When Cody Rhodes stepped into the world of WWE, there were few who doubted that the young wrestler would one day be one of WWE’s biggest stars. He was young, good-looking, a fine talker, talented in the ring and even had a legendary last name. In short, he had every tool that fans typically associate with a wrestler ready to rise to the very top of the company. As Cody’s career developed, his destiny as one of the company’s biggest acts seemed all the more certain. It was just a matter of time before Cody Rhodes claimed his spot atop the WWE ladder.
Recently, however, Cody Rhodes shocked the wrestling world by requesting his release from WWE. In a heartbreaking open letter to his fans, Rhodes described his frustration with the WWE creative process and outlined the ways in which the structure of the company hindered his personal growth and passion as a professional wrestler. In some ways, the information Cody shared was simply a justification of the fears that fans have had for years regarding how WWE treats their performers. What made it particularly disturbing, however, was the fact that a wrestler that seemed to have every advantage in the wresting world still had to endure these creative barriers.
Of course, the departure of Cody Rhodes is made all the more depressing when you begin to examine the highlights of his career. Cody Rhodes wasn’t a talented wrestler who never found a way to make it work; he was an outstanding performer who gift-wrapped WWE with several career moments that the company should have recognized as can’t miss opportunities. Instead, we’ve come to recognize these moments by another name. They are the times that WWE wasted a huge opportunity with Cody Rhodes.
12 Failing To Let “Dashing” Cody Rhodes Go After The World Title
As the character of “Dashing” Cody Rhodes evolved from a young guy giving grooming tips in his promos to a narcissistic supervillain, WWE should have been able to recognize what a gold mine the character was. It was the perfect wrestling creation that could have serviced as the catalyst to a number of compelling programs. Instead, WWE just kind of let the character fade away after Cody lost the Intercontinental Title to The Big Show at WrestleMania. Rhodes should have gotten a chance to play this character in a World Championship storyline, but apparently creative just had nothing for him.
11 Turning Some Of His Gimmicks Into Comedy Acts
Personality is a strange characteristic to have in modern day WWE. You certainly need a lot of it to make it to the top, but too much personality seems to make the current creative team believe that you are best suited for the company’s unfortunate brand of comedy. Rhodes has had to endure the comedic tastes of the WWE creative team a few too many times throughout his career, as the writing staff always seemed to confuse his ability to infuse life into any character as a sign of his comedic brilliance. A wrestler can only endure so many instances of not being taken seriously before the audience starts taking the hint.
10 Not Getting A Real Tag Title Run With His Brother
WWE had a real feel-good moment on their hands when the Rhodes brothers won the tag titles from The Shield at Battleground 2013. Much like Sasha Banks vs. Bayley from Takeover: Brooklyn, this match just had that perfect atmosphere that only professional wrestling can deliver. It showed that the Rhodes brothers were able to create pure magic in the ring and should have been the start of a long championship run. Instead, the pair endured weeks of meaningless tag matches before dropping the belts to the New Age Outlaws of all teams. This was just another unfortunate case of Cody Rhodes gaining momentum and WWE failing to capitalize off of it.
9 Failing to Utilize Rhodes As A Face After His Injury
Look, sometimes you just need to accept when something gets popular in professional wrestling. It might not always make sense, but when the fans latch onto something, it’s time to run with it. For instance, when Cody Rhodes returned from injury and began to receive chants for his mustache, WWE should have taken it as a sign that fans were ready to root for the young star. So why is it that Cody spent the first few months of his return bouncing between meaningless matches and filling TV time? This should have been the time that Cody entered the main event scene and stayed there.
8 Doing Nothing With The Rhodes Scholars
You could argue that Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes should have both been singles stars based on their respective talents, but at the very least the pair should have risen straight to the top of the middling WWE tag ranks. It’s difficult to pinpoint the moment that fans had to come to terms with the fact that WWE had no plans for the brilliant team known as The Rhodes Scholars, but it became clear soon enough that the two weren’t going to be allowed to do anything beyond cut the best promos of the night and put on stellar – yet ultimately meaningless – matches.
