All Elite Wrestling's Revolution card is stacked with intriguing matches. None, however, have gotten as deeply personal as Cody Rhodes vs. MJF. The feud began with no obvious backstory to explain why MJF turned on his supposed best friend at Full Gear last November.
However, the Salt of the Earth and the American Nightmare have opened up about the bad blood in their past friendship and their underlying disdain for each other all while keeping their rivalry at the forefront of AEW programming the past four months.
Below is a breakdown of the rivalry until now. Watch their match and the rest of the Revolution event Saturday on B/R Live.
Cody Rhodes vs. MJF: Background
MJF signed with AEW after taking part in All In, the independent show promoted by Cody in September 2018 that led to the formation of the company months later. It was around that time Cody took MJF under his wing. He saw potential in the mouthy 23-year-old the veteran wanted to mold.
"I never told myself, but I was told by the world over that Max is not a good guy," Cody said to B/R Live. "I really understood that, but I thought our relationship would be more cemented by the fact that I'm the one who stuck my neck out for him. The Young Bucks thought he was completely rotten as a wrestler and didn't want to sign him, but I thought he was special and put him on All In, and he showed the world he was special."
Until the conclusion of Full Gear, MJF consistently came to the aid of his mentor, who he deemed "the smartest man in the industry" in an interview with Bleacher Report last September. During Cody's feuds with Shawn Spears and Chris Jericho, MJF was often in his corner to help him fend off the likes of the Inner Circle. However, it was MJF's role as Cody's corner man against Jericho at Full Gear that cost the American Nightmare a hope of becoming the AEW world champion.
Cody Rhodes vs. MJF: The Turn
Ahead of Cody's title shot against Jericho at Full Gear, the 34-year-old was so confident he'd walk out of Baltimore as the new champion that he vowed to never compete for the belt again if he lost. This added to the match's intensity, especially once the champion put Cody in his signature Walls of Jericho finisher.
Cody, struggling to escape, screamed in pain as referee Aubrey Edwards asked if he wanted the match stopped. It was then that MJF, in Cody's corner throughout the match, threw a towel into the ring to signal forfeit. Edwards ended the bout as a shocked Royal Farms Arena crowd looked on, dismayed by MJF's decision.
An emotional MJF begged for forgiveness from Cody. However, after eventually being consoled by his title-less mentor, the Salt of the Earth turned on him with a kick to the groin, sending the crowd into a frenzy that saw one fan throw a drink at MJF as he retreated to the backstage area.
"My first foray into mentoring a young talent went epically, historically bad," Cody told Bleacher Report Live when looking back on what happened last November. "It felt like I should've seen it coming and didn't at all."
Despite the turn being teased for months, most notably at All Out last August when MJF grabbed a steel chair and hinted at bludgeoning Cody before eventually using it on Spears instead, even more eyes were on their impending feud now. MJF's embarrassment of Rhodes added to the perceived disdain he had for him, and that was the point. MJF costing Cody the chance to ever win the AEW world championship confirmed how personal this feud was going to get.
Cody Rhodes vs. MJF: Explanation
Fans were left to wonder why MJF turned on Cody since it seemed their friendship was stronger than most. The explanation came on the Dynamite following Full Gear, where the villain was greeted by chants of "assh--e" and "bulls--t" by the Nashville audience.
"The real Cody only cares about himself, but you sheep don't want to believe that," MJF said. "There's one person on this planet that knows the real Cody, and you're looking at him. The real Cody is a liar. The real Cody is a user and abuser. That sociopath put his hand out with a smile on his face and said 'Hey kid, I want to be your mentor.' Cody didn't want to keep me under his wing, but to put me underneath his thumb until he was done being 'the guy.' Well blondie, your thumb isn't big enough to put me down."
The angle: MJF grew tired of working what he believed to be "underneath" Cody. As his fame rose in 2019, he realized there was far more for him to gain as an independent act than there was alongside his former mentor. MJF felt disrespected by Cody and believes his near future at AEW will transcend that of just someone being told what to do. He wants to be a face of the company and doesn't care who he has to turn on to get that message across.
Cody confronted MJF moments after the latter explained why he turned on him, but he was met by MJF's 300-pound bodyguard: Wardlow. The two choked Cody with his own tie and left him in a heap, but the golden-haired babyface still demanded a match with MJF over the coming weeks. MJF eventually agreed, but only after a few stipulations were met.
Cody Rhodes vs. MJF: Stipulations
MJF told Cody he must agree to the following if their match at Revolution would take place:
1. Cody must receive 10 lashes on live television.
As brutal as it looked, Cody went through with the lashes despite seemingly wanting to stop on multiple occasions. However, those close to him, like the Young Bucks, head coach Arn Anderson and Brandi and Dustin Rhodes, supported him from outside the ring to continue. Cody did so, taking nine lashes from MJF and one especially powerful lash from Wardlow as well.
2. Cody must participate in a steel cage match with Wardlow.
Not only did Cody participate in a steel cage match with Wardlow, but he defeated him in what was the enforcer's in-ring debut for AEW. A bloodied Cody, who was thrown into the cage on numerous occasions, gave AEW one of its most viral moments after moonsaulting off the top of the cage on to Wardlow for the win.
3. Cody cannot touch MJF before Revolution.
Cody's made good on this stipulation up to this point and hasn't let his emotions get the best of him. These two refraining from getting their hands on each other until Revolution builds anticipation and interest in their match since the only time we've seen them make physical contact before is when MJF turned on Cody at Full Gear last November. This just leaves fans wondering how the match itself will actually play out.
What to expect from Revolution
MJF turning on Cody was one of the most emotionally captivating moments so far in AEW's short history. Now after months of buildup, their feud finally comes to a climax that fans will hope has warranted the amount of time AEW has invested in it. The ride up to this point has been quite fun and produced many memorable moments, but their match needs to deliver just as effectively, if not more so.
Fans know what to expect from Cody at this point. He's a classic, no-nonsense wrestler that excels at in-match storytelling better than anyone else on the roster. The biggest questions ahead of the match surround MJF's wrestling ability and how he'll jell with a worker of Cody's pedigree. MJF's only 23 and has never had this large of a spotlight on him ahead of a match. If he can deliver a strong performance, it'll elevate him to main-event status at AEW for the foreseeable future and perhaps even cement him as one of the best heels in the world.
Most importantly, though, this match needs to leave fans satisfied at the conclusion of it, living up to both the anticipation and its lofty expectations.