Interview with WWE Superstar Cody Rhodes

WWE Extreme Rules Preview

Interview by Bill Jones – Images courtesy of WWE

Cody Runnels, better known by his ring name Cody Rhodes, is the son of WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes, a fact he played into with the multi-generational stable The Legacy. Cody Rhodes cut his teeth in the WWE in tag team competition with Ted DiBiase, but in recent years, Rhodes has made a name for himself as a singles competitor poised to be a main eventer. He has had great feuds and even better matches with the likes of Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton and Booker T. But his current feud sees him up against the 7-foot 441-pound Big Show, upholding the time-honored pro wrestling tradition of fighting a giant, in this case a giant who beat him Sunday, April 1, for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania.

Rhodes will get his rematch Sunday, April 29, at the Extreme Rules pay per view, held at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. (Chicago). Rhodes was kind enough to take 15 minutes out of his busy travel schedule Thursday, April 26, to chat on the phone about the upcoming show and his career, delving into his mask, video games, his father, Chicago, twitter, the return of Attitude Era Superstars, dream matches, mystery stipulations and, of course, the Big Show.

So, obviously you’re feuding with the Big Show right now, and I’ve got to say I absolutely loved the build to WrestleMania you guys had, in which you brought up some of the Big Show’s ‘highlights.’  Where did that idea come from?
I think the whole thing goes back to this promo on Smackdown where I called him ‘The Reverse Undertaker.’ It made such a buzz amongst the backstage area that that’s the direction we wanted to go with. I was really happy I got to say that line that led us to Mania, and I enjoyed all the less-than-stellar moments I got to provide for people.

Well, the mask you were wearing for awhile seemed to just come from a real-life broken nose you suffered and turned into this bigger thing. Do a lot of these ideas just sort of pop up like that and you run with them, or are things a little more planned than that, in general?
I think it’s about running with things. Daniel Bryan is a great example – Yes! Yes! Yes! It’s about running with things. Our fans aren’t black and white, in terms of who they’re supposed to cheer for, who they’re not supposed to cheer for. It’s a very gray world. Things pop up and you can really run with them.

And I guess with that, do you have a lot of input into your own character and ability to run with these ideas, or is it more on the creative team, or is there a balance?
For me, this might sound silly, but so much of what I do is not a character. Much of what I do – Cody Rhodes and Cody Runnels are very closely entwined. I, personally, have a lot of control or at least I’m very hands on with what I do, from a small segment to a 20-minute match on Smackdown or Raw.

Saying a lot of this persona is actually you, how do you explain that when you look at something like the narcissist thing you were going with for awhile? Did you really consider yourself the best looking guy in WWE?
You know, it’s funny. When I was proclaiming that I was ‘Dashing’ versus the time I was wearing the mask, I actually was more comfortable when I had the mask on. And it was more of a ‘Phantom of the Opera’-like setting versus the time when I was telling people how handsome I was, how unattractive they were and how they could change their lives with the tips I was providing. It was very difficult. As vain as I might be, if I’m at all confident, I would not near that confidence. That was a whole other level. That was a challenge more than the mask was.

So why did you ultimately get rid of the mask? Was it hard to work in, in any way?
No. No. First time I wrestled without the mask, it was overseas. I felt like Master Chief taking off his helmet. My face was all white. It really was. It was untanned. And it was weird, because it was just a clear, see-through mask, but it was a lot more than that to me. It was just time to move on. The characters in the WWE, as ridiculous as some may seem – and the one with me in the mask was ridiculous – it got me closer to being myself on TV. It was time to be a little bit more myself.

You brought up Master Chief, and I think fans have noticed a few references here and there. I think you had the Triforce on your boots at one point. Are you really into the gaming and comics world?
I’m into, I hate the term, but I guess I’m big into pop culture. I grew up in that generation that loves video games, and that if you talk to anyone who’s from 23 to 35 and you talk about Zelda, they’re going to know exactly what you’re talking about, whether they played it just once or played every game ever. …

Do you play the WWE games at all, or is that kind of weird for you when you actually get in the ring and do those things?
It is weird.  … THQ does a great job of getting our movement. Sometimes you’ll see something and be like, ‘Well, I don’t do that.’ Then you’ll see something … and it’s exactly how you do it. And they’ve stolen that from real footage or a mold that’s on my chest. That stuff, that’s where it gets a little weird. Also, some of the moves they do in WWE 12 and in the past Smackdown vs. Raw are highly – it’s not impossible, [but] it makes you feel a little bad that my video game character can do way cooler stuff than I can.

Going back to your feud with the Big Show – What’s it like wrestling a guy like that? Obviously, he’s huge. Do you have to adapt your style a lot when you get in the ring with him?
Yeah, I’ve had to adapt my style completely, which has been a challenge. I knew entering that getting in the ring with someone like the Big Show is going to be different from getting in the ring with somebody like Randy Orton of Kofi Kingston. It has been, honestly, of all the things I’ve done in my career, this match with the Big Show coming up at Extreme Rules and the match we had at WrestleMania have been the biggest challenges for me. Wrestling a giant, in the history of WWE or pro wrestling or sports entertainment, has always been difficult. Hulk Hogan – it was difficult for him. And it’s been difficult for countless other superstars and guys who have been in there. For me, regardless of how I feel about him, because I genuinely hate the Big Show, I have the utmost respect for – he is ridiculously athletic for his size, ridiculously. Khali is a giant who if you get so close to him he’ll swat you down, but there are some weaknesses you can take advantage of. Big Show doesn’t have any weaknesses.

