Earlier this year, Cody Rhodes asked for his release from the WWE and concluded a ten-year run in the company. Cody, the son of the legendary Dusty Rhodes, later explained his departure in-depth, saying that his request to finish the Star Dust gimmick and storyline suggestions were declined.
As I wrote at the time, The Stardust character was useful for the tag team and then feud with Goldust, but outside of that, the angle wasted almost two years of Cody’s career. Quite frankly, Rhodes deserved better than a one-dimensional spin-off of Goldust’s persona and had he stayed under a WWE deal, Stardust would probably still be a lower mid-card performer. Make no mistake, Cody Rhodes has the ability and the potential to be a top star, but somehow the WWE missed the boat on him.
It says something about his passion for professional wrestling that Rhodes opted to leave the biggest sports entertainment company in the world because he wanted to show his skills as an athlete, not just a gimmick. Cody could’ve easily worked another five years in the WWE and made great money to do it, but he wanted more than just a WWE paycheck. Assuming he made financially wise decisions, Cody is probably secure after a decade of working for Vince McMahon so his venture outside of the only sports entertainment company he worked for is based on proving something. The bottom line is, Cody Rhodes can go in the ring and his skills were overlooked for the majority of his WWE career.
So far, he already wrestled on Evolve shows and appeared for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in the Battle of Los Angeles tournament, receiving rave reviews for his matches against some of the top talent on the independent scene. Specifically, PWG is considered by many to be the top independent organization in the United States and it’s not an easy task to work that style, but Rhodes delivered stellar performances. Along with that, Cody is scheduled to work Ring Of Honor’s Final Battle event, one of their biggest shows of the year. Quite simply, the former Stardust has quickly become one of the most in-demand freelancers in the business.
Last week, TNA promoted a “Game Changer” for the edition of Impact and it was revealed to be an announcement that Cody Rhodes will debut at the Bound For Glory pay-per-view. While one star or one angle won’t be the key to success for Impact Wrestling, this signing, as well as a few others could be the start of a trend to change the perception of TNA. For too long, Impact Wrestling signed seemingly every WWE castaway they could in the mid-2000s and in the process, it made the promotion look secondary. Plus, there were also several examples of former WWE stars showing up at the Impact Zone and mailing it in to collect a paycheck while many of the TNA originals performed risky matches in an effort to generate notoriety for the company. For example, Rob Van Dam, who had a three-year run there, basically said it himself in a Kayfabe Commentaries Youshoot interview that he mailed it in for the majority of his matches in TNA.
There were other numerous examples as well of performers that would coast to a paycheck based on their past accomplishments instead of using Impact as a way to progress their career. On the other end of the spectrum was Bully Ray, who took the opportunity of an alternative environment to completely reinvented himself. He deserves major credit for the effort he put forth to rejuvenate his career and at the peak of the Bully character, he was arguably the best heel in the business.
This is where the Cody Rhodes signing could be used to benefit the perception of Impact Wrestling because an athlete in the prime of his career decided on his own terms to depart from the WWE and chose TNA as the place to showcase his true potential, as opposed to someone who is looking for a job because the WWE released them. So, just the fact that a solid performer in their prime essentially opted for TNA (as well as other promotions) instead of the WWE gives the impression that there’s at least the potential for progress in TNA.
Another dynamic that could be used as an advantage is the stars that were overlooked by the WWE and that many fans think didn’t get a fair chance to showcase their skills. The major example of this is Damien Sandow, a versatile performer that made the best of whatever he was booked for, but somehow didn’t get the chance he deserved. He was released and made his way to Impact Wrestling as Aron Rex. Obviously, he’s an extremely entertaining performer and the draw to follow his career as it transitions to another promotion is that Impact Wrestling will theoretically give him the chance to live up to him potential.
Another possible name is Alberto Del Rio, a competitor that was extremely popular during his WWE run, but got lost in the shuffle of the sports entertainment company. Again, the perception could be that TNA would allow him the opportunity to work his style without the corporate restrictions. The possibility to create the narrative of TNA as the place were talented performers can be featured if their ability was overlooked elsewhere could be a type of brand identity that differentiates the promotion from the WWE.
While the promotion has a mostly solid roster, it will be important going forward that they have major stars under contract to bring more viewers to the product. If Billy Corgan does actually buy the company, he might be willing to invest the necessary funds to ink a competitor such as Rey Mysterio to a deal. At this point, even if the company shifts direction, there has to be something to draw more viewers to the product and Rey could garner that type of hype for the organization.
As I said, it will take more than one star or storyline to achieve some success, but the Cody Rhodes signing creates an optimism around the company and it should be a beneficial deal for everyone. If Aron Rex does well in TNA and a few other free agents are added, there could be a renewed buzz for the company. Essentially, TNA could establish itself as an alternative to the “corporate wrestling” company and while the results remain to be seen, it creates some interesting scenarios in the next few months.
Until next week
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