Before Cody Rhodes took on Sammy Guevara for the TNT championship in the main event of this week’s holiday special episode of AEW Rampage, they did a brief interview that set the stage for what was to come. Arn Anderson insulted Guevara, who was defiant and eager to put the boots to the man everyone hates.
Then Rhodes made his entrance, the babyface who just won’t turn heel, the guy who made all of this possible, the guy who had the first ever AEW match (against Guevara, by the way), and the guy who was the first ever TNT champion.
And they booed him again.
They continued booing, because the fans don’t like him, for a number of reasons, but one of which is his stubborn refusal to turn heel. It’s so very meta because, of course, he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter — the fans are the judge, jury, and executioner in that regard, and they have made their decision.
Screw this guy.
His persistence, his refusal to embrace this, is what this has all been built upon. It’s what makes it work so well. If he went along with it, it wouldn’t feel so good to boo him every time he walks through the curtain. It’s meta because he absolutely understands this and knows the value in the kind of heat he’s drawing right now by doing this, and so he must continue to do it.
The central job of a heel has long been to get the babyface over. I’ll be damned if Cody doesn’t do that every time he wrestles, considering whoever his opponent is instantly becomes the guy the fans want to emerge victorious.
Even if that doesn’t happen.
Sure enough, after a very good TV main event match, Rhodes hit the Cross Rhodes twice and then finished it off with the Tiger Driver 98.
The boos in Greensboro grew and grew as the match went on, and commentary acknowledged what was so plainly evident. The babyface who isn’t a babyface at all is now the first ever three-time champion in AEW history, and you can’t help but want to see what he does next.
Even just so you can boo the hell out of it.