Do you ever think that a series of coincidences means the universe is trying to tell you something? For the past week, Cody Rhodes has been popping up in my life like a dashing gopher.
It all started when my sister gave me the book “My Favorite Match: WWE Superstars Tell the Stories of Their Most Memorable Matches”. It’s a fun read. Most of the wrestlers seem to have chosen a match based on how they liked the story building up to it, or what that match meant to their careers. I expected the matches to be chosen based on the wrestling itself. It just goes to show that wrestlers are as susceptible to sentiment as we fans are: however perfect the wrestling may be, emotion adds a necessary dimension.
For this week’s column, I planned to analyze my favorite of the favorite matches, surprisingly coming from Cody Rhodes. I’ve only liked Cody in a “Top 30 (or Maybe Even 40)” sort of way. A solid guy, but not thrilling. His chapter in the book really stood out to me, and I was eager to review the match that he described.
Then I watched Friday Night Smackdown, and there was Cody again, playing a strong supporting role in Damien Sandow’s descent into madness. Their scenes were the highlight of the show. Cody looked so comfortable, and put on the perfect degree of theatrics.
The guy has actually been a bit of a sleeper agent. When I started researching Cody’s favorite match, I fell down the inevitable rabbit hole of the internet (I’m calling it the gopher hole in honor of Cody). I didn’t realize how many good moments he’s churned out, I say in preparation for bigger and better things. So take my hand, go on, that’s just a bit of wing sauce, it’s fine. Let’s jump down the gopher hole together!
Before there was The Shield, we had Legacy – the three-man version with Orton, DiBiase, and Rhodes. I loved the way Randy Orton would boss around the other two, and they would follow so obediently because they did not want to fall out of favor with him. Their subservient behaviour peaked at the 2009 Royal Rumble. Under Orton’s menacing glare, Rhodes and DiBiase followed every instruction in the name of procuring his victory. And the only one left in the ring with Legacy at the end? Triple H. He managed to dispose of both Cody and Ted, against the odds, but was tossed over the top rope by Orton. They were like a chiseled trio of thug-clones.
I liked that Legacy gave us our first taste of the second and third-generation revolution that was coming. Cody and Ted took their time figuring out that one plus the other equalled enough to outnumber Randy, but Randy came out the winner when they finally clashed. Orton was the star of that heel faction, but when I think of Cody Rhodes’ history, I definitely think of Legacy, and that Royal Rumble match.
I have no criteria for what I find entertaining in wrestling, but let’s just say I enjoy the ridiculous on occasion. “Dashing” Cody Rhodes starred in a series of vignettes on grooming, scenes from which bordered on disturbing (you tell me: does the tooth-flossing clip not look kind of… sultry?). But after Rey Mysterio injured Cody’s face in early 2011, he took a hiatus and came back with a mask on. I thoroughly enjoyed the mask because it was supposed to be covering Cody’s disfigurement, but it was CLEAR. He would go on and on about how he was so grotesque, and we shouldn’t look at him, but we could see right through the mask! Terrific. Then he decided that he could no longer bear to look at us. Which brings me to…
The Paper Bags
I can’t believe the mileage they got out of those bags! What a huge return on investment. Cody had some guys in suits handing out paper bags before his matches, and the fans at ringside seemed delighted to wear them on their heads. Sometimes a custom paper bag with a crudely-drawn face would make a guest appearance at the announce table. I could not get enough of the paper bag archives. I’m so embarrassed. Cody even handed out autographed paper bags at a Comic-Con (this interview at the event shows his ability to be candid while in character). He finessed all this goofy shit a lot more than I gave him credit for at the time.
So far, none of these Cody moments have related to his actual wrestling skills, which might explain why so many wrestlers’ “favorite matches” don’t always refer to the wrestling. My next Cody moment did not take place inside a ring, but it made me start paying attention to his in-ring abilities.
