Cody Rhodes interview: Here’s the extended version of my interview with The Essence of Mustachioed Magnificence:
The Rhodes wrestling family has spilled a lot of blood in rings around the world, including Kansas City. Patriarch “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes was a champion in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s (holding the NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship in ‘68, and dropping the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to Ric Flair in September 1981 at Memorial Hall).
Cody Rhodes was destined to follow his father and his half-brother, Dustin “Goldust” Rhodes, into the business. As a teenager, he refereed matches for his dad’s now-defunct independent promotion and sneaked into mini matches when he thought his dad wasn’t looking. “I never imagined doing anything else,” Rhodes says.
The second-generation star is keeping his family tradition alive in the world’s biggest wrestling company. On May 20, Rhodes is one of the featured grapplers on Monday Night Raw, broadcasting live from the Sprint Center on the USA Network. After a lengthy tour of the United Kingdom, Rhodes called The Pitch from his home in Johns Creek, Georgia, to talk about his memories of Kansas City, his mustache and his challenge to Morgan Freeman.
The Pitch: You grew up in the business. Do you have any memories of Kansas City wrestling?
Cody Rhodes: I have tons of memories of different events that I went to with my father, specifically Kansas City. Kansas City was a hotbed for the NWA. The one thing, this was real true, and this was something he told me when I was real young about Kansas City and St. Louis, but specifically those two markets was that the ring was traditionally way harder in Kansas City. This was something that other superstars from his era actually felt the same way. Ric Flair talked about it in his book. Certain guys, you’d see them flying all around the ring maybe in Virginia or Georgia, but you’d get to Kansas City and it was a bit slower pace. This was the ‘70s and ‘80s. I don’t know why they always had the harder ring. Harley Race hails from that area, and he’s probably the toughest guy in wrestling history, and maybe that ring is the reason why.
Did he blame Kansas City promoter Bob Geigel?
No, he didn’t blame Geigel. I’ve heard him blame Geigel for other things, but he certainly didn’t blame Geigel for the ring, no.
You’ve seemingly always been involved in the business. Did you have any other aspirations?
From an extremely early age, this was all that I wanted to do. My first memory is pro wrestling, but there was a brief period when I was 19 years old and I thought I wasn’t physically big enough to be involved with sports entertainment. I was real concerned and I took a shot at going to acting school and lived in Los Angeles for 11 months and kind of lost 11 months of my life. As soon as I turned back in to Monday Night Raw or SmackDown or any of the pay-per-views, I knew I was not in the right place.
You have a fantastic mustache. Whose idea was it to grow a mustache?
Well, my fiancee is sitting right next to me, and she hates the mustache. So I don’t know if it’s as fantastic as you say, but thank you very much. It was mine, but it wasn’t really this huge overreaching grand design. The only time that I’ve ever been injured in my career, I had x amount of days that I didn’t have to be on television — and in that time I grew originally a very poor mustache. It’s grown into being rather full bodied now. It was something that when I came back, everyone appreciated the fact my partner at the time, Damien Sandow, had the massive 19th century beard and I had the mustache with the intent of taking it away from the modern hipster and putting a little civility back into it.
I think you’ve done that.
Is is this something that is going to be put on the line in a stipulation match, say at Extreme Rules pay-per-view that night before Raw in KC?
Well, I know that you can’t shave anything — your head, your facial hair — you can’t do anything like that in sports entertainment unless it’s public. I’m pretty confidant you’ll see the mustache on the line somewhere down the line. Extreme Rules would be a wonderful venue for it actually. I don’t if the WWE Universe would be very stoked about a mustache being on the line when the title of the pay-per-view is Extreme Rules. But I guess I extremely want to keep it. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Maybe you could put it on the line against Daniel Bryan’s beard?
You know what, I’d be doing everybody a service. All of us who love Daniel Bryan, he’s something else. Man, from when he showed up clean cut, all-American guy to this now, i’s ridiculous. I was on a plane with him a few days ago, and people are always staring at him. In this case, they’re just looking at how this man with this legitimate caveman like beard is sitting up in first class and I want to know his story.
Is it an unspoken thing that you don’t shave the mustache since this is wrestling or has the boss actually said you’ve got to keep this thing until we put it on the line?
It was one of those things that I got confirmation from my superiors that I do need to keep it. I just saw a Mattel headscan of an action figure with the mustache. There’s a shirt with the mustache on it. It’s one of those things that you’ve got to keep everything current as far as being apart of this era of myself. It wasn’t something that I was necessarily mandated to keep. But poor Mattel. If this thing comes out in a month or so and I don’t have the mustache. In my mind, I like it currently.
You recently challenged Morgan Freeman to a fight. Has he answered?
