BANKIE'S HOT TAKE #24 - Cody and the Ring of Honor
I know we are mere hours away from the main event of WrestleMania 39, but I am thinking a lot about “the American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes from a creative perspective.
I’ve been hot and cold on “The American Nightmare” over the years. I wasn’t a big fan of his Legacy days, but I loved the “Dashing” and “Undashing” story arc. I didn’t like Team Rhodes Scholars, but I thoroughly enjoyed his tag team with Goldust. His initial beginnings of Stardust wasn’t great, but once he morphed into a comic book supervillain, it, to me, really took off.
Even outside WWE, it was the same thing.
I absolutely disliked his run with All Elite Wrestling. His dedication to the upstart promotion was second to none, but his character arc, to me, was rough. There was a lot of times where I felt that the “Codyverse” was truly in its own world. His rivalries with Shawn Spears and Brodie Lee, in my opinion, left me thinking the wrong man won those feuds. I just didn’t enjoy him as a character in AEW.
However, on a completely opposite perspective, I loved every second of his Ring of Honor run. EVERY SECOND. And that is where this article begins to take shape.
After leaving WWE on May 22, 2016, Cody began building hype for his run on the independent circuit. Days later on Twitter, he posted a list of his dream matches and moments. By the end of July, it was announced that Cody would be making his Ring of Honor debut on December 2, 2016 at Final Battle inside the Hammerstein Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan.
With five months until his ROH debut, Cody wrestled everywhere he could to prepare. He wrestled his first post-WWE match for EVOLVE in Joppa, MD against Zack Sabre, Jr on August 19. He performed at What Culture Pro Wrestling, IMPACT Wrestling, Northeast Wrestling, and countless other companies. He even wrestled in the Battle Of Los Angeles tournament for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla on September 3 and 4. The buzz behind Cody began to grow.
By the time Final Battle 2016 came rolling around, the next stage of Cody’s career began.
Cody would wrestle former ROH World champion Jay Lethal. After a great back-and-forth battle, Lethal was looking for the kill - his Lethal Injection. Cody, to block the impending finish, shoved Jay into ROH Senior Official Todd Sinclair. Then, as Jay was bent over, Cody kicked him in the chest, this time forcing Lethal and Sinclair to bump heads. Once Lethal stood up straight, Cody kicked Lethal LOW! A Cross Rhodes later, and Cody won his ROH debut. After abusing Lethal, Sinclair, the ROH ringside staff, and commentator Steve Corino after the match, it was official. Cody was a full-fledged heel.
It was only the beginning.
By the end of December, Cody had made his way to New Japan Pro Wrestling and subsequently joined the hottest group in the industry - the Bullet Club. Working alongside the Young Bucks, “Hangman” Adam Page, and leader Kenny Omega put some legitimate hype and respect on Cody’s name.
Throughout the next 6 months, Cody made monstrous waves in wrestling. His co-starring role in the “BEING THE ELITE” web series caught fire and helped establish the Elite with their offbeat humor and shenanigans. In May 2017, Cody, on Twitter, accepted a challenge from Wrestling Observer founder Dave Meltzer on trying to prove that an independent wrestling show would draw 10,000 fans. On June 23, Cody won the Ring of Honor World championship from “the Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels at “Best in the World” 2017.
Betting on himself truly looked to be paying off. Cody was on top of the world.
So when you are at the peak of your powers and a creative individual, what do you do? You take chances.
On the weekend of September 4, 2017, on ROH TV, Cody went into the ring and uttered a great soliloquy on the microphone.
“What happens when the undesirable becomes the undeniable? THIS HAPPENS! *holds up ROH World championship* But I got to be honest. This just isn’t me. And as much as I love this title, I think…I think it’s time for a change.”
Cody then threw down the ROH World championship and signaled a man to come down the ramp and into the ring. The gentleman, holding a box in hand, stood there as Cody finished off his speech to his hometown Georgia crowd, on his knees.
“Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you, the OFFICIAL Ring of Honor!”
The gentleman, who turned out to be a jeweler, opened the box to showcase a shiny ring. Looking more like a Super Bowl championship ring, the jewelry was extravagant; encrusted with diamonds and an ROH emblem in the middle, similar to its initial championship belt in the 2000s. It was beautiful, symbolized with a “kissing of the ring” involving the jeweler himself.
For the short term, Cody would use that as the championship belt. In character, it was PERFECT.
Behind the scenes, it was a lifesaver.
Around this time period in September 2016, ROH was in the beginning stages of a lawsuit regarding the licensing of the current World championship.
Parks, Millican & Mann LLC, a championship belt making company made up of Reg Parks, Dave Millican, and Rico Mann, filed suit in Virginia over licensing and copyright issues regarding the sale of ROH replica championships against Figures Toy Company.
According to the suit, it was “for removing their copyright on the ROH belt replicas and replacing it with a copyright for Ring of Honor Wrestling in September 2016. The lawsuit stated there were two sides in the negotiations but they never finalized the agreement and Figures Toy Company went ahead with production of replicas, belts for action figures and rings without their consent. PM&M created and had copyright for the designs and didn’t sell them to anyone else beyond giving the designs to ROH. ROH reportedly came to PM&M about Figures producing replicas, which started negotiations and then PM&M provided samples with their copyright. An agreement was not signed, and the versions that were made didn’t have the copyright.”
ROH was added to the lawsuit, which was to be expected, and the company ran into an issue. In the process of issuing all new championships for the promotion, ROH needed to buy some time and create some positive creative in the short term - hence, the RING of Honor.
The Ring of Honor became a staple of “the American Nightmare” for the remainder of his time in ROH. Although Cody lost the ROH World championship on December 15, 2017 at Final Battle, the Ring remained on that right ring finger as a status symbol of excellence.
Cody got into a program with the Kingdom’s Matt Taven in early 2018. In the buildup to the Sixteenth Anniversary Show on March 9, the Kingdom laid out Cody on TV, ending with Taven delivering a Climax. Then, noticing the Ring of Cody’s finger, he took it off and forced an unconscious Cody to “kiss the ring” and subsequently stole it.
Cody wound up winning at the Sixteenth Anniversary and forcefully took his ring back.
However, at ALL IN on September 1, 2018, all bets were off.
Cody and Nick Aldis made a pitch to one another regarding an opportunity at a Winner Takes All match for the event. Aldis, the reigning NWA Worlds Heavyweight champion, agreed, but only if Cody won the ROH World championship at Best in the World 2018. Cody did not, as Castle retained in a three-way match against him and Marty Scrull.
Aldis did not want to take the match on, unless Cody had something to offer. Cody bet on himself, and handed over the Ring of Honor as collateral. At one point, both men were talking back-and-forth, and the Worlds Heavyweight champion almost demanded Cody “kiss the ring” to seal the deal. Thankfully, the Young Bucks and Scrull separated both men, and the match was made for ALL IN, where, in front of 11,263 independent wrestling fans (Cody won the bet), “the American Nightmare” pinned “the National Treasure” to win the NWA championship.
By the end of 2018, Cody had left ROH and joined up with Tony Khan, the Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega as Executive Vice Presidents and formed All Elite Wrestling. The Ring was gone, never to be seen again.
Like I said before, Cody Rhodes is hit-or-miss on a plethora of creative endeavors he takes on in professional wrestling to me. His Ring of Honor run was fantastic, accentuated by the Ring of Honor. It was so on the nose, yet immensely creative. It showcased what Cody would become in wrestling over the next five years, culminating with tonight’s main event against Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal championship at WrestleMania 39.
Maybe, at the end of the night, he makes Roman “kiss the ring”?
Most likely not, but it would be cool if he did.