As many had highly anticipated, Cody Rhodes made his return to WWE on Night 1 of Wrestlemania 38, coming out victorious in an incredible match with Seth Rollins.
This marked the former AEW Excecutive Vice President’s first WWE appearance since 2016, with Rhodes transforming from undercard fodder to an undeniable main event talent in the years following his release.
Immediately after his return played out on screen, Variety released an exclusive interview with Rhodes, taking place in the days leading up to Wrestlemania 38.
When asked how he felt about not only returning to WWE, but to Wrestlemania, Cody had the following to say:
“Everyone who knows has asked me how I’m feeling, if I’m really excited. The answer I kind of keep giving everybody is it’s just a really heavy feeling. When I first got into wrestling, I was solely in the WWE system, and I had that dream of getting to the top. Then dreams are like rivers, as the Garth Brooks song says, and it veered and it changed. Then we were able to do what we were able to do with AEW and that’s something that I’m very proud of, but to be able to revisit the thing that I set out to do in the first place when I didn’t think I would get that chance is just heavy. Even now, thinking about it is heavy. So yeah, all the feelings — happy, excited, pressure, responsibility, all of it. But I don’t know how I will feel until I’m out there. It just seems like kind of a culmination of my whole career, but I don’t want to jinx it. I don’t want to put any hyperbole there, but it’s the biggest crowd in wrestling. It’s returning as me in something that I built and nobody else built. And that’s the ultimate vindication.“
Rhodes was then asked by Variety if he felt like a different performer compared to his previous run in WWE, with “The American Nightmare” displaying full confidence in his ability to succeed.
“I told Vince McMahon, Bruce Prichard and Nick Khan — this very small circle of individuals — I told them what I truly believe and it’s that I’m the best wrestler in the world. And to go further with it, I actually don’t think there’s a close second. But with that said, the opportunity now exists to prove it, and that’s what I’m most excited about. It’s a completely different individual returning to the game. It’s a different brand. It’s someone who’s experienced all the wonders of independent wrestling, of traveling internationally, of being able to get on the ground with the fans that make this whole ship move. But different person or not, I’m still that little kid that I mentioned in an AEW promo that wants what my dad didn’t get, and I’m not going to say it out loud because I don’t want to jinx it. But, you know, he went to Madison Square Garden, stood across from Superstar Billy Graham and he held it in his hands, the goal of mine, and it was taken away because that was the context of the match. I understand that now as an adult, but as a kid, that was the only reason I ever wanted to get in, so that I could get what he didn’t get.”
Cody Rhodes’ AEW departure in February of this year set in motion the events of Night 1 of Wrestlemania, and Variety would go on to question Rhodes about the details surrounding his exit of the company.
“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. 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 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.”
Many were also excited to see Rhodes carry over his “American Nightmare” moniker, as well as his “Kingdom” entrance theme, with Cody confirming this to be the case with Variety.
“Yeah. I mean, there should be no difference. To quote some of these individuals who courted me for this moment, “It’s not broke.” And this was a place that didn’t care for me. And it wasn’t that they didn’t have love and respect for me but as a wrestler, I wasn’t considered their most desirable. If anything, I was kind of undesirable. That’s where the whole mantra comes from, the whole promo of “desirable to undeniable,” to be able to return on your terms. It kind of feels like being in the military and having conquered something or having won this battle and being able to stand and keep your chin parallel with the floor and to be able to come in that fashion, a bit of a conquering hero. That’s how I see it in my dreams.”Cody Rhodes
Finally, Rhodes confirmed with Variety that A&E are working on a documentary focused on the career and life of his father, Dusty, with Rhodes serving as executive producer on the project. Rhodes also revealed that had recently acquired the WWWF Championship that his father fought for against Superstar Billy Graham, with Cody stating that American Top Team’s Dan Lambert handed him the title, saying “I thought it should belong to you.”
Fans can expect to hear more from Rhodes in the comming days, with an expectation that he will appear on the Raw following Wrestlemania. Cody made no secret about his intent to be World Champion in WWE throughout this interview, and it may not be long before he gets the chance to do so