Who knew Cody Rhodes had it in him?
While he might not have conjured up images of The American Dream, his performance last week on Monday Night Raw was arguably his finest since making his WWE debut more than six years ago.
Rhodes, youngest son of pro wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes, more than held his own in a high-profile angle with Randy Orton.
With WWE authority figure Triple H forcing Rhodes to put his job on the line against Orton, citing Rhodes’ upcoming marriage and possible unemployment, the storyline gave fans something to sink their teeth into and Rhodes an opportunity to shine.
Rhodes’ mic work was excellent, but his in-ring performance may have been even better.
It was solid enough to make fans forget about “Dashing” Cody Rhodes or the silly-looking mustache and protective mask that he sported in previous gimmicks.
As he noted in his promo on Raw, the Rhodes family has been subjected to some fairly extreme gimmicks in the past, with Vince McMahon forcing Dusty to parade as the dancing, polka-dot clad “Common Man,” or brother Dustin as the bizarre, face-painted, sexually ambiguous Goldust.
Monday night, though, followed a simple formula that bookers so often today ignore. A good story with a personal issue can lead to a good match. Rhodes was a decided underdog going into his bout with the WWE champion, but a compelling back story and a main event-level contest captured the fans’ emotional investment.
And that, really, is what wrestling should be all about: a compelling story and a suspension of disbelief.
Rhodes, cast as the sympathetic babyface trying to save his job, and Orton, in the role of bodyguard and surrogate champion for the increasingly power-driven Triple H, followed up with a match that had fans believing that the beleaguered contender might actually pull off the upset.
Rhodes unquestionably was the breakout star of the night.
Triple H, of course, “fired” Rhodes after his valiant attempt came up just short.
In reality, though, the storyline should give the 28-year-old Rhodes ample time off for his wedding and honeymoon.
And no, don’t expect Rhodes to return under a mask as The Midnight Rider, a role made famous by Cody’s father. But when he does come back, most likely with a free pass from Vince McMahon, he’ll return with a vengeance.
Don’t expect, either, for Dustin “Goldust” Rhodes to get his younger brother’s job back for him.
WWE on Saturday announced a Dustin Rhodes vs. Randy Orton match for Monday’s Raw show, with the stipulation that if Dustin wins and Cody apologizes, Cody gets his job back.
Rhodes’ new bride, Brandi Reed, is no newcomer to the wrestling business. A former competitive skater and TV news journalist, the Michigan graduate worked as a developmental talent in WWE in 2011 under the name Eden Stiles, and performed briefly on the Superstars roster as a ring announcer.
Reed, who asked for her release in December 2011, currently works as a model and owns a company called Confection Swimwear Inc.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Rhodes is proficient in combining wrestling and acting skills.
A multi-sport star and two-time Georgia state high school wrestling champion, Rhodes attended the Howard Fine Acting Studio in Los Angeles for a year.
And being the son of Dusty Rhodes and working for Vince McMahon doesn’t hurt either.
Dusty Rhodes, a real-life son of a plumber, mixed a blue-collar work ethic with a soul singer’s charisma to become one of the most in-demand stars of the territory days of the 1970s and ’80s.
“I retained a lot of good information from acting school, but the majority of entertainment skills I retained was things I picked up from my dad and my boss (Vince McMahon),” says Rhodes.
Rhodes said in a 2011 interview that his father initially pushed him away from the business, preferring that his youngest son be a writer or an actor.
“He didn’t want me at all to get involved in sports entertainment. It wasn’t like he was a deterrent for it, but he didn’t really want the day to come where I said I wanted to go somewhere to train. He wasn’t ready for that day when it did come.”
But that day eventually came, says Rhodes, who jokes that his dad has only himself to blame.
“It’s kind of his fault because when you bring a 4-year-old to a show and he sees these larger-than-life characters with shoulder pads and spikes, guys painting their faces, and these huge physiques and these huge reactions that they’re receiving ... what else is a kid going to want to do?”
Big Show or Big Baby?
It appears that South Carolina’s own Big Show (Paul Wight) has been relegated to the role of a crybaby giant who is bullied by WWE authority figures (The McMahon Corporation) threatening to put him out on the street if he doesn’t toe the company line and do their bidding.
It would be hard to fathom Show’s giant predecessor, Andre, ever turning on the waterworks or being bullied by anyone. But alas, WWE’s modern-day giant is being cast as a vulnerable, emotional big guy with a soft side and a knockout punch, a dubious combination in today’s world of pro wrestling.
And as for Stephanie McMahon claiming to have known Show when she was “a little girl” ... let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Show made his WWE debut in 1999 when Stephanie would already have been in her 20s.
But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she was mistaking Show for the aforementioned Andre, who was her childhood favorite, as she once related in this interview.
“I first met Andre when I was 3. I actually don’t even remember this, but my mother, who had been watching from a window, told me the story,” says Stephanie.
“Andre pulled up to our house in his van, and I guess I was jumping on a trampoline,” she says. “I had a baby sitter who started rolling up all the windows and locking all the doors. She didn’t know who Andre was.”
Andre, however, was as gentle as the role he would portray years later in “The Princess Bride.”
“Andre came over to the trampoline and stuck his hand out,” she continues. “I stepped into his hand, and he lifted me up to his cheek and I gave him a kiss on his cheek and he put me back down. My mother was so amazed by it because I wasn’t afraid. He was sort of magical to me.”
Snow in September
Former WWE star and current TNA trainer Al Snow will return to the Lowcountry on Sept. 29 as part of an Old School Championship Wrestling show at the Hanahan Rec Center.
Snow will meet Michael Frehley in one of the featured bouts. Also topping the bill is the return of “The Southern Savior” John Skyler against “The Modern Classic” B.J. Hancock, along with ex-WWE star Gangrel and Dr. Creo defending their OSCW tag-team title against “The Shooter” Vordell Walker and Calie Casanova.
For more information, call 743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.