my dad a job in 2005. I get it, and the little boy in me really appreciates what you did for my dad. But I’m not him. He’s not here anymore. I’ve got to be me.” I think Hunter, he’s been in wrestling long enough that he knew, “Oh, this is a real one. He’s not asking for more money. He’s not asking for a title shot. Nothing would matter at this point.” I let the burn get too bad before I said anything, if that makes any sense.”

Following his departure from WWE in 2016, Rhodes began wrestling on the independent circuit and making several appearances in TNA, where he wrestled simply as, Cody due to WWE owning the “Cody Rhodes” name.

In addition to working with smaller independent wrestling companies in the United States and Japan. In the summer of 2016 the most impactful appearances he would make would be in the rapidly growing Ring Of Honor promotion that at the time had been recently purchased by the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

ROH was initially on the fence if booking Cody would be a good idea for the expanding company. I think they would be concerned that it would potentially rock the boat, what they were doing was working so well for them, adding an unknown element like a Ex-WWE guy could potentially be taken poorly by the fans. 

When Cody had initially left the WWE a mutual friend of the Young Bucks and Cody, Kevin Steen, now known as Kevin Owens gave the Bucks a call and asked them to look after Cody now that he had “swam off the island”. There was a serious fear at the time that if you left the WWE your career would basically be over since there just weren’t any other wrestling companies that could provide what they offered at the time. 

So when the decision makers at ROH asked the Young Bucks who were on the verge of signing big contracts with ROH if they should book Cody. The Bucks vouched for him after only briefly meeting him at a small show prior to the meeting.

All fears were set aside when Cody arrived to a heroes welcome in ROH but cheers would turn to boos when in his first match in the company he would defeat Jay Lethal using a low blow, then proceed to attack Lethal and a referee, flipped off the ROH fans and then roughed up one of the guys on commentary.

He wasn’t truly hated for this though, the ROH audiences actually seemed to LOVE this new asshole version of Cody, the worse he would behave the MORE they would cheer him. 

Cody embraced this new heel persona and took it even further at the end of 2016 by joining Bullet Club, the notorious heel faction based in New Japan Pro Wrestling along with new friends The Young Bucks.

Cody along with the Young Bucks, Adam Cole and Adam Page would go on to represent Bullet Club in ROH while the current leader of the faction, Kenny Omega, would remain in NJPW. A storyline would unfold where Cody would attempt to assume leadership of Bullet Club during this time while the group was separated between two companies.

Cody would also become a fixture on the Young Bucks YouTube channel and come up with some of the most classic moments in the channel’s history.

In 2017 Cody would ride his building momentum all the way to a ROH World Championship run and Cody would take Ring Of Honor further than they have ever been before.

In May 2017, wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer suggested that an independent wrestling show would be unable to sell out a ten thousand seat arena in the United States. Cody would famously reply,

“I’ll take that bet Dave”

So Rhodes, along with The Young Bucks, started planning a show specifically for the purposes of drawing ten thousand fans.

In May 2018, it was announced that the show would be named All In. On May 13, 2018, tickets to “All In” sold out in 30 minutes. 

At the end of 2018 Cody would announce that he was no longer with Bullet Club but instead was ONLY a part of The Elite along with Omega, The Young Bucks, Hangman Adam Page and Marty Scurll.

On January 1, 2019, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) was unveiled during a conference in Jacksonville, FL with Cody revealing that he, along with Matt and Nick Jackson of The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, would serve as Executive Vice Presidents, as well as on-air talent. Both Cody and The Young Bucks signed five-year contracts with the promotion.

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Frank Hartgrave

ByFrank Hartgrave

Mr. Hartgrave produces daily content for YouTube and Instagram and does a weekly AEW Wrestling Live Stream every Wed. at 6PM that is broadcast on all platforms.

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