When the initial reports about Cody Rhodes’ contract status hit last month, the thought of one of AEW’s founders leaving the company seemed pretty ridiculous.
It honestly still does, but it appears to be happening.
Seeing as Rhodes has two television jobs with AEW’s broadcast partner WarnerMedia, and referenced his free agent status in an on-screen promo a couple weeks back, most of us brushed off the possibility of the 36 year old leaving All Elite. But the story returned in a hurry with the latest Wrestling Observer Radio, when Dave Meltzer said it was “up in the air” whether Cody would stay with AEW or return to WWE.
Then this morning (Feb. 15), we got these tweets from not only AEW owner & president Tony Khan, but also the American Nightmare and his wife, Brandi, who’d been an on-screen talent for the company and its Chief Brand Officer:
Thank you Cody and Brandi Rhodes pic.twitter.com/tkDvVpnrrE— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) February 15, 2022
This being pro wrestling, and given the way Rhodes’ on-screen character has been trending over the last six months or so, there’s no small amount of speculation these announcements could be part of a fictional storyline. It’s worth noting there is no sentence concretely stating that “Cody and Brandi Rhodes are done with AEW” in either statement, but they certainly make it seem that way.
As mentioned above, Meltzer’s report also indicated that Cody returning to WWE is something that could actually happen. Officials in Vince McMahon’s company are said to believe they have a good chance to bring Rhodes back: it’s “definitely something talked about... in certain circles about the potential of something happening.” WWE apparently wants to land someone “big from AEW” to make a statement, and are willing to spend to make that happen. Both Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp and Mat Men’s Andrew Zarian have issued similar reports.
So if this is a work, it’s an unprecedented one that involves convincing the most established outlets in the business that it’s real.
Regarding a potential return to WWE, the company clearly didn’t see him as a main event-level talent during his initial ten year run working for Vince. That’s presumably changed now, and you’d imagine any deal Cody did to return would include assurances he wouldn’t be saddled with a Stardust-like gimmick.
We also haven’t heard what the specific issues between Rhodes and Tony Khan are, and if those are insurmountable in the long run. There were reports of friction between Cody and the other EVPs he thanks in his statement (The Young Bucks & Kenny Omega), but those were shot down. Maybe there was something there after all?
Expect to hear those questions a lot until we get some answers.