I only caught the last half hour of Raw, and I’m glad I did. I avoided a lot of filler and video packages, and caught an incredible tag team title match. More than a month of buildup paid off, with a solid main event and a tag title change. It was awesome.
Monday’s main event wasn’t the end. It was the first brick in Cody’s road to the main event. It’s been a truly organic rise in the eyes of the fans, and it’s not done yet. And what happens next will be the difference between Cody Rhodes headlining pay-per-views, and Cody Rhodes putting over the next indy darling to be promoted from NXT.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
Not too long ago, Cody was in a stable led by “The Face of WWE” Randy Orton. Remember that? It was Orton’s “Legacy.” Cody and his midcard tag team partner Ted Dibiase Jr. played second fiddle to Orton. For months on end, Cody and Ted took Orton’s bumps and beatings. Then Orton started pushing his boys around. And suddenly…the crowd got behind one of the scrubs. The crowd started cheering Ted Dibiase. The crowd started BEGGING for Ted Dibiase to take a stand against Orton…to break away and become a star.
But…WWE had other thoughts. Ted kept playing lackey. When Legacy ran his course, he played vanilla midcard heel, running around with Maryse and the Million Dollar Belt. By the time WWE decided the “Dibiase Posse” had potential, fans had already given up on him. Now he’s been wished well in his future endeavors, and left the industry. Some legacy.
He was stealing the show, and your girlfriend. Dolph Ziggler carried the Money in the Bank briefcase months longer than he should have, not really doing much. He was a heel, losing most of his matches, bumping like an all-star and making main event babyfaces look like a million bucks.
While Ziggler waiting and working his ass off, the human heat vacuum slash All American Jack Swagger challenged a horribly miscast babyface World Champion Alberto Del Rio, in a series of filler title matches. This heatless feud got one man over: Dolph Ziggler.
The fans demanded Ziggler’s turn, push and title reign. They got what they wanted in New Jersey, and exploded.
New World Heavyweight Champion, Dolph Ziggler. What should have happened next was a reign of competitive matches, big wins, and meaningful feuds that elevated Ziggler to a true, lasting main-eventer.
What happened instead was Ziggler lost the title right back to Del Rio. Instead of focusing on a rematch, he focused on some BS midcard feud with his ex-girlfriend and ex-bodyguard. When that feud was settled, he refocused his sights on the title…the US title. Oh, and he lost almost every match, every week. Not only was he booked like a loser, he was booked like an incompetent loser. It’s made the difference in DZ being treated like a bonafide star six months ago, and being treated like the second coming of Kofi Kingston today.
And now…the organic-takeoff-gone-wrong that bothers me the most. Daniel Bryan.
WWE has never worked so hard to sabotage someone that fans, for years, clearly wanted to love.
When D-Bry came up through the first season of NXT, WWE fans knew they had something special. Anyone with 5 minutes and a Google search knew “The American Dragon” is no rookie, but an experienced indy “star” trained by Shawn Michaels and William Regal. For a new face, he came equipped with an impressive resume…but WWE didn’t want you to care. They paired him up with The Miz, who fans loathed, to show you that this perceived hack is better than your indy darling.
A firing, re-hiring and micard title run later… Daniel Bryan found himself with a Money in the Bank briefcase. World Heavyweight Championship. Wrestlemania main eve…oh wait, this is Daniel Bryan and the World Heavyweight title we’re talking about: Sheamus squashed the vanilla midget in 20 seconds. I was in Miami that night. 80 thousand fans were NOT pleased.
So WWE did to D-Bry what it did to all stars who take off organically when WWE wasn’t “ready” for them – it puts D-Bry back in the midcard. Ridiculous feud with Kane that turns into a tag team, that inexplicably becomes super over. Despite being booked and written like a whiny loser, fans still get behind, and stay behind, the man who constantly calls himself the “Weak link.” It gets to the point that WWE can’t ignore how over he really is, and has him GO OVER JOHN CENA, CLEAN, IN THE SUMMERSLAM MAIN EVENT.
Of course, the rug was pulled out from under his feet moments later, but WWE knew he was over. And for the last two months, they’ve done everything they can to change that. He’s been booked to lose. He’s lost promo wars, and ended one-Raw-too-many by counting the lights, after a Shield beatdown and an RKO. Now the focus has been shifted from the beloved underdog who got screwed out of the World Heavyweight Title – to the crying giant.
Pay no attention to the vanilla midget. If we have our way, John Cena will be back soon, and Daniel Bryan will be wrestling Curt Hawkins on Main Event. Right? YES! YES! YES! Spoiler alert – Cena wins.
But I digress. This is about Cody Rhodes.
WWE made Cody a sympathetic babyface when he couldn’t beat Orton, and lost his job. They made his big brother, Goldust, a sympathetic face when he tried to win Cody’s job back. They both got super over by beating the Shield for their jobs, and got even MORE over by winning the tag titles. The Rhodes brothers are red hot. For Goldy, this is one last run. For Cody, this is just the beginning.
In a perfect world, Cody and Goldy hold the tag titles for a couple of months, until Goldy turns on Cody. When it happens, it will probably be because it’s best for business. Cody goes over, on pay-per-view.
What next? The World Heavyweight Championship, or the WWE Championship. A title reign that lasts months, with competitive feuds and matches. A reign that solidified Cody as a true, permanent main eventer… and not just another midcard guy who got hot for a little while.
Pardon the pun, but Cody’s career is at a crossroads. A wrong turn could be a career killer. He’ll never be Cena, but he doesn’t have to turn into Ted Dibiase, Dolph Ziggler, or Daniel Bryan. He could become another CM Punk – another guy who fans respect, heel or face, and accept in the main event.
And that is DEFINITELY what’s best for business.
Agree? Disagree? Continue the conversation @AndyMillerJMS.