CODY & BRANDI RHODES EXIT ALL ELITE WRESTLING
February 15th will be remembered as a pivotal day in the career of Cody Rhodes – the full extent of which, will take months and possibly, years, to assess whether it was the right move.
At thirty-six years of age, Rhodes is in the prime of his career and is poised for a major run in WWE, where everyone expects him to land in the wake of his AEW departure. Tuesday saw statements released by Cody & Brandi Rhodes, both of whom were building blocks of the first viable alternative to WWE in two decades, announcing their departures with Tony Khan thanking both publicly.
When Rhodes left WWE in 2016, it was with minimal fervor and the curiosity of how a performer that developed under one system would last on the independents? He assumed the risk by leaving the financial security of the WWE system which also left him unfulfilled in other areas.
Through an association with The Young Bucks, he stormed the independents and found a permanent residence in Ring of Honor, which had a working relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling. The three are credited with the rise in popularity for ROH and helping to set their attendance record in 2018.
The ambition grew after planting the seeds for their own show in a major arena with their ideas coalescing with ‘All In’ in September 2018 – a show that was put on with assistance from Ring of Honor, who had to provide the green light for their contracted performers to hold such an event in the U.S. The rest was history and it was an unmitigated success with an immediate sell-out, and the table was set as the performers’ deals came due with ROH towards the end of that year and AEW was formed.
The upstart put their first foot forward with their inaugural pay-per-view, ‘Double or Nothing’, in May 2019 and established the four major stars out of the gate of Kenny Omega, Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, and Cody Rhodes. On that Memorial Day weekend, Cody had the best match of his career wrestling brother Dustin in a bloodbath that is still vividly remembered nearly three years later.
While Rhodes, Omega, and The Young Bucks were designated as the EVPs of the company – by the end of 2019, it was a clear distinction that Tony Khan was the be-all and end-all after its television program Dynamite hit its lowest point on December 18th – the one time that NXT topped AEW in the 18-49 demographic with its fanbase rejecting a show-closing angle involving The Dark Order.
Over the years, the Cody Rhodes character has been the most polarizing on AEW programming. There is no argument the star quality he possesses, is a terrific promo with main event poise and delivery, and no one will dispute his big matches are often the most heated and engaging while going above and beyond when it comes to pushing beyond his limits in matches.
But the blowback has consistently grown over the past year and was creating the backlash from its core fanbase that went against the very ethos of the company – listening to its fans and giving them what they wanted. This extended to Brandi Rhodes, whose various incarnations throughout AEW have been a complicated roadmap shifting from babyface to heel on a routine basis, a failed Nightmare Collective story, and her latest involvement with Dan Lambert that left the audience perplexed with how they were supposed to react.
In the short term, it’s easy to look at these various segments as ones that elicited a strong reaction – relying on the axiom that any reaction is a great one as long as they aren’t quiet. But, it painted the Rhodes’ as operating on an island that felt disconnected from the AEW apparatus and was inviting fans to reject the company on a weekly basis while Cody was smashing the fourth wall with the same fervor he did to Triple H’s throne.
From an on-screen point of view, AEW shouldn’t miss a beat and one can argue that a break from the Rhodes’ segments was sorely needed – or at least, necessary of a retooling.
While many will focus on the Cody stories that missed the mark, it’s also important to shine a light on many that did work. If one is to defend the Cody “character” on screen, there is ample evidence to support that he was a star that had heated crowds that were engaged, segments that performed well, and for many, was the star most closely branded as ‘AEW’ and being synonymous with the brand.
There is no argument that he didn’t put over lots of talent and potentially, lost too often in some situations. His performance several weeks ago in the ladder match with Sammy Guevara was applauded with their match standing out among a sea of terrific ones already in 2022.
