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Cody Rhodes on CM Punk, The Elite & Brawl Out: This thing we built got damaged

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

With WWE in Brooklyn tonight (Feb. 13), and a lot of big things coming up for the company and himself, Royal Rumble winner Cody Rhodes was one of Ariel Helwani’s guests on The MMA Hour this afternoon.

As we’ve been reminded repeatedly over the past few weeks, Rhodes is a hell of a communicator and representative for WWE — in and out of kayfabe. His chat with Helwani is another great example, as he continued to walk the tightrope of selling his WrestleMania story with Roman Reigns and the red hot one between Reigns & Sami Zayn that will main event this weekend’s Elimination Chamber event.

But it was Ariel’s closing question that really perked up our ears, as he asked Cody what he felt watching the events that followed AEW’s All Out PPV last Labor Day weekend.

Rhodes founded AEW along with four of the men central to what’s become known as “Brawl Out” — Tony Khan, Kenny Omega, and The Young Bucks, Matt & Nick Jackson. He had a relationship with CM Punk from his initial WWE run and their time together in AEW. Cody touched on all of that as he shared his thoughts on the events that left The Elite suspended and Punk still in limbo.

It’s a reaction many of us can relate to:

“I have a great relationship with Matt, Nick & Kenny — still do. It definitely was tested by being young executives. It was tested by having different opinions on wrestling. But our different opinions is what made it strong. That’s what made us work. I want to do Crockett and old school. They want to do PWG and West Coast. And, damn, I loved it. It wasn’t — I liked that. That tension is what made us bond. We’re bonded forever because of the things we did.

“I also had a great relationship with Punk. He was my dinner buddy. They’d order dinner for me at AEW every week as one of my ‘management perks’ or whatever. I don’t think he knew, I always just put it on my tab, because I wanted to make sure he was getting something... so we didn’t talk a lot, but I had a great relationship with — we’d still chat, and was so excited to have him back. Gosh, if you remember, when he came back, everyone was excited about that.

“So when I watched it, just from my sitting there, I was not — there was some people texting me, I remember one person texted me, ‘Man, you’re the smartest guy in the room.’ And I wanted to write back, like, ‘F you, man.’ I don’t feel that way. I feel this thing we built got damaged.

“And I’m not blaming anybody — sorry, I’m super Switzerland at this point... I’m not putting any blame on anybody, but I just hated seeing that. Because, as the company grows, and I hope it continues to grow, I hope people remember the mission in the first place. Why we were there. And if you bring in people that don’t know the mission, things like that can happen. And I’m not saying he [Punk] didn’t know the mission or anything of that nature, but I was just bummed out.

“That’s how I felt. I was bummed out. Because I have — you win a title, it’s a feather in your cap. You win the Royal Rumble, it’s a feather in your cap. Building an alternative wrestling promotion is definitely a feather in the cap. I don’t want that to be erased. I don’t want that to go away.

“Plus, there’s not as many jobs in wrestling as people think. There’s about a thousand people who work there, structurally, infrastructure, and talent. I’m proud of them, and I want to make sure they’re able to feed their families. And that was a situation that was so big, and heavy — I don’t think it was helpful, right? And I don’t know, maybe you can make it helpful, maybe you can do something with it? But that’s how I felt.

“No heat on Punk, no heat on Matt, Nick, Kenny or Tony. I was just bummed out when I saw it. That’s not how we envisioned it. If you were at ALL IN... the spirit of ALL IN. If you ever lose the spirit, you’re lost. And I think the spirit was gone in that moment. Doesn’t mean you can’t get it back, but it was just a bummer.”

Fortunately, AEW may be damaged, but it doesn’t seem to be going away. But Cody’s right about one thing. it is a bummer that CM Punk may once again be done with wrestling as a result of whatever actually happened between him and The Elite, especially if it hinders AEW’s ability to provide jobs to people inside the business, or fans options when it comes to easily accessible pro wrestling product.

Check out the rest of Rhodes and Helwani’s chat here.

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