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Lights go down, I’m ready now

Tear this roof off for the town

Gonna give ’em what they came to see

Hear the crowd, on their toes

Ready for me to start the show

Out the curtain, lights go up I’m home

Kingdom – Downstait

All my life, my heroes have been wrestlers. While the other kids wanted to be Michael Jordan, Emmitt Smith, or Ken Griffey, Jr. I wanted to be Randy “Macho Man” Savage, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, and, of course, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. These musclebound dudes with their larger than life personalities that oozed charisma spoke to little Derik more than anything else. Randy Savage made me love wrestling, Shawn Michaels made me want to be the dude all the girls wanted, and The Rock made me want to be the dude with the microphone electrifying the crowd. These were the men who spoke to something deep in my soul, and honestly made me the performer and man I am today.

Over the last few years, one man has joined this illustrious list of heroes – Cody Rhodes

The son of legendary professional wrestler “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Cody has been on national TV since 2007, debuting at the WWE Hall of Fame to induct his father. It wasn’t long after that night that Cody debuted on WWE Monday Night Raw, albeit earlier than he should have. Here was a 22 year old kid trying to navigate through the big world of sports entertainment, and wrestling fans weren’t buying him just yet. He floundered for a bit until he began to team with veteran curmudgeon wrestler Bob “Hardcore” Holly. The two were moderately successful together – they won the WWE Tag Team Titles in December of 2007, and went on to hold them for 7 months before eventually dropping them to Ted DiBiase, Jr. (himself a third generation wrestler) and his tag team partner…Cody Rhodes?

That’s right – in a strange turn of events, Cody betrayed Hardcore Holly and became DiBiase’s partner. Now a “heel” or bad guy, you got to see a glimmer of who Cody would become. Wrestlers have often said being the bad guy is more fun, more freeing, and gives you the chance to find yourself as a performer. I’d dare say this was the case for Cody, especially in those early days. Not long after Cody and Ted started tagging, they joined Randy Orton (another third generation talent) to form the wrestling group Legacy. The main focus of The Legacy from a wrestling storyline context was making sure Randy Orton won and stayed the WWE Champion. The focus of The Legacy from a real-life standpoint was to have Orton mentor Rhodes and DiBiase so they could both turn into the stars that Orton himself had become. By April of 2010, the Legacy had imploded. The three men faced off at Wrestlemania XXVI, where Orton soundly defeated both Rhodes and DiBiase.

For the next few years, Cody would hover in the mid-card of WWE. Obviously insanely talented, he never seemed to get a chance to be more than a “healthy scratch” in the business. Every time it looked like maybe the WWE was going to make Cody a main event star, they would jerk the rug out from under him.

It wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that things began to pick up. Now in a storyline with The Authority a stable formed by on-screen WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H, Cody lost a match to Randy Orton where his job was on the line. Cody was “fired” and left TV for several weeks. In the meantime, Cody’s brother Dustin, known as the androgynous Goldust, wrestled Orton with Cody’s reinstatement on the line. He too failed and lost his job. We even got to see “The American Dream” himself, Dusty Rhodes get into the mix. He was knocked out by a big right hand by the Big Show. Two weeks after this, The Rhodes family all returned to set up a huge tag team between Cody and Dustin Rhodes vs. Shield members Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins where if the Rhodes win, they all get their jobs back. Go back and listen to the crowd at the end of this. It’s electric. It truly felt like Cody was on his way to being the main eventer he was supposed to be.

But it never happened

Cody and Goldust won the WWE Tag Titles from the Shield a week later, and again it felt like this was going to be the next step for Cody. Shockingly, at the Royal Rumble 3 months later, Cody and Goldie dropped the titles to part-timers from a bygone era The New Age Outlaws. Cody and Goldust began to go on a bit of a losing streak, culminating with Cody telling Goldie to find a better partner. Over the course of the next few weeks, Cody and Goldust tried out different partners for Goldie, but none of them were successful. The Rhodes Boys’ were, pardon the pun, at a crossroads.

