Fans often get excited when a former WWE talent hits the independent circuit to ply their trade in more intimate environments, but no superstar in recent memory has caused as much of a stir in the wrestling world with their post-WWE career plans as former 6-time tag team champion and 2-time Intercontinental Champion, Cody Rhodes.
After releasing the now infamous checklist in May, Rhodes is lining up a who’s who of dream matches that fill the remainder of 2016, beginning on August 19th in Joppa, MD at Evolve 66 and continue through Ring of Honor’s Final Battle pay-per-view on December 2nd in New York City.
In one of the most relaxed and conversational interviews we’ve had on the show, Cody joined this week’s Chad Dukes Wrestling Show for an amazing 20-minute discussion on topics ranging from land dealings with Bray Wyatt to his upcoming part on CW’s Arrow to Evolve and Ring of Honor to the chance we see him in the Lucha Underground temple and more.
Dukes: What I’ve noticed by interviewing athletes and I do it for a living now, and I don’t mean any disrespect to baseball players, or hockey players, or even, I like mixed martial arts, talking to those guys, none of them are as amiable or as easy to talk to as the guys in your industry. Is that something that you think is intrinsic to the industry, is that something that’s learned? Why do you think wrestlers, there’s exceptions to the rule of course, seem to get that better than other professional athletes?
Rhodes: Well, I think it’s pretty simple, if you’re fortunate enough to make it into the fold and call yourself a pro wrestler, the mainstream, typically somebody that covers sports and entertainment on the high levels, Hollywood, big screen, little screen, wrestling’s always been looked down upon a little bit and not by everybody, I don’t want to grind an axe, but almost every time there’s a wrestler in a television show or wrestler in a movie it’s always like, “Oh, [scoffs],” and then usually by the end of it, it’s like, “Wow, they knew what they were doing.” So I think that’s why when you speak to some of these young talent or old talents they are very approachable, because they want they want to build that bridge to the mainstream. They want to be part of it, they’re on TV just like these other shows, they want to be treated as such. You treat others how you’d like to be treated yourself, I guess.
Dukes: I’ve been a fan my whole life and there’s two examples I can point to and one is you and one is Bray Wyatt, who I know that you know and you worked with before he was the character that he is now–
Rhodes: I hate Bray Wyatt.
Dukes: I know, you hate his guts.
Rhodes: I don’t hate Bray Wyatt [laughs]. We own some land together that Blackjack and Dusty had, a parcel of land. We actually don’t own it and we joke about it a lot that Dick Murdoch squandered the deal. This is a real thing we found out about recently, but we would have had access to over a hundred acres and we were gonna split it 50/50, even though I’d made sidebar deals with [Bo Dallas] so that I would have actually gotten more of the land. The land is out there, we just don’t know how to get it back.
Dukes: That sounds crazy, it sounds like a storyline you’re describing. The stuff he’s doing and when you were walking out and you had the face you were covering up and you’re going into the crowd and actually making them cover their faces with bags, every once in a while I’m watching wrestling and I’m like, “This isn’t just wrestling. This is good TV.” This is something that should be, I don’t know, nominated for something, nominated for an award. I watch so many television shows where I see actors that are doing a fine job they get nominated and but then there are times when I’m watching pro wrestling and I see something that strikes me as such, why isn’t this being acknowledged for as entertaining as it is and how much fun as it is combined with, Shakespeare in the round as it’s put, you guys out there physically sacrificing yourselves? What do you think it will take to kind of get the sport to that next level?
Rhodes: Better performers. And they’re there, they’re there. It’s not that they’re missing. I was very irked that the Emmys last year did not include Roddy Piper and my father in the “In Memoriam.” I already knew they were not going to, so I didn’t push for it, I didn’t campaign over such, but it just irked me to my core because TBS, the Superstation, cable television, and pay per view. Now what I’m going to say sounds incredibly large and it’s non hyperbole, it is very real: pay per view would not exist without Dusty Rhodes or Vince McMahon. It would not exist without, “Hey you know what let’s shoot for closed circuit for these Starrcades, these WrestleManias.” It wouldn’t exist. Cable television, one of its first stars in the South was Dusty Rhodes. Dave Meltzer, who I’ve never had a conversation with in my life, I don’t even think I know what Dave Meltzer looks like, but he wrote this incredible, factual retrospective on statistics regarding cable pro wrestling, and it just, it really irked me. So for it to leap into the future like you’re saying and for it to kind of get its place in the Golden Circle, it takes really good performers. It takes guys like a Dave Bautista for example. That that’s the type of people it takes, people who can cross over and do it seamlessly. And if you were going, “Oh, [scoffs] who is this guy,” and by the end you’re going, “Wow, who is that guy?”
