Cody Rhodes stands out from his wrestling compatriots from the minute he walks into a room, dressed in a suit complemented with a Louis Vuitton tie. He admits the tie was an “excessively expensive” gift from his wife, Brandi Runnels, which was far more expensive than his suit. Being dressed to the nines has always been something that he has adhered to.
“I think it’s just something I might have picked up over time,” he says. “You look at people and you go ‘you know what….’ Even like a political thing. I love politics. It could be that or it could be that my Dad was always really big on ‘this is your job, you are going to work….’ You know it’s really funny cause he was such a cowboy and he doesn’t like the concept of guys coming in like cowboys—unshaved and wearing flip flops—and stuff like that would eat him alive. So I either got it from the old man or watching too much political theater. I don’t really know, but I always like a good suit.”
Since departing WWE last year, Cody has traveled the world, wrestling for the biggest promotions outside WWE and at some of the biggest events and most famous venues in professional wrestling. It’s all part of an attempt to establish himself outside the realm of WWE, and in that time he’s put together a resume that any wrestler would envy.
“[New Japan’s] Wrestle Kingdom and [Ring of Honor’s] Final Battle were real feathers in the cap,” he says. “I was so impressed. It was so diverse, the dichotomy between the two events was nuts. Here in New York City for Final Battle—the reaction and the kind of visceral moment that Wrestle Kingdom used the scope of Tokyo Dome and 40 thousand people—a big fight feel provided. Then there are these promotions domestically in the U.S. that I have been fortunate enough to be in premier matches. Northeast wrestling—in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut—is one of my favorite places.
“To be their champion, to have a little bit of a behind-the-scenes element with Luke Gallows’ promotions in Georgia with Bullet Proof and to be able to help there and be their champion is really exciting. I love good balance, so being a collector is a fun little thing while we travel this world. I mean every night it’s something else. The other night I head-banged a dude on my rental car and drove him through the curtain in my rental car. So some moments are not as good as others, but they are all fun that’s for sure.” [After this interview, Bullet Proof Wrestling announced it was closing permanently.—Ed.]
As a native of Georgia, Cody grew up in the shadow of Center Stage, the famed theatre where WCW taped its long-running Saturday night shows in the 1990s. His post-WWE career allows him to wrestle in such smaller venues that are suffused with wrestling history. He recently had the chance to wrestle there at ROH’s TV tapings this past January.
“I think the best part was after—I’m driving to my sister’s house and my Mom is in the car and I asked her how I did and she said ‘it was ok’,” he says. “Not the whole show, Mom, what’d you think about my stuff? She responds ‘yeah, it was ok.’ So I was like ‘ok, I won’t be inviting you to another one of my wrestling events any time soon’. But Atlanta was very special. I would see WCW tapings there as a child. So it felt like I was going to look down and see a purple WCW logo on grey canvas. It just felt right being there.”
Although he has wrestled as both a face and a heel, Rhodes is actively trying to avoid such industry terms, as he believes the business has evolved past those simply roles.
“One of the last things that my dad and I discussed, and it sticks with me today, is that he no longer believed in the concept of Good Guy/Bad Guy,” he says. “He believed in the idea that one guy is trying to beat the other. However, he would say ‘you can be a Good Guy/Bad Guy or you can just be a star.’ I look at the Young Bucks, I had a match with them—Hangman [Adam Page], Kenny [Omega] and Young Bucks in Tokyo—I look at that match as a great example. They weren’t Good Guys or Bad Guys, they were just stars and they were treated as stars. The circumstances of that match dictated that they were booed or they were cheered—they were stars. That’s what I like to think.”
Despite all the accolades that he has garnered thus far, capturing the ROH World title is at the top of the list of accomplishments that he would like to achieve during his current run. Ahead of his triple threat match against Christopher Daniels and Jay Lethal at ROH’s War of the Worlds PPV, a match that Daniels won, Cody couldn’t downplay what it would mean for him to walk away with the title. It would mean “everything,” he says.
“Everything in the business is based around the idea of a World Championship. WWE, World Heavyweight Championship, Universal Title, the ROH Title or the IWGP Title—they are all World Championships. The best of the best. One thing about Ring of Honor is that they are incredibly credible in the Industry—who their Champions have been, who their Champions are now. So to do it in less than a year after WWE—would be historic! I would really, really be able to talk good about myself for quite a good amount of time. So, I have had butterflies thinking about it all night. It would be a real cool moment.”
Cody recently spoke about the idea of settling down somewhere and signing with one company exclusively, as he has been wrestling non exclusive dates with ROH, NJPW, Impact wrestling and a litany of smaller promotions. However, he feels that he may have jumped the gun on revealing that news, as he has not yet made up his mind.
“I shouldn’t have said that ever,” he admits. “Because it became ‘when’s it going to happen?’ ‘Where’s it going to happen?’ I’m not sure yet. It’s likely going to happen, but where it will happen has nothing to do with money, as it has to do with—I have kind of a strict set of demands as a talent these days. It’s because I worked for WWE for so long and I have learned a lot from Vince and Hunter about being a good businessman and none of them had anything to do with money. They all had to do with trusting the people who you work with and almost every place I’ve gone, I have had a positive experience. It’s really hard to find the stuff that’s like ‘uh, I don’t trust that guy’ or ‘I don’t know.’ I just know that I have a deep date book in New Japan a good chunk of the year and I have a lot dates left with Ring of Honor. So who knows, I could just sign on for some more non-exclusive dates. I know that they would be terrified at the concept that their champion would not be exclusive. So I know that Joe Koff would be walking around all day trying to get inside information. But who knows. I respect everywhere I go and I never try to tarnish brands. I like going everywhere I go right now.”
Rich Laconi is a writer whose specialty lies in professional wrestling. Aside from his work being found regularly at PWPonderings.com, LastWordOnProwresting.com and ROHWorld.com, you can follow him on Twitter and listen to him on RunningWildpodcast.com.