On June 16, 2014, Cody Rhodes was gone. In his place, Cody adopted the persona of Stardust. Wearing similar face paint and a bodysuit to his brother, Gold and Stardust began to rack up win after win. In September of 2014 at Night of Champions in Nashville, TN (a match yours truly was there live for) the Dust Boys defeated the Usos to win the WWE Tag Team Titles. They would go on to hold those titles for roughly two months before losing them, and seemingly headed for a split.

Wrestling fans had wanted to see Cody vs Goldust for years, and they wanted to see it at Wrestlemania, the biggest wrestling event of the year. It finally looked like that would happen in 2015. Stardust turned on his brother, and we got Gold vs Star at Fastlane, the PPV before Mania. Goldust would win that match, but Stardust would attack his brother backstage. After the attack, Stardust looked at father Dusty and said that Cody was dead.

Surely this is going to build to the Mania match! Brother vs brother! It’s going to happen!

It didn’t happen

The feud was quickly forgotten about, and Stardust actually competed in a multi-man ladder match for the Intercontinental Title at Mania that year.

Tragically, Dusty Rhodes passed away in June of 2015. An icon beloved by wrestling fans young and old, wrestling had lost its John Wayne; Cody Rhodes had lost his best friend. After taking time off to mourn the loss of his father, Cody returned as Stardust and entered into a high profile feud with Oliver Queen himself, Arrow actor Stephen Amell. At Summerslam that year, Amell and his tag team partner Neville (now known as PAC in AEW) defeated Stardust and King Barrett. This was Cody’s last high profile match in WWE.

In May of 2016, Cody revealed on Twitter that he had requested his release from WWE, and that it was officially granted. Cody wrote of his frustrations with the creative team, and his position in the WWE hierarchy for his biggest reasons for leaving. It came as a shock to most wrestling fans, myself included. Cody felt like a kept man in WWE. Granted he was a man who was never going to reach his potential, but the money was good and he was doing what he loved – so what was the problem?

In the end, Cody leaving WWE was not only the best thing for himself, but for the entire landscape of pro wrestling.

Six days after his release, Cody posted “the list” – a list of wrestlers or wrestling troupes he wanted to be apart of. With names like Adam Cole, Kurt Angle, and the Young Bucks amongst others, Cody started a buzz for himself and fans couldn’t wait to see which matches would happen first.

Now being able to play his own music on the independent scene, Cody blossomed. He began a tear through the independent ranks. We got to see the real Cody Rhodes – a man passionate about the sport of pro wrestling. No longer shackled by corporate ridiculousness, Cody shined. His matches were great, his promos were killer, and most importantly – he seemed to be having the time of his life. I remember waiting patiently to watch Cody’s matches on YouTube and loving everything I saw. As someone who had been a fan of Cody since 2009, it was great to see him finally becoming what I knew he could be all along.

Then Cody joined the Bullet Club and took everything to a whole new level.

The Bullet Club was/is the NWO of the modern era in wrestling. Founded in New Japan Pro Wrestling, its members have included Prince Devitt (Finn Balor), Karl Anderson, DOC Gallows, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Adam Cole (Bay Bay), Hangman Adam Page, “The Villain” Marty Scurl amongst others. During this time, Matt and Nick Jackson – the Young Bucks – began a YouTube vlog called Being the Elite. It was in this vlog where not only they began to set up storylines for themselves and other Bullet Club members, but they also really showed off their personalities and goofiness. Try watching The Exorcism of Cody Rhodes and not be entertained. Independent Wrestling was cool, it was underground; and the Bullet Club, more specifically the “Elite” of the Bullet Club – Omega, Rhodes, the Bucks, Hangman, and Marty – were the Kings.

How it all started – the tweets that led to All In

In May of 2017, wrestling journalist (or dirtsheet writer/liar; really depends on who you’re talking to) Dave Meltzer was asked if anyone (specifically wrestling company Ring of Honor) could sellout a 10k seat arena. Meltzer said not anytime soon. Cody, who at the time was signed to RoH, took him up on that. He and the Bucks would self-finance a show in an arena and sell it out. These two tweets sent the wrestling world into a buzz.

