Cody Rhodes, aka Stardust, went to his personal Twitter account to tell his followers that he had requested his release from the WWE and the company complied with that request on May 22nd, 2016. With little explanation, the youngest second generation Superstar of the Rhodes family thanked the fans for all their support over his career that lasted a decade.
Though his tag team with Hardcore Holly didn’t seem like a great first step, Rhodes would make a name for himself as a reliable, entertaining midcarder.
His run in the tag team division has led to several entertaining teams being formed such as his stable with Ted DiBiase Jr. and Randy Orton called Legacy, a stable that would make Rhodes and DiBiase both prominently featured midcarders and multi-time Tag Team Champions. Other teams like Rhodes Scholars and The Brotherhood were also entertaining and helped to further bolster his resume with the WWE.
As a single’s competitor, Rhodes found his niche in the midcard fighting for the Intercontinental Championship. And while many will debate whether or not Cody Rhodes added prestige to the Intercontinental Championship, it goes without saying that he increased the attention paid to the title in an era where midcard titles seemed more like burdens. He also has had very good matches with wrestlers like Randy Orton and John Cena, as he has shown over the years that his legacy wouldn’t be defined by the trail left by his father and brother.
While many fans despised the Stardust gimmick that he was portraying since 2014, the fans had respect for Cody Rhodes’s ability and some fans even though that he should’ve held a World Title before his career ended. Whether fans loved him or hated him, the fact remains that he gave ten years of his life to the WWE and put effort into whatever he was given. So with the knowledge that his WWE career has come to an unexpected end, this article will highlight some of the best moments in the career of an established mid-card talent.
And no…absolutely NONE of Cody Rhodes’s work as Stardust will be included on this list. Unless you’d like me to mention his tag team with The Ascension…
12 Rhodes Scholars
Aside from Team Hell No, the duo of Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow were the only other team at that time who was treated with some level of seriousness as contenders for the Tag Team Championships. In the fall of 2012, the WWE decided to have Sandow, who at the time was The Self-Proclaimed Intellectual Savior of the Masses, team with Cody Rhodes to form the team known as Rhodes Scholars. The team were never booked to appear superior to Daniel Bryan and Kane, but they helped to provide entertainment and added another somewhat credible team in the tag division. Rhodes Scholars had several matches with Bryan and Kane and even had an entertaining encounter with a bonafide WWE Hall of Famer, The Rock on SmackDown. The team lasted just about a year and they never won the titles, but they did do the best they could with what they were given and it always made for entertaining television. Down the road, it would lead both wrestlers to their next bit of entertainment.
11 Feud With Damien Sandow
At the 2013 Money in The Bank PPV, Cody Rhodes put on a spectacular performance at the start of the show for what would be the last Money in the Bank Briefcase match for the now defunct World Heavyweight Championship. And as Cody Rhodes was about to win the briefcase, Damien Sandow cost Rhodes his chance at the title. This not only ended the Rhodes Scholars team, but it would result in Rhodes’s first babyface run since his debut. The feud only lasted until SummerSlam, but it made for an entertaining midcard feud.
But considering what happened to Sandow when he cashed in, it’s safe to assume Rhodes not winning the briefcase was the best thing for him.
10 The Brotherhood vs. The New Age Outlaws
This feud didn’t last very long, but it was definitely an entertaining one. In the beginning of 2014, The New Age Outlaws came back for the Old School RAW show defeating Primo and Epico. After that show, the team stuck around and decided to pursue the Tag Team Championships, held at the time by Cody Rhodes and Goldust. There were only two completed matches in this feud, but both of them were really good. The first was relatively quick and was on the pre-show of the Royal Rumble, but the second match was a steel cage match on RAW and was even better than the first. The most memorable moment during their second match was that huge moonsault Cody attempted from the top of the steel cage. And while The Brotherhood did suffer defeats in these matches, they ultimately served their purpose and helped make the tag team division interesting again.
9 Triple Threat Match at WrestleMania XXVI
Having been formed in 2008, the stable Legacy had run its course by 2010. So at the beginning of that year, the WWE laid the foundation for Legacy’s end. It started when Orton was disqualified for getting help from Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes and the tension only built up from there. At the Elimination Chamber, DiBiase eliminated Orton from the match, causing even more dissension. After this, the tension between the team came to a head when DiBiase and Rhodes turned on Orton after weeks of abuse. Their match at WrestleMania XXVI was made between the former faction and started with DiBiase and Rhodes united against Orton, but like most triple threat matches, the alliance was broken and the team broke apart completely. The match was pretty good considering its placement on the card and ended with Orton’s hand being raised in victory. It wasn’t the greatest match any of the individuals ever had, but it was the signal that all three men were moving on to something else. For Orton, it was back to the main event scene, for DiBiase it was the revived Million Dollar Championship, and for Rhodes it would be his first run in singles competition.
8 Feud With Big Show
When thinking of great Intercontinental Championship feuds, the one between Cody Rhodes and Big Show doesn’t come to mind for most people, but it has its place amongst the history of the Intercontinental Championship history. Rhodes had begun a feud with Big Show over his lackluster WrestleMania record even going as far as to call him the “Reverse Undertaker.” In retaliation, Big Show challenged Rhodes for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania XXVIII. The buildup consisted of Rhodes tormenting and teasing Big Show for all of his WrestleMania blunders and awkward moments. The match ended with Big Show winning the title and having his first big WrestleMania moment. Continuing the feud at Extreme Rules, in an unlikely series of events, Rhodes defeated Big Show for the title in a tables match in the most unexpected way possible.
It may not have been the best feud, but any feud that gets the Intercontinental Championship good booking, a decent storyline, and a non-pre-show match at WrestleMania is okay in my book.
