After a myriad of rumors and speculation, Cody Rhodes finally put pen to paper to finalize his return to WWE, according to PWInsider’s Mike Johnson, one of the most accurate journalist in the industry. The news that Cody inked a new deal to return was after a few weeks of uncertainly with reports that his return to the McMahon empire wasn’t an automatic transition from All Elite Wrestling.
As we know, Cody ambitious exit from the company after he was typecast as a mid-card comedy gimmick was one of the main factors in the formation of AEW, and a major reason why the sports entertainment business has more options today than it has in the past two decades. Many fans applauded Rhodes’ willingness to jump onto the indies when he left WWE in 2016 to try to maximize his potential elsewhere, and he definitely increased his stock compared to when he was a spinoff of a Goldust persona. How Cody will be received back under the WWE umbrella remains to be seen, mostly because much of that will depend on how much of the WWE fan base might’ve at least heard of the concept of All Elite. Keep in mind, there’s a demographic of diehard WWE fans that might think Cody just appeared on game shows in the past six years.
Assuming the WWE audience is at least aware of the fact that he was a top guy somewhere else will help bring some of that shine with him. It’s a very unique scenario, considering that it provides good optics for the WWE after a few of their major stars simply decided to work for Tony Khan than re-sign a WWE contract. So, to land a deal with a former executive vice president of AEW, it sends the message that WWE is still the place to be in the business, regardless of how perspective might shape that narrative.
In truth, this all depends on how much stock WWE brass puts into what Cody did outside of the company and if they see him as a bigger star than the last time he was there.
Again, it’s a unique situation because management often counts nothing that a performer does outside of the organization, but that will be a determining factor here because that will ultimately define Rhodes’ role on the roster. For this deal to make sense to either side, Cody has to be brought in as a major player among the WWE landscape. We know that he had to get a great money offer from WWE or he would’ve just re-signed with Khan. Since we can assume that WWE is making a significant investment in Cody to re-sign him, it makes sense that he would be a priority going forward so that the company can get a return on that investment, particularly after so many cuts were made in recent years. Nick Khan sent the message that if a performer doesn’t draw money then they are expandable.
As mentioned, the last time we saw saw Stardust in WWE, he was a mid-card comedy act that the writing team didn’t have much for beyond the parody of a gimmick. If Cody returns to the company near the main event scene, it will be based on the fact that he showed he can work as a top guy outside of the company. Granted, it’s doubtful he would’ve re-signed if the pitch was for him to paint his face again, but the point being, if he’s regulated to the mid-card, what progress was really gained by his work to elevate his stock in the past six years?
The online chatter suggests that Rhodes might be the Wrestlemania opponent for Seth Rollins, with a surprise match on the show, similar to when The Hardys returned to the promotion a few years ago. Despite counterproductive booking throughout portions of his WWE career, make no mistake about it, Seth Rollins is one of the most solid in-ring athletes on the roster. If management goes with Rollins/Rhodes in a high profile spot on a Wrestlemania card, that will at least get Cody off to a good start as far as solidifying himself as a star in the WWE. How he fits into the current narratives on the show is a completely different matter. Regardless of the “winner take all” stipulation for the Roman Reigns/Brock Lesnar bout, it’s already known that the unification will be temporary, making the entire match pointless, but that’s a different matter for a different time. Unless the writing team scripts both titles to eventually land back on Roman and Brock respectively, which would make the entire show pointless, there will be an opening for some fresh talent in the main event scene on either Raw or Smackdown. How Cody would mesh with either Reigns or Lesnar is unknown, but Vince put more or less all of his chips on those two so if someone is working near the main event scene, it’s a safe bet that it would be against Brock or Roman.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Cody is an extremely talented performer and has the ability to be a main event guy, but for some reason, I doubt that the WWE will push him to that level after they saw him as a parody character the last time he was there. I could be wrong, but I’m not necessarily going to assume that Cody will automatically be booked as a main event star. Something that should be noted is how the ability to freshen up a character elsewhere benefits everyone in the industry, which is why it’s so important to have options in the wrestling business. Theoretically, talent don’t have to flounder in an organization if they think they have a better chance to be a bigger star else, and that is a win-win situation for everyone. In some ways, Cody Rhodes did everything he could do in AEW, including setting himself on fire to try to win over the fans after reality TV shows seemed to be more important to him than wrestling. So, Cody departs AEW and the WWE gets a fresh run from Rhodes, the same way that AEW got a fresh run from Bryan Danielson. It will be very interesting to see how Cody Rhodes is booked for his return to the WWE because it’s probably the best chance for him to be a main event star in the company.
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Until next week
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