You betrayed us!
You sold out!
How could you!
These things and more have recently been said about Cody Rhodes re: leaving AEW and going back to the WWE. If you’re like me then you’ve been alternating between laughing at the people saying this stuff and being concerned that there are way too many weirdos in the fandom you share. I understand AEW fans disappointed that Cody won’t be on AEW television any more, and that he will now be on a show that they quite possibly do not watch. I understand feeling bummed out that he and Tony Khan were not able to agree on a new contract. But to put him in the same boat as Judas, Benedict Arnold, and others of that ilk is just a bit extreme. Cody didn’t rat you out to the police, he changed jobs. He didn’t defect back to Britain in exchange for giving up your position before a key battle. Cody was never an activist or a freedom fighter, he was and is a professional wrestler and for a while was an EVP of a major wrestling company. To talk about him as such is an insult to those men and women who were freedom fighters and activists, and to Cody himself.
Sorry boys and girls, but there was never any war. The key word to the Monday Night Wars was Monday, as in the night the two shows (RAW and Nitro) actually aired. AEW has never been about taking down the big, bad WWE; any lip service paid to that was all part of the work. Cody and the gang were never leading a crusade, they were running another wrestling company. Yes the throne breaking and the shots taken during promos may have felt like they were trying to do something real to hurt WWE but in reality they’ve been taking advantage of the vacuum that existed immediately under WWE that Impact Wrestling wasn’t able to hold on to and Ring of Honor was never able to occupy to become the number two wrestling company and a haven for those who were either unwanted by WWE or did not want to do business with them for now. Have they ginned up the anti-WWE sentiment out there and rode the wave? Yes. Have they ever really been trying to take down WWE? Of course not! So Cody going back to the company he started in isn’t a betrayal, because there was never anything to betray in the first place.
And even if there was, what exactly was Cody supposed to do? Re-sign for less money than he felt he should have gotten? For the cause? For the revolution? Really? Would you have done that? Let me make it a little more clear for some of you guys. At the end of the day, professional wrestling is…….wait for it………..a job. That’s it, a job. Some people love their jobs, they love doing the work, some people even love the company they work for. But it’s still a job. And a big part, maybe the most important part, of every job is getting paid for your labor! And if it’s at all possible you should get paid what you think they should pay you! If you think you should get more than they are offering you, then you got two options: take the offer or look for a better one. And if you get a better one, then you’ve got a decision to make. Cody made his decision, based on his options and what he wanted for himself and his family. That’s pretty much how these things work.
But what about the revolution? What about it? The revolution wasn’t what you thought it was, I guess. It was never about sticking it to Vince McMahon or the Evil Empire of the WWE. For Tony Khan it was and is about creating his own company to play out his dreams of running his own wrestling company. Cody obviously did not want to go back to WWE yet or else he wouldn’t have left in the first place. Kenny Omega and the Bucks were at a career crossroads and were wary of what may happen to them in WWE so they wanted another place to work. Had there been no offer from Khan to form AEW they’d have bitten the bullet and either continued working for New Japan and Ring of Honor, or went on to WWE despite their misgivngs. But the offer was there so they took it. The revolution in reality was just creating another place to work, with the promise of not operating with creative vise grip that WWE has on it’s wrestlers at times. And those are all fine, but if you believed that this was about anything more than creating a more preferable situation for themselves and by proxy anyone else who signed there I don’t know what to tell you.
Cody did what he set out to do in AEW; even if he re-signed and stuck around there was little else to do on camera so if he’s not done performing, which he obviously is not, then he was looking at a few years of doing more of what had led the crowds there to start booing him. While I still cannot figure out why you would take to booing a man who you would be this upset about leaving, it’s what happened and there sure didn’t look to be any kind of sea change coming as to what he was doing there. So if the money wasn’t right, then I don’t see any reason why he would have opted to stick around. Why continue to perform in front of people who were booing you for reasons that you can’t even get two or three of them to agree on. Was it because he was doing too much outside of wrestling? The grandiose Homelander-esque presentation he’d adopted? The way his feuds were being booked? The promos he was giving? Depending on who you ask it was all of these, or a few of them, or maybe just one. Or it might have been ‘I just think it’s time for him to turn heel.’ No matter what it was, he was not obligated to keep subjecting himself to that response if the price wasn’t right for him.
But why go back to WWE?
Why not? He’s going back to terms that are better for him than when he left. Whether he’s getting the number he wanted from AEW or not (and he probably isn’t since he’s only being a wrestler there and not an EVP), he clearly was in a better bargaining position on things like creative than when he left. If what they offered was to his liking then why not take it? Because it’s the WWE? Really? Cody and everyone followed in his footsteps getting their release from WWE all wanted one thing: to get to do something closer to what they wanted to do in WWE. Were they getting what they wanted they’d have never left in the first place. Well Cody is getting it now, so what’s the problem? That it’s the WWE? Have you really believed all of the narratives and ‘reports’ about working there, to the point where you honestly believe that anyone who was not naive would balk at working there? Did Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and AJ Styles all re-signing not shake you from that view? (I guess not).
Just where else was he supposed to go? Ring of Honor, which is now owned by the boss who didn’t want to pay him his worth? Back to the indies? Impact? Really? Back to the starving artist routine, just to make you happy? He made you happy enough by helping found AEW, didn’t he? Didn’t he? No? Well that sounds like a personal problem to me. He doesn’t owe anyone anything. He paid it through all those nights on the road, taking all those bumps and everything else both in AEW and his previous stint in WWE. The man took a bump through a flaming table and bled all over the place for two and a half years and yet you think he owes it to you or the cause to stick around, or to not go that place? Seriously? As someone who really does not care where he goes to work, who was already watching WWE programming without him, let me say that you have some serious possessiveness issues with the people you watch on television if you are that upset that he went to work for the one other place that could pay what he’s worth.
What you ought to be doing is thanking him for helping to start AEW, and the entertainment he provided you there. And then wish him well. If you can’t bring yourself to watch WWE programming then don’t. You got your highlight reels from everywhere else he’s worked to keep you company. But he doesn’t owe you, or me, or Tony Khan, or Vince McMahon anything. If your disdain or disinterest towards WWE has you legit confused or upset about him going to work there when his contract was up and his employer at the time couldn’t agree to a new deal with him, then I’ve got to assume you’re living in some alternate reality where people ask you for permission before changing jobs. Because in this one there’s absolutely nothing wrong or even puzzling with what he chose to do. And he won’t be the last one, so get used to it.