Sunday night at Battleground, the Rhodes family stood tall, all back under WWE's employ with all right in the world.
On a show that otherwise ranged from middling (most of the show) to disastrous (a power outage right before the main event, the main event finish or lack thereof), the Cody and Dusty Rhodes' win over The Shield's Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns was the clear high point, especially from an emotional standpoint.
Thanks to a storyline that WWE largely lucked into (apparently, there was a miscommunication about his pre-arranged honeymoon time off, so he had to be written off TV immediately), Cody Rhodes has more momentum behind him right now than anyone who isn't Daniel Bryan. That's arguable, too: Someone can easily make a case for Bryan being in a better spot but Cody having more momentum due to the issues with the main event booking.
So, what's next for Rhodes?
At least for the next three weeks, he and his brother Goldust are probably going to keep feuding with The Shield, this time over the WWE Tag Team Championship. Randy Orton and Bryan are clearly on the road to a Hell in a Cell match in three weeks with Big Show possibly joining them, so there's no clear main event spot for Cody at the moment.
In the grand scheme of things, though, it's inevitable that he ends up in a top spot. This whole storyline where he's been fighting for his job has taken him from treading water to being one of the hottest acts in the company. His summer feud with Damien Sandow was entertaining, but until Sandow gets a permanent mean streak, feuding with him is kind of a dead end.
Giving him a relatable personal issue to fight for has made him more of a serious character, a better and more believable interview, and a bigger star.
So, what's next for him?
Bryan vs. Orton needs to be blown off at Hell in a Cell. After that, regardless of who's WWE champion, Orton's next opponent is likely Big Show, and that will likely take them through a couple of pay-per-views. With Orton occupied for at least two or three PPV events, I see the Rhodes brothers challenging for The Shield's WWE Tag Team Championship for at least a month or so.
It serves as a continuation of a hot program, which is a nice way for Cody to bide time as well as further rehab The Shield. The only question mark there is what to do with the belts, and I'm honestly not sure I have a good answer for that.
From there, Cody can move on to a singles feud with United States champion Dean Ambrose. A title change would make a fair bit of sense: Ambrose's initial title win elevated the United States Championship, but now he's just the usual midcard champion, only without the awful string of losses they usually have to endure nowadays. He's been a disappointment so far as a singles wrestler, and he needs something new to do.
Since Cody would be winning the title as the culmination to a heated feud, it wouldn't drag him down at all. The title change would elevate him further, and he would elevate the belt again.
I guess you could do the two Shield title programs in opposite order, it doesn't really matter. It may even be better that way since the tag feud is harder to book with the titles in play.
If Orton is WWE champion come Royal Rumble, Rhodes would be the perfect challenger. Picking the challenger for the Rumble is always tricky: You don't want to "waste" the shot, but you don't want a foregone conclusion, either. Rhodes would be a good fit: He has a built-in feud with Orton, who got him "fired," but he's also not quite ready to be a consistent main eventer yet. Losing to Orton wouldn't hurt him, and he could move to a new feud going into Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania.
As long as WWE keeps Rhodes on a steady path and doesn't beat him down too much, he'll be ready to be a top babyface during WrestleMania season. It's easier said than done, but I'd like to see them try.