7 Ruining Legacy's Potential
While The Legacy were perhaps never destined to reach the same heights that Evolution enjoyed, the team of Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase and Randy Orton could have still been an entertaining faction that shook up the WWE landscape. Instead, it turned out that Rhodes and DiBiase were mostly just lackeys for the pursuits of Orton.
Unlike how Evolution helped Randy Orton and Batista get over by giving them their own storylines within the group, Rhodes mostly just ate the losses as a member of Legacy. He came out of the group looking like just another guy when he should have been a star on the rise.
6 Never Developing A Proper Rhodes Brothers Feud
From the moment that Cody Rhodes entered WWE, fans began to imagine a feud between himself and his brother. Actually, WWE had plenty of opportunities to pull the trigger on such a feud throughout the career of Cody Rhodes. The fact that they didn’t made it seem they were just waiting for that one perfect moment.
While it’s hard to argue with their decision to have the two start fighting after their tag run fell apart, the rivalry we did get was severely underwhelming and didn't amount to much more than Cody Rhodes as Stardust having a couple of irrelevant matches with Goldust before the whole thing was dropped. This should have been so much more.
5 Forcing Him To Endure Too Many Losing Streaks
WWE occasionally decides that they are going to try to get a wrestler over by having them endure a losing streak in order to win the sympathy of the crowd. Occasionally, the tactic works (Daniel Bryan was able to gain some early popularity off the loveable loser angle) but more often than not it just hurts the reputation of the wrestler enduring it. This is especially true if you’re Cody Rhodes and have to suffer through a few of these streaks throughout his career in-between gimmick changes. While you could argue that some of the love that Rhodes enjoys comes from the fact that WWE often presented him as an underdog, the fact that they never capitalized off the sympathy just made Rhodes look weak.
4 Making Him Look Weak During The IC Title Reign
Cody Rhodes’ lengthy run with the Intercontinental Championship was awesome because Cody Rhodes made it awesome. His character was perfect, his promos were amazing and he made the most out of every match given to him. The problem was that WWE never really gave him any help along the way. Outside of his memorable encounter with Rey Mysterio, most of Rhodes’ feuds during this time were one-sided affairs with whomever was free at the time. The lowlight of this arrangement came at the end of Cody Rhodes’ title reign when he dropped the belt to The Big Show in a match without any real build so that The Big Show could take the title and do absolutely nothing with it.
3 Not Bringing Back Cody Rhodes Following Dusty's Death
In his parting letter, Cody Rhodes mentioned that he pitched a great number of ideas to the WWE creative team over the past couple of years that would have allowed him to become Cody Rhodes once more or simply given him something to do. It’s hard to judge the individual ideas since they were not disclosed, but the one thing that we can say with confidence is that any of them should have been used at the time of Dusty Rhodes’ death.
It’s not so much that WWE should have capitalized off Rhodes’ last name during this time, but it seemed wasteful to not let Cody Rhodes pay tribute to his father through his in-ring work. The company should have realized that this was the moment that Cody Rhodes was ready to continue the legacy of his family name.
2 Letting Randy Orton Constantly Get The Better Of Him
When Cody Rhodes finally scored a victory against Randy Orton on an episode of RAW, it felt like a turning point for the young star. Up until that moment, Rhodes had not been able to get the better of Orton and the victory felt like a clear announcement from WWE to the world that Cody was ready for something more. In retrospect, though, it was an anomaly. Rhodes never won another singles match against Orton after this one, even though the history between these two men seemed to exist solely for Rhodes to finally best Orton after an extended feud.
1 Prolonging The Stardust Gimmick
Stardust was not an awful idea. Honestly, it wasn’t. Had WWE played the character out for a couple of months in a smart way before reintroducing Cody Rhodes to the world, they could have gotten some mileage out of the concept. What made the whole gimmick so awful was that WWE never found anything interesting to do with the character and yet still felt the need to drag the affair on well past the point of relevancy.
Cody Rhodes tried everything he could to make the character work, but you could just see the pain grow larger on his face whenever he tried to insist that Stardust was fine. In reality, it was the nail in his career coffin.