Turning losses into momentum has become Cody Rhodes' specialty.
Getting fired from WWE became a victory of sorts just as losing the Money in the Bank ladder match to Damien Sandow helped lift Rhodes up toward the proverbial brass ring.
Randy Orton got the win over Rhodes on Monday's WWE Raw and Triple H continued his oppressive reign over the roster, but it was Rhodes whom the spotlight zeroed in on. His loss and temporary departure only served to aid him and to make him a bigger star.
Rhodes is rumored, per PWMania.com, to be "taking a few weeks off to get married and go on his honeymoon." WWE could have easily had him do this by just not having him appear for a while or have someone kayfabe injure him on the air. Instead, Rhodes became one of Raw's focal points on his way out and deepened his connection with the audience in the process.
Rhodes began his night bumping into Triple H and Orton backstage.
He made the mistake of voicing his opinions to Triple H, who has recently responded to dissension and perceived disrespect by swinging his iron fist. Rhodes said that he thought Orton taking on Daniel Bryan was best for business.
That simple comment soon had his career in jeopardy.
Triple H put him in a match against the WWE champ and added that if he lost, he'd be fired. What better way to have the audience root for you than to become a victim of injustice?
Triple H further abused his power and Rhodes became the rebel fans want to root for.
Rhodes' popularity hasn’t often matched his talent level. That is seemingly set to change.
On Monday, just with how Money in the Bank played out, the attention shifted to Rhodes and he thrived.
The storyline not only had him fighting the WWE titleholder but had fans rooting for him via Twitter and otherwise. Chants of "Cody Rhodes!" thundered throughout the arena.
Here was an opportunity, as Jim Ross put it, to "maximize his minutes."
That's exactly what Rhodes did, making his match against Orton compelling theater.
Battling for his career, Rhodes delivered an emotional match. He appeared focused, fearful and desperate each time he attacked Orton. After nailing the Beautiful Disaster kick and getting only a two-count from it, Rhodes sat up and looked dazed.
The high stakes of this match were clear by the emotions Rhodes exuded.
He came at Orton with every signature move in his playbook and appeared on the verge of victory several times. The fans seemed to turn up the volume as the action went along.
A cocky Orton slowly picked up a fallen Rhodes and readied himself to deliver the RKO. Suddenly, Rhodes reversed the move into the Cross Rhodes. The Des Moines crowd erupted as Rhodes moved in for the pin.
Orton kicked out and Rhodes barked at the referee about his job being on the line.
Rhodes looked resilient even in defeat and the excitement and drama surrounding just how his career "ended" will have this moment end up being one of the biggest of his career. The pathos created by his loss and dismissal elevates Rhodes even more than staving off defeat would have.
The story creates pity for Rhodes, hatred for Triple H and has fans wondering how and when the former Intercontinental champ will return. That's a lot more buzz than earlier this year when his match was cut from WrestleMania.
Former WWE Superstar Lance Storm commented favorably on Rhodes' performance.
For my money Cody Rhodes was the highlight of #RAW tonight. Best match and best promo.— Lance Storm (@LanceStorm) September 3, 2013
It's not often that Rhodes could be called the highlight of Raw, but this firing storyline changed that. More people will now be talking about Rhodes than they have in a long time. More eyes will be on what his next move is.
WWE offered him a chance to spit fire on the mic before he stepped out.
Rhodes seethed as he spoke to Josh Mathews about how WWE has mistreated the Rhodes family from putting his father in polka dots to dressing his brother in a wig. The resentment and anger certainly felt real.
He left after giving us several sound bites to savor.
Just about any other exit strategy for Rhodes would have his return be a forgettable moment. Christian returned with little buzz, as did Kofi Kingston. When Rhodes gets back, the situation will be far different.
He will be thrust into the marquee storyline involving Triple H and be powered by a thirst for revenge. He will have the audience backing him more than they ever have. WWE has been patient in building Rhodes into a main-event star and that slow burn is finally catching fire.
For Rhodes, getting fired will turn out to be his entryway to superstardom.