Historically Significant Disasters of Wrestling #97 Cody Rhodes vs Anthony Ogogo


HSDoW is All Elite...

Hello again folks!!!!

Fun fact- this is my first AEW HSDoW. And while this is partly because they didn't exist when I started the series almost eight years ago (my how the time flies...), it's also because that for a young company they are remarkably self-assured. Not to say that they haven't misstepped on occasion, but while WWE booking is rife with backtracking and retcons, All Elite Wrestling is determined to keep its lore intact.

However, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing...


The AEW singles division in their first year revolved around four people (three after Omega went with Hangman to be Tag Team Champions). You had Jericho being the hedonistic heel that was at once goofy with his Bubbly and yet menacing; Moxley as the oncoming storm that was leaving destruction in his wake; and Cody as the white knight who both in kayfabe and in real life was the public face of the new revolution.

Although AEW was in many ways Cody's baby, by 2022 the product and the vision of what AEW was had outgrown Cody. Whilst he was once the guy who was helping to showcase Eddie Kingston to the AEW audience, he soon became more and more hermetic in the AEW landscape- to the point that on March 31st QT Marshall, Nick Comoroto and a debuting Anthony Ogogo split from the Nightmare Family to form the Factory...And nobody in their wildest dreams thought it would have any implications for the larger AEW landscape.

Compared to a group like the Inner Circle, the Nightmare Family's record to elevate their new stars was...iffy to say the least. What was worse though, was that apart from Dustin, the faction was so entangled in Cody's business that they were not really defined themselves.

But what made this worse was the fact that rather than make Ogogo feel special, they swept him up in the flotsam and jetsam of a bigger (apparently) storyline. And this was reflected in the way that AEW presented him.

Look, I know that everybody is probably waiting for the part when I tear Cody a new one for that promo but I would like to take a moment to examine how this feud took a guy who was a former professional boxer (including Olympic medallist) and somehow decide not to present him as different. Instead, they mysteriously gave him trunks, boots and no combat gloves- just like 70% of the guys on the roster! And what was worse still was that they had him have matches before Double or Nothing!!!

And I see that for.a sports based promotion like AEW, where so much of the story is told in the ring (either through promos or through matches), this may have seemed like an easy slam dunk. But this was not a guy who had cred in other promotions (see Black, Malakai) or a guy who the promotion was slowly going to build over the course of a couple of years (see Boy, Jungle), this was a guy that was pretty unknown that Cody was planning to do battle with in eight weeks! What you needed was to take a leaf out of another promotion:

WWE NXT results and reactions from January 1: Pitching a shut out - Cageside  Seats

One of the great things about NXT- particularly in the early days- is that they would find the strengths and weaknesses of their new workers and find the best way to present them to the NXT crowd. Bray Wyatt is one of the best examples of this, where in promos like this (admittedly, this is actually from FCW), we got to know what drives him, why we should care and, perhaps most importantly, what is it that differentiates him from every other guy on the roster.

AEW, on the other hand, had a potentially unique commodity and, instead of attempting to show what was different about it and create a little bit of mystique about the guy, got too insecure and essentially booked him matches so that Tony could essentially say to fans "Look! He can do a wrestle!!"

And by doing this, they kinda booked themselves into a corner because they wanted the crowd to cheer Cody but they had no idea how to really go about it. So instead they want to go back to the oldest, tired trope to get Cody over as the babyface.

And sometimes, the idea of patriotic face can still make sense. But to do that, you need a guy to kick against. The reason that the whole Yokozuna vs Lex Luger on the Intrepid storyline worked was because Yoko was already established as the guy that the patriotic American could slam. You cannot have a patriotic face go up against someone whose identity is still a big unknown because their identity hasn't been organically grown in the fans' minds.

And this is not even getting into the fact that they didn't read the room.

Look, I get the idea that AEW wanted to wave the flag and Cody is the son of the American Dream, etc., etc. But the fact of the matter is that in 2021, America was still reeling off a year of racial and political traumas and the idea of a white man mansplaining race and patriotism to someone of colour came off as not only insensitive but frankly, idiotic.

There is no doubt that Cody excels when his promos are built from a base of personal sincerity and belief. It is probably one of the reasons he (and Cena, for that matter) are reticent to turn heel, when he obviously loves the business and the fanbase so much. However, like Cena, this also can lead to blind spots where a personal story can often seem at best insensitive and at worst, condescending and dismissive. It is why I would have loved to see Cody Rhodes go up against Bray Wyatt- because, as we saw from the Funhouse Match, if there was anyone who could pick apart these issues and make them into fantastic stories, it would be ol' Father Firefly himself.

