After leaving the WWE in May, Cody Rhodes has hung his hat in multiple major wrestling promotions. Now it seems the son of WWE Hall of Fame member Dusty Rhodes will test his skills in the land of the rising sun with New Japan Pro Wrestling. The announcement came from none other than Kenny Omega, leader of the Bullet Club, during Saturday’s NJPW World Tag League Finals. The announcement was accompanied by a video package showing Cody Rhodes putting out a cigar on the Wrestle Kingdom 11 logo. For those not familiar with NJPW, Wrestle Kingdom is the promotion’s biggest event of the year, and will be held at the Tokyo Dome on January 4th. The fact that Cody will be making his debut at this show makes it very probable that NJPW is looking to make him a top name in the company. As I mentioned before, Cody has been wrestling in pretty much every major wrestling company in the world as well as the independent circuit. With him finding a home in the very popular NJPW, many fans are questioning whether or not he will, or should come back to the WWE. I’m of the opinion that he should return to McMahon country at some point. Him signing with NJPW may have been the best possible move to come back and show just how talented he really is.
When Cody Rhodes started in the WWE it was the smart move to rely heavily on the fact that Dusty Rhodes was his father. They obviously wanted him to be a babyface, and what better way to do that than to have one of the most beloved babyfaces of all time backing him up. He was initially booked in a feud with Randy Orton after Orton slapped his father on RAW and later kicked the American Dream in the head. He had a few more singles matches against both Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, but soon after he would be participating in various tag matches. This is where the WWE messed up and did what they do when they don’t know how to write for or book talent. He later was joined by Ted Dibiase Jr and Randy Orton and formed a team named Legacy, playing on the fact that all three came from wrestling families. This is what I believe to be another mistake made by the WWE writing staff. It’s one thing to play off the fact that a wrestler belongs to wrestling family during the beginning of their career, but if you focus on it for too long the talent may never escape the shadow of it. Cody would unfortunately never escape that shadow. Towards the end of his run with the WWE he adopted the moniker of Stardust, a modified gimmick of his half brother Dustin’s character Goldust. It was a horrible writing decision which focused more on an outlandish character rather than the talent of the man underneath all the makeup. It was the right decision for Cody to leave when he did. The roster was so saturated it was hard for great talent to stand out, and the WWE writers don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to finding a good place for talented people on the card with a regular roster, let alone a large one.
As the “American Nightmare”, a nickname given to him in various advertisements for Wrestle Kingdom 11, he may finally be given the freedom to perhaps explore a more serious and ruthless side of himself. Being part of the Bullet Club doesn’t hurt either, whose popularity in Japan could rival the NWO during the WWE/WCW wars. At this point you may be saying to yourself, “How is he going to be able to make a name of himself as a singles wrestler if he is just joining another group?” This is a fair question. A large faction like this one is different than a group such as Legacy, or a tag team whose members share similar gimmicks. The Bullet Club isn’t so much a group of similar characters as it is a group of unique personas. The group was formed as an all gaijin (foreigner) stable, with members from all over the world. This dynamic alone gives each member the ability to embrace their differences and stand out. The Bullet Club has played host to some amazing singles talent in the past. Finn Balor, or Prince Devitt as he was originally called was a founding member of the group. Fun fact, his now famous “Demon King” body paint was developed in New Japan. AJ Styles, someone who many consider the best in the business right now, was also a member.
The loss of the wrestling territories of the early days has made a very negative impact on young wrestlers. Many of the greatest wrestlers of all time came from the territories era. Learning the craft in front of different crowds, performing with wrestlers from different parts of the world with very distinct styles really made a difference when it came to developing. When Vince Sr. started buying out all the territories it created a big hole it the wrestling business, a hole that endured until very recently when other promotions started to emerge. Japan has always had it’s own style of wrestling, and with Cody already having an established skill set, I can only see him improving as an in-ring performer. I’m also excited to see what he does with this new “American Nightmare” persona. After a year or two we may see a completely different, more sinister Cody Rhodes. Original and authentic personalities are what fans respond to in the current climate of sports entertainment, not gimmicks. When Cody was part of Legacy i thought that they were going in the right direction with him as a heel, but then poor writing and not allowing him to grow without his family around was ultimately the beginning of the end for him in the WWE. Hopefully this run in NJPW will give birth to a newer, more marketable version of Cody Rhodes. I say marketable because even though there are great wrestling promotions out there, the WWE is where a very high percentage of wrestlers want to end up.
Ultimately it will be Cody’s decision whether he wants to come back or not. I hope he does for the fan’s sake. Not all fans are created equal. Many older fans watch multiple promotions, while the younger will only watch the WWE product. While I was growing up I only really watched the WWF. Now as an adult I go back and watch some of the old territory product and wish I would have been able to watch it when I was younger while some of the magic was still there. IT WAS STILL REAL TO ME DAMN IT! When it comes to the younger generation I want them to be able to see as much great talent as possible. Unfortunately, younger fans only watch WWE because it is everywhere and easily accessible. I would hate to think that the only version of Cody Rhodes an entire generation was exposed to was Stardust. I fear that if he finishes out his career in New Japan, many younger fans will feel the same disappointment I did as an adult. All the points made in my article may seem like reasons why he shouldn’t come back to the WWE, but they are the exact opposite. Cody has seen what doesn’t work for him, and now he can move forward and make a real name for himself. I don’t think we have seen the best of Cody Rhodes yet. I’m hoping that after a few years of development in NJPW, away from the influence of WWE writing and the shadow cast by his family name, Cody will have become what we all deserve to see. Once that happens he can come back to the WWE with a whole new persona and built in hype from Japan to erase the mistakes the WWE made in the past.