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Cody Rhodes Makes Triumphant Return to WWE at WrestleMania

Six years after leaving the company, Cody Rhodes is back in WWE.

The former AEW executive vice president made his return to WWE during night one of WrestleMania 38 on Saturday. After being revealed as Seth Rollins’s mystery opponent, Rhodes defeated Rollins to win the match.

Rhodes was introduced as “The American Nightmare Cody Rhodes.” He entered to his “Kingdom” theme music that he also used in AEW.

In the weeks leading into WrestleMania, Rollins was involved in a storyline where he repeatedly failed to secure a match on the show’s card. It led to the announcement that Rollins would be facing an opponent of WWE chairman Vince McMahon’s choosing.

Anticipation surrounding whether the 36-year-old Rhodes would be returning to WWE began when he and his wife Brandi Rhodes announced this February that they were leaving AEW. Cody and Brandi Rhodes were founding members of AEW and worked for the promotion both as wrestlers and executives.

Rhodes was a three-time TNT champion for AEW.

The son of late pro wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes, Rhodes started his in-ring career with WWE in 2006. He was with the company for 10 years until requesting his release in 2016. Rhodes was portraying the character “Stardust” at the time of his release and decided to leave WWE due to being unhappy with his role in the company.

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Rhodes rejuvenated his career outside of WWE, becoming a star for Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling. In 2019, AEW launched with Cody serving as one of the faces of the promotion. AEW, which is owned by Tony Khan, is WWE’s most significant competition since WCW went out of business in 2001.

SI’s Justin Barrasso reported after Rhodes’s departure from AEW that one key factor that led to his exit was “losing all responsibilities involving booking.”

In an interview with Variety about returning to WWE, Rhodes said his dream is to do what his father never did—win the WWE championship.

Rhodes also addressed the circumstances of his departure from AEW.

“I chose to remain silent about my departure from AEW and I’m going to keep my word on that. There’s no shoot interview. There’s no nefarious tale that’s going to be told. There were all these different theories and none of them are correct,” Rhodes told Variety. “I mean, there were things about money and creative control. They were printed as fact and it’s been a very difficult two months to see that, when the reality is it was just time. It was a personal matter and we couldn’t move past it. 

“I have nothing but respect for Matt [Jackson], Nick [Jackson] and Kenny [Omega]. I’m rooting for Tony Khan. His name is going to be in the history books as someone who helped to bankroll and support this entire alternative and revolution that AEW became but for me, it was just time to move on. I get an opportunity at my dream, I get another chance at it. And you really can’t leave any stone unturned with that.”

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