Ranking Cody Rhodes' 7 Greatest Moments of WWE and AEW Career
Cody Rhodes has accomplished more than most in the world of wrestling at the age of 34.
The American Nightmare joined WWE's main roster in the summer of 2007 and was a world tag team champion within a matter of minutes. By the following year, he had cemented himself as a star by aligning with Randy Orton and becoming a crucial member of The Legacy.
He came close on countless occasions but was never able to live up to his potential in WWE as a main event player and largely enjoyed midcard success for the remainder of his run there. It wasn't until he took a bet on himself and left that he finally started to come into his own as a top-tier talent.
The time he spent on the independent scene saw him become a champion in Ring of Honor, Global Force Wrestling, New Japan Pro-Wrestling and the National Wrestling Alliance. He helped to form All Elite Wrestling at the onset of 2019, for whom he doubles as an executive vice president and an in-ring performer.
Although AEW only had its first show only in May, Cody has already produced a slew of stellar matchups and will contend for the AEW World Championship against Chris Jericho at the Full Gear pay-per-view in November.
Ahead of his highly anticipated match with Sammy Guevara on AEW's TNT premiere in October, let's look back at the greatest moments in the decorated career of Cody Rhodes.
7. Silencing Shawn Spears (AEW All Out 2019)
Anyone who has followed Cody's career from the beginning is well aware of the rich history he has with Shawn Spears.
The two came up in WWE's former developmental system, Ohio Valley Wrestling, together before branching off in different directions. Cody went on to achieve superstardom on the main roster, while Spears was released following a short stint on WWE's ECW brand.
Spears was later brought back as part of NXT in 2013 and was rechristened as Tye Dillinger. Cody was always very vocal about the talent that he possessed, even long after he departed the company in 2016. Once Spears followed in his footsteps and requested his release earlier in 2019, All Elite Wrestling seemed like a natural landing spot for him.
The former Perfect Ten's AEW debut at Double or Nothing was well received, but it was his vicious attack on Cody at Fyter Fest that took him to that next level. He quickly changed everything about his character upon turning heel and even adapted WWE Hall of Famer Tully Blanchard as his manager.
There was a ton of buzz surrounding their match at August's All Out pay-per-view, and both guys brought out the best in each other leading up to the event. From Blanchard's interference to a surprise appearance from Arn Anderson, it was filled with shenanigans, yet all of them made the matchup that much more suspenseful.
When the smoke cleared, Cody was able to defeat Spears decisively and exorcise that demon once and for all. It was an emotional evening for The American Nightmare considering everything that led up to that point.
6. Aligning with Ted DiBiase (Night of Champions 2008)
Cody Rhodes was just another wrestler on the roster when he arrived on the WWE scene in the summer of 2007. His short-lived feud with Randy Orton and subsequent tag team with Hardcore Holly were decent but didn't do much to highlight his strengths as a performer.
After reigning as a world tag team champion with Holly for nearly six months, the two started to tease tension in June 2008, which newcomer Ted DiBiase Jr. was eager to take advantage of. He challenged Rhodes and Holly to a match for their twin titles at Night of Champions and promised he would reveal the identity of his partner at the event.
There were several Superstars fans thought DiBiase could team with, but no one expected his partner to be Rhodes himself.
Shortly after the bell rang, Rhodes shocked the world by betraying Holly and ambushing him from behind. DiBiase proceeded to pin the seasoned veteran and claim the tag titles in his first official WWE match, a feat only an elite few can lay claim to.
Team Priceless was the best thing that could have happened to Rhodes, as it became clear almost immediately that he was far more comfortable as a heel than he ever was as a face. This moment served as a turning point in his career and laid the groundwork for what what become The Legacy.
5. Defeating D-Generation X (Breaking Point 2009)
Rhodes' stock within WWE skyrocketed once he joined forces with DiBiase and Randy Orton in 2008. By 2009, he and DiBiase were rubbing shoulders with the illustrious likes of Triple H, John Cena and Batista on a weekly basis and holding their own against them every time.
The up-and-coming duo were given their first chance to stand out during their feud with D-Generation X that summer. Although Triple H and Shawn Michaels won their initial encounter at SummerSlam, it wasn't enough to keep Rhodes and DiBiase down.
The rematch took place at the Breaking Point pay-per-view, where all of the top matches on the show had submission-themed stipulations. That meant that Legacy vs. DX would be contested under Submissions Count Anywhere rules.
Rhodes and DiBiase successfully executed their plan of dividing and conquering DX and ensured that Michaels and Triple H were separated at all times. That allowed Legacy to put the soon-to-be Hall of Famers through as much pain and punishment as possible, which included Rhodes applying a Figure-Four leglock to Michaels around the turnbuckle post.
With Triple H incapacitated backstage, DiBiase secured his signature submission manuver, the Million Dollar Dream, on The Heartbreak Kid for the huge upset victory. If Legacy weren't mega stars before, they were following their hard-fought performance on this pay-per-view.
