Like it or not, Cody Rhodes is back in WWE to stay. Despite being a second-generation star, he started and earned his stripes like every other wrestler and that hard work paid off. Tonight, he heads into the main event of Wrestlemania 39 against Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Heavyweight Championship. A lot of people are torn on how this match goes; on the one hand, Reigns’ reign has been so dominant, it feels never-ending. But on the other, Cody Rhodes is the hottest star in the company and a very realistic successor for the Tribal Chief.
I personally think that the American Nightmare will finish the story and fulfil his destiny at Wrestlemania 39 because he deserves it. He’s grinded his ass off since he left WWE in 2016, travelling the world and the independent circuit before creating AEW. But this article isn’t about that, it’s why he is the new face of WWE.
When you think of the faces of WWE, you think of Hulk Hogan or John Cena and most recently, Roman Reigns. But Reigns is looking to take some time off and take a backseat, and have a more chilled life because he’s earned it. There needs to be a successor, someone who is main event calibre and known to the fans, and that man is Cody Garrett Runnels.
Now, if you’d said this back in 2014, most people would say no because he was lumbered with poor gimmicks, despite doing his best to get them over. It was that shift in 2016 when he left WWE with no plan of where to go next that started him on this journey to the top of the mountain. Cody Rhodes left aged 30 years old, in his prime but with no path. His desire to be a workhorse, to honour his father and his family carried him on this path, he would work overseas dates for small companies here in the UK, across Europe, in Japan and the States.
He, with a little help from some friends, sold out a stadium of over 10,000 people which triggered the creation of AEW, the biggest competitor WWE has had since WCW. And, in AEW, he took their version of a workhorse title, the TNT Championship, and made it front and centre, sometimes eclipsing their World Championship.
Despite being rejected by the AEW fans, he would still work his ass off for the entertainment of those who cheered him and got the gimmick, he was intended to be over the top and intended to look like he used his position as an EVP in storyline. The day would come when he would leave AEW, where he would do what every man would do for their family and go somewhere else for more money and more security.
All of what he had worked so hard for, whilst also shrugging off and burying the Stardust gimmick, was culminating on April 3rd, 2022, in the AT&T Stadium in Darlington, Texas. His return to WWE, his return home, to the place he cut his teeth and matured in. Corey Graves said it perfectly on commentary as Cody would cartwheel in the ring, harkening back to Stardust. He’d say it was ‘shedding skin’, and it was, it was him resetting himself in WWE.
Cody Rhodes returned to WWE in the grandest way possible, on the grandest stage of them all against one of the MOST popular stars of our generation in Seth Rollins. They put on a banger of a match, followed by two more at Backlash and Hell in a Cell before Cody got injured.
That injury just adds another layer to why he is the perfect successor to Roman as the face of the company. Working with a completely torn pectoral muscle, showed his dedication to the fans and his craft. He comes back, he wins the Rumble, and he stamps his ticket to Wrestlemania. More importantly, he inserts himself into the program with Reigns while keeping the limelight on Sami Zayn and the Bloodline storyline, yet he feels so integral to it and his insertion fits like a glove.
Cody Rhodes has the star power; he has the dedication to the craft, and he has the name that people recognise to be the new face of WWE. He’s over as rover, with the best theme in the company, and on his way to finishing the story. He’s the perfect fit for the position as the new face for the next 3-5 years whilst WWE grooms his successor, personally, I’d say it’ll be Gunther.