Cody Rhodes Reveals The Endgame of His "Heel" Run in AEW (Exclusive)

Cody Rhodes' heel run in AEW was supposed to end with a match against a WWE Hall of Famer.

Cody Rhodes found himself in an awkward position during his final full year with AEW in 2021. He was still one of the company's executive vice presidents but had stopped associating himself with the rest of The Elite on AEW TV. The former TNT Champion was one of the biggest stars in the company, but his own booking decisions prevented him from ever challenging for the AEW World Championship. And the popularity he had built up with fans ever since his WWE departure had started to wane thanks to a series of awkward feuds with the likes of Anthony Ogogo, QT Marshall and Malakai Black. 

It got to the point where fans were vocally rebelling against Rhodes, demanding he turn heel and embrace the villainous aspects of "The American Nightmare" persona. But Rhodes took a different approach, stating outright in promos, "I will not turn!" and proclaiming his actions were still righteous. He recently confirmed in an interview with Sam Roberts that by refusing to give the fans what they wanted he was still playing the role of a wrestling heel. But he also admitted that the idea got a bit too "meta" and didn't click with fans. 

But before Rhodes' "heel" run could culminate in any kind of storyline or marquee match, he announced in February 2022 that both he was leaving AEW. He'd then make his triumphant return to WWE less than two months later at WrestleMania 38. But was the original plan for "heel" Rhodes in AEW? According to a new interview with ComicBook while promoting the premiere of American Nightmare: Becoming Cody Rhodes, it was supposed to end with a match against Sting. 

"I was going to wrestle Sting," Rhodes confirmed. "I don't think I've ever shared that with anybody and nothing was on paper or anything like that. But I can say I got a tremendous offer from AEW creatively, financially, the full package. You won't hear me say anything bad about AEW or Tony (Khan) or my time there. It was a tremendous offer, but the offer wasn't right for me. What I wanted to get back to was the first goal that I ever had (winning the WWE Championship). But yeah, that probably would've been the endgame. That's what had been discussed, was to get one (match) with one of my heroes, Sting.

"And it's one of those things, you can wrestle one of your heroes or you can work with one of your heroes and he can be the head of creative (Paul Levesque), you can't have it all," he continued. "And I think one thing I do pride myself on as a wrestler is I will make a decision. It might be a left turn, it might be exactly where you think I'm going, but I will make a decision. I will not get stuck because I felt like I'd been stuck early in my career and never want to be that way again."

AEW Teased Rhodes vs. Sting Long Before Cody's Departure

AEW dropped a hint this match might happen way back in December 2020. "The Icon" made his surprise debut for the company at that year's Winter is Coming event and Rhodes invited him out to the ring the following week on AEW Dynamite. He thanked Sting, but the WWE Hall of Famer was a bit dismissive of Rhodes and ended their interaction by saying, "See you around, kid." Sting has since wrestled 18 matches for AEW, but none of them involved Rhodes.

American Nightmare: Becoming Cody Rhodes officially arrives on Peacock on Monday, July 31. Rhodes will be in action again this coming Saturday at the SummerSlam premium live event in Detroit, taking on Brock Lesnar at Ford Field.

WWE SummerSlam 2023 Card

  • Undisputed WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso (Tribal Combat Rules)
  • World Heavyweight Championship: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
  • SmackDown Women's Championship: Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Bianca Belair 
  • Intercontinental Championship: Gunther vs. Drew McIntyre
  • Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar 
  • Ronda Rousey vs. Shayna Baszler
  • Ricochet vs. Logan Paul
  • SummerSlam Battle Royal