The search for the next big star in World Wrestling Entertainment needs to stop because he's already working there. His name? Cody Rhodes, the Intercontinental Champion.
When I watch Rhodes perform he reminds me of the heels of the previous generation that were all about their business in the ring. Far too often in wrestling, a heel will crack jokes or resort to comedy as a way to get over with the fans. Not Rhodes. He's an old school heel that sticks out from the pack because he sticks to the basics. Guess what? The basics work.
Let's break it down a bit to look at three different aspects of Rhodes the performer.
Promos - He's come a long way with his promos. When he started as a babyface partner of Bob Holly he looked very uncomfortable. It happens. When he was a part of Legacy with Randy Orton & Ted Dibiase Jr. he was considered the third wheel of the group that didn't get to talk a whole lot. When he started the "Dashing" gimmick on Smackdown, he became the kind of condescending heel that so many wrestlers are. The masked version of Rhodes saw him speak with a nasally tone that was annoying, but not necessarily a main event level heel type of promo.
The Rhodes we see today delivers the kind of slow and deliberate promo that we used to see from a guy like Jake Roberts. I'm not saying Rhodes is on Jake's level of promos yet because Jake was an all-time great, but that's who Rhodes reminds me of more than anybody. He brings a cocky demeanor plus an aura of confidence when he's on the microphone. It's the kind of attitude that fans love to hate. Simple yet effective.
In-Ring Work - There are a lot of fantastic wrestlers on the current WWE roster that I would consider to be truly elite such as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler to name a few. While Rhodes hasn't had the kind of great matches that those guys have had, I think he has it in him. He's come a long way in the past few years. While he's yet to have a breakthrough performance in a PPV match, he had a feud with Rey Mysterio that elevated him to a higher level and his showing at February's Elimination Chamber PPV was fantastic. It's only a matter of time until he's paired up with the right babyface to create an excellent series of matches. I think Kofi Kingston would be the perfect opponent though that depends on if WWE decides to pay attention to the "brand extension" or not.
The offensive maneuvers that Rhodes implements in his matches are very good. I like the Cross Rhodes finisher and the Disaster Kick (formerly known as the Beautiful Disaster) as a setup move is fantastic. It could also work as a finisher because he can hit that move out of nowhere, which is always a plus for a finishing move. Perhaps he should try to use the Figure Four Leglock as a submission move that can be used to win matches once in a while. There's no current WWE wrestler who uses it as a finisher. It would fit Rhodes's gimmick as that wrestler with the old school look to him. Perhaps a Dragon Sleeper would work, too. Having a submission move as an alternate finisher is a good thing to have in your arsenal.
Age - The best thing Rhodes has going for him is his age. He'll turn 27 in June. Think about this for a moment: If he wins the WWE or World Title in 2012, which could happen, then he'd be the same age as The Rock when he won his first WWE Title. He'd also be younger than legends like Shawn Michaels (30), Triple H (30), Edge (32), Steve Austin (33) and Bret Hart (35) when they won their first WWE/World Title. There are some wrestlers like Randy Orton (24), Brock Lesnar (25) and Undertaker (26) who won their first major title at a younger age than Rhodes is, but for the most part wrestlers are in their early 30s when it happens. What that means is Rhodes is reaching a high level performance at a younger age than a lot of the guys he grew up watching.
When John Cena won his first WWE/World Title it was a month before he turned 27. Eight years later he's still the unquestioned top guy in WWE. Randy Orton won his first World Title in the same year and he's still near the very top of the company, too. If you can win Vince McMahon over at such a young age like Rhodes is doing, you can cement your legacy as a top guy for the next decade to come.
There are plenty of other things you can mention when it comes to Rhodes's bright future such as his family legacy, his above average acting skills (he actually went to acting school before wrestling), the way he has elevated the Intercontinental Title because he puts the title over as a valuable possession or his ability to hook up with divas. That's a whole other topic. Needless to say fellas, you should have paid attention to all those free Dashing tips he gave you a few years back.
Rhodes has sneaked up on a lot of people. Three years ago, I doubt that many fans thought that Rhodes would be on the cusp of main eventing. Soon, his name will be mentioned with all the other legends in wrestling history.
In my opinion, it's not a question about if he's a main event level performer; it's a question of when that moment officially happens. When it happens, it will be a great thing for WWE and for any WWE fan watching because when it comes to Rhodes, the best is yet to come.
John Canton is a regular contributor at the Bleacher Report. You can read more of his work at his website thejohnreport.net and follow him on Twitter @johnreport where he tweets a lot about wrestling as well as other interesting topics.