When Cody Rhodes made his dramatic return to WWE last year, I knew it was only a matter of time until he found himself competing for the company's top prize, the Undisputed Universal Championship.
But since winning the Royal Rumble and fulfilling my and many others' prophecies about becoming a WWE main eventer, I've had doubts about whether or not "The American Nightmare" has what it takes to be The Man. And, after his first face-to-face confrontation with his WrestleMania opponent, Roman Reigns, on Smackdown, it's clear that Cody isn't ready.
Part of the problem is Rhodes' promo style. Were he a villain, his cadence and choice of words would suit his character perfectly as Rhodes comes across smug and, at times, passive-aggressive, such as when he questioned Reigns' need to have his "compatriots" present for their conversation.
But as a good guy, his use of phrases like "not here to engage in reckless negotiations" and "superseded hyperbole" don't generate heat and connect with fans interested in a fight, even if it is a scripted affair. Rhodes speaks as if he's a narrator reading from a well-written script. He doesn't talk to the fans or opponents; he talks at them.
And it makes the former AEW alumnus look contrived, which Reigns called out when he responded to Rhodes' opening salvo by saying, "That was good. That was like you were rehearsing that all week," which isn't a stretch since the former television star is on record about workshopping his promos.
And as Reigns continued to dress down his WrestleMania rival in front of fifteen-thousand fans in Washington's Capital One Arena, Rhodes' reactions proved why he's not ready to be the face of the company.
Unlike the microphone battles between The Rock and John Cena in the build to their 'Mania clash, where neither man took a step back, Rhodes backed away and lowered his head several times as Reigns peppered him with verbal jabs. Often, Rhodes looked like a scolded puppy, whereas Reigns took his foe's best shots with a snicker or a sneer.
Yet not once did Reigns bow or retreat.
To Cody Rhodes' credit, he fired up at the end, stating why defeating Reigns is more than a desire; it's a necessity. But it was already too late, as Rhodes' previous body language signified defeat.
"Oh my, God, uh, I'm not even playing on the same field," remarked Rhodes at the end of Reigns' assessment of him. Indeed, Rhodes still needs to learn a thing or two before he's fit to sit on WWE's high throne. And that lesson begins with his defeat at WrestleMania.