Most of all, he is a performer unafraid of taking risks and that’s a trait worth placing value on. He did not have a perfect batting average but I also sense he’s a performer that was repulsed with the idea of blending in with the types of matches, promos, and traditional ideas that always work and will always get over, but it’s a layup that he viewed as “safe” and opted to challenge the parameters. He seemed like someone that always wanted to go down the path least explored with the potential for a home run but also of striking out on national television and he had multiple examples of each.
The next chapter of his career presents both risk and security. For WWE to sign Rhodes, it would have to come at a significant amount and bodes well for Rhodes being perceived as a top talent if he’s making top money, or close to it. To assume that is a guarantee would require one to erase decades of memories and layups that bounced off the rim or missed the backboard completely.
For every Drew McIntyre that was marginalized in their first run and returned with a completely different perception, there are countless others that are just not seen as top-level stars where outside success somehow doesn’t count for any credits in WWE.
Cody is a unique case as he didn’t just leave and become a better performer, he left to become a star and is one of the few people that can legitimately make a claim to being a change agent in the industry over the past five years. He didn’t do it in WWE and time will tell if that works in his favor, or against.
History would dictate that being a weekly character on WWE programming will slowly erode your star presence and become a spoke in the wheel that pushes uniformity when stars are supposed to stand out. This is a company in desperate need of a top babyface and stars but has had a terrible time building any outside of Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar and offsetting its issues with band-aids in the form of past stars.
It will also be fascinating to see the next move by Brandi Rhodes, who was a pivotal person behind-the-scenes during her three years in AEW. Her exit comes right after being presented as the face of the partnership with the American Heart Association and kicking off an angle with Paige VanZant in a segment that was panned. That is without noting the reality series they were tied to and a long list of duties she is leaving behind with this departure.
There are many unanswered questions.
Is there more than money with the WWE option? Is Cody viewed as a creative mind that can be utilized, or is this seen like Dusty Rhodes coming in 1990 where he was hired strictly to perform? Dusty’s tenure booking Jim Crockett Promotions had real success against WWE especially from 1984-86. He left JCP shortly after the purchase by Turner Broadcasting, tried to revive Florida, and made the right call for himself personally, going to WWE, although it wasn’t his booking chops that Vince McMahon was interested in and instead, presented Dusty in his vision and one that Dusty would note is not the role he wants to be remembered for in polka dots.
Cody is a lot different than his father 32 years ago and will command a level of financial commitment that should place him in the upper tier of the company.
For now, the AEW and Cody Rhodes story has ended but with the performer well under the age of 40, it’s not to say he will never step foot in an AEW ring again, and it would be a gigantic move down the road.
For now, Rhodes is staring at a path he walked away from six years ago – the route looks the same but it’s unknown what the destination will be.
POST IT NOTES
**Rewind-A-Dynamite is live at 10:15 p.m. ET tonight as Wai Ting and I review the show from Nashville, continue to discuss the Rhodes’ departing AEW, and take your feedback from the POST Wrestling Forum. We will be live for Double Double, Iced Capp & Espresso members of the POST Wrestling Café.
**On the POST Daily News show on Thursday, I will be joined by Brandon Thurston and David Bixenspan as we discuss the WWE’s deal with the Government of Saudi Arabia after four years of the deal. We will be exploring the ways in which to cover these events, how audiences have reacted to the shows, and many other topics stemming from the events. The show will be live at 1 p.m. ET on the POST YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
**Wai Ting and Jordan Goodman return with this month’s edition of The Wellness Policy on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET for all POST Wrestling Café members and will be available free for everyone on the Café feed later that night. Thursday’s guest is Neal Flanagan, who is celebrating a birthday today.
**This month’s edition of ASK-A-WAI is available to all Café members with an hour of mailbag questions.
POST DAILY NEWS SHOW
Wai Ting and Andrew Thompson chat:
-The reaction to Cody & Brandi Rhodes leaving AEW
-NXT Vengeance Day
-WWE Raw ratings
-NXT Level Up premieres this Friday
-Jaxson Ryker’s comments regarding his 2020 tweet
Audio version for POST Wrestling Café members.