All In was officially announced on January 10th, 2018. The Sears Centre (now known as the NOW Arena) in Hoffman Estates, IL, a Chicago suburb, was announced as the venue. Talent from around the world was announced for the event, including wrestling legend Rey Mysterio, Jr and the NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis. To coincide with this event, Wrestling Podcaster “The Podfather” Conrad Thompson would hold Starrcast, a huge fan convention where all the stars of the event, plus legends from the past, would be on hand to meet the wrestling fans. Tickets went on sale on May 13th and in less than 30 minutes, the show was sold out (Disappointed Author’s Note – I sat in the queue for that event all morning only to find out the tickets were gone when it was my turn to pick. So disappointed). Despite only announcing one match – Cody and the Bucks had done what was looked at as impossible.

They were only getting started

All In truly made me fall back in love with pro wrestling. I sat on my couch after a four-show day and my eyes were glued to the TV. I discovered wrestlers I knew nothing about (what up, Ethan Page) and was enthralled in the matches and storylines I knew going into the show. By the way, the storylines in this event were all done through BTE. Think about that: a major PPV wrestling event was promoted through a YouTube channel. How insane and DIY is that?

While it wasn’t the main event of the show, it was the main event to me. Cody wrestled Nick Aldis for the NWA title. The NWA’s legacy traced back to the days of Ric Flair, Harley Race, Jack Brisco, and of course – Dusty Rhodes. Could the son win the title his father helped make famous? On this night, yes he could. With Dream tattooed on his chest, Cody pinned Nick Aldis in a wonderful match to win the NWA Championship. It felt like the culmination of the man. All the sacrifices, all the hard work had finally paid off.

After All In concluded, The Elite all gathered in the ring to talk to the fans. They told the fans this was only the beginning, and that where ever they went, they were going to stay together.

For months, the wrestling world wondered what was going to happen with The Elite. Their Ring of Honor contracts ran out at the same time. Would they stay with RoH? Would they – God forbid – sign with WWE? Or would they just continue to make their own music producing independent wrestling SuperCards like All In? Or…could it be more?

Turns out, it could be more.

On January 1st, 2019, All-Elite Wrestling was officially launched. Cody and the Bucks were definitely going Double or Nothing on this. Backed by billionaire businessman and owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars (and massive wrestling fan) Tony Khan, Cody and the Bucks became the faces of AEW. In the coming weeks, we would find out that Kenny Omega, Hangman Adam Page, and one of the greatest of all time Chris Jericho amongst others had also signed with the promotion.

We found out that their next PPV event would be held in Las Vegas, NV and be called Double or Nothing. At that show, one of the main events would be a match wrestling fans had clamored to see for years

“The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes vs “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes

Dustin, to the shock of most, had been granted an early release from WWE and immediately signed with AEW. Dustin looked at this match as his last ride. Cody, on the other hand, in one of his greatest promos ever, vowed to kill the Attitude Era. An era he felt Dustin represented.

The match was a storytelling classic. Blood was spilt, tears were shed. Dustin Rhodes, who had just turned 50, turned back the hands of time and looked magnificent. Cody won the match, and afterwards told Dustin he couldn’t retire. Cody had signed on to face The Young Bucks in a tag team match at their next event and needed his older brother. The match was a five-star classic, exactly what AEW needed to prove they were a player in the wrestling world.

For the last two years, Cody has been the face of AEW. He not only continues to wrestle high-caliber matches, but he’s also an Executive Vice President within the company. If that doesn’t keep him busy enough, he’s also a reality TV star, with his judging duties on Go Big Show, and his Rhodes to the Top show he has with wife Brandi. On top of all of that, Cody recently welcomed a baby girl into the world. It’s insane to see how far Cody Rhodes has come. He literally grew up in front of our eyes.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve been a fan of Cody’s for over a decade now. In the WWE, I always wanted to see him get more; to be a top guy. When he left, I genuinely was worried for him. WWE was all he knew, could he survive in the indies? How foolish of me to think he couldn’t. Getting to watch Cody turn into the Cody I always knew he could he was amazing. When Cody won the NWA title, I shed a tear. I could feel how much it meant to him.

Maybe that’s the reason I resonate and respect Cody so much – he makes me feel. This world will harden you and make you cynical if you allow it. It’s still nice to have those guys who make you believe. Cody is one of those to me.

