Cody Rhodes Q&A

The AEW star talks about the loss of Brodie Lee, plans for a match with Sting and becoming a father for the first time.

It’s been a difficult, emotional time for the world of professional wrestling following the death of Jon Huber on December 26th. 

Huber, known to fans in AEW as Brodie Lee and fans in WWE as Luke Harper, has been eulogized and remembered by wrestlers and fans alike in the weeks following passing, but none more profound than the Celebration of Life ceremony on last week’s episode of AEW’s “Dynamite.”

The show was stacked top-to-bottom with matches and segments in honor of Huber, including the evening’s powerful centerpiece featuring Cody Rhodes presenting the TNT Title to Huber’s eight-year-old son Brodie Lee Jr. (who just days earlier signed a legitimate contract with the company) in front of his mother. 

Daniel Trainor spoke with Rhodes about how he and the company went above and beyond to make the night special for the Huber family, his future plans with wrestling legend Sting and how, during this time of mourning, he and his wife Brandi are preparing to bring new life into the world.

All Elite Wrestling’s “Dynamite” airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on TNT.

*This interview contains spoilers for season two of “The Mandalorian.”*

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Daniel Trainor: I’d be remiss if I didn’t start by mentioning what a difficult couple of weeks it’s been for the world of pro wrestling, particularly at AEW. After the loss of Brodie Lee, the Celebration of Life that the company produced was so incredibly cathartic and beautiful. If I may ask, how emotional was the process of putting together that show in only a matter of days?

Cody Rhodes: I didn’t have to worry so much about putting it together, as much as holding it together. [AEW President and CEO] Tony Khan laid out the matches in a really unique way where Dark Order was represented in every single segment, with the idea ‘can they go 5-0?’ There were some odd couple pairings, to a degree, but they all made sense with the degree of separation that Brodie had, that real sphere of positive influence that you’re hearing stories about today. My goal was to maintain my emotions and to be there for Amanda, Nolan and little Brodie Jr., who the world has discovered, is a massive wrestling fan and very likely going to be a very successful wrestler himself. At a young age, I lost my Dad, as well. I know that it was hard for me to hear everybody else’s stories when I was hurting so bad inside. So, I just wanted to help provide a fun space. We turned my locker room into my locker room for the day, we had retro consoles, we had every action figure, we had a to-scale ring, we had the puppy in there. We had everything we could possibly put in there to give him a good time. I never looked at the show from a production standpoint. I really looked at it as ‘are we representing him well and is this in accordance with Amanda’s wishes?’ You’ll hear in wrestling all the time ‘oh such and such would have wanted that,’ but you don’t really know. The closest to knowing was her. She helped guide that ship with Tony. I was very proud to be on it.

DT: With the knowledge that you were a kid who grew up watching his own father wrestle, I was struck extra hard by seeing you in the ring with Brodie Lee Jr.. How much were you thinking about your dad during that moment and throughout the night?

CR: You know, after my Dad passed we were in Quicken Loans Arena and it had been a few months. I remember I talked to Brodie, or Luke Harper at the time. I was in the annex room of the locker room at Quicken Loans and I’ll never forget it. I was so shocked at how time just rolls on. It felt like I was still in the room with my Dad at that point in my life. To some degree, it still feels like that today. But he actually gave me the only advice that I really listened to throughout that whole grieving period. He told me ‘it will never change.’ He told me that the feeling of still being in the room wasn’t going to go away. He had lost his Dad young, too. That advice...man. It made it so that I was able to channel the negative memories, even as gloomy or melancholy as they were, into a positive thing. I got him for this long. These memories are wonderful, even those last few memories when he was barely alive, he was still alive so I can look at them in a positive sense. I only would have gotten that advice from Brodie, who had had a similar experience. So, that was what I was thinking about more than anything else - being in that space with Brodie, and now here I am with his son and we’re retiring his boots. My whole focus was on making sure Amanda and Brodie Lee Jr. had a good moment, to be able to do it right. I think they were as happy as you can be with something like that. But it’s surreal to think about. It is. 

DT: When Brodie passed away, the influx of memories and condolences that flooded in felt so sincere and personal. It’s obvious he touched so many lives in specific, vital ways. How do you expect his legacy to impact AEW and all of pro wrestling, frankly, moving forward?

CR: Well, it wasn’t a discovery for wrestlers, but perhaps it was a discovery for the audience, that this guy had a story with every single wrestler, every single member of production, every single member of management. He had some sort of degree of separation, you know? Like Kevin Bacon. You hear about all the degrees of separation in wrestling. It’s Brodie. If anything, as a wrestler you can have success without stabbing people in the back. You can have success without putting your ego right up front. You can have success without being conniving. The industry is show business, so there’s a natural element of nefarious nature to it. But that was a guy who won the TNT Title, who was wrestling on top at the end of his days, and he hadn’t done any of that. He had played ball very differently. I think that’s a sign to wrestlers that you can be a good person and not finish last. He’s a prime example of somebody who did not finish last. 