**Justin Barrasso at SI.com reported additional details on the exit of Cody and Brandi Rhodes from AEW. The report states that Cody is expected to land in WWE and noted that one of the significant issues involving Cody with his former promotion was the loss of booking power. From the SI.com report:
While Rhodes was never intended to overstay his welcome in the world title picture, one key factor that led to this exit was losing all responsibilities involving booking. That is a role where (Tony) Khan, who is the head of creative, has taken full rein. Originally, Rhodes was part of that process. As great as Dusty Rhodes was as a performer, his contributions as a booker are an integral part of his legacy. For Rhodes, AEW represented another chance to pay homage to his father as a booker while also further cementing his own legacy. Losing that opportunity in AEW hurt Rhodes more than any loss he suffered in the ring.
In many interviews, Tony Khan has referenced changes that needed to be made at the end of 2019 after they lost to NXT for the only time on December 18th and Khan took more control as the head booker for the promotion.
**AEW Dynamite takes place from the Nashville Municipal Auditorium tonight with a packed show. All focus is on the departures of Cody & Brandi Rhodes and it will be interesting to see if there is a reference to their exits and perhaps a farewell speech from Tony Khan to thank them for their time in the company. It almost seems impossible to imagine it isn’t referenced but it would be unlike so many promoters to spend any time on a top star leaving for the competitor. However, of all people, Vince McMahon did give a genuine goodbye on camera to Randy Savage in 1994 when he was heading to WCW – although never did business with him again.
Here is the lineup for tonight’s show at 8 p.m. ET on TBS and TSN 3 in Canada:
*TNT Championship: Sammy Guevara (champion) vs. Darby Allin – This is their third match in AEW with Allin beating Guevara at both Revolution 2020 and on an episode of Dynamite that aired in April that year
*Chris Jericho & Jake Hager vs. Ortiz & Santana
*No Disqualification Match: Mercedes Martinez vs. Thunder Rosa
*Face of the Revolution Qualifying Match: Wardlow vs. Max Caster
*Bryan Danielson vs. Lee Moriarty
*CM Punk to name the time, place, and rules for the rematch with MJF
**We can confirm that Chris Jericho has approximately two years left on his current AEW deal. That timing is very notable given that WWE could have their next television deals in place and potentially, AEW as well, meaning that if both get significant increases, there will be a lot of money for potential signings. Jericho will be 53 at that point and the ball will be in his court regarding what he wants to do but it’s a long time to forecast where the industry will be and what other factors will be at play.
**WrestleTix reports that there are approximately 4,400 tickets out for tonight’s card in Nashville at the Municipal Auditorium.
**For those unfamiliar with how the five versions of TSN in Canada operate, TSN 2 is on a higher tier and is in fewer homes than the other TSN channels because it has to be added to your package separately. TSN 1, 3, 4 & 5 come with your basic sports package if you have a digital receiver. For those with basic cable, you will only get the TSN channel in your region (for example, in Toronto, the default is TSN 4). Essentially, TSN 1, 3, 4 & 5 are essentially the same level of penetration while TSN 2 is in fewer homes because it’s in its own tier. (Thanks to Steve Argintaru)
**Jake Atlas confirmed that he had surgery for a torn ACL, which he sustained in his match against Adam Cole on January 5th in Newark, New Jersey on the Rampage tapings:
— 𝗝𝗔𝗞𝗘 𝗔𝗧𝗟𝗔𝗦 (@JakeAtlasReal) February 16, 2022
**HBO has greenlit Peacemaker for a second season, according to show creator James Gunn, who will write and direct all the episodes in the forthcoming season. The series, which stars John Cena, will see the season finale of its first season be released tonight on the streaming platform.