Over the last several years, I’ve aspired to be like Cody. Granted, I don’t think I’ll ever start my own wrestling promotion (never say never though) but I feel I have learned some things from “The American Nightmare” over the last few years.

Here’s the 3 things I’ve learned from Cody Rhodes

1) We Need to Evolve to Thrive

I’ve always admired Cody’s ability to change. After Legacy broke up, Cody became “Dashing” Cody Rhodes – a narcissistic prick who knew he was a stud, and tried to give us “ugly people” grooming tips to make us more “dashing” like him. If he were punched in the face, he would immediately throw a fit and go check his mirror to make sure his flawless face remained. He ran with that character for about a year, until Rey Mysterio legitimately broke his nose in the ring. After this, Cody came out wearing a clear protective mask, thinking he was a monster. It was a total change in tone. Later on, he would have assistants bring paper bags out with him and he would give them to fans so they could hide their hideousness like he did.

When that ran its course, he changed again. And so on and so on. He continues to change now. Last year after getting mauled by Brodie Lee and losing the TNT Championship, Cody left for several weeks. When he returned, gone was his bleach-blonde locks. He went back to his jet black locks (in homage to Death of Superman) to exact revenge on Mr. Brodie.

Change is good. Change is needed. So often we allow ourselves to fall into a rut. We allow ourselves to play it safe. Why try something new? The old thing works, has been working – why change it?

When we stop growing, or evolving, we start dying. It’s that simple. Your comfort zone will allow you to think that all is right in your world while it slowly chokes you to death. We have to grow, we have to change. Otherwise we stagnate.

Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often

Stop living in your comfort zone. Step out. Take chances. Grow. Evolve.

2) Speak Passionately About What You Believe In

Cody Rhodes to me is one of the best promo guys in the world today. When he talks, I listen. Now, I can’t talk about this without mentioning that Cody has developed some backlash in the last few months over some comments he said that people took a different way than he meant them. But like I said earlier, Cody makes me feel. I believe in Cody Rhodes.

Honestly – how can you not? Listen as he talks about how he’s Dusty’s actual kid instead of a pretender. Go watch the video I linked earlier in the blog where he talks about how he loves his brother, but he’s going to have to kill the Attitude Era. Or my personal favorite – Cody’s Undesirable to Undeniable promo, which many have likened to his father’s Hard Times promo, arguably one of the greatest promos ever. Whether you like Cody or you don’t; whether you agree with him or you don’t one thing is for sure: he’s always passionate about what he’s saying

We have too many people who talk too much and say very little. You don’t have to talk all the time, but when you do you make it count. Speak up about the things you believe in. Don’t be afraid of what others are going to say. If it matters to you, fight for it. If someone matters to you, tell them. Step up, speak your truth, and do it with passion.

3) Bet on Yourself

Cody was a made man. He could have stayed with the WWE, continued making great money, and coasted until he was 40 and ready to retire. But Cody knew his worth. He knew he was destined for greater things than what was being given to him at WWE. So he stepped into unknown territory. He didn’t know what was going to happen, but he believed enough in himself to know he was going to be fine. Look what he’s done in just 5 years? Cody Rhodes has turned the wrestling world upside down. If Cody didn’t believe in himself, All In never happens. If All In doesn’t happen, there’s a good chance AEW never happens. Cody could have taken the easy route. But instead, he rolled his sleeves up, did the work, bet on himself, and made history.

What is holding you back from not only betting on yourself but also bettering yourself? What is keeping you from reaching your full potential?

I ask myself these questions just as much as I do you, dear reader. Isn’t it time to bet on ourselves? Isn’t it time to make all of our dreams come true?

Cody Rhodes is no different than anyone else. Yes, he was born on third base, but he also busted his butt to make things happen for himself. The things Cody did you and I could easily do in our own lives. So what’s holding us back? Let’s make the effort to bet on ourselves and start making things happen

So today, I challenge you to be more like Cody Rhodes. To grow, to speak passionately, and to believe in yourself.

If we start doing that, who knows what kind of revolution we can bring?

Thanks for reading

Rooting for you

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