7 Feud with Booker T
In the midst of his mission to bring prestige back to the Intercontinental Championship, Cody Rhodes defended his title against part-time wrestler, full-time commentator Booker T. The feud began when Rhodes called out Booker T for his alleged criticism of him and that feud eventually involved the Intercontinental Championship. The two men went back and forth, attacking each other in the weeks leading up to their match at TLC. Booker T lost at the PPV and would challenge Rhodes once more for the title in a losing effort on SmackDown. This feud not only showed how great Booker T still was, but it made Rhodes look like an even greater Intercontinental Champion than before. Bringing back the classic design by itself clearly wasn’t enough to make it interesting, but the feuds Rhodes had after that point made the new design feel like a genuine step in the right direction.
6 Joining Legacy
After an unmemorable team with Hardcore Holly, the WWE had the idea to create a stable full of second and third generation superstars. It consisted of the youngest WWE world champion in history in Randy Orton, the son of The Million Dollar Man in Ted DiBiase Jr., and the Son of The American Dream in Cody Rhodes. The group was a dominant faction since its inception in 2008 and helped Orton to become a three-time WWE Champion, while it also made DiBiase and Rhodes two-time World Tag Team Champions. Outside of the duo helping Orton to win more titles, Legacy also picked up significant wins against teams like John Cena and Batista and D-Generation X. Overall, the faction did wonders for the careers of all three men before it came to an end at WrestleMania XXVI when they had their triple threat match, as we discussed earlier in this look back. Not as impactful as The Nexus, Shield, or Evolution but definitely a great stable nonetheless.
5 Undashing Cody Rhodes
After the group Legacy disbanded, Cody Rhodes was given a pretty-boy gimmick where he believed he looked better than everyone and referred to himself as “Dashing.” The gimmick wasn’t that popular and would come to an end when Rey Mysterio hit the 619 and accidentally broke his nose. This led to Rhodes having facial reconstructive surgery, but it also led to the best gimmick of his WWE career. When he came back, Rhodes character became that of a man who hated the world for ruining his face; a gimmick known as Undashing Cody Rhodes. During this gimmick, he would not only gain a huge victory at WrestleMania XXVII, but he would also become the Intercontinental Champion. It was a good gimmick that led to some very good things in the career of Cody Rhodes and gave him more character than he had up until that point. It didn’t last for more than a year, but it was definitely one of his best gimmicks.
4 2013 Money in the Bank Performance
It was addressed earlier, but because of how good it was, it needs to be looked at again. Heading into the 2013 World Heavyweight Money in the Bank match, many people expected Wade Barrett or Dean Ambrose to win the briefcase and go on to become a World Champion. However, when the match took place, Cody Rhodes slowly but surely began to look like a possible contender. Hitting a muscle buster on Cesaro onto a ladder, hitting a missile dropkick on both of The Real Americans, and knocking over Dean Ambrose off of the ladder and taking out almost everyone else in the match made it look like the WWE was seriously going to give the Son of a Son of a Plumber a push. But at the last minute, the WWE swerved their fans as usual by having Damien Sandow win. It was a disappointing outcome in some ways for the fans who wanted to see Rhodes make it, but the fact remains that he looked like a bigger star that night than he ever did throughout his career.
3 Legacy vs. D-Generation X
Of all the work that Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase did as members of the group Legacy, their feud with D-Generation X might have been even greater than them winning the tag team titles. Stemming from Triple H and Randy Orton’s feud over the WWE Championship, the constant interference by Rhodes and DiBiase made Triple H turn his attention to them. Though he was unsuccessful in defeating them on his own, Triple H recruited Shawn Michaels to reform D-Generation X one last time. The feud that took place made both teams look great and though Rhodes and DiBiase only won one match in the three-month feud, Legacy managed to main event a PPV in a great tag team Hell in a Cell Match in 2009. Rhodes would go on to have other memorable moments in the tag team division with other individuals, but this was his career highlight as a member of the faction Legacy.
2 Bringing Back The Classic Intercontinental Championship
When Undashing Cody Rhodes defeated Ezekiel Jackson for the Intercontinental Championship, very few people expected him to do much of anything important with the title. But what would happen during his championship reign would give him one of the most memorable moments in the recent history of the championship. At the Hell in a Cell PPV in 2011, Rhodes carved a place for himself in history by retiring the current Intercontinental Championship and going back to the design from the 1980s, but this time with a white strap. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that Cody Rhodes paid to have that design brought back to the WWE and instead of just riding to the coattails of the title redesign, Rhodes continued to have good matches and entertaining feuds with the title to the point where the Intercontinental Championship got to have a story and a main card match at WrestleMania XXVIII. While his second title run wasn’t that important, his first reign as the Intercontinental Champion was the greatest moment of his singles career.
1 The Brotherhood vs. The Shield
While Cody Rhodes bringing back the classic Intercontinental Championship was a highly notable achievement, his feud with The Authority alongside his brother and father was the greatest storyline he was ever involved in.
In an effort to make The Authority look dominate, the WWE used knowledge of Cody Rhodes taking time off for his marriage and honeymoon to their advantage. After being fired by The Authority, both Dusty Rhodes and Goldust attempted to get Cody his job back. This led to a match at Battleground between The Rhodes Brothers and the nearly unstoppable faction, The Shield, with all of the Rhodes’s jobs on the line. The match that ensued was one of the best tag team matches of that year. Dusty hit a Bionic Elbow, Cody hit the Cross Rhodes for the win, and the rest of the locker room came out to welcome Cody and Goldust back to work. Truly a great moment.
Whether this is the last of Cody Rhodes we see in the WWE or if he comes back later on, Rhodes has had a really good and memorable career in the WWE and you can’t ask for more than that as a fan.