Cody Rhodes spoke with Sports Illustrated to discuss his upcoming Bullet Proof show this April 22 in Georgia for Luke Gallows’ Wrestlemerica. Rhodes also touched on the upcoming decision he is going to make about his new full-time home in wrestling.
Cody Rhodes’ 3,143 mile storytelling odyssey from Woburn, Massachusetts to Manchester, England traced the footsteps of his father, the legendary Dusty Rhodes, but is coming to a close.
Rhodes’ post-WWE sojourn has included programs in Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Impact Wrestling, as well as all over the independent scene. Rhodes’ next step is to find a permanent home.
“I’m about to make a decision,” admitted Rhodes, who has broken the alleged structure of the business by engaging in feuds with Moose in Impact Wrestling while simultaneously engaging in programs with Jay Lethal in Ring of Honor while still a part of New Japan’s vaunted Bullet Club. “It’s been really fun to cross all the streams, but at this point I do need to find a new home. That is going to limit all the distance I cover, which includes the work I’ve done with companies like Limitless, Defy, and All Pro Wrestling – there is even a company in Kolkoska, Michigan where I’m wrestling that is called ‘Mr. Chainsaw’. If you see my name on a card and you’re a fan, come on out. I’m not sure how much longer it will be until I’m no longer able to roam around.”
Rhodes will be found this Saturday in Barnesville, Georgia wrestling at the “Bullet Proof” show for Luke Gallows’ Wrestlemerica.
Gallows, who is teaming in the WWE with Karl Anderson, is rebranding his Georgia independent, and he called upon Rhodes to recruit the talent for Saturday’s show. Rhodes grew up in Marietta, only 79 miles away from Barnesville on Interstate 75 in Georgia, and once worked 15 years ago for his father’s Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling, which was a direct competitor to Wrestlemerica.
“I’ve known the Gallows family a long time,” said Rhodes. “Luke Gallows is now entirely focused with WWE, but he built WrestleMerica, which was very much a Southern-based independent. We used to always joke, because so many of the guys who worked for my dad’s independent promotion would often give Gallows a hard time when they’d say, repeatedly, ‘This isn’t how Dusty ran it.’
“Gallows said that annoyed him endlessly. He said to me, ‘If you come to Barnesville one time so you can have my back, we’ll see if these people were even in Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling.’ That was my dad’s backyard, so it’s pretty special to come back home.”
Rhodes is wrestling in the main event on Saturday against the internationally-renowned Jimmy Havoc, which is a first for him on multiple fronts. This will mark the first time Rhodes and Havoc ever lock up in the ring, but it is also his first main event in a Georgia indie – Dusty would never allow teenage Cody, who started refereeing at 15, to officiate the main event.
“I always tried to stand out as a ref,” said Rhodes. “I wore a long sleeve black Under Armour t-shirt so that you knew I was the cool ref as opposed to the old dude.
“I was also never allowed to referee any of my father’s matches. My dad had a habit of giving me the Abdullah the Butcher matches, as well as the ones with tables and chairs – basically the matches that went all over the building. I was so terrified of Abdullah the Butcher, and I reffed one of his matches where the culmination of the match was Abdullah fighting his opponent into the ring truck, and Abdullah slamming the doors and then being the only one to emerge. I just remember raising his hand. No actual words were exchanged between us, ever.
“That was his way of making me pay my dues, and maybe even rib me. My father didn’t smarten me up, ever, so I smartened myself up. It was a good learning experience.”
Gallows enlisted Rhodes to recruit the talent, and he delivered with an array of burgeoning stars in Havoc, Bobby Fish, the Tempura Boys, and Donovan Dijak. Rhodes did admit, however, that he does not have quite the same smooth touch that his father made appear so easy.
