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Cody Rhodes defeated Brock Lesnar on Saturday at SummerSlam, collecting a clean victory against one of the greatest of all-time.

The win further adds to the magic of Rhodes’ run since his return a year ago to WWE. There is a lengthy distance between now and WrestleMania 40, which is Rhodes’ intended destination, and it is moments like this that are necessary to create the type of momentum needed to return to the main event.

“This was my third time wrestling him, and the first two matches were surviving Brock Lesnar,” says Rhodes. “This match was different. SummerSlam was all about defeating Brock Lesnar.”

Though Rhodes has many impressive moments in his career, including a New Japan Pro-Wrestling main event at the Cow Palace in California and a verifiable bloodbath against half-brother Dustin Rhodes at the inaugural AEW pay-per-view Double or Nothing, as well as three classics with Seth Rollins, this bout resides in an altogether different class due to the presence of Lesnar.

A unique species in pro wrestling, Lesnar possesses a rare blend of size, power, and agility. He is a throwback that could thrive in any pro wrestling era, and his body of work in the industry–as well as his accomplishments outside of it–make him one of the most decorated and legitimate professionals to ever step foot in the ring.

“Brock hits like a Mack truck,” says Rhodes. “I feel pretty rough. There was one point where I shot a double leg, and the next thing I knew, I was up in the air. Getting thrown around by Brock is like going for a ride on a roller coaster. There is no one like him. He’s a rare athlete. Plenty is gifted by God, but I know he had his strength and conditioning coach with him. He’s back home farming, but he was also preparing. This is what he loves. I don’t talk to him, and we don’t know each other like that, but I get a sense that’s the type of passion he has. He makes this a heavyweight company, but he’s also agile. It gives me even more motivation to go to the gym every day.

Courtesy WWE

Courtesy WWE

“I have been so consistently surprised that I can’t get used to these moments. First I won the Royal Rumble. Now I beat Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam? They’re once-in-a-lifetime moments in a once-in-a-lifetime run. This is my mega run, and the journey has been incredible. This is a top moment in my career, and it’s also a top moment in my life.”

This was a match that fit perfectly at a signature event like SummerSlam. There were a number of highlights, including Lesnar hitting the F5 twice outside the ring, one of which was onto the broadcast table. Rhodes executed back-to-back Cody Cutters, with the second coming from the top rope. Lesnar applied his Kimura lock, but Rhodes wrangled free; later, Rhodes locked in a Kimura submission, but Lesnar broke the hold.

Bell to bell, it clocked in at 17-and-a-half minutes, a marathon by Lesnar’s standards. The ending sequence came when Rhodes hit three consecutive Cross Rhodes, seizing a rare opportunity to beat Lesnar twice.

“I wanted to drive it home in the classic Remember The Titans way, which I watch on repeat,” says Rhodes. “The line that always sticks out to me is, ‘Run it up, leave no doubt.’ If you give me the ball, I’m going to run that score up and leave no doubt. That’s what I did with three Cross Rhodes.”

A fascinating moment occurred in the match’s aftermath. Lesnar removed his MMA gloves and stomped straight toward Rhodes, going forehead-to-forehead. Yet there was no more physicality, as Lesnar instead extended his hand (unlike with John Cena, an F5 didn’t follow).

“As I saw him taking his gloves off, I sincerely thought he was going to start swinging,” says Rhodes. “Then we went head-to-head, and it felt like we were a millisecond away from starting up again. So I didn’t anticipate that handshake coming.”

“When I saw his hand, I was grateful. That’s not something he does. Again, this run has consistently surprised me. The torch isn’t passed. You have to take it.”

Lesnar then raised Rhodes’ arm in a small-but-meaningful victory celebration. By the time Rhodes stepped back behind the curtain, Lesnar had already vanished.

“I came to the back, there was a nice ovation in the Gorilla Position, but Brock was nowhere to be found,” says Rhodes. “I didn’t see him the rest of the night. The way I see it, we didn’t need to speak. Brock left it all in the ring.”

Courtesy WWE

Courtesy WWE

Rhodes stayed for the remainder of the show, watching the world title matches and the post-show press conference. He kept a particularly close eye on the main event, which saw Roman Reigns defeat Jey Uso in a Tribal Combat match.

Reigns’ record-setting run as champion has no end in sight. The members of The Bloodline continue to dominate WWE programming, but Rhodes believes he is the one who will ultimately dethrone the king. In order to do that, he must find a way back to the premier match at WrestleMania.

“I know what I want,” says Rhodes. “I know what I’m working to attain. I had other challenges before. People didn’t think I’d survive Stardust, or that a non-WWE show could sell 10,000 tickets. There have been plenty of times when people bet against me. Getting back, this is the biggest obstacle yet.

“That’s my goal: get back. And that’s what I’m fighting to do.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.