Cody Rhodes didn’t have to do what he did on the recent edition of Dynamite (August 4, 2021). No, I’m not referring to the promo that lasted longer than the main event bout—although, yeah—but Cody didn’t have to make Malakai Black look that good.
Not only did he sell every move like they were conjured by Satan, but he was also utterly cool with Black pinning him with one leg.
In the main event on national television no less, Malakai Black made quick work of the face of AEW and then flexed with one foot on top of Rhodes’ chest. That’s the equivalent of doing this in Dallas. Or a coach not pulling their starters when the game is clearly over.
In real-life terms, it’s a boot crushing an ant with no remorse.
I’m not sure who needs to hear this. Actually, I’m not sure if anyone needs to hear it all, but it feels like it warrants saying: Cody Rhodes deserves all the props in the world.
It’s so easy to dunk on the man for the neck tattoo, the weird promos, the Homelander cosplay, or even the WWE doublespeak. All of that beef is more than legitimate in the world of professional wrestling, even if they have more to do with Cody’s on-screen persona than the actual guy. What can’t be overstated, though, is his willingness to go above and beyond for AEW, and pro wrestling in general, to make guys look good or put his body on the line. He doesn’t have to do any of it, but he does.
Let’s rewind the clock to almost a year ago. Cody Rhodes in the main event against a former WWE guy for the TNT Championship. The “guy” in this instance was the now dearly departed Brodie Lee, leader of the Dark Order and looking to make a name for himself after things went sideways harder than Paul Wall while in WWE.
Before that night, Cody looked pretty damn dominant, running through a list of cats during his TNT Championship reign. Some bouts went longer than others, but the result was always the same. So when the person standing across from him in the ring was one Mr. Lee, it made sense to believe something competitive was on the horizon.
But then the bell rang, and the Fat Lady barely got a sip of water before she needed to hit her high notes. Lee dominated Cody, seemingly toying with him for his own enjoyment. Lee and Rhodes didn’t look like they were in the same sport, much less the same league. Unfortunately, we’ll never get to see the fruits of the seeds planted on that summer’s night last August, but its short-term achievements are nothing to sneeze at.
Lee’s W gave credibility to the Dark Order as a faction while making their leader a man of his word. Brodie said he was in AEW to rule with an iron fist, one so heavy that no one, not even the grandson of a plumber, could escape. Lee said in AEW, he could finally flourish after toiling in Vince McMahon’s playground for far too long. Leading the Dark Order was his calling, and taking over AEW was his charge.
One match made good on all of that. As the public face of the company, it’s a big deal when Cody takes an L. It’s a huge deal when he takes one in a manner befitting a child going one-on-one with an NBA player. Cody’s not Kenny Omega or AJ Styles when it comes to laying claim to that *ahem* best in the world title. And he’s definitely not in the same breath as Steve Austin, The Rock, or John Cena if we’re talking worldwide popularity. To be fair, not many are.
But Cody Rhodes crossed over. He hosts a hit show on TBS, he’s co-starring in an upcoming reality show, and he and Brandi Rhodes showed up in People with the first pics of their little lady Liberty. Cody is making his way into circles a lot of wrestlers don’t even know exist.
In the eyes of the AEW faithful and the advertisers not named Domino’s, it’s kind of a big deal. With AEW getting more eyeballs on it now than around the same time last year, it’s imperative to use their momentum wisely. Debuting another former WWE guy with all the glamor, glitz, and a dope mask to go along with it makes Black look worthy of your curiosity. Beating Mr. AEW himself in such a fashion makes him look more important in a few minutes than WWE made him look in a few years. Now, he’s worthy of your attention.
Black got the last maniacal laugh even when it looked like Cody was doing his best Mya impersonation and making it all about him. The final image of AEW’s first Dynamite of the month was the golden boy flat on his face with the man in black standing over top of him.
An emotional moment for @CodyRhodes at the end of #AEWDynamite Homecoming RUINED by #MalakaiBlack (@TommyEnd). Will we see the #AmericanNightmare again?— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 5, 2021
Watch #AEWDynamite EVERY WEDNESDAY at 8/7c on TNT. pic.twitter.com/trecMwVbO7
Domination, baby. That was a pure, unadulterated, non-stepped-on-ass whooping. As a result, the artist formerly known as Aleister is firmly etched into the main event picture as a completely different flavor than any other wrestler on the roster. More importantly, he’s a credible threat to beat anyone and instantly believable as AEW World Champion. And that’s not because the fans want him as champion or because he’s a “can’t miss star” as those of us who write and talk about this sh*t like to repeat ad nausuem.
Malakai Black is now all of those things because one of the most critical people in AEW, and arguably its biggest name next to Chris Jericho, got that work in less than five minutes and ended the night with a mouth full of canvas for his troubles.
Say what you will about the man, but never say he isn’t willing to do business for the greater good.