Folks, it’s official: Cody Rhodes is the winner of the 2023 Royal Rumble and has secured himself a main event spot at WrestleMania 39. After beginning the 2022 calendar year as an EVP for AEW, Rhodes made his triumphant return at WrestleMania 38, tore his pec in the lead-up to Hell in a Cell, and ultimately went on the shelf for the remainder of the year to watch on as none other than Sami Zayn took his spot as the most over performer in the WWE Universe.
Still, it’s hard to argue with giving Rhodes the rub heading into the Rumble – Corey Graves did say you can’t bet against Rhodes on After The Bell, after all – and giving him a shot at the belt his father was never able to secure and based on his post-show comments, it’s clear he isn’t taking the opportunity afforded to him by Paul “Triple H” Levesque for granted.
“I was very fortunate that, when I came back, I had enough experience that I didn’t always need structure and direction. You guys have seen me without a leash before. I get a little wild. It was great to have that structure, but I’ve had an unbelievable experience, an unbelievable education in wrestling. I’m not meant to do anything else,” Rhodes said via Fightful. “This is what I do. It was easy then when I came back, and Vince was in charge of that. It’s easy now because, the way I look at it, and I don’t mean this as braggadocious or arrogance, this is something I talked about with one of my kids at the school; if I’m the best, then it doesn’t matter who is showing me where to go and telling me what’s next. If I’m the best, my transaction is simple. These fans pay their money, I make them feel something, and I can do that better than anybody. If I can, then it can be this person or that person. I will say I don’t want to get mushy with it, but Triple H has no reason to be a fan of mine if you really think about it.”
Hmm… what could Rhodes be talking about there? Maybe his decision to smash the throne with a sledgehammer early in his AEW career? Or his near-incessant desire to pit AEW as an us vs. them against WWE? Yeah, it’s probably a little bit of both.
“I smashed the throne, I took a lot of shots, always light-hearted, but I think he knew where I was coming from,” Rhodes said. “I was hungry. He’s the one guy, I don’t think he remembers this, but I’ll never forget it. I talked to him in Gorilla when I was really frustrated doing Stardust. I went to walk out, and he said, ‘rattle the cages.’ That could have meant a lot of things. ‘Go talk to the writers.’ I took it literally and went out and rattled (the cages) as much as possible. I’m so glad that relationship gets to develop now. Clearly, you guys see how I model my presentation and performance. I’m clearly a massive Triple H fan. I’m glad he’s the coach, and I get to play. I want to play quarterback. I owe him a lot for how he handled my dad. I don’t want him to look at me and see my dad. I want him to look at me and see me.
“Today, I felt like he saw me. That’s very important. My last name has done a lot of things for me, but we’re at a point in my career where my first name has to do those things as well. It’s off to a great start. Let’s see where we go from here.”
Can Rhodes be Levesque’s handpicked quarterback of his first true era atop WWE creative, with the last remnants of Vince McMahon’s final storyline, Roman Reigns as Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, officially over? Only time will tell, but based on his comments after the Royal Rumble, Levesque appears to hold no ill will toward the ex-AEW EVP.
Triple H appears consistent with Cody Rhodes running his WWE offense too.
While Rhodes is clearly happy to be working with and for Levesque, what with being pushed as a top guy for the first time in his WWE career, how does the 14-time champ feel to be working with Rhodes after his run in AEW? Fortunately, Triple H was asked that question on in his own media session post-WrestleMania and delivered a very interesting response.
“I will congratulate Cody on going through what he did for all of us, for this industry, for himself. I know what that’s like, I’ve been in that spot. Unfortunately, a few different times, and I can admire what goes into it. For him to be able to turn that around and come back tonight and do what he did is amazing in and of itself,” said Levesque via Fightful. “Congratulations to him, punching his ticket, like he said, something that no one else in his family has been able to do, but punching that ticket to the main event of WrestleMania, having that moment to be out there, stand in front of that incredible crowd and do what everybody dreams of. I believe that the people that make fun of it are the people that believe they’ll never get the chance to do it, and that is point to that sign that says you’re going to WrestleMania in the main event.”
Though Rhodes will forever be linked to his father, and he wears his tribute to Dusty Rhodes in his bleached blonde hair, his tanned up skin, and “The American Dream” tattoo on his right pec, Levesque believes that the “Grandson of a Plummer” has done a pretty amazing job of setting himself up as his own man, distilling the best parts of his father into a supercharged package.
“That’s an amazing accomplishment after such an incredible setback,” Levesque said. “I can’t help, but when I look at him, I do see his dad. I look in his eyes, and I see his dad’s eyes. I see Dusty, but I see all the best things of Dusty, and then I see something more in Cody. It’s not about comparing him, I just see the greatness of his dad amplified, and that’s something special. He’s a special talent, a special human being, and I’m very proud of him for that.”