There are those that claim to have heart and passion for this business, but then there are those that prove it in the ring
What we witnessed last night was just simply unbelievable. This trilogy and particularly their performance in the finale last night reminds you why you became a fan in the first place and why you are still a fan. These men gave everything they had in the ring last night and cemented their legacies in this business.
This is the only feud that I can recall in my 24 years as a fan where every match in this rivalry was somehow better than the last. In this day and age, when fans’ attention spans are not only hard to capture in the first place, but to hold their attention for a trilogy of matches is impressive in and of itself. WWE gets a lot of hate from fans on their booking, but you have to give them props on how they have booked this feud, that may very well end up being the feud of the year. The promo packages and segments that they have done for this feud has been absolute first class.
From Seth Rollins essentially single handedly building up their first match of the eventual trilogy against his mystery WrestleMania opponent. Who would turn out to be Cody Rhodes returning home to WWE, where both men delivered an absolute WrestleMania classic. This match made the fans want to see more matches between the them. Cody pulled out the win ruining Seth’s WrestleMania moment.
Now with both men fully engaged for this rivalry, they created a compelling story that kept the fans engaged leading into match number two at WWE Backlash. This match from Seth’s entrance where he wore the exact same WrestleMania ring attire, as if his character viewed this as a WrestleMania do-over. As if avenging his loss to Cody at Backlash, would erase his WrestleMania loss.
It was a very little detail, but something that added to the story. Seth’s argument of course was he was at an unfair disadvantage since he didn’t know Cody was his WrestleMania opponent and, now they are on an even playing field without the surprise opponent element. Somehow these men not only delivered another classic in the ring, but somehow exceeded their first match in this trilogy in my opinion. The match contained callbacks from the first where they knew a move was coming and countered it. It is these little easter eggs inside the matches that help keep the audience engaged and paying attention because they want to catch them all. Yet again Cody was able to pick up the victory and go up two to nothing.
With each loss, Seth Rollins is becoming more and more furious, bitter and delusional. This version of the Seth Rollins in my opinion is the best version as he seems to have really found his perfect persona of the egomaniacal mad man, who loses it when things don’t go his way. This feud became a heated rivalry and the first feud in a long time where the Hell in a Cell match actually made sense from a storyline perspective. These men have brought out the best in one another this entire feud and the go home Raw for HIAC, these men absolutely delivered that last bit of hype for this trilogy finale.
As I have previously discussed, theme ppvs in my opinion are a problem. Forcing rivalries to have a certain match just because it is that month’s theme ppv in my opinion does more harm than good for a rivalry’s story. The feud should always dictate what the match type should be not the monthly theme it falls into. The HIAC match was designed as the ultimate feud blow off match for the most extreme feuds that warranted it.
Going into HIAC word started making the rounds that Cody Rhodes may have been legitimately injured and may not be able to compete at HIAC. WWE confirmed that Cody tore his right pectoral muscle and despite this he was still going to compete in the match. The questions that I had going into the match was if he tore his pectoral muscle, how did he get medically cleared and how is he going to safely wrestle? By all reports this injury was severe and will keep Cody out of action for months so how he is going to somehow tough it out for one more match seemed impossible unless the reports were wrong on the severity.
It was at this exact moment the world saw just how serious the injury was and everyone in the arena and those watching on PPV all had the same reaction:
The thoughts of he shouldn’t be wrestling, this is insane, how much pain is he in right now, why is WWE allowing this to happen, he is crazy for doing this and the list can go on and on. Shock is the easiest way to describe the fans reaction the moment they saw Cody’s giant bruise on his chest, but then this men went out and delivered arguably the match of the year not only in WWE, but all of wrestling up to this point.
You knew with every move Cody was in an insane amount of pain and I honestly don’t know how he pulled it off. The amount of trust that Cody and Seth have for each other that they were willing to wrestle in this match despite Cody clearly working hurt is incredibly dangerous and downright reckless. However, I understand why they wanted to see the story through, and that Cody knew this was likely his last match for a very long time and went out with on last bang.
For anyone out there that has ever questioned Cody’s heart or passion for this business or said he only got his spot because of who his father and brother are, he shut them up tonight. Cody cemented his place in this industry, and he is an undeniable main event level star. This man showed more heart and passion and sacrificed for the love of the business and to give the fans a show of a lifetime than anyone else in recent memory.
Two thoughts crossed my mind during the match on if this was comparable to anyone else working hurt and the two that came to mind were GOATs Triple H and the Undertaker. A lot of wrestlers’ work hurt, but when I’m thinking severe hurt that they shouldn’t be wrestling those two came to my mind. Triple H, when he tore his quad during a match and continued to wrestle and the Undertaker somehow working his infamous HIAC match with Mankind when he already had a fractured ankle going into the match to begin with. Cody working that hurt puts him in the same level of those two men in the sense they have heart and passion like no other and will do anything for the fans.
At times the match was painful to watch as Seth was targeting the pec instead of both men trying to protect it, which seemed insane, but from a storyline perspective it made complete sense that he would be targeting the injury. Again, I don’t know how Cody didn’t pass out from the pain of kendo sticks hitting the pec or Seth pressing the stick into the pec. Seth continued to taunt Cody the entire match including wearing polka dots as a taunt to Dusty and putting on Cody’s jacket and pulling out a weightlifting belt to use on Cody.
The match contained a ton of tributes to two men that had a huge influence on both men’s careers, Dusty Rhodes and Triple H. From them pulling out a bull rope, which was synonymous with Dusty’s career and the two men engaged in a bull rope match between the two inside the hell in a cell.
Then came the tribute to Triple H, since AEW Cody has teased using a pedigree, but has never hit the move until this match where he finally hit it. Then came out the infamous sledgehammer and Cody wielded it and delivered the final blow to win the finale beating Seth 3-0.
The near falls and the story both in and out of the ring has been the stuff of legend. These men absolutely cemented their legacies and careers, and these are defining career moments for both men. These men are no question future HOFamers and GOATs, and the very best this business has to offer today.
The sheer look of pain and satisfaction on Cody’s face says it all. It was a sacrifice to even get into the ring for him let alone to pull out an absolute classic, that shows he is on a whole other level as a wrestler and an athlete. Seth deserves a ton of credit as well for protecting Cody and helping to ensure that the match delivered. These men garnered nothing but respect and admiration from their peers and fans all over the world. As reported, Cody had the following to say about wrestling this match hurt:
“I’m sure I’m gonna explain things a little further tomorrow, I’ll be very brief,” he told the audience after the phenomenal match. “No one convinced me, with a torn pec, to come out here. It was solely my decision.
“You would have to literally kill me from staying away from this ring. Ten times out of ten, I would have made the same decision.” Later he tweeted: “For the love of the game”.
Cody showed the world he is an undeniable main event talent and should be a future WWE Champion, fulfilling the Rhodes family legacy of finally winning a WWE World Championship. No question that the American Dream was smiling down on his son last night as proud as he possibly could be in him as a wrestler and as his son. I’m sure Dusty was beaming with pride over his “NXT son” Seth as well and loved the fact his pupils delivered a classic for the ages.
Thank you, Cody and Seth for an unbelievable trilogy and thank you Cody for the incredible sacrifice and pain that you were willing to put your body through just to entertain us the fans.
Photo Credits – WWE & StillRealAfterParty’s Instagram