Dukes: You get cast in Arrow, I know a little bit about you and we have a lot of similar interests. First of all, it’s just a big ass TV show that’s so popular that everybody likes watching, so that’s a really big deal when you get a role on that show, but to be able to do what you did by bringing Stephen Amell into the WWE and have what you had with him and then now to be able to be a part of that show, that’s incredible. That’s a rare thing that a lot of people don’t, when you get to do a project that you feel passionately about that you endorse and then you become a part of the fabric. I mean is that something you have to take a step back and assess every once in a while because it’s one of the cooler things that could have happened, I imagine?
Rhodes: I mean you want to act like you’ve been to the end zone before, but in reality, everyone who’s asked from the staff point of view on the Arrow team, I’m just giddy over it. I got very lucky. I went out and I read and the reading went well, but I didn’t think it was going to translate in the way it did and I got very lucky and I know that fandom well and they’re very accepting. They’re a lot more accepting than the wrestling fandom when an outsider enters their fold. I just I want to do right by them. Greg Berlanti has created this TV juggernaut- Flash, [Legends of Tomorrow], Arrow, you want to do it justice, Supergirl. I’m a DC guy in a world where it’s not easy to be a DC guy you know what I’m saying. I grew up reading DC Comics and I just re-read Sounds of Violence, it’s one of my favorite Green Arrow graphic novels. I’m just giddy over the whole experience and to look at the script that I got, I’m staying up at night just thinking about it. It’s really cool.
Dukes: This independent thing, to be able to step out from, you mentioned there’s only one monster company, to be able to step out from it and just immediately not only be successful, but kind of set everything on fire, you put out this checklist which immediately goes viral, and then watching you check them, and then watching you go through it, and watching, before your non compete is even expired, you have this unbelievable list of dream matches. Now the latest is you’re going to be at Ring of Honor’s Final Battle, it’s going to be at the Hammerstein Ballroom. How cool is that, New York City? Tickets go on sale Friday 10 AM you can go to ROHWrestling.com to get your tickets for that. But it’s Angle, it’s Zack Sabre, Jr., it’s all of these guys, you’re going to have to wrestle in so many different ways. Is this how you had everything planned out when you knew your time with WWE was coming to a close?
Rhodes: I consider myself somewhat of a smart, a business savvy individual. I’d have been having discussions about professional wrestling with the old man since I was able to really formulate a decent conversation. So as I knew the time was going to be winding down and they didn’t know, and I probably could’ve given them a little more heads up, I don’t know how they did know, but I wanted to make sure I was in control of what I was doing and then I rolled out something that people would get excited about. You know I said there’s really only one monster company in wrestling and I think as a wrestling fan, I’m a wrestling fan, you’re a wrestling fan, wrestling is changing. I’m not going to jump the gun and say it’s 1996 anymore, but wrestling is changing and I can feel and I’m sure you can feel it and there really isn’t only one game in town anymore. You have to remember my background comes from the family of people who raised the Jim Crockett Promotions flag and went to battle and subsequently didn’t win that battle, but if you look back, that’s my favorite wrestling, 1980 to essentially 1993 World Championship Wrestling, it wasn’t for lack of the quality of what they were doing. So in this independent roll out, in this checklist, the goal is as big as a goal you can get, I want to compete. I want to compete with the biggest, most nasty monster company in the world that does wonderful things, WWE is a wonderful company, but I want to compete. In these places we’re going, social media allows everyone to see everything now. It’s not as difficult to see the things, and to know, and to build, and to steamroll, and get on the ground, and start something grassroots. I’m really excited about Final Battle. I’m really excited about that first night at Evolve 66 with Zack Sabre, Jr. Obviously, I use the word giddy about being able to get in there with the future WWE Hall of Famer, TNA Hall of Famer, in Kurt Angle. That competes. The WWE product, there’s a lot of wonderful talents there, but there’s a lot of matches I’ve seen over the last ten, twelve years, over and over and over and over again. The matches on this list are matches nobody’s seen before and things that haven’t been tapped before. That list is my word. I want to try and chase everybody to every end of the planet. If I have to go all the way to Tokyo and knock down the door in that Tokyo Dome to get in there with [Katsuyori Shibata] I will. I very much look at that list as my word and I want to make it happen.
Dukes: It’s so interesting to see a guy with your pedigree and with the family impact, to do it the opposite way, where you’re going from this massive company that God bless them, I’m a fan of them, but there just seem to be so many guys like yourself, like a Damien Sandow, where you’re looking at them and saying, “What’s going on here? These guys don’t have value? These are tremendous performers that could be used better. You’re just going to go out and make it happen. Do you have any interest in Lucha Underground? I can take a ten guys off the top of my head that I would pay whatever the pay per view was to see you get in there and lace them up with. Is that something you’ve considered?