DT: If we can pivot for a moment, Sting’s AEW debut is one of my favorite moments of 2020. I know that it was largely kept secret from most of the locker room. I imagine I would have been incredibly stressed about the entire thing being spoiled. It’s so hard to pull off a legitimate surprise anymore. How did you guys do it?

CR: It really is incredibly difficult. I’m actually the first to usually jump and say ‘let’s spoil it, let’s leak it.’ I’m quick to say that because it still builds positivity. If you had told me that Luke Skywalker was going to appear on “The Mandalorian…”

DT: Spoilers, Cody!

CR: I apologize! It’s been out for a minute, though. I’m quick to say ‘hey, it’s still goodwill to tell them that there are big things coming’ or perhaps tease it. Not leak it, but tease it. The way a story like that went unspoiled has a lot to do with the effort everybody in AEW is putting into their individual segments. Our selfishness as wrestlers gives us a blind spot to what other wrestlers are doing. We have a really good unit of people back of house. As long as you cover all those bases, people are so worried about the spots that they’re going to do and how they’re going to steal the show. Everybody on “Dynamite” wants to have the best segment. It was really when he walked through the common space to go to the go-position, I know multiple people, like prairie dogs, shot their heads up. They didn’t have time to spoil it. They were literally in awe. Most of our crew is out there as an audience for each other, so they were seeing it for the first time, too. I marvel at how well we keep all our secrets. We have a really good crew and we know that spoiling something or being a know-it-all is not what we want. Every Wednesday is a dogfight. We want to dominate. That attitude prevails through the locker room. They would have kept it a secret had they saw him earlier in the day. I’m confident in that. 

DT: I’m going to put you on the spot here a little bit. Are you hoping that we see Cody Rhodes and Sting, one-on-one, in the first half of 2021 in an AEW ring?

CR: Whew. It’s no secret that Sting was my favorite wrestler. I had Sting in WCW and Shawn [Michaels] in WWF. But really I wasn’t supposed to watch WWF. So, Sting was everything. I got to see him live so often and I got to see the connection he had. I honestly am scared to answer that. Obviously, as a wrestler, to stand across the ring from your hero is everyone’s dream, to share that field. So, yes, I would love and envision that. However, when you put yourself in that position, you’re no longer a fan. You’re now out to outperform them, out to beat them, however you look at wrestling. You are opposite of them. You are their dance partner, their competition. You’re all these things. That is a big responsibility and that is also just scary, especially if you’re somebody like me who loves the memory and the legacy of wrestlers. I never want them to feel like they have to carry on. Their memories carry on enough as they get older. However, just to put a bow on this, he doesn’t seem to be moving around slowly. He doesn’t seem to be moving around slowly. So, I have my eyes on him hopefully as much as he has his eyes on me. I’m curious to see where things with Darby [Allin] and him go and how that unfolds. It’s such a terrifying question to answer. 

DT: Congratulations are in order because, last month, you and wife Brandi announced that you’re expecting a baby. How excited are you about fatherhood?

CR: Oh man. Just to hear you ask, I almost tear up at the question alone. I never expected that I would be married. The only thing that I loved more than pro wrestling, ever, was Brandi. That’s how I knew she was the one. Now, I never expected to be a father. I try to live like I’m still 20 years old, especially in the wrestling game. It can really fool you sometimes. Man, I’m so proud of her. Whether it’s a boy or a girl, I just want a healthy and happy and beautiful child. I am told often, with my wrestling school in Atlanta, that I’d be a really good Dad, which kind of scares me. Like maybe I’m going to end up being a horrible Dad because the bar is set high. I have a lot of great experience. Hopefully I can share that with a young boy or young girl, and be as good a father as mine was. I’m just so excited and I’m very proud of Brandi. 

DT: I know you also recently got a new puppy [Yeti Pinkerton]. Was that sort of a way to acclimate Pharaoh to having another small, strange being inside the household soon? How’s that going?

CR: He’s doing really well! Yeti Pinkerton had a group come out yesterday called Bark Busters to start his official training. We got Yeti because Pharaoh is seven, about to be eight. I have a different type of bond with this dog. I’m looking at him right now. I just want him to have as much youth as he can in his life. He’s a bigger dog, they don’t always live long. I want this little guy to provide some fun and energy for him. It’s already started. Like, they play all day and Pharaoh steals toys and stuff. Their dynamic is really good. They’re both going to be in for a shock come baby time. Yeti doesn’t get much time to be the baby. But yeah, we got Yeti to give Pharaoh a little extra life. 

To read more about Cody’s new hosting gig on TBS’ “Go-Big Show,” click here: https://www.thewrap.com/cody-rhodes-go-big-show-reality-tv-competition/