**AEW Music Live will hold its first concert on Saturday, March 5th at 8 p.m. ET as part of Revolution weekend in Orlando, Florida. The concert will take place at The Venue at UCF and will feature AEW’s producer Mikey Rukus, Monteasy, and Wrestle and Flow. The weekend will include a live episode of Rampage from the Addition Financial Arena and a Fan Fest on Saturday. The pay-per-view takes place on Sunday night.
**LuFisto posted a letter she received on Wednesday from the National Assembly of Quebec congratulating her on her induction into the Indie Wrestling Hall of Fame last month in New York City. LuFisto was inducted by Lenny Leonard as part of the inaugural Hall of Fame class that included Dave Prazak, Ruckus, Homicide, Jerry Lynn, and Tracy Smothers. LuFisto is currently working on her autobiography that is expected to be released this spring.
**MLW has added a Trios match with Gino Medina, Arez & Mini Abismo Negro against Puma King, Octagon Jr. & TBA for the SuperCard event on Saturday, February 26th at the Grady Cole Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
**This Saturday’s IMPACT Wrestling ‘No Surrender’ card will feature an alternate commentary track for those that buy the show on FITE TV. For no extra charge, you can choose the commentary team of Lisa Marie Varon, SoCal Val, and Traci Brooks.
**Cary Silkin is working on a book about his life including many of the stories that he shared on the Last Stop Penn Station podcast with co-host Ian Riccaboni. We were told there will be a lot of non-wrestling stories but also plenty of wrestling. Silkin essentially saved Ring of Honor from collapse in 2004 and funded the promotion up until the sale to Sinclair Broadcasting in May 2011 and has admitted that the company never made money while he ran it. There is a reason Silkin is so well-regarded by the talent that worked there as he kept the lights on and allowed a platform for many future stars on the national level.
**All Japan wrestler Izanagi will return to action Thursday after testing negative for COVID-19 with an antigen test. The promotion announced he had tested positive for the virus on February 3rd.
**Here are the results from New Japan’s card at Korakuen Hall earlier today in front of 436 fans (Courtesy: Purolove.com):
*Great O-Khan over Kosei Fujita in 5:53
*El Desperado, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru over Robbie Eagles, Tiger Mask & Ryohei Oiwa in 10:28
*Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo over Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato in 12:29
*Toru Yano & Yuji Nagata over Minoru Suzuki & DOUKI in 10:25
*SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI over Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma in 14:13
*Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi over Kazuchika Okada & Satoshi Kojima in 17:33
*Elimination Match: EVIL, Yujiro, SHO & Dick Togo over Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & YOH in 18:11 ending with EVIL throwing Goto over the rope
**New Japan runs Korakuen Hall again on Thursday and will be headlined by an Elimination Match with Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Satoshi Kojima vs. Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, SANADA & Hiromu Takahashi.
POST DAILY NEWS: Rhodes’ AEW-Exit Fallout, End of 205 Live, Jaxson Ryker
Wai Ting & Andrew Thompson discuss the fallout from Cody & Brandi Rhodes’ AEW exits, NXT Vengeance Day, the end of 205 Live, and Jaxon Ryker’s comments about his June 2020 tweet.
upNXT: Vengeance Day 2022
Braden Herrington and Davie Portman review the February 15th, 2022 edition of WWE NXT 2.0 – “Vengeance Day” headlined by Bron Breakker vs Santos Escobar for the NXT Championship!
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REWIND-A-RAW: Elimination Chamber Go-Home Show
John Pollock & Wai Ting review the go-home edition of WWE Raw before Elimination Chamber as we find out the final participant in the women’s Elimination Chamber match.
WRESTLENOMICS: Estimating how much revenue AEW makes
We estimate All Elite Wrestling made about $84 million in revenue in 2021. Brandon Thurston breaks down AEW’s revenue sources and how much he believes the company made in 2021 and 2020.
UFC 271 POST SHOW: Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker II
John Pollock and Phil Chertok and back to review UFC 271 featuring the rematch between Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker for the UFC middleweight title.
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