Cody Rhodes: Why Did AEW Fans Turn Their Backs on Him?

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Hi folks! Today, we are looking at the AEW career of Cody Rhodes, to see if we can figure out why the fans turned their backs on him. I’ve asked this question in different circles, and the answers are broad. There is no absolute cause, but a mix of opinions and unrealized facts may have combined to create this heat. This is my attempt to bring everything together. Perhaps we can pinpoint the moments which encouraged the negativity toward the man who wanted so much to lead the wrestling revolution.

Fan Reaction

I asked our Facebook followers why AEW fans turned on Cody Rhodes. In no particular order, I have summarized the responses we received:

– Cody tried too hard and did too much to get liked. By the end, he was doing over the top things to get fans to like his babyface character, but it backfired because it came across as fake and desperate.

– Brandi Rhodes. Pushing her on TV when there is more deserving talent.


– A few comments listed his neck tattoo as a reason, although they did not elaborate.


– Cody is a mid-carder pretending to be a main event star.

– Both he & Brandi come across as pompous, entitled, and egotistical.

– Cody has boring matches and barely delivers on the hype.


– He’s like the Jeff Jarrett (of TNA) or Triple H of AEW, using his power to get pushed over more deserving talent. Failed to make Brandi Rhodes another Stephanie McMahon.


– Criticizes WWE and its booking, but then agrees to get booked in things no one cares about. Hypes them up as a big deal over more important storylines.

– Getting banned from challenging for the AEW World Championship hurt the TNT Championship, because it was the only thing he could challenge for. This took away from upcoming talent who would have benefited more, reducing the importance of the TNT title.

– Has no charisma or ring presence and feels like the industry owes him something because he is a Rhodes.

It’s important to remember the above opinions are not my own, nor do I say I agree or disagree with them. Next up, we’ll be taking a trip down memory lane. Let’s remember the promising and questionable moments of his AEW career.

Cody Rhodes


Memory Lane

After looking back, I took moments which stood out to me. Cody Rhodes had one of the strangest paths in AEW, and it’s difficult to understand why it went this way, although I have some theories. Let’s begin with the MJF feud.

MJF Makes Him Look Like An Idiot

Maxwell Jacob Friedman began his AEW career as one of Cody Rhodes’ closest friends. His previous history as a heel was highlighted, but they built it up like they had known each other for years. MJF’s turn could be seen from a mile away, but AEW fans watched in anticipation to see how it would be done. They portrayed Cody as a mentor to him, like MJF benefitted from his advice and friendship.

Despite already being given a title shot against Chris Jericho at Full Gear 2019, Cody Rhodes announced that if he were to lose the match, he could no longer challenge for the AEW World Championship. This was a mistake, not just because his character had no logical reason to add the stipulation, but because it limits his future booking.


(Digressing for a moment) You can’t ever be a big deal and expect fans to care if they know you can never progress to becoming the World Champion. They would only ever be able to see you as a mid-card act, so you can’t continue to enter and talk like a main event talent, when you’re booked in a way which limits your potential.

They explained the booking to let fans know Cody would not use his position unfairly to gain success over others. I think fans respected the decision in the beginning, but over time it gave them less reason to care. Meanwhile, Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks turned heel and won championships. Fans didn’t mind this, because they weren’t pandering and delivered most of the time.

Back to MJF, he cost Cody Rhodes the World Championship at Full Gear by throwing in the towel. By doing so, he also ensured that Cody could never challenge for the title again. This began a feud with great potential. However, MJF went to extreme lengths to make it difficult for Cody to exact revenge.


MJF placed obstacle after obstacle in Cody’s way, and he went through the hoops like an idiot chasing money attached to a string, including the receiving of ten lashes. This was one of the first times I questioned AEW’s booking. I tried to remember back to any time that a popular babyface would allow a heel like MJF to manipulate them in this fashion. Cody was so desperate to get a match he became a circus act for MJF’s amusement. If you hate the guy so much, why not just beat him until he agrees to the match? Why are you letting him control the situation?

MJF cared so little about facing him, while Cody was so desperate it killed much of the heat the feud could have had. When Cody finally fulfilled MJF’s demands, the match was scheduled for Revolution. What happened? MJF cheated and beat him. Did Cody Rhodes look to get revenge? No. What does that tell us? It tells us that MJF cost him a chance of ever getting the World Championship, made him jump through hoops, and then cheated him out of revenge.

