WWE Pushed to Punished, Edition 27: The Dashing Decadence of Cody Rhodes
Exactly two years ago Sunday, my Pushed to Punished series made its debut here on Bleacher Report, analyzing the rise and fall of Kenny Dykstra. Now, over 25 editions later, I celebrate the monumental anniversary by tackling the turbulent topic of Cody Rhodes.
Being the son of WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes, Cody Rhodes had an easier time getting called up to the main roster than most. After obtaining quite a bit of success down in Ohio Valley Wrestling, Rhodes made his WWE debut on the July 2, 2007, episode of Raw during a backstage segment alongside his father.
From the get-go, Cody aided Dusty in his feud against Randy Orton, whom he lost to in his debut match on July 16. Following Dusty's loss to Orton at The Great American Bash event, Cody came down to the ring to prevent the American Dream from being punted in the skull.
The next night on Raw, Cody came up short in a rematch against Orton and helplessly looked on as his father was kicked in the head by the Legend Killer. In doing so, Dusty was written off television while Cody entered singles competition soon after.
After scoring impressive victories over the likes of Daivari, Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, Rhodes met his match in Hardcore Holly, who defeated him on three consecutive episodes of Raw that September. Nonetheless, Rhodes managed to earn the respect of Holly, causing the two to form a partnership and target the then-World Tag Team champions Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch.
Although they were unsuccessful in defeating Cade and Murdoch for the titles at Survivor Series, Holly and Rhodes were granted a rematch on the 15th Anniversary of Raw. With Dusty Rhodes in their corner, the dynamic duo picked up the win and the World Tag Team Championships, giving Cody his first taste of gold in WWE.
In subsequent months, they successfully defended their straps against tandems such as Cade and Murdoch, Carlito and Santino Marella, and Paul London and Brian Kendrick. On the May 25 edition of Raw, Ted DiBiase made his WWE debut, threatening Holly and Rhodes that he'd become World Tag Team champion in his debut match.
For weeks, DiBiase taunted the duo about how he and his partner were going to take the titles at Night of Champions. At the event, Rhodes nailed Holly with a Silver Spoon DDT and revealed himself to be the secret partner of DiBiase, turning heel in the process.
I found this to be the turning point of Cody Rhodes' career, especially since he's been a heel ever since that fateful night. With that heel turn, Rhodes transitioned from a no-name enhancement talent to a dastardly heel, but that was only the beginning.
Now known as Team Priceless, Rhodes and DiBiase reigned as tag team champions for most of the summer season, aside from losing the belts to John Cena and Batista on the August 4 edition of Raw. However, they managed to regain the titles the next week on Raw by scoring an upset victory over the former World champions.
Slowly but surely, Rhodes and DiBiase were escalating up to the top of the card, as seen during their mini-feud with Cena that summer. It wasn't long before they caught the attention of the returning Orton, who called them "weak champions" in early September.
In an attempt to impress Orton, Priceless aided him in his backstage assault on CM Punk at Unforgiven, forcing Punk to relinquish the World Heavyweight Championship. That same night, they successfully retained their titles against archrivals Cryme Time.
Following the match, Manu made his WWE debut, aligning with Priceless and cemented his status as a heel. After the event, Priceless entered a feud with CM Punk and Kofi Kingston, who defeated them to win the World Tag Team Championships on the Oct. 27 episode of Raw.
Shockingly enough, Orton punted DiBiase in the skull after costing him a match against Punk in the Legend Killer's in-ring return in early November. Despite that, Rhodes and Manu (as well as the re-debuting Sim Snuka) stuck around with Orton, helping him emerge victorious over Team Batista at Survivor Series.
In the final few weeks of the year, Orton held qualifying matches, where the winners would secure a spot in his newly formed Legacy stable. Manu came up short in his match against Matt Hardy, whereas Snuka wasn't the one to score the pinfall in his tag team match with Rhodes.
At the start of 2009, Manu and Snuka formed a rebellion against Orton, offering Rhodes a spot in their alliance as well. At first, it seemed as if the returning Ted DiBiase was also against Orton, but it was revealed moments later that both he and Rhodes were still secretly linked with the Viper the entire time.
