By Chuck Carroll
For a pro wrestler there is no greater risk than leaving WWE and gambling on yourself. Yet, for the man formerly known as Cody Rhodes that gamble is paying off big time. If you follow him on social media, you’ll know his departure has changed him. He doesn’t have time for quirky tweets about what he’s eating for breakfast anymore. His timeline is flooded with announcements for upcoming dates where he’ll be wrestling.
What does his touring schedule look like now? A recent week took him from Tokyo to wrestling a match the next night in the UK then over to Orlando for a series of TV tapings. For Rhodes, that brutal schedule has almost become commonplace. He says it’s even more brutal than WWE’s schedule, which consists of daily four-hour trips in the car that drive most wrestlers mad. Those trips have been traded in for the first flight out of wherever he is early the next morning. He didn’t really factor that into the equation when he left the largest wrestling organization in the world. But he’s not complaining either. He’s having too much fun to worry about it.
He’s everywhere now, including Ring of Honor where he’s working with Adam Cole. You can thank Kevin Owens for turning Cody on to his work a couple of years ago. He’s looking forward to working with him this weekend in Texas where ROH is running shows in San Antonio and Dallas. He’ll actually be teaming with Cole in Dallas to take on Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian in a match that diehard WWE fans would love to see in NXT.
With WWE now on the Road to WrestleMania, I recently had the opportunity to talk to Cody about his decision to leave and whether he’s missing the build to the big event in April. From all accounts it doesn’t seem like it. He’s happy in ROH and being able to work with his wife in TNA. Cody thinks it might not be too long before she’s in an ROH ring too. He was blown away by his experience working at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s WrestleKingdom.
So are there any regrets leaving WWE? You should listen to the complete interview here.
Working for Ring of Honor, TNA, New Japan, etc. it seems like you’re busier than ever. How does it compare to the hectic schedule in WWE?
I think with WWE the schedule is so consistent that it’s brutal… it is every week live TV, every week. So, if you’re on the live events, you’re Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. There’s never a Monday off that you’re not live. That consistency is what starts to drive you mad a little bit. The thing with WWE is you’re driving Friday into Saturday, Saturday into Sunday. The longest they’re ever going to be is four hours. I didn’t take into account with this that I’ll be flying every morning on the earliest flight to a brand new place and unfamiliar territory. It’s busier than WWE, and it blows my mind. But the job is too fun to complain.
It’s fun and you’re having a blast wrestling all over the place, but what are your feelings being away from WWE and missing the hype and build leading to WrestleMania?
The Road to WrestleMania always gets people buzzing. And if they’d fallen off a little bit, they’ll come back around this time. But for me, I don’t feel any longing for it or feel any nostalgia over it. I just did WrestleKingdom in front of 40,000 in the Tokyo Dome. They tell you that it’s a lot like WrestleMania. I didn’t believe that until I actually got there and saw the scope of the production and size of the stage and the incredible matches. And the main event is a match that people are going to be talking about for years and years to come with Okada and Kenny Omega. So, it really hasn’t hit me yet. Maybe it’s because I was with WWE for so long. I’m doing only a few shows during WrestleMania week that happened to be in Orlando. I kind of don’t want to be around the WrestleMania experience, not because I don’t like it or [don’t] want to be around my friends, but because like [with] any job, 10 years is a long time be anywhere.
How has it been trying to adapt from the WWE style of wrestling to working at Ring of Honor and the independents?
I try to adapt to the various styles, but pro wrestling as a whole is changing in general. A great example is Okada versus Kenny Omega. That is the style wrestling was already heading for. Theirs is the perfect example of a match that suspended people’s disbelief but also moved at an incredibly fast pace. They say what’s old is new, so I try to incorporate the things I loved from the 1970s and ’80s. I try not to do it to a fault and do it with the sprint that exists in modern wrestling. The industry is really changing, and the risk factor involved and cardio ratio have gotten much higher.
You’re wrestling for TNA now and recently did a round of TV tapings. With the big changes and new ownership in place, how have things changed from when you started a few months ago?
I was really impressed. Part of going to the taping was meeting with the new owners, and it was really nice to see a revitalized situation. You hear all of this trash talk toward TNA. However, every time I’ve been, the crowd at the Impact Wrestling Zone has been excellent. This last time they had double the crowd size and really streamlined production. They have some really good minds that have just joined and come onboard. The production of TNA and WWE’s NXT is very similar in that it’s classic studio wrestling. You’ve got fans on two or three sides and it’s designed more for cameras in terms of studio wrestling. I’d encourage people, if they’re critics or TNA or have heard only bad things, to check it out at some point. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
TNA may be a little extra special for you given that you have the opportunity to work with your wife. She’s been in the ring a couple of times. Have you been helping train her?
She reminds me a lot of me in terms of asking me for help on certain things, kind of like I asked my dad. But she’s also kind of sought out people that don’t have a personal connection to her. She’s worked with Chris Hero and Delirious at the Ring of Honor Dojo. She’s sought out people with completely different styles than me, and it’s really cool. It takes a while, but when that stuff starts to gel with your brain, you’re cruising. And she’s got Al Snow who trained me. He’s right there as one of TNA’s top agents. She reminds me of me. It reminds me of me at 21 or 22 at OVW (Ohio Valley Wrestling) in Louisville, Kentucky.
Given that she’s been training at the ROH Dojo, when might we see her in an ROH ring wrestling a match?
I think there’s some really cool stuff going on now. Some streams [are] potentially being crossed in terms of Ring of Honor and TNA. I think it’s all baby steps at this point, but you’ve seen a couple of talents appear on both brands. I think with good intentions you might see that more. I hope she’s part of that. I know they’d love to have her, and I know she’d love to keep training at the dojo, so maybe that’s the tradeoff. Probably it’s going to happen at some point in the near future.
You’re getting an opportunity to work with ROH champion Adam Cole. Is he a guy that you’ve been following over the years?
About two years ago, when Kevin Owens debuted in WWE, he and I became buddies. I started to look more into Kevin’s past in terms of where he came from and what he did in PWG and ROH. That’s when I got my first glimpse of Adam Cole. He was a guy that was no brainer. When I saw him, I judged a book by its cover, because this guy looks 100 percent like a WWE superstar. I wondered why or when [he would be signed]. What’s the story? I love that he loves the history and won multiple ROH championships. I love that he’s sharpening his toolsets at ROH. He could be the ROH champion for the next 10 years or go somewhere tomorrow. Adam Cole is a name you know. He and the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega are great examples of guys that did it without WWE. That doesn’t mean they won’t go to WWE at some point, but they don’t need to because of what they’ve done to make their name. That’s really impressive. It’s inspiring because I need WWE 100 percent. It’s inspiring. It’s what gave me the nudge to go out and do this without WWE.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.