From this point on, we could only see Cody Rhodes as the guy others go over because he’s so afraid of being painted in a way which suggests he gets preferential treatment. He was being so completely unselfish, but did this bold route lead him in to a dead end? This is just the beginning.

TNT Champion

To be fair, I didn’t mind that Cody Rhodes was the first TNT Champion. Lance Archer would have benefitted, but he needed to win something, otherwise he might as well not be there. However, a case could be made that they only made this title because they wanted to push Cody, but not as the main champion. When Brodie Lee debuted, I enjoyed their feud. It was much better than the one we had with MJF. Putting Brodie over was the right thing to do, but Cody’s return after hiatus was questionable.

Do you remember when Cody returned with black hair? He suggested that his character was going in a darker and more serious direction. They had an exceptional dog collar match and Cody regained the title. Shortly after, Cody reverted to his blond look with no explanation. He was a little annoyed by the reaction, because it was a reference to a Superman storyline. This is what he said:

“Blonds have more fun, and nobody got it when I dyed my hair black, it was a play on Death of Superman,” Rhodes said. “He had the mullet, he had a change, he had a different outfit. Nobody got it.”

From comicbook.com – For context, the Death of Superman storyline took place in DC Comics from 1992-93 across four Superman titles, which saw “The Man of Steel” die in a battle with the new villain Doomsday.

Following his death, Steel, The Man of Tomorrow (Cyborg Superman), Superboy (a clone of Superman) and Last Son of Krypton (Eradicator) all then stepped forward to try and take on the Superman mantle, only for the real Superman to eventually emerge from a regeneration matrix inside the Fortress of Solitude. He arrived wearing a new black suit and sporting a mullet, one he would keep around for a few years following the event.

Now, it’s fine if you’re a comic book enthusiast, but most wrestling fans aren’t. AEW’s lack of storytelling can sometimes be its downfall, and this is another case where we’re expected to know references from outside the show. If we don’t? Then we suck. Take me for example. As a British person, I would never expect people from other countries to understand my slang words, so I don’t use them. If I did, I should expect readers to get confused and not bother to waste time figuring out what I’m saying.

The change back to the usual blond look was disappointing, because many were hoping for a heel turn. It would have suited Cody to go heel because his next rivalry was with Darby Allin. Predictably, the fans sided with Darby, and with a face vs. face dynamic, most fans will start picking a side. Luckily for Cody, he lost the TNT title to Darby, who began one of the best title reigns in its history. Imagine if Darby kept losing to him? The heat would have come much sooner.

Cody Rhodes

Shaq & Go Big Show

Shying away from sports entertainment, you’d think AEW wouldn’t want to bring in old athletes like Shaq or Mike Tyson, right? Wrong. We would have to see Cody Rhodes & much-loved wife Brandi against the team of Shaq (the most likeable character) and the supremely green Jade Cargill. But what’s wrong with this picture? People only cared about Shaq. Unlike Chris Jericho with Mike Tyson, Cody isn’t a character fans care enough about to face Shaq. Big Show might have worked? Because of the size factor, but yeah, having Brandi involved worked against them.

She got pregnant and was replaced by Red Velvet, which was refreshing, but AEW hasn’t capitalized on this at all. She was there as a stand in and AEW had no intention of pushing her. This was all about 1) getting Shaq to work a match for media attention, 2) spotlight for Jade Cargill, and 3) having something for Cody to do. This was a typical WWE style angle which Cody had promised long ago that they wouldn’t do. Shaq impressed me; he did really well… but I can’t remember much else because it didn’t matter. What this told fans is that Cody was more interested in working with outside celebrities to gain AEW exposure than he was developing other talent.

We can see the evidence with his role on the “Go Big Show”, which is absolutely terrible. The acts themselves can be pretty cool (its only saving grace), but everything else is fake and over produced. Judges over react to every little thing, and the attending audience is a sizeable group of plants, or are told what to do. The judging system makes no sense, nor does the competition between acts.

