Nearly one month has passed since ALL IN shook the foundations of the professional wrestling industry. The aftermath has consisted of renewed excitement amongst fans that the industry could be on the cusp of having a genuine alternative to the WWE for the first time in two decades. One of the architects of this movement has the potential to critically influence the next steps on this wrestling revolution and the decision he makes at the beginning of 2019 could change the course of pro wrestling history. That man is the self-proclaimed “American Nightmare”, Cody Rhodes.
Since leaving WWE of his own accord in 2016, Cody has forged a glittering path through the independent wrestling landscape. He has successfully reinvented himself, held multiple championships, and now reigns as the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion.
This is of course a title that is indelibly linked to Cody’s late great father, Dusty Rhodes, and since his death and Cody’s departure from the WWE, it feels like Cody has been on a mission to honor his fathers legacy by finally providing some genuine competition to the WWE and fill the gap that has existed since WCW ceased to exist in 2001. The critical and commercial success of ALL IN seems to have proven that this could be a legitimate possibility and Cody is the flag bearer for this new era.
There is a significant caveat to this story of redemption, though, and it involves the WWE seemingly acknowledging their mistake in letting Cody leave. In January 2019, Cody and his fellow BTE (Being the Elite) brothers, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks and Hangman Page, will become free agents. The rumor mill is already in overdrive with reported interest from WWE in all the members of the group.
The five men have themselves publicly stated that signing them is a package deal and that the group will remain together. If they do sign with WWE, it begs the question of how they will be used and will they be afforded the creative freedom they currently enjoy. There will always be a suspicion from the cynical pro wrestling fanbase that Vince McMahon would rather eliminate the competition by signing them and stifling them rather than taking them on creatively.
Recent signs indicate that the success of ALL IN has perhaps provided the impetus the group needed to continue their crusade within the independent scene. Questions remain unanswered about what needs to happen for a serious long term competitor to WWE to emerge. Which existing company has the resources to secure a television deal and create a recognisable brand? Or could an indie super-fed emerge with involvement from Ring of Honor, New Japan and the revitalised Impact Wrestling? And what type of role will Billy Corgan’s once-again relevant NWA have to play in all of this? This could be one of the most significant periods in the storied history of professional wrestling and it is due in large part to the passionate innovation of Cody Rhodes.
Cody’s theme song in ROH and NJPW is prefaced with the statement that “wrestling has more than one royal family.” This could be the powerful mantra that drives Cody to replicate his father by taking the fight to the WWE.
While Dusty was hugely influential in his latter years within the WWE, he was a significant part of the excellent product provided by WCW in the late nineties as a booker. Perhaps this will be Cody’s ode to his fathers memory – he could be the man to finally break Vince McMahon’s stranglehold on the wrestling industry and give fans what they have wanted for 20 years, a true competitor to the WWE.