Sports

No, you’re not getting worked by AEW’s Cody Rhodes

Please just get Cody Rhodes off our television screens.

Please just get Cody Rhodes off our television screens.
Screenshot: AEW

I realize that I’m biased, being one of the louder and more consistent “Cody Sucks!” voices around. But if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s the idea that we just have to wait around and bow to the booking of major wrestling companies, and accept that they will all eventually come good and make sense. It’s the WWE fans’ lament, “Well, let’s just see where they’re going with this.” They’re going nowhere, you know it, I know it, and we need to stop waiting for Krusty to show up to dinner. Even if he does, no one’s going to enjoy it.

The latest and most obvious example of this “wait and see” philosophy is the idea that Cody Rhodes’ 2021, of which I was clearly not a fan, has actually all been a big work. The argument is that Cody is completely aware of the reaction to him, i.e. getting booed out of the building every time he appears, and is playing into it. The Homelander outfit, the matches, the posing, the allusions to it all in his promos, and whatever else is actually all intentional from Cody. It’s part of the character. That he’s a heel who thinks he’s a face, that he is actually wrestling Homelander. Being the hero and either unaware or indifferent to the criticism of how he achieved that role, along with a willingness to do anything to stay on top. And then, eventually, insulted because the public hasn’t thanked him for it.

I know AEW fans tend to get pretty militant about anything within the company, and protective of the booking, because it has been so much better than the competition. And AEW is great! They’ve certainly earned some runway when it comes to creative decisions. No one’s arguing that. But this ain’t it, fam. The best I can do is that if the story outlined above is indeed what Cody and AEW have in mind — to make him some sort of reverse anti-hero — it’s been exceptionally poorly executed.

Because at the end of all of this, fans aren’t booing Cody. Writers like me aren’t having their shoulders sink to their ankles at his appearance on TV because we want to see him get beat, as is normal for a heel. The idea is supposed to be that you hate and boo the heel until he one day gets his. No, we just don’t want to see Cody at all.

It’s not his character that fans boo. It’s his presence. I change the channel when he’s on, for the most part. We just have no interest in watching it, which has to be the biggest criticism of any television product. If it is indeed some grand plan, the fact that it started with a feeling of Cody just fisting himself onto TV and PPVs simply because he’s Cody made us all tune out before the story even had a chance to take shape. That’s hardly good booking.

Perhaps some of the backlash is the ubiquitousness of Cody, as he’s on two other TNT shows in addition to Dynamite and Rampage, including one dedicated to documenting his life. And a character like the one Cody is trying to create, so the argument goes, wouldn’t understand the concept of overexposure at all. But again, this happened long before Cody tried to play into all that. We were sick of it long ago. Again, he just looks like a second-rate Miz. (Which made CM Punk’s labeling of MJF that more hilarious. Right label, wrong target.)

If Cody’s aim was to create this character, why does it have to come at the expense of newcomers we all really wanted to see flourish? Malakai Black’s return became a story about Cody. Andrade’s first serious run in AEW became a story about Cody. Sammy Guevara’s title run (admittedly a pretty shoddy one that needed to end quickly) became about Cody. Even if the idea is the insecurities fueling Cody’s character make him glom off the glow of other wrestlers that people would rather watch, at the end of the day he’s still detracting from them. He’s just a photobomb. No one has looked better after a program with Cody except for Cody. And maybe that’s the goal of all of it, but most fans don’t enjoy that fact.

In addition, Cody seems to still want to pick a fight with Triple H, and really no one gives a fuck. Whatever Triple H was as a wrestler, and he was a lot of things, these days most identify Trips as the architect of NXT, and you’d find most AEW fans loved the original NXT. It’s what begat AEW, really. A good number of wrestlers we dream book into AEW, or have already joined the company, came from NXT. Cody is trying to claim victory in a fight no one cares about.

If the aim of Cody’s “I solved racism” promo was to earmark himself as the oblivious and irrationally self-involved hero, it missed its mark by a football field and was extremely tone deaf in today’s climate, where racism should be about the last thing used as a wrestling plot device (and especially in a company that is struggling to make the top of its card anything other than lilly white at the moment). Again, if that was the aim, it was poorly executed. Or that’s genuinely who Cody is.

Some will tell you that the actual matches make the whole thing worth it. And there’s little question that Cody is an excellent performer. But this past year has been such a car crash that fans like me don’t even care about the actual matches, which are supposed to be the bedrock of any wrestling storyline. I just want them over. I wasn’t wowed by Cody and Andrade going through a flaming table. It just seemed desperate, clawing to reverse all the missteps before. It wasn’t the culmination of anything, just a Hail Mary. And if he truly was this Homelander wrestler, he wouldn’t be trying so hard to win us over with more and more grandiose stunts. He would get more and more dismissive and inward. If the stunts got bigger, it would be to spite us, not to try and curry our favor.

Maybe Cody can save all this in the near future by doing exactly that. Maybe he goes on a “Look at all I’ve done and how hard I’ve worked for you and you still boo” run. Maybe he turns more and more into the skid.

But at this point, I don’t care, and many others don’t. I see Cody show up to celebrate Cody and I just wonder why there isn’t a second women’s match per show there (if there was even a first). Or why Powerhouse Hobbs or Ricky Starks or Andrade or Pac or Ethan Page about a dozen other talented guys we’d all rather see aren’t wrestling in that slot. I just don’t care what Cody does with the rest of this, because the first part was either completely deaf or completely balloon-handed.

“Cody’s working you” is in the same vein as “Let’s just see where they’re going with this.” It’s blind devotion for the sake of it. And while AEW might have earned the benefit of the doubt more than others, it doesn’t mean they’re going to get everything right. They’ve been getting this one wrong for basically a year, and it’s time to move on. Which we can’t, seeing as how Cody put the TNT title on himself for a third time. It’s the wrong kind of heat, but he and his devotees can’t seem to tell the difference.

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