Once Manu and Snuka (who were both never seen again following this incident) were disposed of, the Legacy was officially born, which jump-started one of the biggest pushes of Cody Rhodes' career to date.
In being associated with Orton, both Rhodes and DiBiase benefited greatly, as they were amongst the final four remaining competitors in the 2009 Royal Rumble match. During Legacy's feud with the McMahons, Rhodes was featured in the main event of Raw on numerous occasions, even competing against Triple H in a Steel Cage match that March.
Unfortunately, Rhodes and DiBiase weren't in action at WrestleMania 25, but they did help Orton beat the WWE champion in a six-man tag team match at Backlash a few weeks later. They re-entered the tag team title picture in the summer of 2009, but came up short at both The Bash and Night of Champions, respectively.
At the same time, they continued to cost Triple H championship matches against Orton, which angered the Game. After losing to Legacy in a Handicap match on Raw, HHH determined it was time to reunite with Shawn Michaels in order to fend off the dastardly duo.
In one of the greatest matches of Rhodes' career, D-Generation X reigned supreme over Legacy at SummerSlam, but the feud didn't end there. Rhodes and DiBiase challenged DX to an Submissions Count Anywhere match at Breaking Point in September, which Legacy shockingly won.
Needless to say, this was one of the biggest wins in the career of Rhodes. He and DiBiase had just defeated two of the biggest names in WWE history, which is an impressive feat to say the least.
The feud concluded the following month at the inaugural Hell in a Cell event, where DX defeated Legacy in a hectic Hell in a Cell match. During the course of the contest, Rhodes was double-teamed by the legendary tandem and was stretched out of the arena to sell the sustained injuries.
Rhodes returned to television a few weeks later, and he was named one of members of Team Raw at Bragging Rights. Although he was on the losing end of the multi-man tag team match, he attempted to aid Orton in his WWE Championship match against John Cena later in the night but was fended off by Kofi Kingston.
That would lead to Legacy targeting Kingston in subsequent weeks, leading to a traditional five-on-five elimination tag team match at Survivor Series. Despite having the odds stacked against him, Kingston emerged victorious by lastly eliminating Orton.
The feud didn't end there, however, as they continued to make Kingston's life miserable for the remainder of the year. At both WWE TLC and the premiere episode of Raw of 2010, Orton soundly defeated the Ghanaian grappler.
Tension began to arise within Legacy, with all three guys having to win their respective matches in order to maintain their spot in the stable. At 2010's Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Orton delivered an RKO to Rhodes after he unintentionally got him disqualified during his WWE Championship match against Sheamus.
In retaliation, Rhodes helped DiBiase eliminate Orton during the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match the following month. The next night on Raw, Orton officially disassociated himself from the two after hitting both Rhodes and DiBiase with RKOs, thus putting an end to Legacy.
Rhodes and DiBiase continued to assault their mentor, which included Rhodes scoring a major win over Orton that February. The bad blood between all three guys came to a head at WrestleMania 26, where Orton emerged victorious in a Triple Threat match.
In the contest's closing moments, Orton delivered a swift kick to the skull of Cody Rhodes. To sell the injury, Rhodes didn't appear on television for a number of weeks following the event.
At the end of April, Rhodes was sent packing to the SmackDown brand via the 2010 WWE supplemental draft. He made his return on the April 30 edition of SmackDown, defeating John Morrison.
For the first time in nearly three years, Rhodes was now working as a singles competitor. Many saw that Ted DiBiase would be the Shawn Michaels of Team Priceless, but Rhodes was out to prove all the naysayers wrong.
He was named one of the Pros for the second season of WWE NXT, being assigned to Husky Harris. Although his rookie failed to win the competition, he'd go on to find success in joining the Nexus a few months later.
In late June, Rhodes revealed that the Divas voted him as the most handsome Superstar in all of the WWE, according to a poll on WWE.com. He then began referring to himself as "dashing," a nickname that would surely get him noticed on the SmackDown brand.
Sure, the gimmick wasn't main event-caliber, but at least it was giving him something to do. He generated quite a bit of heat from badgering the fans by calling them ugly, so it was working to an extent.