Snoop Dogg as a judge was by far its biggest draw, but I think he remained for one season before moving on? And what does Cody bring? Hardly anything. Seriously, if you took Cody off the show, no one would miss him, because he contributes none of the charisma we know he’s capable of on a microphone. Having seen at least half a dozen of these episodes, Cody was always the least entertaining judge to me. I wasted part of my life watching this because of him, and I regret it.

The Ogogo Disaster

I’m all for pushing new talent, even more so if they are from the UK, but Cody Rhodes vs. Anthony Ogogo? What a nightmare. This was one of the worst things AEW has done, and Cody admitted this in the reality show “Rhodes To The Top” (more on that later). Let’s begin with the QT Marshall turn.

Do you know who fans care less about than Cody? QT Marshall. The guy has done nothing but work backstage and help Cody train wrestlers at The Nightmare Factory. This smelled terribly of preferential treatment, like Cody wanted to get his friend over without caring how the fans feel. Had they built QT Marshall up to this feud? Then it would have its place.

Yeah, so Marshall turned, and fans groaned at the prospect of a feud between him and Cody. No one asked for this and yet here we are. Like I always do, I gave it a chance. Adding Anthony Ogogo had promise, although to be fair, he had done absolutely nothing except win a bronze medal for boxing at the Olympics in 2012. He’s not a big star over here, not unless you’re super enthusiastic about boxing or watching Olympic boxing.

Fans don’t know who Ogogo is, so AEW went with an angle pitting the UK against the USA. Yes, we’re dragging up the old red coats thing from the 1800s. Ogogo bad mouthed America, despite being in a stable full of Americans (in which its leader QT Marshall is one too), and Cody responded by becoming the patriotic hero only his Father Dusty or Hulk Hogan could have been. The issue here is that there’s no tension between the UK or USA, and for British fans like myself, listening to Cody defend USA in this way was extremely funny.

I found it to be completely ridiculous that Cody would assume anyone cared about what Ogogo said. Having Ogogo put the British flag over Cody was also laughable. This is what they had to resort to, to get heat in to this feud? They couldn’t come up with anything else? What about Ogogo insulting wrestling, seeing as he’s a boxer? At least then Cody would stick up for wrestling and not just one country. Even that feels stupid, but at least not as much. And then they got to the weigh-in segment, which was botched so hard I can’t bring myself to laugh.

Cody and AEW admitted they screwed this up on Rhodes to the Top. The scales wouldn’t work, the timing was off, and everything fell flat on its face. This should have been the segment to hype up their encounter for the PPV, but it would have been better if they scrapped it. Cody defeated Ogogo at the PPV in a forgettable match, and that was the end. We saw Ogogo for a tag match on the next Dynamite, and then he disappeared. Ogogo’s wrestling career, if it were to end tomorrow, would only be remembered for this disaster. Cody had a responsibility to make Ogogo in to something better than he was, but he & the creative behind this feud failed spectacularly.

Cody Rhodes

Brandi Rhodes

Remember when Cody Rhodes lost a match so he could never challenge for the AEW World Championship? This was so he wouldn’t get preferential treatment, but he said nothing about his wife. There are many mixed reports about how Brandi is perceived backstage. Some stick up for her on social media, even after she left the company. However, there have been so many reports about her entitlement that it has always hung over her. The thing that most people have an issue with is that Brandi never got over as a wrestler. She began her career as an announcer, which I can safely say is something she is pretty good at. I have nothing against her announcing, or even just being there as a manager for her husband.

Where many fans feel like they crossed the line is having Brandi in a position of leading the women’s division. Not only that, but when she began a stable called the “Nightmare Collective”, it got a ton of backlash because 1) AEW already had a few dark stables, and 2) no one wanted to see Brandi leading it. Now, if a veteran like Awesome Kong was the leader, and Brandi served as a manager? Perhaps it would have worked, but this whole thing was to put a spotlight on Brandi. The fans resisted so hard it had to be scrapped.

Again, Brandi would come to the ring and cut promos on talent like Jade Cargill. Some of them could be good, but they were mostly inconsistent. She was fishing too much for reactions, which made it obvious how hard she was trying. When she was doing things on auto pilot it was acceptable, but she was often thinking too much, and that’s a clear lack of experience. Stephanie McMahon was like this in her early days, but they gave her consistent time to improve, and she benefitted from having some of the best talkers in the business to cover up for her. Brandi never had that, so her promos often stood out as the weakest segments of the shows.

