What can be said of the scion of professional wrestling, Cody Rhodes, that has yet to be talked about? That is where WWE puts its touch on the documentary The American Nightmare: Becoming Cody Rhodes. A lot has been said about “the son of the son of a plumber,” and the focus in WWE’s documentary is how the son of “The American Dream”, Dusty Rhodes, and the brother of “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes (or Goldust, depending on who you talk to), measure up to Cody, who obviously has had a lot to live up to and how he has managed to fill those shoes over time.
If you haven’t seen a lot of WWE’s Documentaries streaming on Peacock, then know this has a slickly produced feel to the process, specifically at points when you see Cody wandering into a “desert” and coming across prominent stages in his wrestling career. But more important than that is the connection Cody has with his dad which is the prominent theme throughout this story, as narrated by his best bud Stephen Amell of Arrow and Heels fame. The other theme of the documentary is the time that Dusty once challenged “Superstar” Billy Graham for the WWWF title at Madison Square Garden in New York City, but he couldn’t claim it as Graham rolled out of the ring and lost due to a count out but the title would not change hands for that reason, which fuels Cody’s drive during this documentary.
The first part explores Cody growing up with his mom, Michelle Rios, and his sister, Teil, and how devoted Dusty was to his children and not wanting to miss a moment of them growing up. Interestingly, Dustin is mentioned at points, but he doesn’t make an appearance throughout the documentary, unlike other taking heads like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Triple H, and other surprise voices like Matt Cardona.
The first part is spent on his amateur wrestling at Lassiter High School in Georgia, with a funny point by Xavier Woods who was wrestling in the same division in Georgia. He tells a story about how he wanted to make a name for himself against Cody so that Dusty would notice him. While Cody was an all-star who won Division 1-A amateur wrestling, he chose not to pursue college. He did go to Los Angeles for a stint with his sister to pursue acting and joined Howard Fine’s acting studio, but he realizes after he drives back to Georgia in early 2006 that professional wrestling was in his blood.
That leads into Dusty’s time in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) and Cody proving to be a natural in the ring and on the mic, but when he and his brother induct Dusty in 2007 to the WWE Hall of Fame, he gets called up and Cody acknowledges he wasn’t ready at that time since he acknowledged how green he was. The second part of the doc goes through his forays in the WWE from his foray to the metrosexual “Dashing” era (which included his “broken nose” by Rey Mysterio, which he explained if it was real or not as “print the legend”) that led to wearing a face mask and the whole “paper bag” on the fans.
Cody does acknowledge the highlights in his time in WWE, earning the WWE Intercontinental Championship and meeting Brandi (which does involve him negging her about how bouffant her hairstyle was) that led to their marriage after two years, and then there was the big family moment at WWE Battleground 2013 with his dad and Goldust facing The Shield (Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns) for the WWE Tag Team Championship that was the culmination of a big family moment. But with that high, there is a moment he concedes his career was plateauing, and thus came Stardust. Most people like Miz mention that he really dove into the character and he never phoned it in, even though he was miserable and it hampered any chances he had of reaching the main event. But it was when his dad passed away from septic shock and he spoke at his funeral openly that fans get a sense of his mindset while still processing his grief under the guise of Stardust, even though he wanted to transition back but was told by the writers at WWE they wouldn’t. Although there were good moments during this time like meeting Amell and being on his TV show Arrow, Cody admits during this period after a match, he would drink whiskey mixed with Gatorade “because he was checked out.”
That brings us to the part most fans are familiar with when Cody left WWE to forge his own path in various indies, along with The List he posted on his social media of the people he wanted to wrestle. That leads to clips during this time from EVOLVE, North Eastern Wrestling (NEW), and his newfound love of connecting with fans with the top indies. Then they discuss his evolution into the “American Nightmare” in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and that leads to Cody the Businessman along with The Young Bucks promoting and selling out the first independent “ALL IN” show, which begat the creation of AEW.
Now, for the fanboys and Tony Khan, this is the part where Cody addresses the elephant in the room about his departure from AEW, and he states the following:
“This is my one request in this entire documentary. This one answer I don’t want edited in any capacity. Don’t even edit this part.
I can’t tell you why I left AEW. I can’t and I won’t. But I’ll tell you the reasons that were said that didn’t actually matter: I didn’t leave AEW because of money, and I didn’t leave AEW because of other talents. I left AEW because of a personal issue. That’s it. But the byproduct of leaving AEW is the opportunity to go for the biggest dream I ever had in the first dream that I had in my life.”
So to be clear, Cody doesn’t say it but it is Triple H who speculates the reason he left for WWE as opposed to pursuing a championship in a “secondary promotion”, so send the hate mail/social media trolling to him, for as much good as that will do.
That said, the rest of the doc goes over his re-debut against Seth Rollins at Wrestlemania 38 to a huge pop from the fans, and the infamous Hell in a Cell match with the bruise that left fans gasping at the black and blue pectoral muscle he injured from “a bench press of all things.” The rest of the documentary goes on to highlight his work with his “Nightmare Factory” training other wrestlers wanting to break in the business, and then to his recovery and return to main event Wrestlemania 39 to challenge Roman Reigns for the WWE Undisputed Championship in the most bungled spot this side of Lex Luger. However, Cody is proud of the fact that he was able to headline this event, and one can hope he hasn’t lost a shot at the title that has eluded him and his dad for decades.
Overall, to talk about Cody you have to bring Dusty into the picture, as well as his involvement with WWE and creating NXT and polishing the next generation of stars like Reigns, Rollins, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens (the latter of which make cameos in the documentary). It is a fascinating look into the life of the evolution of how Cody Runnels over time evolved into The American Nightmare, and that makes his story all the more compelling from being undesirable to being undeniable.
- Slam Wrestling’s Dusty Rhodes, Goldust/Dustin Rhodes, and Cody Rhodes story archive