Over the past couple days, I find myself being drawn back to the statement that Cody Rhodes released when WWE granted him his contractual release after ten years with the company. I also can’t help but see a narrative thread that extends back to a much higher profile talent’s exit from the company – CM Punk. Their circumstances were different, and the feel of their exits were much different, yet the message was nearly the same:
“I have the drive to be something more than I am. Use me.”
In Rhodes’ statement, I saw a guy who wanted to compete. He said that he tried to show the company he could be a top guy – even the main guy. Should he have been that man? I don’t know. What isn’t to be denied is his skill set. He was a solid promo and a solid hand in the ring. He certainly carried the pedigree as the son of Dusty Rhodes.
Rhodes may never have been a Wrestlemania main eventer or a mega star, but with opportunity he could have been more than he was. For every Hulk Hogan there was a Roddy Piper, and if Rhodes ended up in a Piper-like role, it wouldn’t have been a bad thing. But his closest brush with it was in the Legacy faction with Randy Orton, and he hasn’t been back. It was an opportunity to move a guy who wanted to compete on to bigger things that was squandered away.
In all of this reflection on Rhodes’ statement, I keep asking myself this one question: is Rhodes’ exit (as well as the exit of other talent of late) simply a case of a bigger problem? One would have to argue that it is. Whether it’s Rhodes’ statement, Ryback commenting on equality, or even going back to Punk’s plea to headline Wrestlemania even if he were to lose in two minutes, the voice of “USE ME” continues to grow louder with each exit. And that is where the problem lies.
Rhodes said that Triple H told him that WWE could be compared to a play, and everyone has a role. From the cheap seats as a fan, it definitely seems to be the case. If you’re lucky, you’re Roman Reigns and cast into a top slot. If not, you might get a chance, or you might not, to break out and shine.
Look at a guy like Zack Ryder, who worked his ass off to get himself over – and did. Yet on the night of Extreme Rules, he tweeted that he was in a Baltimore restaurant while Miz was defending the Intercontinental Championship, saying “there’s something wrong with that.” There is, and not because it was The Miz and not Zack Ryder in that bout. I feel it’s indicative of the fact that there is a locker room full of talented men and women who are doing nothing more than filling a roster spot. That is not a failure of the talent – it’s a creative failure.
Would Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Zack Ryder, Tyler Breeze, or any other mid-card talent headline Wrestlemania and sell the stadium out? We don’t know for sure. One thing is true though: if these talents are stuck running on the mid-card treadmill with no chance to move up, then we will never find out.
In today’s WWE, there are so many talents who float without vision. Their characters are not developed. There’s no protection for them in case they do end up being pushed later. All they do is run that mid-card treadmill, trading wins and losses that mean nothing until they’re replaced by other talent who do the exact same thing as the machine marches on. And if Rhodes is accurate, there is no one in the creative side of the company willing to listen to these talents either.
Not every idea will be a huge hit, and maybe what Rhodes pitched to creative was awful. We don’t know that, but neither does he because no one told him either way. The son of a revered wrestling legend could not get an answer to whether his pitched ideas were good or bad. Think about that for one moment. If there’s anything remotely true about it, that’s a travesty.
Certainly you can poke holes in the argument of any exiting talent that has spoken up as Rhodes has by simply saying it’s a case of sour grapes. It’s different here, because Rhodes appears to be an intelligent, thoughtful young man who should, if by his pedigree alone, be a WWE lifer. He was never a problem; he never made waves. Perhaps it adds to those previous departure stories more strongly than we ever realized, because for him to speak out as he did says an awful lot.
It’s not that Rhodes should have held the top title. It’s that WWE should have been treating him as if he could have held it, some day.