Rhodes: I probably can’t say, because we burn the midnight oil here at the house and if it’s something you’re a fan of, and it’s something I’m a fan of, it’s likely I’ve already had some discussions and it’s likely that’s somewhere you’d be able to see me soon. I just can’t say when or how or yeah, forgive the clandestine nature of all this, but I played this gamble to win, I think I told you that last night, and I mean it. I want the match quality of what I’m doing to compete with the match quality of what they’re doing.
Dukes: I’ve heard this a lot, and I’m just a fan, I don’t pretend to be an insider like I think a lot of people who talk about wrestling do, they talk a lot about when they’re bringing guys into NXT from the indies that it’s their way and then there’s the WWE way. How much different is that going to be when we see you for the first time outside of a WWE ring?
Rhodes: I think, without sounding so negative, when you’re told you’re not good from your employer, when your employer tells you you’re not good or when his exact words are, “there’s no interest in you,” to your face, you want to change that opinion, you want to prove them wrong, it’s motivating, it’s probably good leadership to some degree, but when I was unable to do so because of playing essentially, my half brother’s character long past the point that I was supposed to continue with it was just discouraging because I was boxed into that. You can’t prove them wrong when you’re doing essentially slapstick comedy. As much as I love Jim Carrey Riddler, I could only rip him off so much. So it’s my chance to get back on track from where we were in 2013, 2012, 2011, when I was just finger lengths away from the keys to the kingdom and I kind of fell from grace. That’s more my fault likely than it is theirs, but it’s my chance to kind of get back on track. You said the Indy way and the WWE way, I don’t really particularly look at it that way. Pro wrestling is pro wrestling to me, whether it’s in WWE, or whether it’s in Lucha Underground, or whether it’s in Evolve, wherever. I consider myself a student of the game and somebody that always wants to improve and learn about pro wrestling. People who remember 2012, 2013, and 2011, they’ll be excited to see that side of Cody again. But by no means am I sleeping on this transition, a whole lot of new things have to happen and a whole lot of changes. If you were to come to the house here in Dallas, Texas, you’d see. We’ve got a ring set up here. at my actual house, don’t ask me how it fits, and because I can’t do anything but sit on my ass, essentially for ninety days, I work out in the morning, I work out in the ring in the afternoon, and at night I grab Pharaoh, my husky, and we run while Brandi shines the light of my car on us. It’s a hell of a deal, I wish somebody was filming it, we’d be able to make a pretty sweet montage.
Dukes: One last thing about the Stardust thing, I know it sounds like at times it could be frustrating, but I had a Brodus Clay on who told a story about your father that I’ll never forget where they wanted Brodus to go out there with no shirt and he’s like, “Man I don’t want to go out there with no shirt. I’m not going to feel comfortable.” And I think your father was in his late fifties at the time, took his shirt off and then walked around the arena and said, “If I can do it baby, you can do it.” And I take that with me a lot in life and I think that when I saw you do Stardust, for those people who don’t know I’m going to say this is because Cody’d never bring it up, there was a house show at the Patriot Center and he came out and gave, it wasn’t a shout out to me it was to my dog. I mean that’s how involved you were and how cool you were–
Rhodes: Ripley Dukes!
Dukes: My wife was there and my wife looked and she goes, “What what did he just say?!” And it was the most unique shout out that I’ve ever received in my life, it was incredible. You really did well with something that maybe you didn’t want to do, but it was really cool to see you sink your teeth into it and make it into something incredibly entertaining and I hope at least you can take that away from your time as Stardust.
Rhodes: Listen, I didn’t like the idea of Stardust but once it’s handed to you, that’s your job. That was my job and I wanted to create something, I did not want to get roped into being Goldust-lite. I thought I had my own nice dichotomy between the personality of my brother and myself, so I wanted to make it something different and we kind of lurched towards the supervillain route. On live events like that where the best wrestling in WWE actually is, on the live events, those moments are unforgettable. Stardust did things in a unique way, I probably would have just given you a shout out, but Stardust gave a shout out to your dog. He’s a lover of animals, he’s a cat guy, I don’t even own a cat, but Stardust is a cat guy. Lot of weird things about him.
Thank you to Cody Rhodes for coming on the show and giving so much of his time. Follow Cody Rhodes on Twitter @CodyRhodes for information on all his projects, including the bevy of matches on his schedule and purchase a shirt at his Pro Wrestling Tees store. If you’re in the MD/DC/VA area, be sure to catch Cody Rhodes versus Cruiserweight Classic competitor Zack Sabre, Jr. at Evolve 66 August 19th in Joppa, MD. Tickets are on sale at DGUSA.tv. Tickets are also on sale for Rhodes’ appearance at Ring of Honor’s Final Battle 2016 at ROHWrestling.com.