Ring Rust Radio: You have jumped head first into the independent wrestling scene, with upcoming matches scheduled against Kurt Angle and Jushin Thunder Liger in the Northeast Wrestling federation. What were your perceptions of the Indy scene while working for WWE and how have they changed over the last several months?
Cody Rhodes: I don’t think my perception of the independent scene has changed in the past few months at all. If anything, it changed over the last two years because of the boom that was NXT. In NXT, you can dress it up however you want, but it’s still an independent show. It is the top stars who are free agents from various independent promotions and there’s some equity in them already. The crowd is aware of them and knows some of their tricks and shtick. I think in the last two years, many in the WWE community were all made to take notice. There are guys that make you take notice especially with social media. You can’t pretend certain entities and elements don’t exist when they are out there and hot as can be.
Ring Rust Radio: I mentioned opponents like Kurt Angle and Jushin Thunder Liger. How excited are you to square off against some of the best in the world right now, and who are some of the wrestlers you have never faced before that you’d like to step in the ring against?
Cody Rhodes: I mean, particularly because we are right on the cusp of it, the Kurt Angle match. He is a first ballot WWE Hall of Famer. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and I was there in 1996 when he won the gold medal in freestyle with a broken neck. I feel like Kurt Angle has always been a part of my life as a fan, as a wrestler and now competing against one another. That one in particular is a gleaming name on the list that’s kind of pulsing, so whatever happens there is going to be very unique. The partnership that is just now cultivating, how it’s going to go and which way it’s going to work is Ring of Honor. They’re going to take me more places outside of the United States with some more International flavor and that’s really intriguing to me.
Ring Rust Radio: As things currently stand you’re being characterized as one of the hottest free agents in wrestling since you’re not tied down to any single promotion. What are the biggest benefits of being that type of wrestler, and also, is that something you want to continue doing for the foreseeable future, or would you prefer to ultimately sign a full-time deal somewhere?
Cody Rhodes: Oh my God. I would never sign a full-time deal and I don’t foresee myself signing a full-time deal with anyone ever again. Ten years is a long time to essentially be owned as a talent. I had a wonderful time with the WWE, but if anything, it taught me that I want to be in control of every move I make. There may be places I’d like to stay longer or put my flag in the sand and rally them as competition against WWE or as an alternative per se, but I like the idea of being a free agent.
Ring Rust Radio: You’ve been a part of some very exciting storylines and matches in WWE, and my favorite was the work you did with Goldust and Dusty against the Shield leading into and at Battleground in 2013. What was that experience like for you, working with Goldust and Dusty, and do you hold that program as special as myself and other fans do as well?
Cody Rhodes: I’m going to disappoint you. There is so much about that time period that touched me and was really something that will stand out as a favorite memory of my father and what he was able to do the day of Battleground. How we were able to get people to see what we couldn’t, but it’s not even in my top five of the things I did with WWE. The reason being, when I got into WWE I wanted to be anything other than Dusty’s kid. I didn’t want to have any connection with Dustin either as far as Goldust, not because I don’t love them; it’s just nostalgia if I was paying tribute to them. So I wanted to be very different than the three Rhodes on paper. I never really saw us as having that family moment, but we did. There are so many things about that match and people might know this, but Battleground was originally designed to be War Games. War Games was going to come back and somebody—and I don’t actually know who so not I’m not trying to be vague—but somebody said “No it takes up too much ticket space so we aren’t going to do the War Games.” So then it became a tag match. Before it was ever a tag match, it was to be me returning in this cool drifter-like Midnight Rider mask that I had commissioned and paid for and was all excited about. So many things didn’t happen for it to just be a family match, but I’m glad people loved it. When I look at it now, I wonder “what if” about all the other things, especially with the War Games portion.
Ring Rust Radio: When you left WWE you mentioned in your statement that it was a creatively stifling environment and that you didn’t feel like you were being heard or that your ideas were being taken account. Can you recall a time that you can share with us that you had an idea for a character or an angle that you felt really strongly about that never ended up making it to TV?
