Though he may not have championship gold around his waist and, unless something very unusual happens at Night of Champions, he all but certainly won't be heading into RAW on Monday night with a strap over his shoulder, Cody Rhodes has been booked like a champion, or at least like a very big deal, since he returned to WWE on Night 1 of WrestleMania 38 as Seth Rollins' surprise opponent in Dallas.
From his outfits to his bookings, his near-weekly promo times, and his bombastic entrances to the ring, Rhodes looks like a true Superstar in a promotion that throws the moniker around a bit too loosely and has captured the hearts and imaginations of the entire WWE Universe as a result.
But did you know a signature part of Rhodes' presentation, and as a result, maybe “The American Nightmare,” period, almost didn't make it in the transition from AEW to WWE? It's true, as, according to Zack Call of Downstait in an interview with Chris Van Vliet, WWE tried to play hardball in licensing negotiations and almost lost out on the Superstar as a result.
“I don’t want to give away too much (about how Cody Rhodes was able to use Kingdom in WWE). But we were aware that Kingdom was coming and we were in a little bit of a legal battle and Cody Rhodes is absolutely the f*cking man. We were on the phone with lawyers and agents and WWE’s lawyers and composers before, and we have been with them since 2009. And we all have regular jobs. And we just wanted our cut of the pie on this one. We know what happens when you — we’re not Joan Jett, we’re not Living Colour, but when you use a real song, they get paid, those artists get paid. It’s not a part of WWE’s work. And this is a song that we wrote,” Call said via TJR Wrestling.
“It was pretty close to it (Rhodes having another theme for his return). And then Cody, we held our silence for a little bit and I’d said my peace and I’m — my heart is in my throat and not ready to give up the song. You know, I’ve worked so hard on the song, we worked so hard on the song. And Cody just basically breaks the silence and he goes, ‘Well, you don’t get me without Kingdom’ on this conference call. All right! And he swore up and down right when he started using it that, ‘If I go back to WWE, I am taking Kingdom with me.’ And I mean, he’s been nothing but truthful with us the whole time. But you never know… when it comes down to the moment, you never know what’s going to happen. And about two weeks before we have this big make-or-break moment, it might have been two seconds of silence. It might not have been the 10 that’s in my brain right now. It might have been two hours.”
Would Rhodes have really turned down an opportunity in WWE over the usage of “Kingdom,” either to take his talents back to AEW, go on another hype-building road tour, or bypass wrestling entirely to instead focus on acting opportunities? Or would he have returned with a new song entirely, or maybe a new version of “Smoke and Mirror?” It's impossible to know, but considering how well-received Rhodes' decision to bring his entire AEW character basically unchanged over to WWE was in the eyes of most fans, it's safe to say going all-in on “Kingdom” was the right call, as his openings wouldn't be the same without it.
Bully Ray believes Cody Rhodes is now bigger than AEW.
Discussing all of the excitement Cody Rhodes brings to professional wrestling at this stage of the game on Busted Open Radio, Bully Ray decided to make a bold claim about “The American Nightmare's” popularity versus his AEW character and in relation to AEW as a whole.
“Make no mistake, Dave, the day Cody made his entrance and his return at WrestleMania, Cody became a much bigger star than he ever was in AEW,” Ray said via E Wrestling News. “He became bigger than AEW, he became bigger than any talents in AEW because it’s a different stage.”
Is Ray right? Has Rhodes not only eclipsed his popularity versus AEW but actually become more popular than his former promotion, period? While one could argue that question either way, the question was borderline unimaginable a few years back when Rhodes was a mid-carder who was actually left off of WrestleMania 29 due to time constraints.
Wrestlemania 29 canceled match up to being undeniable at Wrestlemania 38! pic.twitter.com/W0mjrDOg9C
— BigDWWE (@BigDwwe1984) April 3, 2022