Cody Rhodes on Daniel Bryan, Okada, and revolutionizing modern day pro wrestling
Newly-crowned Ring of Honor world champion Cody Rhodes spoke with Sports Illustrated about his title victory over Christopher Daniels and his upcoming match for the IWGP championship against Kazuchika Okada, as well as addressed Daniel Bryan’s tweet issuing a challenge for the ROH title in September of 2018.
Cody Rhodes is the new Ring of Honor world champion, proclaiming that the prince is now a king.
And everyone wants a shot at the crown. Including Daniel Bryan.
Bryan, known as the American Dragon before his WWE run, used his Twitter account to call his shot against Rhodes in 2018.
“I don’t think it was a challenge, just fun,” said Rhodes. “Daniel Bryan remains one of my friends. Final Countdown would be a welcomed tune, even as a competitor. I have always looked up to Dan. It would be major, major box office for all involved.”
Rhodes won the ROH world title on Friday night at the Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, Massachusetts, which is where Shawn Michaels relinquished his World Wrestling Federation championship in February of 1997 during his infamous “I lost my smile” promo on a rare Thursday Raw Thursday.
“I was a Shawn Michaels fan, so that’s a sad memory for me,” said Rhodes. “I’m proud to add a happier memory in that building, even though Christopher Daniels also lost his smile.”
Rhodes celebrated his title weekend by receiving stitches in his upper lip, working ROH’s Saturday television tapings, and wrestling at Northeast Wrestling’s show on Sunday in Connecticut. Despite a swollen bursa sac on his elbow and a toenail that just fell off, Rhodes somehow seems oblivious to the pain his body is enduring.
“There is an honor to what we do, and there are no shortcuts,” said Rhodes. “I’m in the best shape I can possibly be in and I’m drug free. I’m doing what I have wanted to do my entire life, so life is good.”
In a wrestling world littered with self-promotional t-shirts, Rhodes stands out in his three-piece suits. Ring of Honor set a standard through a lineage of Samoa Joe, Bryan, CM Punk, and Austin Aries, which has been carried on by modern day wrestling warriors Jay Lethal, Christopher Daniels, and Adam Cole. Rhodes, who is the first-ever Ring of Honor champion entering the company with a WWE pedigree, promised to uphold that standard of excellence.
“I am proud to represent ROH against New Japan,” said Rhodes. “The Ring of Honor roster, with men like Christopher Daniels, Dalton Castle, and the Young Bucks has been instrumental in such heavy growth of the company.
“Everybody keeps talking about the ‘Attitude Era’, and I loved it too, but some people have their eyes closed to the current work in wrestling outside of WWE. You can love WWE, but it is not sacrilege to watch Ring of Honor or New Japan World.”
Next on Rhodes’ itinerary is a date with destiny this Saturday night in Long Beach, California as he is set to battle New Japan’s Kazuchika Okada during a live show on AXS TV for the IWGP championship.
“Okada could main event anywhere, and that includes WWE,” said Rhodes. “Okada has the elusive connection with the audience, the one you can just feel in your skin. When he’s up, they’re up; when he’s hurt, they’re hurt. In big matches like the ones he’s had with Kenny Omega, he’s a damn celestial.”
Bullet Club leader Kenny Omega recently fought Okada to a 60-minute draw, and Rhodes left an impression in that match by trying to throw in the towel on Omega until he was stopped by fellow Bullet Members the Young Bucks.
“Kenny Omega was nearly dead in that match,” justified Rhodes. “He was getting dropkicked in the face endlessly, and I thought I was doing him a service. There is no in-house fighting among Bullet Club walls. I remain close with Kenny because we both like Star Trek: The Next Generation. We are going into the Long Beach shows very much as a unit, and Kenny and I are Bullet Club brothers.”
Despite a schedule spinning with reckless abandon, Rhodes has kept an eye from afar on older brother Dustin, who is best known to wrestling fans as Goldust.
“I love that Goldust returned to the ‘Golden Age’,” said Rhodes. “I’m very proud of Dustin. One of the reasons we butted heads in WWE was because of timing. He was looking for redemption after the original Goldust run, and he was out to prove he had more left. He absolutely has more left, and he is wrestling’s version of Ra’s al Ghul. He is out there turning it up, on TV and at the live events. He’s got a lot left, but when he does hang it up, he’ll be Hall of Fame bound. I’m very proud of my brother.”
The last time a member of the legendary Rhodes family was world champion was when Dusty Rhodes last won the NWA title 31 years ago over Ric Flair. Cody Rhodes has spent his entire life playing with his father’s championship nameplate, which he now keeps as a memento above his fireplace.
“If my father was around, he wouldn’t want me to offer him any attention right now,” said Rhodes. “He’d want to let me be. He was so good about stepping back. He never spoke to Vince and never spoke to Hunter, even though I’m sure he wanted to, about my position when I was in WWE. He was really big on remaining separate. He asked to be off the writing team and go to Florida Championship Wrestling when I debuted on Monday Night Raw. My father wanted my success to be my success or my failure to be my failure.”
Rhodes won his world title five days after Father’s Day, a late gift to the man who built the foundation of the person he is today.
“Sometimes I bring his boots in my bag,” shared Rhodes. “But I bring his memory with me everywhere.”
Rhodes’ journey now continues in Long Beach this Saturday, as he looks to make history by wearing both the ROH and IWGP world titles.
“When I defeat Kazuchika Okada, I’ll be holding the infinity gauntlet as the top wrestler in the entire world,” promised Rhodes. “Anyone who says otherwise is not living in the same wrestling climate.
“It’s going to be the greatest accomplishment for me. That is all I know. The NJPW world subscriptions will be up. The U.S. expansion will be fortified. NJPW will no longer be just your favorite band, it will be mainstream. It’s massive, it is the infinity gauntlet. Unstoppable.”