You’re also facing Big Show at Extreme Rules in a match where there’s going to be a stipulation, but it’s unknown at this point…

…What’s the psychology behind preparing for an unknown match like that, and is there anything in particular you’re preparing for or anticipating?
For me, no. Like we were talking about earlier – just run with it. There are certain matches that are just a boyhood dream. I’d love to do a bull rope match. It’s a match that my father put on the map. I’d love to do a leather strap match. I watched some of my favorite guys growing up in leather strap matches, from Sting to Stone Cold Steve Austin. And I always wanted to do one of those. I’m just hoping it’s something that the odds are not horribly out of my favor or do something the fans are going to chuckle at. I’m hoping it’s not like a Lights Out match, where you wear the mask over your face.

You mentioned your father. You got to do a bit with him on Smackdown recently, and you originally played up the generational thing coming up through Legacy. What’s it like for you to have that multi-generational background and get to do things that involve your father every once in awhile?
They’re great. When he came out to induct the Four Horsemen, I teared up a little bit, just at him, because he still has everything that he had when he was a performer; he’s just gotten older. It’s cool to see. He’s always on. And it’s funny when he comes to do stuff on Smackdown or Raw and he comes to help me out, because that’s genuinely what he’s there for. Regardless of what you see, he’s helping out. I just always enjoy – regardless of the way things are proposed and you assume something is going to go, he always adds his own things in there. So you have to be very much on your guard when you’re in there with him.

Chicago’s known as a big wrestling town. What is it like for you to wrestle here, and what are some of the other coolest places you get to wrestle?
Chicago is, honestly, one of the – I think people would assume there are like four or five places you go to that are like Chicago, but there’s not. There’s only one Chicago. The way the fans are in Chicago, the way they have been for years but especially since WrestleMania was in Chicago, is just unreal. It’s like entering Bizarro World, in terms of – they dictate the pace of the evening. That’s really cool, and if you know what you’re doing in the ring and you’re confident in your skillset, you can handle that. Like I said, I genuinely don’t like the Big Show, but if anything is going to make me look forward to wrestling the Big Show, it’s that it’s going to be in Chicago, because we always go a little above and beyond. And it’s not that we don’t go a little above and beyond elsewhere, it’s just that Chicago goes above and beyond for us.

You also recently joined twitter, and I’m curious what your impression is so far in the role it plays in building your character, your feuds and WWE at large?
I don’t get it. I don’t understand twitter. I have enjoyed it, I really have, but I don’t know, like WWE, it’s very infused. There’s all these hashtags … People say some really mean stuff, is basically what I’ve noticed about twitter. I’m keeping it very limited.

Obviously, The Rock recently came back. There’s the character Lord Tensai, and now Brock Lesnar is back. As someone who likely grew up watching the Attitude Era, what is it like to be a part of what’s going on right now?
Well, I mean, I walked into The Rock’s dressing room at WrestleMania and thanked him for the number of people who were there that night and the number of people who ordered it on pay per view. I have such respect for The Rock. And now with the return of Brock … it’s completely different than The Rock. But for me, it kind of just made me angry and not in  a way like, ‘Oh, blast. They get to be on another pay per view.’ More in a way that – I’m out there working. I never take a day off. I never plan on taking a day off. I’m so in love with the wrestling business I couldn’t see myself going away. And these guys have that ability to come back in because they have that presence, they have that following and are just automatically accepted as superstars again. So there’s something to learn and something to be kind of irritated from that whole Attitude Era generation, but I get it from both the good and the bad.

You’ve already had a lot of matches in your career at this point. If you look back, what is your favorite?
Ooh, favorite matches. My favorite match is SummerSlam [2009] when it was myself and Ted Dibiase versus the returning Degeneration X. I’d grown up a fan. Shawn Michaels was my favorite, and I always wanted to get in the ring with him and just be in the ring with him. I got that opportunity. Everything we did worked out really well. The other one would be my … WrestleMania singles match and against Rey Mysterio. I thought that was a really break-out evening, and in Atlanta, where I grew up nearby. It was very nice.

And look forward, do you have any dream matches, any guys you haven’t wrestled yet but would love to get in the ring with?
Well, I think some of the Attitude guys, especially after seeing them up close and seeing the level of performance. I’d love to get in there with somebody like The Rock. But before that, I spent a year on the road driving John Cena around, trying to learn from him. I became kind of good with him, I guess, but in the end I hope it wasn’t for nothing. I learned a great deal, but I’d love the chance to get in there with John. He’s been the franchise of the company as things are changing, and no doubt things are changing, and I’d love to have that match with him.

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Note: The few places in the interview where there are ellipses [...] reception cut out in the interview with Cody Rhodes. In the interest of still portraying those interesting answers but without changing the words of Rhodes, we have simply worked around those spots.