This Saturday, Cody Rhodes will defend the TNT Championship against Darby Allin at AEW Full Gear in one of the most anticipated matches of the night. Those in the U.S. and Canada can order the event for $49.99 on B/R Live or through cable providers.
In addition to working as an on-screen talent, Cody also serves as one of the executive vice presidents of AEW in a backstage capacity and has been responsible for recruiting some of the company's most popular stars.
The American Nightmare spoke with Bleacher Report ahead of Full Gear to discuss the pay-per-view, growing up in the business, acting, political aspirations and much more.
Cody grew up in a wrestling family with both his father and brother, Dusty and Dustin, becoming household names in the industry.
The '80s and most of the '90s were dominated by Superstars who were larger than life both physically and in terms of their personality. When he was 19, the 6'1" Cody didn't think he was big enough to be taken seriously as a wrestler and had another plan to break into the business.
"My idea was to be in entertainment anyway," Rhodes said. "I wanted to go to L.A. and become a famous actor. This was my legit plan. I figured if I were famous, they would have to take me. Fast-forward to now, and it's funny because I'm one of the bigger guys in the business as far as physicality. It's hilarious."
After working in WWE for 10 years, he decided to see what kind of name he could make for himself in other promotions. He spent some time in Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling before All Elite Wrestling became his home.
Cody has had a lot of special moments in AEW, such as facing his brother in one of the bloodiest matches in recent memory at Double or Nothing 2019 and winning the TNT Championship twice.
When asked about his favorite moments so far, he had two events in mind:
"One of them was the very first Dynamite when I was coming up on the Codyvator, the little elevator they have for me. I'm usually a master of all facets of what we are doing, but in that case, I felt completely out of control, and it was Brandi standing next to me saying, 'Can you believe this?' The next thing I know, we have already cleared the stage and are in the ring in front of 14,000 fans.
"Juxtapose that with the moment of me standing in front of absolutely nobody at the start of the pandemic talking to the hard cam almost like it was a State of the Union. The reason I love those two moments is because the heart of the show never changed. We have never thought of any of the shows we are doing as a soft show. Every show aims to be better than the week before, even with long-term booking in mind. That's what makes me proud and lets me know we are going to be around for years and years to come."
This weekend, Cody will battle Allin for the TNT title. These two have had three matches before Full Gear. Two of them have ended with The American Nightmare victorious, and the other was a draw.
While they have served as rivals most of the time, Cody was instrumental in bringing him into the company.
"I watched him wrestle Ethan Page at EVOLVE and I just knew there was something special about him," Rhodes said. "His business demeanor is nothing to write home about. He doesn't wear a suit, he doesn't interview well and he's a little bit closed off, but that is never a reason not to consider somebody. He is very special. There was such a curiosity but also trepidation about him here that the only way I could agree to get him on the show was if I wrestled him myself. I did, and it was great."
When he left WWE, Cody famously created a list of people he wanted to wrestle. He was able to cross most of those names off and has since begun thinking about whom he wants to face in AEW.
"Angelico from TH2 is someone I want to test myself against," Rhodes said. "I've never actually had a singles match with 'Hangman' Adam Page. I think a match we wanted to happen so many times but was hurt by the pandemic was Pac. We've both grown so much from Neville and Stardust and to be able to show the world that would be really special."
In addition to wrestling and working behind the scenes, Cody has also done some acting, most notably on television. He had a one-episode guest spot on the Syfy show Warehouse 13, but his most famous non-wrestling role was as Derek Sampson on Arrow.
Cody had a few fight scenes with star Stephen Amell, but their relationship did not end there. They have also worked together in both WWE and at the All In PPV, where Amell faced Christopher Daniels.
Now, Amell is about to feature in a Starz series, titled Heels, about the pro wrestling industry. He will portray one of two brothers who grew up in a pro wrestling family in Georgia, a story that is very similar to Cody's.
"I think everyone I know in Hollywood sent me the treatment for Heels," Rhodes said. "If you know anything about two brothers from a wrestling family in Georgia, it starts to sound very familiar. I think anything Stephen touches turns to gold. He was an inspiration to me when I got to see him on Arrow. When he came to work with us at All In and prior to that in WWE, he came in with his ears open and he was exposed to this new bubble.
"I will always be there if he needs help. I love wrestling, and I would love for it to be presented the way it really is. It's special to a lot of people, and if you do a show about wrestling and don't get the wrestling right, you might not get the audience. I think if anyone can do it, Stephen can."
The American Nightmare continues to have the itch to act, but that is not his only goal. In addition to wanting to help grow AEW, the field of politics is something he has his eye on as a potential career when he eventually retires.
A few other wrestlers have dipped their toes into the pool of politics before; Jesse Ventura was the governor of Minnesota, and Glenn "Kane" Jacobs is the current mayor of Knox County, Tennessee.
"I have a ton of desire to do more acting so long as it doesn't conflict with my job here," Rhodes said. "I'm 35, and I said I only wanted to wrestle for five more years. I have political aspirations. I would love to run for the Senate in the great state of Georgia. I want to help with the sphere of influence I have created. I always say if you do the work, it will pay off. That is why I love Brandi. She is so incredibly hardworking, and we have to remind each other to be present often, but when we are it's very special."
With a packed lineup and several big matches, Full Gear may be the most important AEW PPV to date. We will get the payoff to a few major storylines and see the show continue to drive others. When asked to sum up his thoughts on Full Gear and why people should tune in, Cody had this to say:
"I think this could end up being the PPV that defines us. The Bucks vs. FTR is a match that has been building for many years. Page and Omega are two of the best bell-to-bell wrestlers ever. You have Jon Moxley with Eddie Kingston. You have John Silver vs. Orange Cassidy for that meta-loving fan. I think everyone has the intention of stealing the show.
"With everything that is going on, you are guaranteed some sort of satisfaction. The one thing pro wrestling can always provide, which sports like boxing and MMA can't always provide, is a payoff to what we are doing. You will absolutely fall in love with somebody. You don't have to love wrestling, but there will be a wrestler that you will fall in love with and you should absolutely give it a try."