Not only that, but her time on Rhodes to the Top did not paint her in a positive light. I made a post about this show last year, which I’m going to dig out for you. This was after watching a few episodes, as I wanted to give it a chance, but I had enough by this point. I should stress that I don’t hate Brandi. I’m aware she was pregnant at the time of filming, and this is definitely not a racial thing. Here’s what I said back in October:

“If you did something like this with CM Punk and AJ Lee, it would probably work just because they are over and more interesting. Cody Rhodes is passable, but Brandi Rhodes isn’t by a long shot. She has this idea that fans want to see her, but they don’t. The full-timers are better than her. She has little redeemable qualities. The show tries generating drama from nothing, and it gets pretty embarrassing when they highlight their botches (Ogogo weigh-in). Meanwhile, Cody is crying about having so much to juggle, like it’s some kind of curse, but there are millions of people who would kill to be in his shoes. He’s loaded, famous, and has a kid on the way.

Cody has literally everything you can imagine, and while he is overworked, that’s something he put on himself. Nobody forced him to take on so many side projects. It’s hard to feel any kind of sympathy. The only saving grace of the show is in its backstage segments, but even those often feel forced. For example, when Brandi & the roster watches the Cody & Ogogo match, they all know they are being filmed, so they put on an act to sell it as something great. It was an alright match, but one of the weakest of the show, and where is Ogogo now? Nowhere! It was a massive failure. Cody working this match hurt does not make me feel sympathetic.

The company has many other talents who aren’t hurt who would’ve wrestled Ogogo just as well, if not better. Cody’s creative idea of making the British out to be the enemy against his “American Dream” was eye rolling. Luckily, they didn’t mention it on the show. This is likely why Tony Khan dialed back on guys like Cody having a final say in creative. Having Brandi on the bus without a bed is just… why? What’s so bad about this? If she needs sleep, go to the store, pick up a bed, and slot it in the bus. They have enough money to do this. Or better yet, pull over, put her in a hotel, then have someone else pick her up later.

She curses like it’s going out of fashion just because she can’t go to sleep whenever she wants. Yeah, her hormones are all over the place because of the pregnancy, but none of this is entertaining. It just further shows how little thought they have, like the age old joke of making out a car seat is some kind of impossible puzzle. None of it is funny, it’s just… blah. It gets worse for Brandi when she not only highlights her terrible relationship with Cody’s sister, but how others react to her being away from AEW.

Dustin Rhodes tells her he will genuinely miss her, but he is the only one who says this, and Brandi implies he was the only person who went this far. I wonder why??? Better yet, everyone makes a fuss about her with a leaving do, and instead of being grateful, she picks it apart, saying they are treating her like she’s dying. No Brandi, they are just trying to show you they actually give a crap. Clearly, she has never been around people who promote a positive atmosphere in the workplace, even if it may seem slightly over the top from where you’re sitting.

I hate reality TV, but I gave this a go because I appreciate Cody’s career. I know many don’t care for him and say he’s overrated, but he’s pretty good at getting people to care about what he’s doing. On this show, however, he doesn’t do that for me. Nothing he does makes me feel like I need to keep watching. They’re just living life like anyone else, and it’s boring. Most people’s lives are like this. You wouldn’t put my life on TV… they would cancel it after one episode, and that goes for most people.

Who thought this would be a good idea? Can’t imagine it getting past one season, but there have been worse things on TV that won’t die. I’m hoping this isn’t one of them. I’d rather be left in the dark until he retires. Then they’ll have all the time in the world to talk about their lives to anyone who will listen. I commend them for being brave enough to put their lives out there in the public eye, but it’s a no from me.”

What is puzzling about this is that Brandi had a cooking show called “A Shot Of Brandi” which was reasonably entertaining. Most fans who review this say that Brandi is a delight, so the person we see on that show differs from what we see elsewhere. Brandi is mostly a good person, but if somebody told me they believe she is deserving of air time to cut a promo with Dan Lambert? I’d say no. Speaking of which, those promos with Dan Lambert were absolutely shocking. You know it’s bad when Lambert is getting cheered over you, even after admitting he’s sexist.

