Cody Rhodes found clarity after his departure from WWE.

Cody Rhodes shook up the world of professional wrestling when he returned to WWE at WrestleMania 38, which marked the first WWE appearance for ‘The American Nightmare’ in over seven years. Cody would reminisce to his original departure from WWE back in 2015, which was something, according to the man himself, was something he simply ‘needed’ to do.

“I feel like all of my heroes whether it be in wrestling or entertainment had to make the decisions that somebody else wouldn’t make,” Cody explained when appearing on Steve Austin’s: The Broken Skull Sessions. “I just had to make one of those recently and at the time, there were all these factors. Stardust was supposed to end, I was supposed to be Cody Rhodes and I was gonna be Stardust, all of these things were gonna happen but they weren’t happening fast enough. All the advice I was getting, ‘go talk to such and such’, ‘go talk to such and such’, like, OK…I don’t feel very welcome. I released myself, I just put out a statement on social, someone in talent relations said ‘i’ll see ya next week!’ because I had vented to them and I said ‘no, you won’t’. Then I put that thing out, it was an incredibly unprofessional way to do it, I broke the ties, I had to go, I needed to go.

“I didn’t even sign my release papers. I didn’t care, I worked for you [WWE] for 10, wonderful, beautiful years, I met my wife here, I had this great run with my brother here, I got to work with my heroes in the business and it can’t end this way for me. So, I’m moving on…no hard feelings, which was the best possible thing I could’ve done at the time. There was no way out of this [points at photo of Stardust], I was so embarrassed. I’ve talked about the good parts about Stardust and I did mean that but I had to do appearances in full gimmick and people would say it’s the commitment. No, it’s the fact that I can’t bring myself to be Cody Rhodes and telling them that I’m also Stardust. It’s the sad cloud thing but there was no other way out other than the nuclear option, which is what I did and I am so glad I did it and if it pissed anyone off or it affected anyone adversely, I do apologize, I don’t think it did and we’re all here now.”

Following his departure from WWE, Cody would quickly become a staple of NJPW and ROH programming and would eventually become one of the leaders of Bullet Club, something that according to Cody, led to the beginning of something much, much bigger.

“When I went to New Japan, I was slowly started to carve out The American Nightmare identity, but they specifically wanted to have that connection to The American Nightmare, because Dusty [Rhodes] was The American Dream’. Their audience, who doesn’t watch a lot of American wrestling, even though we think they do…their audience needed to be educated, ‘OK, who is he?’ and they’d have clips of Dusty in the 70s and the 90s, ya know, The American Dream and now his son is The American Nightmare. I remember Gedo and Rocky Romero asking me about the Bullet Club and I thought no way, it doesn’t work for me because I like stories and I’m a different type of cat. But I like a challenge, I remember talking to everybody and Zack Ryder, Matt Cardona was like ‘you gotta do it, it’s out of your comfort zone, yeah, but you gotta do it!’

“To be around Matt [Jackson], Nick [Jackson] and Kenny [Omega], it’s a different type of psychology and for me to get out of my comfort zone and be around those guys, that’s when The American Nightmare was really able to develop. I was, for Bullet Club purists, for me to be part of the Bullet Club was their worst nightmare, like, ‘no, no this is a WWE guy, he doesn’t do what we do, no, no!’ and then to present myself as the leader of the group, ya know as Kenny and I kind of came to odds, was perfect, it was perfect. Finn Balor, who started the whole Bullet Club, he started this whole, unique group where we got to play and bounce off each other and the whole Bullet Club and what was happening in New Japan and more specifically, Ring Of Honor, when we would wrap the show and all the fans would say for us to do whatever the thing was, bring the fan in the ring and drink a beer, do something, I got the sense that something is happening, something bigger is happening. They’ve been following me, they’ve been on board with these guys…which would lead to what happened next.”

What happened next would be the NJPW and ROH joint pay-per-view event, All In, back in September 2018, which many credit for the launch of what would become AEW.

“So, everything’s clicking but the conversation ends up being everybody trying to move the damn goalposts and [Dave] Meltzer was the one who ultimately said that Ring Of Honor couldn’t pull 10,000 fans…I knew we could. I actually knew we could in a heartbeat and I was all pre-workout tweeting and that’s when the best and worst stuff comes out and that’s when the bet happened and I said that I’d take that bet. I think it was in 20 minutes, 11,263 tickets, and a full, full building and that was my first night as an executive [laughs]. This gave me false hope that I’d be able to always do it. So, I was able to wrestle, I think we went on fourth and Nick [Aldis] and I had a really wonderful match and it is one of the loudest I’ve ever heard in an arena and I heard the decibels…and I heard the decibels, so that was very fulfilling but then I was able to produce the Battle Royale, which I was able to do earlier, I was able to come over here and talk to Ring Of Honor production about how much we could do because All In was very real. We paid for as much as we could’ve paid and we also booked the card and did all of the things of this nature.

“So, it made me think and Matt [Jackson] and Nick [Jackson] would tell you to this day, I kind of thought that we’d be doing this kind of thing every night…every night! [laughs] It was just a moment in time, a good night at the office, they come and go but this one was one that changed a lot of people’s outlook on what the alternative is. What might we see down the road at WWE? Who’s cooking? This [All In] weekend, above all, because Conrad Thompson jumped on board with Starrcast, this was like a Woodstock, I ordered a security detachment for us, not because of ego but I thought it might be hard going place to place because everyone wanted to talk and we definitely needed it. I felt like the word over, I think we were getting over. All In was a beautiful thing and it changed everything for me.”

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Steve Austin’s: The Broken Skull Sessions with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.

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