Former AEW EVP and recent Royal Rumble winner Cody Rhodes got his start in pro wrestling through the WWE system back in 2006. During his initial run with the company, Rhodes crossed paths with former multi-time WWE Champion John Cena, most notably during Rhodes’s spell as a member of Legacy alongside Randy Orton and Ted DiBiase Jr.
Rhodes ultimately left WWE in 2016, embarking on a journey across Japan and the indies that would see him eventually form All Elite Wrestling in 2019. ‘The American Nightmare’ now finds himself back with the company he started his career in, and is currently being pushed as a top star, with a WrestleMania main event just a couple of weeks away.
Speaking with Robbie Fox on My Mom’s Basement, Rhodes was asked whether he feels pressure to be a locker room leader, with Fox citing Cena as an example. Rhodes responded by heaping praise onto Cena, labelling him the ultimate role model, although he also highlighted that his own style would be to lead by example.
“You mention John. John’s the ultimate role model as far as how he conducted himself, whether it was with the media, with the fans, the good fans, the more unruly fans, everything. He is the ultimate role model. Before he became a bus guy, I got to drive him around a little bit, and he was just talking. I was, in my mind, just writing everything down that he was saying. He was really invaluable as a person to be around. I’m so blown away by how he’s doing and what he’s doing. I think if you try to copy what he did… everyone’s gotta do it their own way. I think my style, I ever was to be somebody that was a locker room leader, would just be to lead by example,”-Cody Rhodes
Referencing his time spent as an Executive Vice President for AEW, Rhodes stated that he quickly discovered there to be no perfect recipe for success due to everyone being different. Additionally, the 37-year-old acknowledged that he’s somehow found himself in a locker room leader role, and emphasised that he’s going about it in his own way.
“I know because, as my time in management and being an executive, as beneficial as that was to me and as educational as it was to me, sometimes it’s easier to lead by example, really, versus telling them this is gonna work, or being so adamant that they need to do this and need to do this. Everybody is different. There is no true formula for success in sports entertainment and pro wrestling. It’s really you just know it when you hear it, when they’re reacting, boos and cheers included in that. I think for me, I’ll probably do it my way if I ever end in that spot and I kind of am. But yeah, I’d like to do it my way. I loved how he did it. Dude was his in his jean shorts and his shirt all show,”-Cody Rhodes
Circling back to his time working with Cena, Rhodes described how the best lesson he learned from the former face of the company is that one should never cover their ears as a performer, a lesson he often teaches to his students at the Nightmare Factory.
Rhodes also noted that Cena would always interact with the crowd and reward their participation somehow, with his belief being that Cena took that approach due to his desire to fill the void left by top stars such as The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, as he wanted to keep the business healthy.
“The best thing I get from him that I tell the kids at the factory all the time is, ‘Don’t cover your ears.’ Even if there’s a small little rumble, he would always do something to reward their participation as a crowd. He would really make them interactive without letting them know they were interacting. The roar would be a little louder each time. The Cena rule, as we call it at the Nightmare Factory, is if they’re doing something, you need to do something. Doesn’t mean you gotta take it home or rush it. But you need to reward their noise. I think that came from a sense in his time [that] he was coming on the heels of giants, Rock, Austin, and probably didn’t want to lose any bit of participation because we’re going out of these eras where everybody, Godfather walking through the curtain, no knock on the Godfather, but the place is coming unglued. Then they got less and less for just the industry as a whole. I think he made it clear that, whenever you get something, you reward. I think that’s a good strategy to have now because as healthy as the business is now, and it is as healthy as it’s ever been, you still want it to keep moving upwards,”-Cody Rhodes
As previously noted, Rhodes is set to headline WrestleMania 39 in Los Angeles, California, as he looks to capture the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship. Who he’ll be challenging on the night is far from a foregone conclusion, however, as Roman Reigns is set to defend the gold tonight against Sami Zayn at the Elimination Chamber event in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
As for Cena, rumours have long been circulating that he’s set to take on the current United States Champion Austin Theory at WrestleMania 39, although this has yet to be confirmed.
H/T to Fightful for the transcription.