4. Beating Rey Mysterio on the Grandest Stage of Them All (WrestleMania XXVII)
The Legacy going their separate ways at the onset of 2010 led Rhodes to branch off into singles competition on SmackDown soon after. He didn't settle into his first feud as a member of the blue brand until early 2011, when he accused Rey Mysterio of "breaking his face" during a match on SmackDown that caused him to miss the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
Rhodes aimed to exact revenge, and upon his return to the ring, he donned a silly-looking protective face mask similar to the one Trish Stratus wore for an angle years earlier. Even though there wasn't any visible damage to The Dashing One's mug, Cody changed his demeanor heading into WrestleMania XXVII and evolved into a much darker version of his former self.
His character around this time was top-notch and matched his mic skills perfectly. He came across as more of a threat than he ever had before, which boded well for his chances against Mysterio at 'Mania.
That year's installment of the Show of Shows is widely regarded by fans to be among the worst in recent memory, but Rhodes vs. Mysterio did provide an underrated gem on the undercard. Not only was it a well-wrestled outing, but the outcome was also what it needed to be, with Rhodes scoring the most important singles victory of his career up to that point.
Rhodes went on to lose the feud when The Master of the 619 defeated him in a Falls Count Anywhere matchup at Extreme Rules, but at least he won when it mattered most, a sign that big things were on the horizon for him in WWE.
3. Winning His 1st Intercontinental Championship (SmackDown, August 12, 2011)
It wasn't long after his rivalry with Rey Mysterio that Cody Rhodes entered the Intercontinental Championship picture. SmackDown's midcard scene was incredibly flat at the time, with Wade Barrett and Ezekiel Jackson feuding over the strap for the better part of the spring. Rhodes' chasing the championship was a breath of fresh air.
On the Aug. 12, 2011, edition of SmackDown, Rhodes vied for the gold against Jackson in a valiant effort. Because of Jackson's limitations in the ring, the match itself wasn't anything special, but Rhodes pulled out the best bout he possibly could from his opponent and kept the crowd engaged.
Following an assist from Ted DiBiase at ringside, Rhodes planted Jackson with the Cross Rhodes to win his first Intercontinental Championship. It was a rewarding moment for the second-generation star.
At the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view two months later, Rhodes unveiled the retro Intercontinental Championship belt that has been in use ever since. He prided himself on being a fighting champion and faced challenges from DiBiase, John Morrison and Booker T in the eight months that followed.
For a title that hadn't been heavily focused on for years at that point, The American Nightmare managed to bring it back to a level of importance. His loss of the belt to Big Show at WrestleMania XXVIII should have been when WWE pulled the trigger on his main event push, but it never came to pass.
2. Overcoming The Shield with Goldust (Battleground 2013)
There aren't too many highlights from The Authority's reign of terror from 2013 to 2016, but this feud, pitting the Rhodes family against The Shield, tops that shortlist.
Cody Rhodes decided to defy The Authority on the Sept. 2, 2013, edition of Raw, and as a result, he was "fired" from WWE following a loss to Randy Orton. Goldust attempted to get his brother's job back by facing Orton the next week on Raw, but he was also unsuccessful.
Their father, the legendary Dusty Rhodes, interjected himself into the angle, which lead to some great interactions with Stephanie McMahon on Raw in the weeks preceding the Battleground pay-per-view. At the event, the Rhodes brothers were granted one last chance to reclaim their spots on the roster in a match with The Shield's Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.
That matchup marked the first time Cody and Goldust had ever teamed up on television, so it was unknown how they would fare against such a dominant unit. Despite that, they banded together and took the then-WWE tag team champions to their limit.
The match was an undeniable masterpiece that featured some strong storytelling and exciting action. The crowd lost its mind when Cody connected with the Cross Rhodes and pinned Rollins for the victory.
Emotion ensued from the whole Rhodes family, as well as the rest of the locker room, who were thrilled to see The Shield and The Authority finally get their comeuppance. They captured the WWE Tag Team Championship eight days later and became one of the best tandems the tag division had seen in years.
1. Reuniting with Dustin Rhodes (AEW Double or Nothing 2019)
Cody and Dustin Rhodes essentially spent the remainder of their run in WWE either teaming up or feuding. Following their first reign as WWE tag team champions, Cody was repackaged as Stardust and the duo regained the gold for a short period soon after.
They then split up in February 2015 and had a less-than-stellar match at the inaugural Fastlane event. It fell well below expectations after years and years of fans lobbying for them to collide one-on-one.
That said, the circumstances surrounding the contest weren't ideal, and the build was rushed, so it was nowhere near as special as it could have been. In other words, the company was more at fault for the matchup being a disappointment than the Superstars were.
But everything happens for a reason, and more than four years later, they were able to right that wrong on their own terms.
Cody's opponent for AEW's premiere pay-per-view, Double or Nothing, remained a mystery until about a month out from the show, when it was announced on YouTube that he would be facing none other than his brother.
In a six-minute video, Cody and Dustin did a better job of getting fans hyped for their upcoming encounter than WWE ever could. In addition to anticipation for the outing being at an all-time high, the match was nothing short of spectacular and arguably the best of their respective careers.
Cody proved that he was a master of storytelling inside the squared circle without WWE, while Dustin showed he could hang with the elite at the age of 50. Cody earned that victory, as well as the emotional embrace he received from his brother afterward.
It will be a tall task for Cody to do anything in AEW to top that, but winning the AEW World Championship from Chris Jericho at Full Gear in November would come close.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.