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Cody Rhodes reportedly asked for more money, CM Punk-Bryan Danielson contracts changed things for Cody in AEW


On a recent PWTorchVIP.com audio show, Wade Keller gave some more insight on what led to Cody Rhodes and Brandi Rhodes splitting away from AEW.

Keller said, “From what I’m told, Cody asked for more money than what Tony Khan was willing to spend…”

Keller continued, “it’s weird, because if it was nine months ago…Tony might have signed him for what Cody was asking for, or at least negotiated in good faith to a reasonable compromise. But Cody became a bit of a liability, Tony publicly would say, and he told me [that] ‘Cody still drives numbers, so I’m okay.’ But that’s not the biggest compliment. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I love Cody, and we’re on the same page.’ I was just like, well, you know, the undercurrent of what he said was, ‘yeah, he’s a headache, and every segment is a car wreck, but he’s still drawing numbers. So I guess I’m okay with it for now?’ Like, that’s how I read. — I kind of read between the lines on his choice of wording. I think the segment with Brandi two weeks ago did not help, didn’t belong on TV. It was just a disaster. But there’s been a lot going on with Cody. Pre pandemic, Cody was at the forefront of production meetings and, and really involved…”

Keller talked also talked about how Brandi Rhodes was viewed backstage.

He said, “So I’ll just say this. It sounds mean but nobody has anything nice to say about Brandi Rhodes and her disposition or popularity behind the scenes and I’m not saying that with any personal satisfaction or preference for her to be liked or not liked. I’m just telling you when I talk to people, Brandi has not been seen as an asset on camera, in the ring, or behind the scenes. And so that ended up being baggage with Cody because people like Cody, pretty universally like Cody. Even people who say bad things about Cody like Cody if that makes sense.

“But Cody wanted to be a superstar, and AEW signing big money contracts, especially with Bryan Danielson and CM Punk, changed the dynamic to a degree with Cody. And I’m not saying this wouldn’t have happened if that didn’t happen. But Cody knew and Tony knew that Cody became expendable. You know, he went from a clear essential top tier guy, top four talent in the company. And you know, Cody was fine obviously with Moxley being signed, and with Jericho being signed. Jericho was a huge boon to the AEW brand at the beginning. And Moxley was a great acquisition and disgruntled with WWE and not really a threat to Cody, because he was just so different than Cody, even if they’re not too far off in age. But Danielson and Punk and then Adam Cole to a lesser extent, changed things certainly more than Malakai Black or Miro or Christian changed things. And it did give Tony a sense of ‘I have enough top guys and then young guys on the rise’ that it took some leverage away from Cody, in terms of ‘you need me pay me’ and there’s only so much salary cap room that Tony has to spread around. And he had the good fortune to have Punk and Bryan Danielson and Adam Cole become available to him, but they were expensive. The top guys in WCW had the clause in their contract that if anyone got paid more than them, their contracts would go up to match it. And they knew politically that if you’re not the top paid person, you by definition lose leverage with the boss, with the network, with your co-workers, your peers. And Cody was no longer a top paid guy. And my understanding is he wanted to be and to a degree that just wasn’t seen by Tony as what he was worth to him in the current landscape. But it’s complicated and there’s not a single factor that plays into this because Cody might have been worth it if he weren’t getting booed and he wasn’t the subject of ridicule online and in buildings and frankly, behind the scenes in various ways.”

Keller continued, “Cody has always had some issues. There’s been wrestlers who have had issues with Cody even early on. But over time, Cody pulled himself more away. Like he got a really expensive bus and was driving that only to like the Florida shows, in part done for the reality show and stuff. I mean there’s more than two sides, really to everything. But it was perceived as ‘well he got this bus and it’s really expensive and its this giant gas guzzling unnecessary luxury is sending a different message than what the wrestler founded by wrestlers for the wrestlers were supposed to send.’ And it was like, ‘Oh boy, here he goes.’

