WWE champ Cody Rhodes ready to write his next chapter after conquering Roman Reigns

Article content

World Wrestling Entertainment no longer is at a Crossroads.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Roman’s empire, if you will, was toppled in Philadelphia at WrestleMania 40, where the American Nightmare Cody Rhodes conquered Roman Reigns and the Bloodline and finished his so-called story, capturing the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship in one of the greatest matches on one of the greatest shows of all time, opening a brand new chapter.

Article content

A two-year story that unfolded meticulously and organically culminated in the only way it could, with a celebration unlike anything wrestling fans have ever witnessed.

Its final moments featured the blending of icons, past and present, and set the table for the generation to come, with Rhodes — the son of the late iconic Dusty Rhodes, the American Dream — sitting at the head of that table.

Advertisement 3

Article content

It has been just eight days since Rhodes became the champion, but the second-generation star admitted he’s still working on coming to terms with what has transpired.

“Yesterday I was talking to a gentleman who is in charge of the production of WWE shows in terms of directing the shows, and he asked me what was crazier, the week before or the week after,” Rhodes told Postmedia in an interview ahead of Monday Night Raw in Montreal. “I genuinely would say the week before was very humbling. I had done everything I thought I could do right. I’d been on top of getting my gear, I had all my wardrobe lined up, I had been nutritionalizing, I was very dialed in on a very specific diet.

“Everything was there for me, I was living on the bus at the stadium just to kind of feel the air.”

Article content

Advertisement 4

Article content

But all the preparation in the world couldn’t prepare him for what fate had in store for Rhodes, 38, in the days leading up to the most important day of his nearly 20-year pro wrestling career.

“(I’d done) everything an athlete could do in terms of preparation, all this to say it basically went up in smoke because my bus literally caught on fire,” he said.

The Thursday night before WrestleMania, his tour bus caught fire. Rhodes tweeted the next morning about the incident, which he said completely trumped any and all preparation.

“At that point, genuinely in one moment, I was faced with ‘Hey, get your stuff, the thing is coming down,’” Rhodes recalled of the fire. “Thankfully the fire department handled it, but I had grabbed my boots for Night 1 and I was standing out on the street with those and a picture of the family. It was very humbling.

Advertisement 5

Article content

“It was also one of those situations where you can do all that prep work, but sometimes reality just kind of slaps you in the face. If anything, the week after was far crazier just in terms of feelings and emotions because the week before had been just so ridiculous.”

As for the main event match itself — which had a big-fight feel to it that arguably hasn’t been felt in the WWE since Mike Tyson’s involvement in the Shawn Michaels-Stone Cold Steve Austin match at WrestleMania 14 — Rhodes recalled how he used to dream about how he’d win the WWE top championship, the gold standard in pro wrestling.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

“When I was a lot younger and just dreaming of being a wrestler and being a world champion, I had this specific vision that I would be part of some sort of handoff,” Rhodes recalled. “I remember the way I thought of it in my mind was somebody like Triple H would come down to the ring and the next thing you know, another big star, their music would hit and they’d come down to the ring and they’d basically be handing the title from one another and they’d get it to me.

Advertisement 6

Article content

“This was just a vision. It wasn’t even a match as much as this parade of champions.”

As it turned out, there were threads of his vision intricately woven into the fabric of his championship match when his moment of immortality arrived.

As Rhodes and Reigns battled in a classic match that forever will be overshadowed by its conclusion, chaos ensued, which led to appearances by legends John Cena, The Rock and the Undertaker, as well as current stars Seth Rollins, Solo Sikoa and Jimmy and Jey Uso.

Each one of them may as well have represented those stars that Rhodes dreamt would one day pass that title along. Moments after those appearances, Rhodes’ arm was raised in victory, a champion crowned.

“In a very unique way, I essentially got to live that dream, but in the ring, in real time, in real action,” Rhodes reflected. “To feel like a bolt of electricity hit the ring when Cena came down. To feel the magic of The Undertaker and The Rock’s interaction and then to see what Seth Rollins was able to do bringing it forward.

Advertisement 7

Article content

“You know wrestling loves to try to hinge on nostalgia, but we now can blend the two because we have stars like a Roman Reigns, like a Seth Rollins, who have genuinely gotten over. That word is so poorly used in wrestling, getting over means you can’t even step outside your house without somebody recognizing and those two have done it.”

So special was it be a part of that moment in wrestling history, Rhodes revealed he has no plans to ever watch the match.

Cody Rhodes took on Roman Reigns at WrestleMania this year.
Cody Rhodes took on Roman Reigns at WrestleMania this year. STEVE ARGINTARU/@STEVETSN

“For the past to meet the present and showcase the future, I’m not going to watch it back because I felt it there in that moment,” he said. “I might listen to the audio just to hear (announcer) Michael Cole (call it), but that was a feeling and a high you’ll try to chase forever.”

Advertisement 8

Article content

As entertaining as the final moments of the match were, the beauty in the last few seconds arguably was what made it so magical. Following all of the run-ins, the huge ups and downs the competitors took the audience on a ride with, it was almost as if the sound turned off when Rhodes rose to grab Reigns and slowly but purposefully finish off the greatest run in pro wrestling since Hulkamania ruled by hitting Reigns not one, not two, but three times with his Cross Rhodes finisher, before pinning him for the win, which caused more than 70,000 fans to explode inside Lincoln Financial Field.