Cody Rhodes: I was very proactive, as I was taught to be by my mentors in the game. I feel like every week I had a different idea, and I don’t pretend to think that all my ideas were great. Where I was more frustrated was I wouldn’t just have an idea about a segment that evening, but I would have an idea about an overall long-term game plan for me and my opponent. I would take the ideas to the Performance Center when my Dad was working and run them by him. I’ve put a few of them out there online, but I have so many private links of different things we tried. Just so The last one I had was a three-man group of Tye Dillinger, Tyler Breeze and myself. I thought it was the cleverest thing ever. We did a cool vignette shot in a tailor shop where I’m just demeaning the tailor, and I’m the rich and entitled legacy. I was only ever allowed to put a picture out of it because I’m very certain Breeze would kill me if the whole thing made it out there. Those were the things that were frustrating when you go that far and go on your day off and take other people’s time. Dusty Rhodes and Paul Heyman were among the people that helped me put together at least 10 different iterations of Cody Rhodes and none of them seemed to click with anybody.
Ring Rust Radio: Working the independent scene, I imagine there’s so much more creative freedom than you’ve grown accustomed to, but you did have the opportunity to play a lot of different characters and go through several different phases during your time in WWE. For you, what gimmick did you enjoy the most and feel like you could sink your teeth into it creatively more so than the others?
Cody Rhodes: When we had the brand split originally with SmackDown and Raw and there was a lot of pride with bleed blue and being on SmackDown. As part of Legacy, I was drafted to SmackDown and I was really able to create my own thing and I didn’t have to pitch it to anybody; I just did it. The clear protective mask and paper bags were my ideas and they became their ideas too because they green lit them. It wasn’t a time in my career where I was micromanaged, and I literally could go out on SmackDown or early seasons of NXT and I could say what I want, hope it was a home run and I would come back to find out what they thought of the match. The mask period of time will always stand out to me as a significant and great time in my career. Putting paper bags on people’s heads was so much fun. Being able to stand across the ring from Ray Mysterio was endless amounts of fun. Winning the Intercontinental Championship. All those things were all part of the dream.
Ring Rust Radio: Your wife, who was known as Eden Stiles in WWE, emerged as arguably the top backstage interviewer before you two left. Do you think it was missed opportunity not to have you two work together since other couples have been so successful in the past?
Cody Rhodes: Well, I’ve got to be careful how I answer this because one of the things we suggested another couple ended up doing. It was blatantly what we suggested. With couples there’s not much to suggest in the first place. We had another thought too where it looked like Stardust was going to happen no matter what. There is one where she was a Harley Quinn character who went to lure Cody Rhodes back out of Stardust, but she couldn’t do it and she fell down the rabbit hole herself. That was a missed opportunity because usually whatever is real translates the best on TV much like the Battleground stuff we talked about earlier. That was real and translated well to TV. She is my real wife and she was a really kick ass backstage interviewer and announcer. She had real credentials; she was in the Master’s program at the University of Miami and graduated from the University of Michigan. She wasn’t just a bikini model and for whatever reason, we could bang them over the head with that all day long, but we weren’t getting much traction on that either.
Ring Rust Radio: While working with WWE, you formed a relationship with Stephen Amell from the show Arrow. It was announced that you will have a guest role in the fifth season, debuting October 5. What has your relationship been like with Amell and how excited are you to be part of the Arrow TV series?
Cody Rhodes: I’ve got a lot of respect for Stephen. He reminds me a lot of a pro wrestler actually. He is incredibly good at selling his ideas to folks, he’s always working and his social media is a great example of that. He’s always working to improve the consumer fan experience, so I have a ton of respect for him. To go and read for a role for Arrow made me happy enough. “Hey, there’s this role you might be good for.” So I flew out to Hollywood and tried out for it, but to get it and to be a guest star in that third episode, and to continue essentially where we left off is amazing. People who are familiar with the Stardust and Stephen Amell interaction—which to me was the best thing Stardust was able to offer—they’re going to love that things kind of start where we left off. We are by no means buddy-buddy in the episode. It’s really fun to physically challenge one another, and it reminds me a lot of a wrestling match; to see if I could go in his world and challenge myself. It was a hell of an experience for three weeks. I went home one night covered in these little scratches from the quivers of the quill on top of the arrow and had many bumps, bruises and big falls that I didn’t expect, but makes a hell of an episode. Dolph Lundgren is a guest star. They are lining it up for Arrow this season and Season 5 is going to be bonkers.