It’s only been three months since WWE was last in Milwaukee, but things feel much different this time around. Why? It’s WrestleMania season, of course, as WWE brings the Road To WrestleMania tour to Milwaukee on Saturday, March 18.
Sure, many of the faces will be the same: Seth Rollins was in the main event and Seth Rollins will be in the main event. Johnny Gargano was around and Johnny Gargano will be around. Damage CTRL was taking over and Damage CTRL is taking over. You know the drill, but this show feels different than that one just a few months ago. It feels different because Cody Rhodes will be here.
Love him or hate him, Cody Rhodes will go down as one of the most important figures in professional wrestling over the past 20 years. The son of a legend, Cody made his name in WWE at a relatively young age as a member of Legacy, a heel group of second-generation wrestlers back when that sort of thing was still novel. He didn’t have that “can’t-miss” prospect shine, but he always felt like he belonged when he stepped in the ring with the likes of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Randy Orton.
The group would end in a way that didn’t exactly set Cody up for future success. Randy Orton defeated Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr. cleanly and handily at WrestleMania with no real follow-up. The message was clear: Orton was the star and the other two were not.
Cody went from there to becoming “Dashing” Cody Rhodes, which quickly became “Undashing” Cody Rhodes after Rey Mysterio legitimately broke his nose. It was one of those moments in wrestling where something happens that wasn’t part of the plan that ends up becoming something much better than whatever the plan originally was. Cody ran with it and did some of the best work of his career. A long Intercontinental title run was his reward, but it still wasn’t enough to allow him to break through to the next echelon.
He was a Rhodes Scholar and another “beloved by fans but not management” act, before turning on his partner and becoming a babyface wrestler for the first time since 2008. Then Triple H fired him and his half-brother, Goldust.
In the story, of course. Now, Cody was suddenly hotter than ever before. His father even got involved and WWE had one of their hottest stories of the year with the Rhodes family taking on Triple H and The Shield. The Rhodes family would win the match, but not the war. The Rhodes family would be downgraded again and soon Cody was creating Stardust, a painted character like his brother that was a mix of his father, David Bowie, Venom, and The Riddler from ’60s Batman. It was certainly creative and allowed Cody to stretch some muscles that he hadn’t before, but it wasn’t a future World Champion and he knew it.
Cody begged for it to end, his pleas falling on deaf ears in the creative department. Eventually, he bet on himself and decided to leave and make his own way. After a rough start, Cody became one of the biggest stars on the independents, he made a name for himself in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and he spearheaded one of the biggest independent shows of all time.
Soon, a new company to challenge WWE was starting based on the work of Cody and the other members of the Elite. His contribution in those early days of AEW can never be overstated. He made things happen, he brought in people, he made connections that might not have been made without him, and he was one of the true stars of the show. It was a happy ending to betting on yourself in every way.
For 99% of wrestlers and people in general, that would be the end of the story, but not for Cody. He shocked the world by leaving AEW and making his way back to WWE. Rhodes returned a bigger star than ever before and finally got the respect that he always felt he deserved.
He won the Royal Rumble and will face Roman Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania. Reigns has been champion and the man on top of WWE for so long that there are very few people that are remotely near his level right now. There are very few wrestlers in this company that you could even make an argument he should lose to. Cody is one. Really, Cody may be the only one.
August 3, 2016 was the last time that Cody Rhodes wrestled in Milwaukee. It was a dark match that never aired on television, where Stardust lost to Fandango…the dancing guy. Nobody in the crowd that night thought they were seeing a future WrestleMania main eventer. They weren’t thinking much about him at all.
Nearly seven years later, Cody returns to Milwaukee as one-half of the biggest WrestleMania main event in years. Cody has arrived.
Exclusive articles, podcasts, and more. Support Milwaukee Record on Patreon.
• “The best jobbers in the country”: The mystery VHS that unearthed Milwaukee wrestling history
• 30 years ago, a WCW PPV at the Milwaukee Theater changed pro wrestling