Cody Rhodes has had plenty of success in both AEW and WWE in 2022, but 2023 could be an even bigger year for “The American Nightmare.”
According to Andrew Zarian of the Mat Men Pro Wrestling Podcast (h/t Cageside Seats), WWE already has “a lot of plans” in place for Rhodes at WrestleMania 39 next year, even though Rhodes is currently out indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle.
WWE isn’t going to have any problems packing SoFi Stadium for WrestleMania 39, which just broke the record for the company’s highest-ever first day WrestleMania ticket sales. The Rock vs. Roman Reigns, arguably the biggest potential match WWE could realistically book right now, may very well happen at pro wrestling’s biggest annual pay-per-view, but if The Rock isn’t able to wrestle, rest assured that Rhodes could easily step into the headlining spot on either night of WWE’s flagship show.
Rhodes is expected to be out of action until early 2023, but he’s admitted that WWE’s medical staff isn’t giving him a concrete return time frame because of the expectation that he will rush his rehabilitation process in order to beat any projected return date. Based both on the timing of his injury and WWE’s penchant for big Royal Rumble returns, the 2023 Royal Rumble would seemingly be Rhodes’ targeted return date.
After a hit-and-miss but largely successful run in AEW, Rhodes returned to WWE at WrestleMania 38 earlier this year in a move that has caused a seismic shift in pro wrestling, reportedly resulting in more AEW stars being open to jumping ship to WWE after seeing the way that Rhodes has been booked since his return to the company. The real question mark, however, is how Rhodes will fare under WWE’s new Triple H-led creative regime.
With Vince McMahon now gone from WWE and Triple H taking charge of its booking just a few weeks ago, there have already been significant changes to how many stars are portrayed on Raw and SmackDown. In particular, Triple H has ignited substantial pushes for many stars who succeeded in NXT under his watch, including Ciampa, Shayna Baszler, Ricochet and the returning Karrion Kross.
While Rhodes isn’t necessarily a “Triple H guy,” it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Triple H doesn’t continue Rhodes’ massive push whenever the latter does return. Much more so than McMahon in recent years, Triple H has had his finger on the pulse of what WWE fans want, and the improvements he’s made to WWE’s main roster—such as a stronger women’s division, more matches with actual stakes and more logical storytelling—are already blatantly apparent.
Rhodes was such a massive hit in WWE upon crossing over from AEW that, especially after his legendary performance against Seth Rollins at Hell in a Cell, it’s borderline impossible to envision a healthy Rhodes missing out on a marquee storyline come WrestleMania time. There are many options for Rhodes when he comes back, too: Rekindling his epic rivalry with Rollins, winning the Royal Rumble, challenging Reigns, some combination of those angles or even a rivalry with his longtime friend-turned-nemesis Randy Orton.
With Triple H being a famed long-term storyteller, there’s a good chance that Rhodes’ WrestleMania storyline plans, while not set in stone, are already penciled in, and given how popular Rhodes was earlier this year, he should be involved in one of the hottest angles in route to WrestleMania 39.