During Cody Rhodes’ initial run with WWE, he was repackaged a few times and given a few character refreshes but never quite treated as a main event level star. He worked the mid-card almost exclusively and while there were great moments, it simply wasn’t enough.
There was surprise he left, considering his family connection and how long he had been there, but he felt like he had to prove himself worthy of a top spot. So he set out to do just that, hitting the independent scene hard and eventually helping to create AEW, which has come to be a legitimate number two promotion in the United States and a viable competitor to Vince McMahon’s empire.
It was there he really came into his own as “The American Nightmare,” and it was important to him when negotiating with McMahon to return to WWE that he came back as the wrestler he became once he left. As he told The Ringer after tearing the house down at WrestleMania 38, he found vindication in Vince’s response to that:
“I remember saying, ‘I have to be me. It has to be Kingdom, it has to be the American Nightmare, all of it.’ To hear Vince say, ‘well, it’s not broke, that’s what we’re buying’ felt like vindication. It felt so good.
“You spend all this time trying to prove people wrong who doubted you, prove people right who were on board with you – but at that moment, it was just closure on the first loop, and excitement for what’s next. I’m going to talk about it on Raw.”
We’ve come a long way from Stardust, huh?
Rhodes also confirmed during this interview that he’s signed a multi-year deal to wrestle full time for WWE. As he had already previously explained, he’s back to prove he’s the best wrestler in the world and finally win the WWE championship.
We’ll have to see if he reaches those heights. For now, the vindication of Vince McMahon buying in to the character he created outside of WWE will do.