Starting in September, Rhodes formed an alliance with Drew McIntyre after defeating the likes of Christian and Matt Hardy in singles matches. At Night of Champions, the duo shockingly entered an impromptu Tag Team Turmoil match and walked out as the new WWE Tag Team champions.
However, the time with the titles was short-lived, as the strange pairing of John Cena and David Otunga would defeat them a month later for the straps at Bragging Rights. Rhodes and McIntyre decided to part ways shortly thereafter, effectively ending their partnership.
During a match with Rey Mysterio in January 2011, Rhodes allegedly had his nose broken at the hands (or the feet, rather) of Mysterio following a 619 to his face. Rhodes deemed that he was not cleared to compete and went as far as to forfeit an opportunity to participate in the Royal Rumble match.
Upon his return to SmackDown in late February, Rhodes sported a new face mask that he claimed was protecting his face from sustaining any further damage. He proceeded to brutally assault Mysterio and removed his mask, which set up a match between the two at WrestleMania 27.
With some help from his handy face mask, Rhodes managed to score an upset victory over the Master of the 619 on the grandest stage of them all. This was yet another major milestone in the career of Rhodes, indicating that he in fact was on his way to superstardom.
Unfortunately, Rhodes came up short in defeating him in the two subsequent rematches against Mysterio, one of which being a Falls Count Anywhere match at Extreme Rules. It was also during this time that Rhodes debuted his lackeys at ringside that handed out paper bags to anyone in sight, which also helped the former tag team specialist garner heat in the process.
A part of the 2011 WWE supplemental draft, DiBiase was moved to the SmackDown brand, where he reunited with his former friend Rhodes. The two briefly feuded with Daniel Bryan and Sin Cara before setting their sights on the Intercontinental Championship.
On the Aug. 12 edition of SmackDown, Rhodes defeated Ezekiel Jackson to win his first singles title in WWE in the form of the Intercontinental Championship.
After having enough of DiBiase's constant losing ways, Rhodes ambushed the former Million Dollar champion following a match with Randy Orton in late August. DiBiase returned two weeks later, brawling with Rhodes and challenging him for the Intercontinental title that Sunday at Night of Champions.
In that match, Rhodes rolled DiBiase up for the victory and maintained possession of his title. Two weeks later at Hell in a Cell, Rhodes unveiled the classic Intercontinental Championship belt, claiming that he was going to bring back prestige to the title.
He went on to successfully defend the strap against John Morrison and Sheamus in subsequent weeks before entering a feud with former foe Orton. Orton had busted Rhodes wide open in early September after blasting him with a ring bell, so Rhodes was out for vengeance.
In late October, Orton defeated Rhodes at the appropriately named Vengeance pay-per-view as well on the Nov. 4 episode of SmackDown in a Street Fight. Following the latter matchup, Orton removed Rhodes' protective mask from his face and proceeded to bag him, humiliating the second-generation star in the process.
Ten days later, Rhodes returned to Raw, debuting all-new entrance music and attire. No longer was his look "un-dashing," but rather the look of a future World Heavyweight champion.
That Sunday at Survivor Series, Rhodes was one of the final two remaining competitors on his team, along with Wade Barrett. The next night on Raw, he'd throw water in the face of Booker T while he was doing commentary, igniting a feud between the two in the process.
The two traded victories in the final few weeks of 2011, but Rhodes still managed to successfully retain his Intercontinental Championship against Booker T on two separate occasions. With another victory over a former World champion under his belt, Rhodes was not only boosting his own credibility, but the credibility of the Intercontinental title as well.
In the 2012 Royal Rumble match, Rhodes lasted nearly 44 minutes before being eliminated by Big Show. He eventually got payback over Big Show the following month at Elimination Chamber, where Rhodes eliminated the World's Largest Athlete from the World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber match.
These instances planted the seeds for their match at WrestleMania 28, where Show soundly defeated Rhodes to win his first Intercontinental Championship. This would end Rhodes' reign at 236 days, the longest IC championship reign in over 15 years.