The infamous promo on Wednesday May 12th begins with Cody putting forth the point that Ogogo is only in the US due to a work visa which was granted to him by (drumroll please) the United States Government!!!! Which not quite "if you don't like it than go back where you came from", but isn't a long way off. He then claims (in 2021, no less) that Americans' "empathy outweighs our anger", which is an interesting comment, given that for the rest of the promo Cody does not empathise with Ogogo's point of view, but instead (rather defensively) tries to show what ol' Anthony doesn't know what he's talking about. These included:

  • Talking about the triumph of Bruno Sammartino
  • Talking about how a Willie Nelson song resonated with him
  • Relating the fact that his wife will give birth to a daughter born of a white father and a African American mother in a city that 60 years before wouldn't even allow these races to go to the same school.
  • Saying that at Double or Nothing he would take up the mantle of the American Dream to fight back against Ogogo.

And again, nobody can doubt Rhodes' sincerity, with tears welling in his eyes during the last two points. But there is so much that is wrong with this.

For all those who don't know, I have a PhD in History and Popular Culture. I am not saying this now to blow my trumpet but to show that too often, like Rhodes, we view history as singular and linear- the one tale where things get better with the advancement of time. History is anything but. History is messy, with narratives being lost or trampled over as people reconstruct the history that is most useful to them. So when Cody plots two dots on the timeline between segregated Atlanta and the birth of his daughter, the listener is automatically conditioned to see the progress and triumph of America. In other words, Cody wants us to focus on the wound that has been healed, but doesn't reflect on the trauma and scars that segregation continues to leave behind- scars that Ogogo seems more willing to examine in this feud where he points out the disparities in health care.

And the fact of the matter was that in 2021, despite what Rhodes may have thought, the AEW crowd was not prepared to swallow the cliche of "America's great". And it's not as if Rhodes didn't have a friggin' hint!! The biggest babyface at the time was a guy who had bottomed out with his own demons of doubt but was eventually climbing the ladder again because he was willing to reflect on his own actions. AEW audiences were willing (and still are) to look for the characters that they see growth in, and Cody Rhodes seemed more interesting in addressing an America from a sepia tone, than the one that was listening now.

And then came the weigh in...

I'm not a fan of MMA or boxing but I can see the point of a weigh in for those sports. Because these are events where these boxers don't get to see each other 5 weeks before hand but often are training in their own camps. So essentially, you are giving the press the chance to see them come face to face with a ostensibly sporting device to watch the athletes cut promos/stare down each other/actually brawl. In other words the weigh in is a way to bring a bit of pro wrestling into the world of legit combat sports.

So you can see why they would do it in AEW to bring a bit of pro wrestling into the world of pro...oh wait.

Of all the f*%king ways to go home, you do one where the central point- the weigh-in- has NO BEARING ON THE MATCH ON THE PPV!!! To the point where QT Marshall has to actually say to the crowd that Ogogo's one pound advantage is a massive deal. Which, considering that the world title match has a weight differentiation of 20+ kg between one of the challengers (Orange Cassidy) and the champ may not be the best comparison to make...And this is not even taking into account poor Paul Wight having to operate the weigh scales. The poor guy looked like an octogenarian trying to operate an ATM for the first time. Furthermore, you took a feud that was once personal, and by using a weigh in, had every man and their dog in the ring for the go-home. Rather than boiling it back down to the fact that at Double or Nothing it would all come down to Rhodes and Ogogo, they seemed it would be better to have more members in the ring than some musical curtain calls.

And at Double or Nothing, the two had a perfectly serviceable match, where Cody cosplayed as Homelander (accidentally) and got the win in a 10 min match with a non-finisher. And this would have been fine in a WWE PPV between two veterans who were pitted against each other to fill the second or third spot on the card. But here? It felt like Cody got the massive entrance, got the big win against the odds and then moved on, which made Ogogo feel more like an obstacle given the context of the feud rather than a hot new star. AEW raised the stakes to the point where it was not 'hot new talent with a point to prove against veteran'- it became 'UK vs 'Merica'- a situation that turned the audience against Rhodes, and restricted what the company could do booking wise with Ogogo. And while this is no doubt the start of the decline of Cody's stock with the crowd in AEW, we shouldn't overlook the potential AEW had with Ogogo.

