By Graham "GSM" Matthews
From wrestlers to managers to announcers to backstage hands, over a dozen employees have been released from WWE in the last month alone. But today, news broke of perhaps the most surprising departure broke when Cody Rhodes revealed on his personal Twitter account he has asked for his release from the organization. WWE has yet to confirm. He wrote the following:
"The past ten years have been quite the trek, but as of earlier today I have asked for my release from WWE. I'll speak further on the matter shortly. Thank you to all the pro-wrestling/sports entertainment fans worldwide. Thank you."
None of the many releases from earlier this month shocked me considering all of them could have been seen coming (most of them hadn't been on WWE TV in ages), but Rhodes leaving is definitely disappointing. Granted, this is a different situation because he asked for his walking papers and wasn't fired by the company, but it still surprises me, nevertheless. Although he hasn't been prominently featured on programming in a year or two, he received more television time as Stardust than just about everyone else who has left recently combined.
I've been a fan of Rhodes' dating back to his days in The Legacy. Although he arrived on the scene in 2007 as part of angle with his father the late, great Dusty Rhodes and stuck around on the roster in a tag team with Hardcore Holly, to me, he didn't start to show signs of potential until he paired up with Orton and Ted DiBiase. He found his footing as a heel, and following the dissolution of The Legacy, he had the chance to break out on his own.
It took a little longer than expected, but he finally captured his first singles title in the form of the Intercontinental Championship in August 2011. He embarked on an excellent reign with the belt over the next eight months before dropping the belt to Big Show in anticlimactic fashion at WrestleMania 28. Despite that, I firmly believed that was when WWE should have transitioned him into the main event scene on SmackDown and possibly award him the Money in the Bank briefcase, but Dolph Ziggler won the opportunistic briefcase instead.
That essentially became a recurring theme throughout the remainder of Rhodes' WWE tenure. He didn't enter the World Heavyweight Championship picture as expected, but he did form an unexpectedly awesome tag team with Damien Sandow. Sadly, they never won the WWE Tag Team Championship, but their breakup did serve as the catalyst for Rhodes' overdue face turn in the summer of 2013. Anyone who has told me that Cody was never over without a gimmick, I always directed them to Money in the Bank 2013 when Philadelphia was desperate to see him win and cheering his name over and over.
I was hopeful that was his time to emerge as a main event level star, but he was instead put back in the tag team ranks alongside his brother Goldust. Again, I was content with that because they brought the division to new heights, but we didn't get the long awaited feud between them once they went their separate ways. Rather, Stardust was born. I despised the character when it debuted because I thought it was a waste of his potential. Yes, he put a ton of effort into making the gimmick work, but it was painfully apparent it was a poor man's Goldust.
Furthermore, Cody Rhodes could and should have been a world champion in WWE. The Stardust shtick ran its course well over a year ago, and as a result, he has done nothing of note over the last year. Reverting the second-generation star back to the Cody Rhodes name and having him pay homage to his father would have been a brilliant way of bringing him back into storylines, but apparently that was too logical of an idea. In fact, he has been teasing a Cody Rhodes return on Twitter as of late, but I didn't read too much into it considering it wouldn't have been the first time he's teased returning as Cody and didn't deliver.
Either way, it's really unfortunate to see him leave after a ten year career in WWE. As noted, he'll discuss his departure at length sometime soon, so it will be interesting to see whether there is more to the story than simply his contract expiring. He is young enough that he can make a name for himself elsewhere, perhaps in New Japan Pro Wrestling or on the independent circuit, and I hope he does. He has all the tools to be a top-tier talent wherever he ends up. Or, similar to his old tag team partner Ted DiBiase (who also left on his own terms back in 2013), he might start up a family with his wife Eden. Regardless of what his future holds, I'm looking forward to what's next for him.
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