“I don’t have the same knack for the business end that my old man did,” said Rhodes. “Recruiting people has been tough. I don’t envy anyone in that spot, especially some of the great non-WWE promoters like EVOLVE’s Gabe Sapolsky, Beyond Wrestling’s Drew Cordeiro, or Markus Mac at All Pro Wrestling. This may have been my only foray into behind-the-scenes work, ever. I think I’ll stay out in the forefront.”
Rhodes’ goal is to help ingrain Wrestlemerica into the Atlanta wrestling landscape the way that WrestleCircus is to Austin, Texas and All Pro Wresting is to San Francisco, California.
“I really admire when I see a place like All Pro Wrestling,” explained Rhodes. “I admire the risk when people say, ‘We’re a brand, not an indie.’ Now, they might even say, ‘We’re going to be a small brand, there might not even be a camera, but we’ll be our own individual brand.’ You can tell stories today without cable television.
“I hope this show puts Wrestlemerica back on the map, but that’s up to those in the ring. The guys who have been part of WrestleCircus in Austin–Brian Cage, Johnny Morrison, Joey Ryan, ACH, Sammy Guevara–are out there tearing the house down. When you tear the house down, people come back. That’s up to the talent on that April 22nd show. There is another show coming up in May with some nice names, and they’re going to keep trending upward if I have anything to do about it.”
Rhodes’ finest moment in Ring of Honor came during WrestleMania weekend during the Supercard of Honor show in Lakeland, Florida. He lost to Jay Lethal in a grueling Texas Bull Rope match, but moved on from the loss quickly by challenging ROH world champion Christopher Daniels.
“For the very first time in my career, my goal of the world title is clearly defined,” said Rhodes. “It was an out-of-body experience when I put my hands on that title after the Dalton Castle-Christopher Daniels match at Supercard of Honor.
“This is the first world title that I’ve put on a hit list. My last year was spent wrestling everywhere, and this was a departure from that. Now my sights are clear and my focus is channeled at absolutely one thing. It’s a nice juxtaposition from the past year, which has been everywhere.”
Rhodes also returns to New Japan in May for a match with David Finlay, who is the son of longtime wrestling veteran Fit Finlay.
“I’m sentimental when I see that match on paper, considering our families and knowing how important my family is to me in wrestling,” said Rhodes. “David is paying his dues by joining the New Japan Dojo, so it’s two different types of multi-generational wrestlers.”
Rhodes is fully aligned and integrated with the villainous Bullet Club, though he remains grateful that people come out in massive throngs to see him wrestle.
“With the ‘Bullet Proof’ show, it was really nice to see that, when I put myself out there on the card, the fans remembered. I can pretend to be a city boy as much as possible, but the folks from the country know better. It’s a chance to wrestle in southern Georgia, which is home to me.”
Rhodes remains at the crossroads of carrying his father and the Rhodes legacy with him, while contemporaneously creating a lasting image of his own.
“When I’m brainstorming, I always remind myself, ‘Hey, it’s not about him,’” reflected Rhodes. “My dad hated being trudged up. I dragged him to Sacramento to get in the ring with Rey, and I promised I’d have WWE pay him double to come and do anything when we did Stardust vs. Goldust. I can remember him telling me that the last thing he really wanted on his resume was what we did at Battleground in 2013. With that in mind, I try very much to remember and do me.
Rhodes will forever be proud to be Dusty Rhodes’ son, but he has had to go simply by “Cody” on television because the Rhodes name is an intellectual property owned by WWE.
“I’ll tell you this, and I’ve not told anyone this, but I don’t mind that WWE took away my last name. Deep down, in my bones, I definitely want it back – and I have plans to get it back – but there is something to being Cody. The longer I don’t have a last name, the more I’m OK with it. That’s not to say WWE is holding it ransom. It’s literally an intellectual property law that easily can be remedied, but there is something about being Cody that I don’t mind.
“There is something to not always reminding people of a show they’ve already seen, but instead embracing the one right in front of him. I am Cody, and I can promise you that the future is going to be even better than the past.”