In the process of morphing into Stardust, Cody Rhodes has shown that he is one of WWE's most versatile performers.
Sparkling gold gloves covering his hands, his sunburst-colored eyes darting around the room, he has entranced with his new persona. The new gimmick is odd and unexpected, and Rhodes is nailing it.
After he and his brother Goldust began to lose several tag team matches together, he pulled away from the team. A final loss to Curtis Axel and Ryback at Payback inspired Rhodes to tell The Bizarre One, "Brother to brother, you need a better tag team partner than me."
At first, that meant that Rhodes selected men like Kofi Kingston and Sin Cara to fight alongside Goldust, but eventually that wasn't enough.
Rhodes found a more fitting partner: Stardust. He transformed into a man covered in gold face paint, a star stretching across his mug, decked out in a sci-fi-inspired outfit that was a lot like his brother's.
His debut featured an awkward, short match and likely a lot of questions between members of the audience.
It looked as if Rhodes was in danger of going from one shadow to another, from being known as Dusty Rhodes' son and then as Goldust's brother but never appreciated in his own right. We should have known better. Rhodes has pulled this new character over him like a new skin.
He has thrived thus far.
Considering his history of gimmick evolution, this next phase is not surprising. Rhodes once played a man who believed himself to be dashing and gave out grooming tips. Later, he was a demented masked villain who handed out brown paper bags to the audience before becoming a grappler famous for his mustache.
It's not often that wrestlers can move successfully from persona to persona with so much success.
The list of those who could pull off the happy-go-lucky, starry-eyed misfit that is Stardust is very short. Try to imagine Randy Orton singing show tunes or Brock Lesnar painting himself up and playing a pixie-like role.
Chances are it would result in disaster.
Rhodes, though, has the training to slip into new characters. Per Mike Mooneyham of The Post and Courier, "Rhodes attended the Howard Fine Acting Studio in Los Angeles for a year." He showed off his acting ability when he guest starred on Warehouse 13.
He's using that training yet again, only this time with heavier, brighter makeup.
After a so-so debut, Rhodes has bettered the character with each backstage segment. He darts around, fidgety and grinning, marveling at the world.
On the June 23 WWE Raw, he blew dust from his hands and sang "When You Wish Upon a Star."
He was mesmerizing. It was easy to forget that it was Rhodes standing there under the dim lights. Stardust felt like a new wrestler altogether, some strange creature snatched from a dreamscape.
Goldust said what many fans must have been thinking: "Wow!"
There were backstage reports that the Stardust idea was an experiment of sorts. According to F4WOnline.com (h/t WrestlingInc.com), the idea was that if the gimmick didn't win fans over, WWE would shift gears and go with Rhodes vs. Goldust at SummerSlam.
It doesn't appear that will be the direction WWE heads in. Stardust has been too intriguing.
Thank Rhodes' acting chops. Several members of the roster would have stumbled with such a bizarre character. With the Rhodes family charisma in his blood and the lessons from Howard Fine Acting Studio apparently working, he has become a captivating sight.
At Money in the Bank, he took the act into the ring. His erratic behavior affected his ring style. He wasn't just Rhodes wrestling in a gold-and-black suit—he was a new man. That meant that everything from his posture to his gait shifted to reflect the persona change.
It was far more entertaining than the character's debut, as the Stardust concept now brimmed with promise.
After the match, he spoke with Byron Saxton and added more nuttiness to his resume. He told the interviewer, "A shooting star always amazes on the blackest night."
His hushed speech soon gave way to him breathing in much like his brother has done as Goldust and grinning cartoonishly.
He has continued this run of magnetic, memorable performances, performing a monologue on the July 4 SmackDown, where he contemplated what's in a name, and speaking of celestial clocks and astrological signs on the July 7 WWE Raw.
The character has followed him to Twitter as well. Following him is an experience much like listening to a loopy person spit out "revelations":
Aim for the moon, people of Earth. If you miss, you may, just may, hit a STAR... #RAW— Stardust (@StardustWWE) June 30, 2014
In less than a month with the Stardust persona, Rhodes has upped his value with the company. WWE knows now more than ever that it can rely on him to shine no matter the role.
Officials have tested his acting range with this new character. He's responded by owning it.
Rhodes is sure to undergo another mutation at some point. Whether that leads him to become a merciless corporate villain or a gutsy, likable warrior, WWE will know that he can handle it.
It won't be anything as challenging as being Stardust.