“When that moment happened, it felt to me like this is the way,” Rhodes answered about finishing Reigns with a triple Cross Rhodes, admitting he hadn’t been asked that question before. “It felt like it would take everything that I could possibly muster, plus the addition of my own friends, to mitigate the Bloodline.

Advertisement 9

Article content

“The last person I recall beating with three Cross Rhodes was Brock Lesnar. Roman came in in the best shape of his career. As it was happening, it felt like every single thing mattered, every single punch, every single drop on the head, every bit of it mattered and softened us up to get to that point where I could be the first guy in quite some time to get the 1-2-3.”

Their match was a rematch between Reigns and Rhodes, who faced off at WrestleMania 39 a year earlier in Los Angeles, where Reigns prevailed and pushed the Bloodline storyline another whole year with Rhodes in pursuit.

Rhodes praised Reigns for legitimizing the WWE championship and changing the industry in a positive way.

“I think he’s the first guy from our generation to actually get over, in what that word really means and not just a pop in the arena,” Rhodes said. “I think he did a lot behind the scenes as well to better the lives of WWE superstars and pro wrestlers in general and I don’t think he’ll maybe ever see the credit for that, just because of how serious he took himself just as an athlete, how serious he takes himself as a leader and how consistence he would want to be as an on-screen character.”

Advertisement 10

Article content

Together, Rhodes said, they made magic.

“I thought he was the perfect foil for me because I did everything differently,” he said. “I think he looked at me in a political sense, like ‘This guy, he is a political person,’ and in reality, I think he found out that that is just who I am, it’s how I like to be as a competitor and a performer.

“I like to reach over the aisle versus stand up on a soap box. There’s an argument for both of them and why they are good for television, but in the end, it was best that we faced each other as very opposite types of being a professional.”

Rhodes tipped his cap to the Roman Reigns era.

“Thirteen-hundred and twenty-six days as champion, and people are clamouring for what he does next, myself included,” he said.

Advertisement 11

Article content

Ric Flair, one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, famously said: To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man. Cody Rhodes has done so. He’s now the man. And that comes with a whole unique set of challenges, and pressure. But Rhodes said he’s choosing to take it in stride.

“I actually had a conversation with Bayley about this and I stole some of CM Punk’s advice: Now is the time when you work like you’re not the champion,” Rhodes said. “Now is the time when you work like you’re underneath and that mindset, I think, actually applies to me as champion, doing what I was doing to get there, plus, but also it also applies to the whole WWE roster.

“This is the most successful era in the history of the business. Often the boys are the ones who ruin it. We have to remain a team, we have to stay disciplined, we have to continue to provide these core memories, to a brand new degree.”

Advertisement 12

Article content

But make no mistake, Rhodes is ready.

“I’m in the pocket, I’m the quarterback of this team, but it’s all about who I’m throwing the ball to, it’s all about who’s setting the blocks, all of that is part of what we do,” he said. “I’ve said this in a few pressers, I don’t know if people fully understand it, but you’ll know it when it’s not a team here anymore. This is the most team-minded wrestling situation that I’ve ever been around, and I just love it.”

Cody Rhodes prepares to deliver a Cross Rhodes to Roman Reigns.
Cody Rhodes prepares to deliver a Cross Rhodes to Roman Reigns. STEVE ARGINTARU/@STEVETSN

Finishing the story allows Rhodes to close a chapter that began to take on a life of its own as fans pushed for WWE to acknowledge him and his dreams.

Surprisingly, Rhodes admitted he only thought of his late father, who died in 2015, once during his main event match, a match he had spent his entire life in pursuit of.

Advertisement 13

Article content

“I’ll be totally honest, and it’s an answer (fans will) hate because they think perhaps they know my family better than I do,” Rhodes said with a chuckle, “because we’ve grown up on screen, so I understand it. But I only thought of him one time. I thought of him when I hit the elbow.”

Instead, Rhodes said, he tried to stay in the present.

“I think I purposely went out of my way to not think about him because it wouldn’t have helped me to think about him being there,” he said. “People have sent me photos of him as a ghost in the background and stuff like that and I think they like those, but for me, I would have rather had the real thing. I would have rather him really have been there.

“So I focused on who really was there, and that was my mom, my sister Teil, and my wife Brandi, the why for me, (my daughter) Liberty … I focused on them, which is why when I hit the elbow, it genuinely caught me to feel him and to remember him and again, like another bolt of lightning in my body and in the stadium.”

Advertisement 14

Article content

Besides, Rhodes said, his dad’s influence was felt all over the WrestleMania card and in the main event in particular.

Recommended from Editorial

“I already knew how much of a presence he had over the entire WrestleMania,” he said. “Rocky Johnson was his tag partner, here’s The Rock, his son. Seth Rollins — it’s OK for me to say it now — was (my dad’s) favourite at NXT by a long shot, because Seth was a disrupter and liked to break the rules like my dad.

“Roman Reigns was someone he instantly knew was money and if you look back to his old reports from (Florida Championship Wrestling) that’s what he said: ‘What is this guy doing here? He’s ready.’ And then Paul Heyman, someone who he’d gotten his start in the business … I already felt those fingerprints all over what we were doing.”

The Dream’s presence loomed large, indeed. This was his son’s time to shine.

“I wanted to focus on me individually, on my family who was there individually because we’re merging the past, the present and showing the future and I didn’t want to be caught up in the past.”

[email protected]


Article content