Cody Rhodes is facing several months* on the shelf after tearing his pectoral muscle completely off the bone while lifting weights last week. That’s not great news for a guy who getting a huge push in WWE and proving skeptics & critics wrong in the process.
But as a result of his decision to work the main event of Hell in a Cell last night (June 5), Rhodes should be hotter than ever whenever he does make his return. Not since November 2018 when a bloody Becky Lynch posed in the crowd hours before she’d be pulled from Survivor Series has a wrestler turned injury lemons into career lemonade like this.
He couldn’t have done it without top notch work from Seth Rollins, the Raw announce team, and plenty of other folks behind the scenes. But it was Cody’s decision to wrestle while visibly injured, and the mostly one-armed performance he turned in that captured the attention of everyone in the wrestling world.
Can’t teach heart.— Shawn Spears (@ShawnSpears) June 6, 2022
Mad respect— Carmelo Hayes (@Carmelo_WWE) June 6, 2022
With so much content it’s easy for even great things to be quickly disposed of and forgotten about. This one won’t be. Congrats @CodyRhodes (and @WWERollins). It didn’t come easy but I finally forgive Cody for putting that bag over Kermit the Frog’s head. #HIAC https://t.co/HzYGQDqbaq— Brian Gewirtz (@bfg728) June 6, 2022
Storytelling 101. Beautiful match.— Studdz of Bollywood (@BollywoodBoyz) June 6, 2022
Respect. Cody ✊
Liberty better not ever tell me "I can't". I'm gonna have this match cued up faster than she can finish her sentence.— Brandi Rhodes (@TheBrandiRhodes) June 6, 2022
Never imagined he would be able to finish that match...and win.
He doesn’t tweet, but we don’t need the rumor mill to tell us Cody’s decision and performance certainly impressed Vincent Kennedy McMahon, a man who sat in the ring to restart the 2005 Royal Rumble after tearing both his quads because the show must go on, damnit.
Further ingratiating himself to the boss will help Rhodes in the long run, but it was only part of what Hell in a Cell accomplished for the American Nightmare. Call it showmanship or brand management, marketing genius or pure carny instinct, Cody knew how to sell this to cement himself as the great babyface he’s committed to being. You see it in the tweet Shane Taylor quoted, and the assist his wife gave him with hers. The man himself drove it all home with his brief post-show promo to the Chicagoland crowd:
“You would have had to literally kill me from staying away from this ring. Ten times out of ten, I would have made the same decision... You guys have believed in me and you didn’t have to. Please know from the bottom of my heart, I believe in you, we are going to finish this thing. Thank you all very much, have a great night, and I love you, thank you.”
Now, I’m not saying Cody doesn’t mean every word. I’m not in the man’s mind, and don’t know one way or the other. But everything about last night fits perfectly into his career (and life) narrative as someone who believes in himself he left the only company he’d ever worked for, loves the business so much he helped found the first new major promotion in decades, then left that to resume chasing the one prize that’s eluded his family. All while working as hard or harder than anyone else, even if it means sacrifice or, in the case of Hell in a Cell, a whole lot of pain.
That pain is another element of this. Every knowledgable opinion on the matter I’ve seen agrees there was almost no chance Rhodes could worsen his injury in the match he worked with Rollins, they also agree that doing so had to hurt really bad. It’s prompted debate about whether this was a bad precedent to set, encouraging other wrestlers to wrestle despite injuries to similarly impress the brass or pop the crowd. But as another showman once said, “controversy creates cash.” And even some of those worried about the message Hell in a Cell sent are still impressed by the work itself:
While I don’t think we should glorify working with bad injuries, it was pretty incredible to see the concept that was taught to us of being able to get a good match with any opponent in any situation (no matter how unfavorable) put into practice at the highest level. #HIAC— Kaia McKenna (@KaiaMcK) June 6, 2022
It all comes together to put the spotlight on Cody, which seemed impossible considering the lack of buzz heading into June 5’s PLE and all the attention being paid to MJF, CM Punk and AEW. Now we’re talking about Rhodes, with even criticism tinged with appreciation.
Going forward, it will be impossible to think about Cody Rhodes without thinking about Hell in a Cell. It will build anticipation for his return from getting his muscle surgically reattached to his frame. Heading into yesterday, it seemed likely Rhodes would eventually get a WWE World title run.
After yesterday, it now feels... undeniable.
* Six-to-nine for normal humans, three-to-four for the John Cenas of the world.