SmackDown brings WWE’s Cody Rhodes to ToledoWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
To millions of wrestling fans, he was a star. A legend. “The American Dream,” Dusty Rhodes. For a young boy named Cody, though, he was simply “Dad.”
“For me, I didn’t really pick up on the fact that he was, like, Dusty Rhodes, until about the time that I was in middle school. For me, he was always just dad. He was retired, not really as heavily involved,” Cody Rhodes said.
“We got outside of the suburbs a little bit, and through other friends of mine’s parents I figured out how much that he’d done in the wrestling industry. I’d been to a lot of shows where he was a prominent figure, but I didn’t know how much he had done, especially in the late ’80s.”
Nowadays, that young kid is carving his own path as a performer for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Rhodes will be among the talents who will be at the company’s taping of SmackDown on May 1 at the Huntington Center.
Rhodes grew into his passion for his father’s business. As a child, “I was a fan, but I don’t think I knew how much of a fan I was,” he said, noting how when World Championship Wrestling would run in Atlanta or Chattanooga, Tenn., he would do anything he could to accompany his father to the shows.
It was when he became a teenager that the idea of becoming a wrestler himself really began to take shape. “It was hard for my mother to take, because I never explored the options of doing anything else,” Rhodes noted. “It was just like it was set in stone. I think that’s what made it worse for even her — she couldn’t even say anything to change my mind.”
After he began training, Rhodes’ first experience as an in-ring performer came as a referee for his father’s promotion, Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling. “For me, it was just as exciting as being the one wrestling,” Rhodes said. “The referee has a lot of control that I don’t think a lot of people realize in the ring. And I got the same rush performing as I did as a referee, especially as a teen.”
As for being a wrestler himself, Rhodes noted how working in the ring didn’t come as naturally to him as he expected, considering the pedigree both his father and his brother Dustin (who has competed for years in WWE as Goldust) had displayed. But soon, Rhodes began to blossom as a talent, through training at both his father’s promotion and at Louisville-based WWE developmental group Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW).
“I also got a very firm grasp on how big of a fan I was. I was told when I was going to Louisville that you’re gonna eat, sleep and breathe wrestling. And I thought I’d have some outside interests. And from the time I entered, I never had any outside interests.
“When we weren’t at [training], we were at somebody’s apartment, watching WWE 24/7. And when we weren’t there, we were eating, and I was learning about diet and training — that was something I never had any access to. My dad was not a body guy. And in this day and age, when a company has evolved to where a lot of the specimens you see on TV are carved from stone, that was all new to me.”
Once he began working on the road for WWE, Rhodes picked up real-world lessons from some of the biggest names in the business — talents like Randy Orton, who Rhodes said taught him a great deal about working in the ring, and top dog John Cena, who Rhodes credits with helping him learn how to succeed outside of it.
“I spent a year driving Cena around when I was on the Raw brand,” Rhodes said. “The goal was to learn a lot about him, what he does in the ring, how he has gotten where he has gotten, but also to learn a lot about merchandising and marketing, pretty much all the things he does. And I’d say I learned a great deal on what it takes outside of the ring. He’s noted as being one of the most hard-working people in entertainment, and he is. If you want his job, you have to work as hard as he does. And it is much easier said than done.”
But working hard is something Rhodes has no problem doing. “WWE, in terms of management, has always supported me. But there’s always been a little bit, ‘Well, he can do it on his own.’ And that’s something I’ve been extremely — I liked it that way. I told somebody the other day, I said, ‘If I end up being as successful as I want to be in this industry, I want them to be able to say, ‘Wow, I didn’t see him coming.’”