SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Dustin Rhodes: “This Double or Nothing match feels like a WrestleMania moment to me”
For Dustin Rhodes, Double or Nothing stands as redemption.
While the future WWE Hall of Famer has already cemented his legacy in the business, there is one gaping hole in his wrestling portfolio. Rhodes can still remember the frustration pouring out of his soul following his Fastlane match on February 22, 2015. He has just wrestled against his brother Cody—who was working at the time as Stardust—in a storyline that also involved their legendary father, the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. The match was intended to build to WrestleMania 31, but any potential for that was scrapped following the Fastlane performance.
“That match sucked,” said Rhodes, who felt the angst of his performance while wiping away his black-and-gold face paint. “The world didn’t like it, and neither did Cody or I.”
Regret of a forgettable performance has been eating away at Rhodes, who looks to this Saturday’s match against Cody at Double or Nothing as a chance to put a proper end to the story between the two brothers.
“They gave us Fastlane—and it was a stinker,” acknowledged Rhodes. “You always want to have your WrestleMania moment, but we were denied that. We were told it wasn’t good enough to be on a WrestleMania.”
Following WrestleMania 31, the Rhodes brothers continued their feud on the European tour. The experience of those matches, along with the shared history and chemistry between the two, will be on display at All Elite Wrestling’s debut show this Saturday.
“Since I’ve been clean and sober, I fell in love with the wrestling business all over again,” said Rhodes, who just celebrated his eleventh year sober. “These past two months have been very inspirational to me, and this Double or Nothing match feels like a WrestleMania moment for me. I’m working my tail off in the gym, I’ve dropped weight, and I’m going to show Cody some things that Goldust has never done.
“Cody and I are going to step in the ring and end this for once and all. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in the business—greater than the Roddy Piper match from WrestleMania 12, greater than Battleground from 2013 with Cody against The Shield. This, to me, is the pinnacle, and I’m not going to let anyone down.”
Rhodes’ battle with addiction is ongoing, so over a decade of sobriety is a phenomenal achievement.
“It’s a big accomplishment for me,” said Rhodes. “I know it’s another year, but for me, it’s one day at a time. I see so much clearer now than I used to. I can go through a day, and maybe have a bad day, but I can get through that day clean and sober. And that’s a good day for me.”
Rhodes is able to be a part of AEW is because he asked for and was granted his release from his WWE contract.
“I’ve done some amazing things over the past 31 years,” said Rhodes. “In addition to Double or Nothing, I also want to pursue my other passion, giving my dream of acting a chance. That’s something that has always been important to me.”
Rhodes’ pursuit of acting is a critical reason why he stepped away from WWE.
“When you’re underneath the umbrella of WWE, your hands are tied because you’re on the road for the live events,” said Rhodes. “But thankfully, Paul [Levesque] let me step away, and he took care of me on the way out. I’ll never have anything bad to say.”
Rhodes has the utmost respect for Cody, who was named Sports Illustrated’s “Wrestler of the Year” for 2018, but he has every intention of reminding the world that he is the older, wiser, and more experienced of the two.
“Look, this is no different than what happened when I’d start a fight with my dad,” said Rhodes. “He was older and wiser, and he’d always win. It’s the same way with me and Cody. As egotistical as my little brother is, I love him to death, but he needs to take into account that I’ve traveled this world just a little more. I am the master at mind games.”
Spoilers aside, Rhodes expressed that he will be content with a match that, regardless of the winner, brings out the best in both him and his brother.
“I don’t know what to expect from the AEW crowd,” said Rhodes. “I’m going to show everyone the new Dustin Rhodes. I hope they accept me with open arms.
“I want to give back to the business, and AEW is the future. I can’t wait to go out there and perform with my brother, slap him a few times to let him know who big brother is, then shake his hand and give him a hug afterward. It’s a huge moment, I’m grateful for it, and it’s going to be a lot of fun at Double or Nothing.”
WWE’s Seth Rollins: “I can hang with anybody in the world”
Again and again, Seth Rollins has proven he is on the short list of most talented wrestlers in the world.
Rollins had an outrageously exciting match with AJ Styles at Money in the Bank on Sunday, further cementing an argument for “The Architect” as the best wrestler in the world. There are other talents—most notably Styles, Kenny Omega, and Kazuchika Okada—who have a legitimate claim to that title. Sports Illustrated asked the current WWE Universal champion if he is the top talent in wrestling.
