On the May 12 edition of AEW Dynamite, Cody Rhodes cut a long promo to hype his Double or Nothing feud with Anthony Ogogo.
Most of us thought this was a program between Cody and the prize student of a man who betrayed him. But in a long speech about from Rhodes, we learned it was actually about America vs. her enemies. That was why, for this one battle only, he would take his father’s nickname and fight as the American Dream.
This was quickly a hot topic on the wrestle web, as most of us thought it was the personal issues between Cody & his Nightmare Family stable and a group that betrayed them, led by the head traitor QT Marshall, Ogogo’s mentor. It was also a promo many, this writer included, found to be rambling, and that needlessly and clumsily injected race and politics into the story for no good reason.
Given that reaction, you’d think that someone backstage at AEW would have given Cody some notes on the segment before he went to the ring with a live microphone. Or perhaps he just came up with it on the spot, which as an Executive Vice-President of the company he probably is allowed to do.
No, Rhodes told GameSpot’s Wrestle Buddies pro wrestling podcast the segment was throughly analyzed long before May 12:
“This is probably gonna sound not cool, because a lot of wrestlers—especially wrestlers from my dad’s era—will lie to you and say, ‘Oh, I just came up with that promo right there on the spot,’ which is bullshit.
“But whatever. I workshop my promos heavily for weeks on end. We have a full focus group for them, as crazy as that sounds. This is a data-based company, so I workshop everything I do. And because my promos have been held to a really high standard—people pick at them and find things in them and they put a microscope on them, which I love.”
What sounds crazy to me is that in weeks of workshops and focus groups, nobody said “this doesn’t really match up with the story you’ve been telling, and also it’s rambling. Oh, and another thing! It is really gonna rub some people the wrong way.”
Maybe it’s because Rhodes sold it to the members of the focus groups the same way he did to Wrestle Buddies. Because what he told them trims the fat from the promo we got on Dynamite. It still adds a bunch of stuff at the last minute to a feud that was just “Cody vs. a guy who punches hard” - but it does a better job of justifying the American Dream angle.
“When I was just thinking about what the story really is, Anthony is living the American dream for real. All the wrestlers, like Bruno Sammartino, who I referenced in my interview, who have come over, have lived the American dream here.
“[With] what [that] stands for and [it being] Memorial Day weekend and fans coming back and just all that beautiful synergy and kismet, I ended up saying it once. ‘He won’t be wrestling the American Nightmare. He’ll be wrestling the American Dream.’ And when I said it, I just couldn’t move past it. I thought, ‘That’s it. That’s the ticket.”
Cody also explained the father/son aspect of using the nickname in a way that resonated - and not just because his Batman and Robins analogy spoke to my geek heart:
“I’m a big Batman reader and all the characters I love in Batman are all of the screwed up Robins. Damien’s a killer. Dick is pretty much the only one with his head on his shoulders. Jason, obviously is Red Hood, Tim, etc. They’ve all got problems. And that’s what it’s like being a second-generation wrestler. We’re a bunch of broken toys and this is one of those times where it feels like putting on the cape and cowl. If anyone can do it and do it justice and do it with honor, it could be me. Maybe not full-time and maybe not long-term, but for one night I’ll be the Batman.”
Which sounds great! Batman tales like "Prodigal", "Batman Reborn" and "Superheavy" where a sidekick or supporting character has to don the cowl for a time are compelling stuff. But it wasn’t earned in this case, either by Cody’s story leading up to May 12, or the promo he delivered that night.
If only someone in one of those workshops would have mentioned that to him...