That was such a bizarre thing. I did an interview in London, and that’s where the challenge was laid out. But it really wasn’t like that. That’s just a question that I’ve been asked: What celebrity would you like to compete with?
I just kind of off the top of my head said Morgan Freeman because of his outstanding voice and he could do a March of the Penguins-type-style documentary on our match, where he’s talking about everything. But the fact that it got such buzz about it, now at this point I’m hoping for some rebuttal from Morgan Freeman and his camp. That would make my day as a huge fan. Haven’t heard anything yet, but looking forward to it.
A young man asked me who was a celebrity that I’d like mixing it up with, and I tried to give him an answer other than an action star. Now look what I’ve gotten myself into. Now I’m going to see Morgan Freeman somewhere down the line, and he’s going to end up cold cocking me in the face, and I’m going to feel horrible.
You mentioned your partner Damien Sandow. You guys have been on and off. What is the status of Team Rhodes Scholars?
When we broke up on SmackDown in such an amicable way, that was truly the break up of the team. But we’ve kind of been paired together. We still do more singles wrestling than we do tag wrestling. But it’s sort of a utility thing. We can do both. We don’t really consider it a team. A lot of people like tag team purists like to say we’re a team. We’re not. We do like one tag-team maneuver. Other tag teams put a shame to us. As far as two singles competitors who are extremely good, I think that’s why we’ve had success.
Some teams are just two guys in matching trunks. Damien is a very funny individual. And there’s a lot of variety involved in what you would see in a wrestling match.
You don’t see a lot of amicable breakups of wrestling teams?
It was refreshing that you’ve been able to maintain your friendship.
I’ve known Damien for a very long time. It’s almost frustrating that we are grouped into the tag team division because we both want so much more. From a singles perspective, we want so much more. I’ll be curious to see how the next year unfolds heading to WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans and where Damien Sandow and myself will be.
Who do you most want to face at WrestleMania 30?
It being the thirtieth WrestleMania and here in the south where I’m from, I’d really like to do something with some personal gravity to it. But if I had to think reality-wise where we’ve been, I’d really like to compete with someone from my generation. WrestleMania has a lot of characters from the past, legends, and a lot of cameo appearances, perhaps. But I’d really like someone from my generation to step up with me and be across the ring. There’s tons of guys who fit that bill. There’s Antonio Cesaro. There’s Dolph Ziggler. There’s Kofi Kingston. Hell, there’s even Damien Sandow.
You could even see fighting your best friend on the biggest show of the year?
Oh, honestly, what better place to put up a mustache or put up a beard.
What is the end goal for you? What is the pinnacle of what you want to do in WWE?
Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I don’t do this for the money. I’d like to headline multiple WrestleManias, and I’d like to be WWE champion, and I’d like to be world heavyweight champion. Anything that describes the top of my field at the time, is where I’d like to be. It’s kind of ambiguous because what we do is entertainment, but certainly those top tier titles are not something that are given, they’re earned. That’s where I’d like to be.
Do you feel that you’re ready to do that now?
I think so. I think it’s a matter of the WWE Universe … the cool thing is they’ve seen me grow up on their television. I didn’t show up a fully polished superstar. I showed up rather undersized and underwhelming and had to grow. People who thought that they might move ahead of me, I moved ahead of them. It’s been quite a ladder to climb already, but I think in their eyes that I’m ready, and that’s all that matters because they truly dictate what’s happening on television and that’s a good thing.
You and your brother, Goldust, had an encounter at this year’s Royal Rumble. Would you like to feud with him?
I think WWE moving forward is focusing more now on developing its younger talent. And that kind of leaves Goldust out. But it got such a good response that I’m pretty confident that you will see something somewhere down the line. I don’t know when, and I don’t know where.
You were once known for not wearing knee pads, but you’ve been wearing them the last couple of years? Why the change?
Originally the reason I didn’t have knee pads on was I looked at this photo of “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers when he was WWWF champion and I thought that’s exactly what a professional wrestler should look like. He had the trunks that were a quarter inch higher. He had the boots with the socks sticking out just above. He had no knee pads, no tape. And I just like that classic, throwback-style look. But when I did it, it didn’t necessarily translate. People just got upset because my lower legs were smaller than they should be for a sports entertainer. A lot of men were really irritated by it, bizarrely. The change happened only because the pace I was working was rather fast and aggressive and I didn’t want to run the risk of doing a moonsault and landing right on my knees and being out. Booker T likes to joke that I went from having no kneepads to having the biggest knee pads of all. But I’m glad I made the change.
Any other challenges you want to throw out while you’re on the phone?
Oh, no. I’ve got a full plate ahead of me, especially in case I ever see Morgan Freeman. No, I’m very curious to see what unfolds. Monday night raw, is more specifically what we’re talking about, and that’s three hours where anything and everything tends to happen.