Look, I know that people have pointed out that this was a bust before, but I think it is important to think of what an opportunity AEW had. People coming from sports over into the weird and wonderful world of wrestling is nothing new. However, all of these people came to wrestling as a cash ticket after achieving big things in their original field (see Rousey, Ronda and Lesnar, Brock). And there is nothing wrong with this, but it does mean you are essentially using the cache of another sport to fuel yours. Ogogo, on the other hand, was a guy who was cut off from his boxing career in his prime and had to retire. Imagine what a great spokesman he would be for AEW- and wrestling in general- if the audience could follow him fall in love with professional wrestling. For a sport that has been dogged by scandals, wouldn't it be great if it could have a story where it gave an athlete a second chance? Where the audience was able to see an embittered athlete who looked down on wrestling at first only to slowly realises its intricacies and heritage?

But perhaps your ol' pal Vectron wants a go at it.

But that's Part 2...

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#4 The Scott Steiner vs HHH Feud
#5 Ryback vs Mark Henry @ WrestleMania XXIX
#6 Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon @ WrestleMania XXVI
#7 The Jerry Lawler/Michael Cole Feud
#8 The Curtain Call
#9 Bash at the Beach 2000
#10 Royal Rumble 2014
#11 Warrior/Hogan II @ Halloween Havoc
#12 The Cena/Laurinatis Feud
#13 The Firing of Ric Flair From WCW
#14 The Brogue Kick of Doom
#15 Lesnar vs Goldberg @ WrestleMania XX
#16 Immortal Revealed @ Bound for Glory 2010
#17 Sting vs Hogan @ Starrcade 1997
#18 Triple H vs Booker T @ WrestleMania 19
#19 The Corre
#20 The Undertaker vs Big Boss Man @ WrestleMania 15
#21 Jeff Hardy vs Sting @ Victory Road 2011
#22 Road Wild 1999
#23 The John Cena/Kane Feud of 2012
#24 Hulk Hogan's Mancow Interview of 1999
#25 CM Punk vs the Rock @ Elimination Chamber 2013
#26 The Reign of Bill Watts in WCW
#27 The Claire Lynch Affair Part One And Two
#28 Triple H vs Kevin Nash @ TLC 2011
#29 The Cactus Jack Amnesia Angle
#30 Hulk Hogan Leaving TNA
#31 HBK vs Hulk Hogan @ SummerSlam 2005
#32 David Arquette: WCW Champion
#33 Katie Vick
#34 nWo Souled Out 1997
#35 The Vampiro/Sting Feud of 2000
#36 Once in a Lifetime, Episode II
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#38 The McMahon/Lashley Feud
#39 The Shockmaster
#40 CM Punk vs Ryback @ Hell in a Cell 2012
#41 Hulk Hogan vs Roddy Piper @ Starrcade 1996
#42 The WWE Championship Reign of Diesel
#43 Cena vs the Wyatts
#44 The Main Roster Run of Emma
#45 The WCW Run of Bret Hart
#46 John Cena vs the Miz @ WrestleMania 27
#47 The Lone Wolf AJ Styles
#48 Alberto Del Rio vs Jack Swagger @ WrestleMania 29
#49 The Transition of Mike Awesome from ECW to WCW
#50 The Dolph Ziggler Conundrum Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five
#51 The Rise and Fall of Damien Sandow/Mizdow Part One and Part Two
#52 DDP & Jay Leno vs Hollywood Hogan & Eric Bischoff @ Road Wild 1998
#53 Triple H vs Randy Orton @ WrestleMania 25
#54 Lord Tensai
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#57 Bret Hart vs Yokuzuna (feat. Hulk Hogan) @ WrestleMania 9
#58 Royal Rumble 2015
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#60 Brock Lesnar's First Year Back in WWE
#61 Bo Dallas' Main Roster Run
#62 Vince Russo vs Booker T for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
#63 Randy Orton vs the Big Show @ Survivor Series 2013
#64 AJ Styles vs Abyss @ Destination X 2010
#65 EV 2.0
#66 The Summer of Punk Part 1; Part 2; Part 3
#67 The Lex Express
#68 Goldberg's first WWE Run
#69 Paige's Main Roster Run 2014-2016
#70 Seth Rollins' First World Title Run
#71 Hulk Hogan vs Sgt Slaughter @ WrestleMania VII
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#73 The Undertaker vs Big Show in the Punjabi Prison
#74 Ric Flair vs Hollywood Hogan @ Uncensored 1999
#75 Roman Reigns' Road to WrestleMania 32 Part One, Part Two. Part Three
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#83 Aces and Eights
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#85 Jinder Mahal: WWE Champion Part One, Part Two, Part Three.
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#92 The Brawl for All
#93 The 2019 Title Reigns of Seth Rollins Part One, Part Two
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The InVasion Saga

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