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By Mike Johnson on 2022-02-15 12:41:00

So what happened with Cody Rhodes and AEW?  That seems to be the big question everyone is asking.

At the end of the day, like all things do, it came down to money. has heard from multiple sources that several weeks ago, Rhodes and AEW President Tony Khan hit a snag in negotiations for Rhodes' new deal over pay.   That led to the end of their discussions and within AEW among some wrestlers, the departure had at least been suspected.

ESPN's Mike Coppinger reported that Rhodes informed Khan this morning he was leaving AEW, but Rhodes was not at the Atlantic City taping this past Wednesday and one source noted that his road case, containing his gear and other belongings for the road, had been cleaned out, which some saw as a sign that he was "as good as gone."  Until that point, all expectations had been that Cody and Brandi would be remaining with the company as there had been plans for them be at upcoming Dynamite tapings.

There are some who believe this must mean Rhodes will be signing with WWE.  WWE sources confirmed they have had "contact" with Rhodes dating back to his AEW deal expiring at the end of 2021.  There is no official word that he has signed with the company.  Should he choose to do so, he would be free and clear to appear on WWE TV immediately.  Rhodes has a long relationship with John Laurinaitis, who first signed him to a WWE developmental deal back in 2006. 

We are told that there was an excitement among some who work in WWE about the potential of Rhodes coming in as a talent while others noted that from a strategic standpoint, Rhodes would be the first AEW to WWE jump who would also have intimate knowledge of how the company ran and operated given his position as an EVP, which Rhodes took extremely seriously the last several years. 

As of this afternoon, Rhodes was not on the company's internal talent roster but the signing, from WWE's perspective, makes sense and is unless there's another major shift in the trajectory of things, is expected to happen by several we spoke to today.   One source even believed Rhodes could at the WWE Performance Center as early as this weekend in preparation for a return.

WWE is in a position where they need fresh talent and obviously, WWE could present him as a big star as the first "jump" from AEW to try and make waves and also create the perception that the tide is turning against AEW and back towards WWE, similar to how Sean Waltman was presented after leaving WCW during the Monday Night War.  One WWE source noted today that if they pushed Rhodes and gave him a big Wrestlemania match or title push, the subliminal message to all the other AEW stars is that this would be an example of how they would be treated if they made their way to WWE.  Of course, that's what a WWE source is going to say, the most positive representation of what *could* happen.

Let's remember, it could be just as possible that WWE casts Rhodes back into a mid-card "Stardust" position, placing him back into the aimless role Rhodes had all those years ago that made him ask out of his WWE deal back in 2016.   When you think about it, Rhodes right now is in a situation similar to John Morrison (before Morrison's WWE return) in that they each created a great body of work outside of WWE.  In the case of Morrison, when he decided to return to the company, he was unfortunately slotted right back into the mid-card where he just stayed and there was no growth of his character at all from where he was when he first left the company.  In a few weeks, it was as if he never left and he rarely had consistent traction or attention.

For the Cody Rhodes of 2016, such a mid-card placement and a life back on the road full-time might be a fate worse than death, but in 2022, this is an older Rhodes with a family.  Just a few weeks ago, Rhodes told that his priorities had changed following the birth of his first daughter, Liberty:

"Well, now that I have a child, I'm starting to look at the actual numbers on the checks, because for so long, I didn't care at all. I was, "Yeah, I want to be a wrestler." It doesn't matter what you pay me. Now you're starting to look at it like, "Okay, we've got to get this college fund. We've got to get this set up for this beautiful little girl." But the number one thing she's done for me, and this is, my life is about her at this point, and I can't see that changing forever. But the number one thing she's done for me personally, is, it has taken a lot of the selfishness away from me.  All wrestlers are selfish, all wrestlers have egos, and if you meet one who doesn't, they're not a good wrestler or they're lying. But, I care a lot less about what happens to Cody Rhodes in terms of, I care a lot less about bad versus, what happens to Liberty and how does Liberty perceive this?"

Within AEW, obviously Rhodes' tentacles run long as number of his Nightmare Academy associates and students are involved with the company.  There are some who were very down today upon learning Rhodes was gone, as he was someone who made time for everyone and did take on a mentorship role behind the scenes. 

For those who have asked about how Rhodes leaving will change the day to day of the company, I don't expect much will change, if at all.  The longer AEW has run, the more responsibilities  and duties Tony Khan has taken on for himself and while Rhodes was an important lieutenant to Khan (think Triple H to Vince McMahon or Tommy Dreamer to Paul Heyman), at the end of the day, AEW's major decisions and directives were one in the same with Tony Khan the person.  That won't change.

What today does mark is the end of an important chapter for AEW as the original Elite group that promoted "All In" under the Ring of Honor banner and later signed with Tony Khan to found AEW are no longer all under one roof.  The legacy of what they all built will always be an important piece of pro wrestling history, even as Rhodes becomes the first one to branch off on his own outside of those accomplishments to determine what his next chapter in life and pro wrestling will be.

Other notes in relation to Cody-AEW:

For those who have asked if this is some intricate work, we are told that is not the case in the least.  

For those who have asked about Dustin Rhodes, we have not heard of any changes in his status with AEW.

Obviously, the Rhodes to the Top reality series will not be moving forward for a second season.  There is no word whether Rhodes is still contractually obligated to TBS' Go-Big Show should it be picked up for a third season.

Amanda Huber will take over AEW's Community Outreach Department, which Rhodes have been deeply involved in (and did a great job with.)

Attempts to reach Rhodes and Khan today were unsuccessful. 

AEW's Public Relations today referred all questions back to the statement released this morning by Tony Khan.

If you enjoy you can check out the AD-FREE PWInsider Elite section, which features exclusive audio updates, news, our critically acclaimed podcasts, interviews and more by clicking here!

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