The Disaster Kick Off The Concession Stand
There is no photo of it as far as I can find (believe me, I looked), but I urge you to youtube this splendid little match: Extreme Rules 2011, Falls Count Anywhere. Cody and Rey Mysterio took advantage of the match stipulation and dragged each other out to the snack bar. The gathering onlookers anointed them with a “Holy shit” chant after Cody clobbers Rey with the aptly-named Beautiful Disaster kick from the counter. It’s not the best kick he’s ever done, but it was resourceful. Besides, I never miss an opportunity to quote Booker T: “That one move from Cody Rhodes is showin’ me that he’s still thinking that he ain’t as crazy as we think he is!” I KNOW.
The New Old Intercontinental Belt
I thought it was very fitting that Cody was the Intercontinental Champion when they re-designed the belt to reflect a more classic look. Even though he wore a (CLEAR!) mask, Cody had the presence of a classic wrestler himself. Factor in his heritage and his metrosexual vibe, and that gorgeous cream-colored title belt seemed made for Cody alone. I was totally jazzed to see that belt make a comeback.
I didn’t venture into Rhodes Scholars territory, because it is fresh in my mind and I have consciously appreciated Cody more in the last few months. Cody and Damien were a refreshing duo that moved on before they could get stale. So far, they have shown a lot of potential.
Now Where Were We?
Back to the book “My Favorite Match”. Though many of the other chapters are worth reading, I found Cody’s chapter to be the most personable and revealing – two things that are hard to accomplish in a WWE-sanitized publication. He starts his story with a hook: Arn Anderson and Michael Hayes arguing over how best to hit someone with a boot. It ends with the lesson Cody learned from his all-time favorite wrestler: Shawn Michaels.
Legacy vs. D-Generation X, Summerslam 2009
Cody and Ted were looking to get to the next level, and got in on the DX reunion. Sharing screen time with Shawn Michaels’ big return was a mixed blessing, as it was impossible to compete with the fever generated by the crotch-chopping veterans.
D-Generation X got 7.5 minutes for their entrance. I timed it, after Cody described how much effort went into the production. And then just for shiggles, I went and timed the long, dramatic entrances for Undertaker and HBK at WrestleMania 25. About 7.5 minutes. Combined. For me, there’s a fine line between a cool entrance and an exhausting one. In my mind, DX was milking their nostalgia act dry. But those who loved it, loved it a lot. And as Cody put it so well, “They had a tank. We had black trunks.” That’s the way it goes.
Of all the reasons for choosing this match, what stood out to me was Cody’s reverence for Shawn Michaels. “The other favorites I have don’t even come close to him”. This would be Cody’s first time in the ring with his idol, and he was determined to make the most of it. After trading some moves with Triple H, Cody’s excitement could no longer be contained. With little forethought, he slapped Shawn Michaels across the face. Hunter asked Cody if he wanted a piece of Shawn. “Yeah, I’ve always f—king wanted him!” he replied, unsure and uncaring whether the cameras caught it. I absolutely love how the only way Cody can express himself in his incredible moment is to reel back and strike his hero.
The other factor that resonated with me was Cody’s desire to have an effect on the crowd the same way his father had – and it happened during this match. He was able to get a Cross Rhodes on Michaels, which must have been awesome for him. A series of interference left both Cody and Shawn down on the mat. What a surreal moment for the 24-year old, lying inches from his favorite wrestler, about to realize a childhood dream of his own. Dusty taught him how to gauge the crowd’s reactions, and when HBK pulled a Sweet Chin Music out of nowhere, Cody saw the shadows move across the arena – meaning everyone was on their feet. Cody's take on this match made it more interesting to watch, but otherwise it is standard fare.
And the lesson he learned from Shawn Michaels? “Getting over in this business is a full-time job.” Cody believes in that, and lives it, even though his idol turned out to be a jerk to him backstage. HBK is still Cody’s favorite, and that says a lot about Cody as well.
Out of the Gopher Hole?
At the beginning of my journey, I said that most of the wrestlers in “My Favorite Match” chose a match based on factors other than technical merit. There is one glaring exception, where the wrestler goes into great detail about the innovative moves that were executed during his most memorable match. That wrestler is Rey Mysterio, and he was describing his match against Eddie Guerrero at WCW Halloween Havoc… you know, in case you have a bit more time on your hands…
When I’m not wasting scary amounts of time on wrestling, you can find me on twitter @kickyhick or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is Cody’s favorite match. I would love to hear what you think of him, and uh, DX if you want to.