Cody Rhodes is the one of the most over babyfaces WWE has at the moment, with the only wrestler arguably more over than him being Sami Zayn. With the current reception Cody Rhodes has, it makes a lot of people wonder what happened in AEW for fans to turn on Cody and why that didn’t happen with the other members of The Elite (Kenny Omega, Matt & Nick Jackson).
The one of the biggest mistakes Cody Rhodes did during his run in AEW is taking himself out of the AEW world championship scene; while this makes fans take AEW seriously when it comes to stipulations, it took Cody out of interesting programs he could’ve been part of in the world title scene. The trade of was Cody helping build the TNT title, and making it feel important or even at times on the same level as the world title. So, this mistake from Cody did come with some positive for AEW, but not really for Cody Rhodes.
One moment that was key on fans turning on Cody Rhodes in AEW was his ill-advice pro-USA promo in 2021 in the middle of social unrest in the US. Cutting a promo on how your country is so good in the middle of those issues was a big mistake, and a lot of AEW fans disconnected with Cody Rhodes. Even inside the angle, it made Anthony Ogogo become an unexpected babyface with his responses to Rhodes’ promo. Some turn of events that didn’t help Cody Rhodes in his run in AEW.
When AEW started, Cody Rhodes thought of himself as the ace of AEW, in the same light as Hiroshi Tanahashi was for NJPW for many years, or even on the case of John Cena in WWE for a long time. At the beginning of AEW, he was that ace at first, but going back to the stipulation of not challenging for the world title, that pretty much ended his chances of becoming the ace of AEW. Another key factor was the rise of Jon Moxley as the ace of AEW and the deep connection he created with the AEW fanbase and that cemented him on the position of ace of AEW. Let’s just be honest, you can’t be the ace of a promotion and not challenge for the world title, that’s not how it works in wrestling.
Cody Rhodes on several occasions had the opportunity to turn heel and fresh things up a bit, new opponents, new stories to tell on the perspective of Cody as a heel, but Cody never made the turn and slowly but surely, he got stale. Cody Rhode fell on the trap of always being cheered by fans because he was a key component on the creation of AEW, but while that gives you a lot of credit, it makes you think you can only work as a babyface; and this was something Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks didn’t fall for and turned feel when needed. The fact Cody refused to make that turn will be the biggest mistake of his run in AEW.
While we mentioned negative moments of Rhodes in AEW that led to fans disconnecting on him, overall, he did more good than “bad” in AEW. One of the things that were positive on his run as TNT champion was his open challenge run and help guys like Ricky Starks and Eddie Kingston get signed by AEW, or the fact he helped young wrestlers like Darby Allin or Sammy Guevara make that next step on their development. The biggest contribution Rhodes did to AEW was helping establish the TNT championship as a prestigious title all wrestlers in AEW should go after.
Can WWE fans turn on Cody? That’s the question come fans are asking, and the simple answer is maybe. The timing of Cody Rhodes winning the Royal Rumble and Sami Zayn’s rise is just bad luck. The plan was for Cody to arrive to WrestleMania as the biggest babyface in WWE but that might not be the case because of Sami Zayn, and fans even argue the match between Roman Reigns and him should add Sami Zayn to the mix. Cody needs to be careful to not replicate what happened with Batista in 2014 but he does have the advantage that he was more over than Batista att hat point in time, and the fact Paul Levesque is not considering adding Zayn to the mix, at least for now.