What was the point of that? If you want to make Brandi a heel, put her in the ring with another face. It was painfully obvious that AEW had Lambert out there because he gets significant heat, and they hoped fans would side with Brandi over him. It backfired so badly that I can’t describe how stupid that segment was. As many have said, the only reason Brandi is where she is, is because she’s married to Cody. There’s no evidence to suggest she deserved anything AEW handed her, even when given the opportunity to prove her worth.

Blaze of Glory

Much like Dan Lambert going out in a blaze of cancel culture, Cody Rhodes left AEW following his own blaze of glory. Despite being a heel, Malakai Black was cheered for destroying Cody, not once, but twice. Of course, Cody had to get his win in before they moved on from each other. And then Cody got in to it with Andrade El Idolo in an Atlanta Street Fight. Fast forward to the 2:50 mark for what Cody says is “maybe the dumbest thing I’ve ever done”.

To be fair, using a flaming table is always a risk, but this was outright foolish. Why would you purposely put yourself through a table? He could have done a power bomb or just throw Andrade in to it. There was no need to go through it as well. And what made it worse was that Cody took most of it, and then pinned Andrade while his chest was on fire. It was a brutal match, but the lack of thought behind the finish undid much of their hard work.

Again, Cody got back in to the TNT title picture and took it from Sammy Guevara, who had been a fan favorite for some time. This led to a ladder match with one of the best cutters I have ever seen, and he lost it back to Guevara, mostly because his contract was up (although he apparently signed a 5 year deal back in 2019) and they had to negotiate. There’s no telling what would have happened if Cody was scheduled to remain with the company, but at this point he was just going around in circles because they had booked him in to a dead end. What else could he have done?

Conclusion

Cody Rhodes always made a better heel. That’s what AEW fans were trying to tell him and Tony Khan, through the many months of resisting his babyface character. The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega had already gone through this process, and the fans appreciated that. The problem with being a babyface is that you need appeal, and Cody has little outside of his better promos. Brandi is even less appealing, so having someone stood next to you with “go away heat”, as many like to call it, was never garnering fan support. Booking him against other faces encouraged fans to oppose him while cheering on the younger, fresher talent.

Then there’s the World Championship stipulation, which is a little patronizing, because it tells the fans that Cody is purposely staying down because he doesn’t want them to think he’s getting preferential treatment. All the while, pulling the strings for his wife Brandi and friends like QT Marshall and their students. This is hypocritical, because someone who can never get to the main event shouldn’t be the guy getting in to feuds with Shaq, appearing on game shows, getting their own reality TV shows, or having Hollywood aspirations. As a hero to the people, you should be so popular that they demand the stipulation be abolished, but that was never happening, because Cody isn’t that loved.

It all sounds harsh, and it’s not my intention to be hypercritical. I’m just throwing out the reasons AEW fans may have turned against him. Cody put his body on the line so many times for our entertainment that I wouldn’t be surprised if the fans’ backlash frustrated him. However, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, go with the flow, and hope to come out the other side in a better place. Had Cody transformed, I’m positive that the fans would have got onboard and he’d likely still be with AEW.

Brandi is another story, though. I think her poor reputation is such that she could only regularly be on TV if Cody is a heel and they play off the fact she has so much heat. While Cody remained a face, Brandi was always going to struggle on her own. She needed her husband’s support to cover for her weaknesses. I also think Dustin Rhodes could have done more to help get them over, but I know he’s not getting any younger and AEW’s roster is too large to have him regularly appearing on the show. He’s the only one who could have bridged the gap, and I don’t think Arn Anderson was enough. Either way, Cody and Brandi are gone, and who knows? It could be one big work (it’s not), but at least they helped AEW in its early days.

Cody helped to kick start a revolution, and while some may not appreciate that, I completely respect everything he has done for the industry. No, he’ll never be as popular as his Father, or Goldust in his prime, but if he were to retire tomorrow, Cody has his own legacy. One of helping to begin a promotion that so many were writing off before it began. We’re here years later and AEW still exists. Cody is gone, but his impact on the business remains, whether or not we like him. I’ll leave you to come to your own conclusions to why AEW fans turned on Cody Rhodes. Was it the tattoo? Is it all Brandi’s fault? Or is it a mix of many things? Please let me know in the comments and thank you for reading! See you again.

Also Read: 25 Longest Reigning ROH Champions In History

Cody Rhodes

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