“Our industry is an art form, so it’s subjective to whomever is watching it,” said Rollins. “I have the confidence that I can hang with anybody in the world.”
Although Kofi Kingston’s WWE championship has a far more prestigious lineage, the company has positioned the Universal title as its primary belt over the past three years. Rollins is honored to wear the title and stand as the face of the company on flagship show Raw.
“I’ve been really fortunate to have some incredible moments here in WWE, and I’ve been able to accomplish a lot, but this means even more,” said Rollins. “I’ve come back from my knee injury. I was almost fired in developmental because of my attitude. This is the biggest moment of my life.”
Fallout from WWE’s Money in the Bank
The two winners from Sunday’s Money in the Bank were right on the money.
Bayley’s win instantly injected enthusiasm and excitement into both her own career and the entire women’s division. Largely based around Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair, the win by Bayley—along with her ensuing cash-in and title win—was the perfect jolt of energy for the division.
Looking forward, a feud between Bayley and Sasha Banks should end in a match that closes out a pay per view.
As for the men’s Money in the Bank winner, Brock Lesnar is also a perfect choice. In some ways, the briefcase fits Lesnar better than the championship.
Lesnar is the definition of a part-time talent, and that description might be a bit generous given his lack of appearances. As champion, it is infuriating to see Lesnar come and go (but mainly go) while the rest of the roster makes the product on a weekly basis. Ideally, the champion, like Seth Rollins or Kofi Kingston, should stand out as one of the top performers and set an example for the roster through his dedication to his craft.
That is not Lesnar, and it is unlikely that he would disagree. But Lesnar as Money in the Bank winner is a much happier marriage.
Mystery surrounds the Money in the Bank contract, which means that you never know if he’ll appear or when he will strike. Paul Heyman can do the talking for Lesnar on a weekly basis, and Lesnar can return for a few teases—which are sure to be strung out over the next few months—before he successfully cashes in his title opportunity.
“The Bruiser” ready to fight back against cancer
“The Bruiser” RJ Meyer is in the fight of his life, but to the surprise of no one who knows him, he is already fighting back.
Meyer was diagnosed with leukemia this past March, but the 22-year wrestling veteran is confident he can win this fight—and even has Roman Reigns in his corner.
“John Minadakis, who owns Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, teamed up with MCW in Maryland and they put together a Crab Feast to help raise money because I’m out of work for the next year,” said the 42-year-old Meyer. “Roman sent me a shout-out, and that meant a lot. I have children, a 15-year-old and a nine-year-old who is big into wrestling. When I had to tell my two children what was going on with me having leukemia, my youngest told me, ‘Roman Reigns just beat leukemia, and Dad, so will you.’”
Meyer is well known in the wrestling community. He broke in at the age of 19 in 1997 when he went to Atlanta for a tryout at WCW’s PowerPlant. He endured three days of grueling training before getting cut. But Meyer turned the negative into a positive, enrolling in a wrestling school back in Baltimore and fully immersing himself into the business.
“I was the school’s first student,” said Meyer. “That’s when I got really into independent wrestling.”
Two decades later, Meyer’s love affair with grassroots wrestling has yet to fade. He has also spent the past five years teaching at MCW’s Pro Wrestling Training Center, which has produced talent such as Velveteen Dream and Lio Rush.
“We have also 11 guys in Ring of Honor,” said Meyer. “It’s incredible to watch the guys rise up the ranks. Just to be a part to help them out is amazing.”
Meyer first realized that something was awry with his body following an extreme match for MCW at the end of February.
“There were tables and we fought all over the building in a crazy match,” said Meyer. “I noticed that my legs were bruised in a way they normally wouldn’t be, but I thought it was because of what I did to myself in that match. A couple days went by and the bruising got worse.
“I’m a gym rat, but when I went to the gym, my heart felt like it was going to pop out of my chest. Then at my job as an electrician, I was sweating profusely trying to drill some wood. Then I was sweating like I’d just had a three-hour workout when I was reading at an elementary school for Dr. Seuss Day. I started getting these bumps all over my body, then my color started to fade.”
A visit to the doctor finally took place on March 11. Meyer was immediately rushed to the emergency room for blood work, and he was alarmed when a specialist was called in to look at his blood.
