Rhodes to Nowhere: Analysing Cody and Brandi’s Increasingly Frustrating Character Development
Will Cody Ever Pull the Trigger and Turn Heel?
On this past week’s edition of Dynamite, a rather bewildering segment aired involving Brandi Rhodes, American Top Team head honcho Dan Lambert, and MMA fighter Paige Vanzant. After weeks of lambasting the Rhodes family from afar Lambert looked to bring the verbal tirade to Brandi in person.
Considering Dan Lambert is quite easily the most hateable person in the company at present, his overwhelmingly positive reaction after interrupting Brandi says it all about just how the people of Chicago felt about AEW’s first lady. Lambert himself referenced this during his promo: “you can’t pretend like you’re not getting booed out of this ring, even though you’re standing next to a rich, angry, conservative, sexist, AEW hating old man like me.”
If Brandi had been even remotely trying to not be the most hated person in the building this would be more of a surprise, yet, considering she started her promo by purposely and incorrectly stating “how good it was to be back in Cleveland” it’s not hard to see why she was receiving such a frosty reaction.
Any scenario where Dan Lambert is the likable one is most definitely a problem, yet AEW booked themselves into a corner by having Brandi come out and immediately establish herself as the heel, even against mega-heels like Lambert and ATT.
Unlike Cody, Brandi has spoken publicly about her preference towards playing a heel character on her and Cody’s reality show Rhodes to the Top, she has also played one in the past during her time with the Nightmare Collective, and to her credit she is quite the natural in the role. Yet despite her purposely drawing ire from the crowds, her status as a definitive heel is still quite ambiguous, especially given the fact she is currently feuding with other heels. This character ambiguity is nothing new for Brandi and most certainly has also been the case for her husband Cody.
Over AEW’s first two years on television Cody was among the likable and appreciated performers due in no-part to stellar matches with his brother Dustin Rhodes, Chris Jericho and Brodie Lee; as well as his TNT Championship open challenge throughout the summer of 2020. However, fast-forward to 2022, and Cody’s previous good will built with the fans has been all but eradicated due to a truly regrettable 2021.
February saw the completely unnecessary gender reveal of Cody and Brandi’s baby on live television. Cody’s performance at the following month’s face the Revolution ladder match was also panned, due to an obnoxious injury (and eventual heroic comeback) angle that overshadowed the rest of the contest. There was also the participation in multiple reality shows that turned his attention away from the ring, and of course, the entire Anthony Ogogo Double or Nothing program, which Cody now openly regrets ever took place.
The Ogogo feud featured the tried and trusted US hero versus evil foreigner angle, with a helping of ill-advised race-relations dialogue sprinkled on top. Cody’s completely tone-deaf and cringe-inducing “American Dream” promo from the May 15th 2021 edition of Dynamite, was widely panned, making zero sense thematically and within the wider context of their feud up until that point. The rivalry was undoubtedly one of the weakest of the year and perhaps company history, seeming to serve no purpose but fuel Cody’s ego as he went over clean against the former Olympic boxer in the name of the good ol US of A.
Audible boos and chants of “Cody sucks” have been an ever-present since, with conversations regarding a heel-turn becoming more and more exhausting, to the point where Cody himself would even reference it on the January 20th edition of Dynamite. The question is whether Cody will in fact turn despite repeatedly denying he will, or will he evolve into a John Cena-esque babyface who thrives off of embracing both the cheers and jeers from the live audience?
Despite the latter being a likely possibility given how long the heel turn debate has dragged on, it feels like a waste of the potential of both Cody and Brandi if AEW do not fully commit to them as villains soon. Cody has felt out of place for over a year, and in comparison, to the other VP’s Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks, has yet to see any real shift in character in over three years. The solution seems maybe too obvious, that being an all-encompassing Rhodes family heel faction that not only saves Cody and Brandi’s characters but also gives the talented, but bland nightmare family upstarts Lee Johnson and Brock Anderson a much-needed shot in the arm.
This outcome perhaps leans too much into Triple H and Stephanie McMahon territory, these comparisons are nothing new however, and should perhaps be embraced. As good a face as Cody has been in the past, the time has most certainly come for a change, yet not one entirely different from the Cody that has driven so many people away over the past year.
By ramping up the delusional American hero schtick and embracing every last ounce of cringey dialogue, Cody can very easily become the most effective and natural heel in the company by amplifying the character he already portrays. Brandi is already there with very minimal effort, so instead of trying (and failing) to be more liked than Dan Lambert every week, Cody should save us all the displeasure and finally succumb to the dark side.