I, for one, was hoping for Rhodes to outlast Honky Tonk Man's record-setting reign, but no such luck. Sadly, this loss would also mark the beginning of the end of the highly desired push of Rhodes.
In subsequent weeks, Rhodes would come up short against the likes of Kofi Kingston, R-Truth and even The Great Khali, all due to distractions from Big Show. Regardless, Rhodes regained the title at Extreme Rules after outsmarting Show in a Tables match.
The feud culminated in a match on Raw in mid-May, which Show won via count-out. Although Rhodes remained the Intercontinental champion, he was being booked much weaker than he was before.
The second run with the strap was nowhere near as good as his first, as he inevitably dropped the title to Christian at Over the Limit a mere three weeks later. While his rivalry with Christian had potential, it was hardly given any time to develop on television.
Rhodes invoked his rematch clause at No Way Out, but he was unsuccessful in winning back the prestigious prize. However, he scored a non-title victory over Christian on the Great American Bash edition of SmackDown in early July, qualifying for the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank Ladder match.
Both he and Dolph Ziggler were the favorites were going in, but I believed that the briefcase would benefit Rhodes more than it would Ziggler due to the fact that Rhodes was stuck in no-man's land. Despite a strong showing, the bleached-blond Superstar captured the briefcase at the Money in the Bank event, relegating Rhodes back to square one.
He briefly feuded with Sin Cara in August, but was unable to obtain any momentum over the masked marvel. He was placed in a Fatal 4-Way for the Intercontinental Championship at Night of Champions, but in a losing effort.
Thankfully, WWE officials realized the brilliance in putting Rhodes and Damien Sandow together in a tag team. They were collectively known as Team Rhodes Scholars and got engaged in a feud with WWE Tag Team champions Team Hell No from the get-go.
Although they managed to become the No. 1 contenders to the straps after winning a tag team tournament, they were unsuccessful in capturing the titles at Hell in a Cell. Team Rhodes Scholars was granted a title rematch on an episode of WWE Main Event in mid-November, but during the course of the contest, Rhodes sustained a concussion and a strained shoulder.
Due to the impromptu injury, Rhodes was removed from the traditional five-on-five elimination tag team match at Survivor Series and was replaced by David Otunga. He made his return quicker than expected on the Dec. 10 episode of Raw, sporting an all-new mustache.
Sure, it's a strange look to say the least, but it's gotten him over in the process. Even still, it doesn't feel like anything more than a midcard act, so I'm not sure how long it will be before it wears out its welcome.
That Sunday at WWE TLC, Rhodes Scholars defeated Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara to once again become the No. 1 contenders to the tag titles. Although many believed that they'd capture the titles at some point, they never did, as they lost all championship matches they competed in.
This led to them parting ways on the edition of SmackDown following the Royal Rumble event, but declared that their friendship was still intact. As he re-entered singles competition, Rhodes was even worse off than it was before, as he's emerged victorious far fewer times than he's lost over the last month.
It's a shame to think that Rhodes was receiving arguably the biggest push of his career at this time a year ago. The IC title was meant to be used as a stepping stone for Rhodes before moving on to the main event, but he's only gone downhill since losing the strap.
With Team Rhodes Scholars reuniting this upcoming Monday night on Raw to face the New Age Outlaws, I hope this signals something much bigger for both Rhodes and Sandow. The former multi-time Intercontinental champion has had his sights set on Divas champion Kaitlyn in recent weeks, so that could be quite possibly leading to a face turn for Rhodes.
As much as I've enjoyed Rhodes as a heel over the last five years, I believe it might be time for a change. With both midcard champions being heels at the moment, it'll be hard to find anything else for him to do if he remains a villain.
I also do believe that he'll be World Heavyweight champion at some point down the line, but more than likely not anytime soon. From Alberto Del Rio to Dolph Ziggler to Jack Swagger, there's more than enough people in the title picture at the moment, so now is just not Rhodes' time.
Thanks for reading, Bleachers, and be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on Cody Rhodes and his descent over the last year. Also, include any other potential topics you'd like to see me analyze on upcoming editions of WWE Pushed to Punished.
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