Keller noted how Cody has talked about how much he looks up to Triple H. Cody said the following last year during an interview with Inside The Ropes:

“So I don’t know if I should share this, but, at some point, it’s going to come off my chest: Triple H is probably my favorite wrestler and was a role model. I only watched from a distance, but he reminded me a lot of my dad in the sense that I watched him do all the work, be this executive, and then go out there—and he was only part-time for the most part other than when I first started and had that run with him and Teddy and Shawn. He really was a model in terms of, “OK, you can do both, you can do both, but you have to be really disciplined. You have to take it really seriously.” And that doesn’t get you many friends when you’re the Hermione Granger of the company, and you just take it so seriously and are just a little bookworm.”

Keller continued, “So Cody wanted to be I think more involved with being seen as sort of an equal to Tony and it became clear over time this was Tony’s company, and you know, the EVPs had their titles and The Bucks and Kenny by all accounts are happy with their role as EVPs and they have some latitude. Kenny gets to work with the women and The Bucks get to kind of do their thing with their friends and get to show off their ring style. Tony is pretty hands off and open to their ideas about certain pockets in the company that they have. But I think Cody did desire to be something more substantial. Danielson and Punk changed that dynamic a bit and I think Cody knew from experience if you’re not the top paid guy, you’re not going to get pushed like the top paid guy, you’re not gonna have the leverage that comes with that. He was as much if not more than anyone the founder of this movement of AEW and Brandi put out public statements on Twitter about this and said nice things. I have not heard that there was a big blow up or that there’s a ton of hurt feelings with Cody and Tony. But, obviously, you know, it’s business.”

Keller noted how both parties said nice things to each other and that hopefully, those statements are genuinely how they feel about each other. Click here to read Cody Rhodes’ statement about AEW and Tony Khan. Click here to read Tony Khan’s statement.

Keller added, “but the bottom line is Cody was not successful with this character and was stubborn or steadfast in wanting to be portrayed a certain way. And you can see it in that statement about the community outreach aspect of it. So when you’re trying to manage Brandi’s aspirations, and you’re also wanting to be paid a certain amount, and to match or exceed others, and at the same time the crowd is rejecting the character that you’re steadfast in wanting to continue portraying, it can become a problem. Then you have WWE that is willing to pay millions to acquire a co founder and EVP of your top competitor and make some waves with that going into WrestleMania season. I’m not surprised. People were really surprised. I heard some of the EVP’s were surprised about this, because it seemed like things had gotten better with everyone after there had been some tension. But if things got better, it might have been a loveless marriage in that sense. There wasn’t fighting but there wasn’t great chemistry and collaboration.”

“You know, everyone just kind of had their roles. Cody, if he wasn’t on his bus, he was in his locker room. He had his people, a small group who hung out with him, and he was open to hearing ideas and giving advice when people asked, but he wasn’t out there just making himself available and getting to know everybody and shaking hands and welcoming people into the company and getting to know their story. Cody was very focused on himself and the grandioseness of what he did. He recently bought a mansion — like a big house. And, you know, people are speculating about between that and the bus and all that, does he have the issue that his dad Dusty had, which is spending money that he’s expecting to earn before he has it or putting himself in a situation where there’s financial commitments and he just needs to get paid to match that. And I don’t know enough about the money he had [or] if he paid cash for the house, and he’s totally fine…so, you know, part of what Cody was going for is I think he just kind of assumed there would be a certain level of pay raise, and he was pretty forward on TV saying ‘quite frankly, I didn’t get offered what I thought I was worth or what I thought I deserved’, especially as a co-founder of the company and if that came with any extra perks, when there’s money to be spending on Danielson and Punk and Cole and now Keith Lee.”

If you use any portion of the quotes from this article please credit PWTorchVIP.com with a h/t to WrestlingNews.co for the transcription. A PWTorch VIP subscription includes exclusive news in daily audio shows (without ads), more than 10,000 retro podcasts going back to 2004, the Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter library and more.

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