“Life is a journey that has a lot of different paths, but any path you choose use it as your destiny”Unknown
I didn’t think I would be writing about this documentary when it was first announced being released. Not because I wasn’t interested in the subject matter, but because I have written so extensively about Cody Rhodes and his story that I didn’t think I could find anything left to say about Cody Rhodes. However, after viewing this documentary they somehow masterfully wove his entire story down and condensed it down to about two hours but did so in a compelling way.
Cody Rhodes – The Beginning Of The Journey
The reason this documentary worked so incredibly well is because it doesn’t matter if you are a longtime fan that knows every possible detail of this story or you don’t even watch the product these days, but came across the documentary on day on Peacock, it is a masterclass in compelling storytelling. They found a way to grab an audience and take them on a real-life journey about someone that grew up idolizing his legendary father and wanting to follow in his footsteps.
You don’t have to be the son of a legend in wrestling to relate to this story as many young men grow up idolizing their fathers. That feeling and desire to make their fathers proud is a something that any son can relate to. The Cody Rhodes story is really still being written and is likely far from over, but the story so far is amazing so far but destined to be legendary.
“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes was such a cornerstone in this industry that is so engrained and crucial to the current foundation that it could not stand today without his contributions to it. Dusty’s legacy in this business will forever be felt. For Cody and Dustin, to want to follow in his footsteps was no easy feat for either of them. Dustin found his greatest success behind a bodysuit and paint as the iconic and bizarre character named as Goldust.
Although Dustin has had a HOF worthy career, his career never came close to his father’s career. Dustin has never become a world champion and likely at this point never will.
Cody Rhodes following in the footsteps of both his legendary father and his iconic older brother, had the burden of two legendary shadows he would be compared to as he made his way into the business. However, Cody Rhodes wasn’t just getting into the business for himself, he had made a personal vow to himself at only 8 years old to win the one championship that was denied his father, the WWE Championship. His dream was to win that championship not just for himself but for his legendary father most of all.
This documentary does an amazing job of telling Cody’s story as a young man amateur wrestling and even as a child that shadow of being Dusty’s son. Other fathers were encouraging their sons to beat Dusty’s kid on the amateur wrestling mat. As if beating Cody on the mat as a child was the equivalent of these kids’ fathers beating the legendary Dusty Rhodes.
Cody Rhodes openly talks about the financial struggles that Dusty went through and subsequently the family suffered. It is said in the documentary when you are in top of this business and making all the money you never think it is going to stop, but eventually it does and reality hits back hard.
Hard Times isn’t just an iconic Dusty promo, it became a reality for the family and Dusty did all that he could to provide for his family and hide the fact that they were struggling.
Cody tells a heartbreaking story of Dusty pawning his Rolex to give Cody and his sister the money to pursue their dreams in LA. That is the type of man Dusty Rhodes was someone that would do anything for his family.
The documentary has a great visual sequence of Cody walking through a desert coming across relics of his career and life and them telling the story of his journey in this business. The ups and downs and highs and lows are fully told and displayed. Whatever successes Cody was having in this business he was not where he wanted to be and as told in the documentary, he wasn’t where Dusty thought he should be either.
The low point of his first WWE run was obviously when Cody was turned into a wannabe Goldust as the character, Stardust.
Cody Rhodes idolized his father and looked at him as his hero, like most sons do. When Cody lost his father, he lost a piece of himself. It is a feeling that anyone who has lost a parent feels, that is indescribable and never goes away. The documentary shows how much love, respect and admiration Cody had for his father, whether it be by showing his HOF induction speech for Dusty or the deeply personal clip of the eulogy that Cody delivered to Dusty. Eulogizing a loved one especially someone that has been your hero, is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in your life.
As Cody says in the documentary it is the one time, he was glad he was Stardust as he could hide behind the paint as he tried to process the immense pain of losing his father. Being in that ring, likely became therapy for Cody as it probably helped him feel a connection with his father. However, once Cody was ready to ditch Stardust, and become the performer that he himself and his father always knew he could be, the powers that be in the company didn’t see Cody as that level performer. Cody would finally take his father’s advice that he told him for years, quit if they refuse to see your worth.
Cody Rhodes – Storytelling Renegade Leaves Home
“One day they’ll realize they lost a diamond while playing with worthless stones”Turcois Ominek
For the first time in his professional career Cody Rhodes took his talents to the independent scene. It was an insanely risky gamble to give up a guaranteed six figure a year job to instead making pennies on the dollar working independent shows in front of a fraction of the audience he spent his entire career performing in front of thousands of people. Cody bet on himself even when his own mother thought he’d end up penniless, in jail or dead. Cody didn’t know it at the time, but he needed to go on this journey to truly find the real Cody Rhodes. Cody was out to prove WWE wrong and him and his father right all along.
One of the most important things in the documentary they did not shy away from Cody’s real-life bond with the Young Bucks and of course what they would eventually do together in this business. It was tremendous that the Bucks provided footage for the documentary and the limited independent footage and insight during his indie run was nice as well. It would have been nice to see Dustin and the Bucks be interviewed, but considering the bad blood between WWE and AEW it wasn’t a shock that they didn’t appear in it. For the same reasons we didn’t get to see ROH, All In and AEW footage, but under the circumstances they navigated this period pretty well.
Cody and the Bucks changed the wrestling world in such an unbelievable dramatic way as they would bet everything on running their own independent show called All In. In a lot of ways, it was something ballsy that both Cody’s father and Vince McMahon would have done at their age. Vince bet the company’s future on WrestleMania in 1985 and Cody and the Bucks bet it all on a gamble that they could create a must see show and not go broke doing it. All In had such an unbelievable aura around it that it became a must see show as a fan of wrestling.
