By Jeff Lutz, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@JLutz82)
When 4,000 fans at Charlotte’s Bojangles Coliseum began chanting “Dusty! Dusty!” during an epic promo from Cody on Wednesday’s AEW Dynamite, I got the feeling that they were celebrating Dusty Rhodes for being Cody’s father – not for being a legendary wrestler who happened to produce two outstanding wrestling sons.
Fans don’t seem to care that Cody may have received more opportunities in wrestling – he debuted in WWE as Cody Rhodes just after turning 22 – because of his Hall of Fame lineage. My guess is they care even less about Cody wrestling in main event matches while also serving as an AEW executive vice president charged with determining who competes at the top of the card.
I barely followed Cody’s independent-wrestling plight. His WWE career fizzled with the unimaginative Stardust gimmick and I regrettably didn’t have him pegged as someone who could make a difference outside WWE. I didn’t take him seriously as he crossed off opponents on his list of dream matches or even, sadly, when he helped sell out Chicago’s Sears Centre for All In last year.
Then AEW became an idea and soon after, a reality. Cody began the media push and was interviewed by seemingly every outlet that had a stake in wrestling. I was surprised to find out that Cody oozed with charisma and the ability to convincingly and emotionally promote that his dad, Dusty, so famously possessed.
Where had this been? It was always there, if only I had been paying attention.
Failing to recognize Cody’s obvious intangibles was my mistake. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it – WWE made the same miscalculation. Its failures seem more egregious, though, considering he spent a decade in the company and never elevated beyond mid-card status.
How could WWE so blatantly miss what was right in front of it for 10 years? How did Vince McMahon fail to discover and present Cody’s skills on the microphone, his true personality, and his passion for the business? How was he not completely invested in finding out whether Dusty Rhodes’ son had some of the traits that made Dusty so beloved?
In WWE, that happens far too often. Check out any unscripted WWE Network series – Table for 3, Ride Along, etc. – or watch when a current wrestler inducts a past star into the Hall of Fame, and you’ll see elements of performers’ personalities that WWE’s scripted promos and one-dimensional character development can never tap into.
That hasn’t been a problem in AEW, where the only shortcomings in promos and character development are related to quantity, not quality. Cody is one of several who have thrived, masterfully selling his upcoming pay-per-view championship match against Chris Jericho with intense physical confrontations and with Wednesday’s emotionally charged promo.
Cody’s interview with Tony Schiavone should alleviate, if not erase, any doubts that Cody is looking out more for himself than for the company. It’s obvious to those watching AEW that Cody deserves a top spot, and it’s no sin for him to recognize the passionate reactions he receives weekly and reward the tireless work he’s done to earn them.
In Wednesday’s promo, Cody addressed criticism from people who he says claim he is using AEW as a platform for personal stardom and recognition. But I don’t see it that way. I think people are leery of the possibility of Cody receiving backlash, but I’m not sure much exists yet because it’s so evident that he is a worthy cornerstone for the fledgling promotion.
Cody has managed to separate himself from Dusty by incorporating many elements of what made his father a star and by adding a unique, updated, for-the-times element to the tried and true. Writing himself into high-profile segments and matches didn’t outweigh what Dusty achieved on his own, and it’s well on its way to becoming nothing more than a footnote in Cody’s career, too.