Shortly after, Meyer was informed that he has leukemia. He was transferred into the University of Maryland medical center for four weeks of chemotherapy. Sitting with his parents, tears began to fill their eyes.
“We cried for five minutes,” said Meyer. “Then I stopped and looked at my parents. I said, ‘We had our five-minute cry. That’s it. When you’re around me, there’s no more crying. We have to fight.’”
This is easily the most dangerous opponent Meyer has ever faced, but “The Bruiser” also battled addiction—which helped him develop a strong faith.
In 2009, following back surgery, Meyer became addicted to Percocet, which he started mixing with alcohol. But he saved his life by joining Alcoholics Anonymous. He has been sober since February 3, 2012.
“The support system I have is incredible,” said Meyer. “It’s been an amazing two months. You’d think I’d be beat up and beat down, but it’s the complete opposite. I want to get out the word and help people. Maybe somebody else won’t wait two weeks to be checked out like I did.”
Meyer lost 35 pounds during the chemo, and he is still awaiting a bone marrow transplant. Yet he remains optimistic in his fight.
There is a GoFundMefor those seeking to help, and Meyer is grateful for anyone who is also #BruiserStrong. MCW is also holding a wrestling show for Meyer on June 1 in Joppa, Maryland.
Although battling leukemia is not how Meyer envisioned spending his 2019, he has fully committed to winning the fight.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Meyer. “Maybe my reason for getting leukemia is so my kids don’t have to get it. So why not fight?
“You have to beat whatever you’re going through in life. If you need help, reach out to me and I’ll be your shoulder to cry on. There is no reason to give up. You never know what battle you’re in for, but you have to fight through it to see what’s next. And I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
The (Online) Week in Wrestling
• Announced by Mick Foley on Raw, WWE unveiled the new 24/7 title—a modern-day version of the Hardcore title. Since it was unveiled, the title has already had three holders, with R-Truth as the current champ. I’m not sold on the title—but I like the idea it gives purpose to more members of the roster. And I thought Foley’s promo was the highlight of the show.
• Chris Jericho throwing shade at Brock Lesnar is another reason why social media exists; but will Jericho sing a different tune if he defeats Kenny Omega at Double or Nothing?
• Who says wins and losses don’t matter in pro wrestling? As TheWrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported, the PAC-Hangman Page bout set for Double or Nothing is off due to creative (ie; winning and losing) differences.
Instead of taking place on the Vegas card, PAC and Page faced off in England and AEW posted the match on its YouTube channel.
• Has anyone else heard that the upcoming Super ShowDown (which, creatively, was the name of WWE’s show in Australia) in Saudi Arabia will be the equivalent to—or exceed—WrestleMania?
• Bray Wyatt’s new child has a familiar name to those who are NWO for life.
• John Pollock created an exceptional audio documentary on Owen Hart’s final day alive, May 23, 1999. Hart died in a tragic accident during a WWE pay per view at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, and the documentary is filled with original reporting that evokes the joy of Owen Hart and the misery surrounding his death.
• Ric Flair announced that he has returned home from the hospital, nearly a week after he was first admitted.
Wrestling Arcade is going behind the curtain with new book
Wrestling Arcade is leaving the world of pixilation—but only briefly—in a new hardcover book.
“Pro Wrestling’s Greatest Moments: The Complete Pixelated Guide” will serve as a comprehensive guide to the 32-bit illustrations that have become instantly recognizable on social media.
“I’ve been a wrestling fan my whole life, so this is a real ‘bucket list’ type of deal for me,” said Brendan Docherty, the man behind Wrestling Arcade. “I’ve been trying to find a way to contribute for years now, either by producing short documentaries or by filming local shows. I’ve worked in video editing, graphic design and marketing in the past, but Wrestling Arcade brings everything together and allows me to really be creative. The animations are a bit of nostalgia for me and putting together the book lets me give others that, too.”
Wrestling Arcade constantly delivers the best wrestling GIFs on the web, and the new book will detail over 250 moments spread across 400 pages. Funding for the project will launch this July 1 on Kickstarter.
“I just want to hold the final piece in my hand,” said Docherty. “I want to see the book in high street stores, sandwiched on the shelves in between the ‘Art of Atari’ and ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: A Character Guide’. This will happen.”
Tweet of the Week
You may agree or disagree with the tweet, but Kevin Nash would never have been as relevant in pro wrestling as he currently remains had he been unwilling to share his honest opinions.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.