Of course, All In would succeed and Cody and the Bucks would catch the eye of a longtime fan with some very deep pockets, Tony Khan. Soon the four men would become the founders of AEW, the first major rival to WWE since WCW. Much like Cody’s father was a creative thorn in Vince McMahon’s side when he was working for WCW, Cody would become that thorn for Vince McMahon and Triple H.
The one thought I had as the visuals of Cody walking through the dessert and reaching the door that he would walk through symbolizing him walking out on WWE and quitting the company and him not being truly ready to be the Cody Rhodes that he needed to be to truly live up to the Rhodes name in a lot of ways to Disney’s The Lion King.
Hear me out here before the angry mob with pitchforks come for me. The Lion King is about a young cub, Simba, that idolizing his father and looks up to him and wants to live up to his father’s legacy to be king. He was sheltered his entire life in the Pride Rock kingdom much like Cody was sheltered in the WWE system from day one. Simba and Cody both lose their fathers tragically and leave the only home they ever known to try to make it in the unknown.
Cody has talked about in the past that the Young Bucks took him under their wing and showed him the ropes of the independent circuit. Cody would use this time in the independents to truly find himself and what would become the American Nightmare. This one visual that kept coming to mind when I was watching the documentary was this one:
Cody started his exodus from WWE as the young naive kid like Simba and ended up being guided by two veterans of the independent world instead of Timon and Pumba, Cody had the Young Bucks. Cody would come into his own during this time away from home in the independent world of wrestling.
Cody Rhodes – The Prodigal Son Returns Home
“I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home”Lebron James
I’ve detailed Cody’s return home before in a piece, this was not the same Cody Rhodes that left WWE years prior, this was the star he was always meant to be. As Cody details in this documentary and has said a number of times he had unfinished business that he could only accomplish in WWE. It cannot be overstated enough, and it is a point Kevin Ownes brings up in the documentary, Vince McMahon literally flew out to recruit Cody to come back home.
The reason why that is a big deal is it is an insanely short list of people Vince has actually made a special trip to go see to get them to comeback to WWE. Most talent are either summoned to WWE Headquarters or to Vince’s house or Vince may see them if WWE is in the area.
Despite being rivals Vince always respected Dusty Rhodes and the fact that Cody Rhodes went out there and proved Vince wrong that he was in fact capable of being a main event level talent. Vince wanted to bring the prodigal son home. There is a moment in the documentary when Cody talks about everyone saying to him when he returned at WrestleMania 38 “welcome home Cody”. Cody said I never once called this place my home, but without a shadow of a doubt this is my home. You could see the emotion in Cody’s voice and tears in his eyes that he meant it.
Cody never wanted to leave WWE years ago, but he felt he had no choice. Cody told the world the night after his return the reason for his return was to fulfill his childhood vow of winning the title Dusty was denied. Cody would set his long-term sights on the WWE Championship, but that would have to wait until after his feud with Seth Rollins.
Of course, this image above will forever be tied to Cody Rhodes career like Mankind being thrown from the top of the hell in a cell or HBK splashing Razor Ramon in the ladder match. The visual of Cody wrestling a masterpiece of a match with a turn pec was the perfect topper of a legendary storytelling feud. Cody knows how to tell a story, but his storytelling would be delayed as he went down with a injury.
Cody would return and win the Royal Rumble as he was set to “finish the story” at WrestleMania 39 against the tribal chief, Roman Reigns. As I have talked about in previous pieces and on air for Wrestling Republic, to physically be there for this moment of Cody Rhodes vs Roman Reigns was an insanely special moment for me for a number of reasons and a huge one has nothing to do with professional wrestling. I felt a deeply personal connection with this story of Cody trying to fulfill a promise that he made to himself as a child and to honor his father, his hero in the process. Cody became the first person in his legendary family to main event a WrestleMania and delivered a compelling masterpiece of storytelling.
There is a line that Hulk Hogan says in the documentary, that Cody isn’t just a star he is becoming an attraction. Say whatever you want about Hulk Hogan, there was no bigger name in the wrestling world in the 1980s than Hulk Hogan. Becoming an attraction in this business means fans will pay to see you and they don’t care what you are doing on the show or who else is on the show, they are going to pay to see you regardless.
The reason I bring this up is we all know Cody Rhodes was the most hated man to the AEW fanbase even when he wasn’t even supposed to be the heel. However, the same character with no changes is beloved by the WWE audience. To them he is the prodigal son returning home to a hero’s welcome. Being in Sofi Stadium and Crypto Center, I can personally say that you could tell the difference between the roar of the crowd for Cody compared to almost everyone else on the shows.
As I said Cody’s loss at WrestleMania isn’t the end of the story, it is just a chapter in a longer story. Destiny delayed not destiny denied, at some point Cody is going to finish the story that started with Dusty in 1977. There is a tremendous visual at the end of the documentary where Cody is walking towards the sun with a championship hanging over his shoulder. It is the actual WWWF Championship title that Dusty once held in his hands before the referee reversed the decision due to a technicality. Cody’s words as he is walking with the title are, “I’m going to carry this dream until it becomes a reality.”
As I stated they did an amazing job in condensing down this compelling story down to two hours, but at the same time even knowing the whole story I didn’t feel like they rushed through it. There were of course footage and people that would have added to the overall storytelling, but as a whole it felt like a complete story at the same time.
Dan Lambert the man that actually gave the title belt to Cody, would have been an amazing addition to the documentary due to his close friendship with Cody and his passion for the history of this business. I’ve seen a lot of sports documentaries over the years, and I’ve said this to people before WWE is the gold standard for documentaries and this one is one of the best ones they ever made.
They literally followed Cody around for well over a year and the sheer amount of footage that they had to sort through and still produce a compelling coherent story is not easy. So, if you haven’t watched the documentary yet I strongly recommend it.