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Kenny Omega says Cody Rhodes/AEW split wasn’t about money, but conflicting visions

‘It’s very possible that this current version of AEW wasn’t a good fit for Cody’

WarnerMedia Upfront 2019 - Arrivals Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

Kenny Omega was probably always going to be a guest on Wrestling Observer Radio this week after being named the publication’s “Wrestler of the Year” for the second time in the latest edition of Dave Meltzer’s Newsletter. Turns out Omega & Meltzer also had something else to discuss, though — the departure from AEW of Kenny’s fellow Executive Vice-President & founder, Cody Rhodes.

For starters, Omega confirmed that even though they knew it was a possibility, Rhodes’ exit came as a surprise. He also shed some light on why it was a shock, and discussed his & The Young Bucks’ contract statuses:

“Everyone was shocked. We all know when our deals our up, especially the EVPs, we know when our deals up. In the case of the Bucks [Matt & Nick Jackson], when their options kick in. For myself, I don’t have a deal like that. I’m up next year, just straight up, done. I would have to re-sign a new [contract], there is no option.

“We knew Cody’s, much like the Bucks, it was that time. We would hear that there was possibly some difficulty with the negotiation or whatever, but you never think it’s going in that direction where the talent is going to opt for leaving, especially, when this thing first started, the most passionate person of our revolution, the most passionate person of creating the ‘us vs. them’ mentality was Cody. It was strange for him to just choose to up and walk away.”

Rhodes’ early vision may have been why his fellow EVPs didn’t expect him to leave, but in retrospect, Omega seems to think it might have been part of why he did:

“However, that being said, feelings change, the environment around you is ever-changing and constantly changing. Maybe the mission statement, the goal, the revolution, whatever it is you’re searching for and trying to create, maybe that isn’t what it is anymore to you. Maybe it isn’t your inspiration and what gets you out of bed every day. I would always encourage everyone, in wrestling and life, if your work isn’t fulfilling and making you happy, you really should look for opportunities elsewhere, in a place where you can feel creatively free and a place where you feel your work is being appreciated and fulfilled. I’m guessing that, knowing Cody as well as I know him, I don’t think it was an issue of money. I don’t think it was Tony not shelling out enough cash to keep him invested with the company.

“Cody, he really believed in the original vision he brought to the table for AEW and the original vision that the team brought to the table when AEW was first becoming a promotion, we didn’t know where this would go. We had been optimistic about it and thought he would be where we are today where we would be considered a major promotion and we would have our fanbase and have a lot of satisfied customers. I guess we never really sat down and talked to each other like, ‘Okay, we have this opportunity to now change wrestling. How do you see it? How do we make this work?’

“Maybe, in the end, we had the Bucks and their vision, my vision, and Cody’s vision. All of our visions are different. I would say mine was more similar to what the Bucks had envisioned and Cody’s was much different. You’re going to get that when finally, you’ve committed your life to an industry and a business and finally, someone goes, ‘you’ve done this job, all your life, you’ve been raised in this business with these shackles on you, to a degree, by someone or something, now those are off. You have carte blanche. What do you want to do?’ I understand there might be some heartbreak if you are promised that, or told that, and it doesn’t come to fruition.”

While nothing Omega says supports the “EVPs don’t talk to each other” rumors we heard last year, his comments about their relationship do shed some light on the behind-the-scenes workings of AEW since its founding in 2019:

“Though my professional relationship with Cody was great, he’s not a guy that I go and get a Diet Pepsi with on my off time. I don’t know how he personally feels about anything. I can only guess as to why he would leave and I think that he saw it with his deal up, as an opportunity to investigate something within wrestling or life in general that would bring him more happiness.

“I don’t want anyone doing what we do in wrestling being unhappy or miserable. That destroys you. It’s a huge mental, emotional, and physical commitment that if you’re miserable while doing it, it can only lead to bad things. We’ve seen it in wrestling where that can lead to terrible things, whether it be alcohol, pills, drugs. That run rampant in wrestling. I would hate for that to happen when we set out to do was something extremely positive for professional wrestling, or that was the goal anyway.”

While that was everyone’s general vision for AEW, the specifics were different. And not only did Cody’s differ from Kenny & The Bucks’, it sounds like the direction Tony Khan went in when he took over the booking reins in late 2019/early 2020 conflicted the most with Rhodes’ vision:

“That’s sort of where the Bucks and I differed. We never wanted to go to war with Vince and WWE. We just wanted to give people an option and get us a platform for our brand of storytelling and our style of wrestling. When Cody had his way of going about things, I wasn’t sure how to follow up with that, nor was I interested. There was Kenny doing his thing, the Bucks doing their thing, and the Codyverse over there, doing whatever it is that he does and then there’s the stuff that Tony does.

“Eventually, as a lot of fans now know, essentially, it’s Tony’s show. Of course, he’s always going to listen to our advice and take our suggestions to heart, but AEW is very much Tony’s thing and baby. We’re there to support it in any way that we can. It’s very possible that this current version of AEW wasn’t a good fit for Cody and to Cody.”

As TK has, Omega praises Rhodes’ role in their revolution, and leaves the door open for a return to AEW. That doesn’t stop him from reminding fans about some of the business practices of the company Cody is said to be returning to — and maybe spoiling said return in the process:

“To me, he is one of the original four and there is always going to be a place for him. You saw it in his ladder match with Sammy. He’s got incredible utility and he’s able to help our younger talent. It’s nothing from an in-ring perspective. There are no issues there.

“If I had a clear cut answer for you guys, I would love to tell you, but I don’t know it and all I can say is, whatever he decides to do, I heard he’s on a flight to Saudi Arabia, if that makes him happy, that makes him happy. Again, the Bucks and I, we weren’t in this for the war. All the guys and gals in WWE doing their thing, always wishing for the best for those guys.”

There have been no reports that Cody is expected at Elimination Chamber today (Feb. 19), but all signs do point to him rejoining WWE before WrestleMania 38 in April.

Thoughts? You know you have some!

H/T: Fightful for transcription