Cody Rhodes Time As Stardust Was The Worst Years Of His Career

Hamish Woodward

Cody Rhodes as Stardust lying on the top ring rope in the corner

Cody Rhodes became Stardust in 2014 during a difficult time in his WWE career.

Nowadays, the former AEW wrestler is considered one of the top wrestlers in the WWE but back in 2014 his career was not going well. He became Stardust when his WWE career was not going well and it handed Cody Rhodes a lifeline to get his life back on track and to flex his creativity.

After having some poor results tagging with his brother Goldust, Cody Rhodes became Stardust in an attempt to help get the team back to winning ways. This included dressing a full-body suit and painting his face black and gold in the the shape of a star. Why did Cody Rhodes become Stardust though? Keep reading to find out.

Goldust and Stardust teamed up together and won the WWE Tag Team Champions but the success did not last long. His time as Stardust was one of the worst periods of Cody Rhodes career. He started losing regularly and was constantly the butt of the joke on TV.

His relationship with his brother Dustin Rhodes deteriorated and the pair fought in one terrible match on pay per view. He seemed to lose every match and was going nowhere in the WWE. Stardust was a joke that Cody Rhodes could not get away from and his experience with the character was much more depressing that it first seemed. The youngest Rhodes brother was ashamed to be a part of the Rhodes family.

Cody Rhodes Stardust persona was something he used to keep the real him hidden away the untimely death of his father, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. His time as the character was some of the worst years of his career and something he’d love to forget, despite his impressive commitment to the character

Cody Rhodes’ Stardust Character Showed Incredible Commitment

Cody Rhodes turned into Stardust on the June 16, 2014 episode of Raw. He had teased that he had found a new partner for his brother Goldust to team with for weeks. The pair had been on a losing streak after losing the WWE Tag Team Championships to the New Age Outlaws earlier that year and were considering stopping teaming together.

Instead of a new partner for Goldust, Cody Rhodes reintroduced himself to the WWE audience as Stardust. Cody Rhodes’ portrayal as Stardust was a completely U-turn from his previous characters in WWE and inspired by his family.

The bodysuit and face paint were directly inspired by Goldust, as were many of the mannerism used by Stardust. The name was also taken from his family, this time from his father. “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes had used the name Stardust during his time in the AWA and had given it as a nickname to Cody Rhodes when he was a child.

The pair were initially successful together and soon became WWE Tag Team Champions for the second. Cody Rhodes kept up the character by performing as Stardust at all times, never once admitting his true identify. This included during interviews, live events or when meeting anyone outside of the WWE. He totally committed to the new character with a dedication rarely seen in professional wrestling today.

The reason why he was so committed to the character was a sad one. Cody Rhodes spoke about his time under the face paint during his sit-down interview with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. On his episode of the “Broken Skull Sessions“, Rhodes revealed that he was so embarrassed being Stardust that he was afraid to admit to people that he was actually Cody Rhodes.

“I was so embarrassed. I talk about the good side of Stardust and I really do mean it, but I was so embarrassed by this that I’d do appearances in full gimmick. People would be like, ‘Oh, it’s the commitment.’ No, it’s the fact that I can’t bring myself to be Cody and telling them, ‘I’m also Stardust.’ It’s the sad clown thing.”

However, he did clarify later on that in some ways the gimmick was a good thing. He was feuding with his brother Goldust when their father passed away. The original Stardust, Dusty Rhodes, passed away in 2015 and hit Cody hard. He poured himself into his work and used Stardust to hide who he really was, because he did not want to be himself in that moment and face up to his father’s death.

“This was a good place to be, behind the paint,” Rhodes said. “I don’t know how many times people have heard that, but I needed to be here. I wasn’t ready to be Cody Rhodes. Everything at home was terrible. We lost Dusty unexpectedly. I didn’t know how to handle that, didn’t know what to do with my mom.”

As Stardust, Cody Rhodes could not have been more different from his real-life persona. He was an outrageous character who delighted in the misfortune of others which was the opposite of Cody Rhodes. Stardust also obsessed about outer space and cosmic deities which was partially inspired by Cody Rhodes love for the Star Wars movies. He admitted how much he enjoyed the movies during an episode of UpUpDownDown.

Cody Rhodes As Stardust Was An Almost Entirely Negative Experience

It seemed at first that the Stardust character would be a perfect reset for Cody Rhodes. He showed especially during his feud with Goldust that he was going through a personality crisis. In their match at Fastlane 2015, he toed the line between Cody and Stardust, showing hints of both characters for a deep and compelling performance.

Sadly, WWE never capitalised on that. They stuck to the “Stardust” character, with his wacky mannerism and space-based vocabulary. He would cut promos backstage in a dark room illuminated by stars. Meant to be representative of a space-like realm inside his head, it actually came across as a cheap closet he was stuck in backstage.

He continued to be ignored with his please to evolve the character in a meaningful. He revealed during an interview with Chris Jericho that he wanted to play both Cody Rhodes and Stardust at the same time. When the WWE brand split returned in 2016, he wanted to play one character on each show and never acknowledge he was both of them. This, once again, fell on deaf ears.

He was made the leader of his won faction, although that was little consolation. He was teamed with The Ascension as “The Cosmic Wasteland”, a comic book-villain style faction. They first feuded with actor Steven Amell and Neville at Summerslam 2015. Amell played The Green Arrow in the TV series of the same name and was a big celebrity get for the WWE.

He had asked for 6 months for WWE creative to end his time as Stardust and eventually grew so frustrated that he asked for his release from the WWE. He was offically released by the WWE on May 22nd, 2016, one day after asking the WWE to end his contract.

Cody Rhodes revealed that Triple H was not happy with him asking to leave the company when he did. While he was stuck in a dead-end gimmick as Stardust, Triple H thought that the WWE had done so much for Cody’s father that he should be loyal to them. Cody rightfully pointed out that he was not happy in the company and that, for all the good they did for his father, he was not Dusty Rhodes, nor Stardust. He was Cody Rhodes.

Hunter [Triple H] took it very personally because he had done so much for my dad at NXT. There was one conversation where he said, “I’m shocked that you feel this way after everything I’ve done for your family.” But I told him, “I’m not my dad. I can’t stay here out of loyalty to you for giving my dad a job in 2005. I get it, and the little boy in me really appreciates what you did for my dad. But I’m not him. He’s not here anymore. I’ve got to be me.” I think Hunter, he’s been in wrestling long enough that he knew, “Oh, this is a real one. He’s not asking for more money. He’s not asking for a title shot. Nothing would matter at this point.” I let the burn get too bad before I said anything, if that makes any sense.

Cody Rhodes ditched Stardust and soon went out onto the independent scene to make himself a household name in wrestling. He won the Impact, ROH and NWA World Championships and helped form AEW in 2019, alongside Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks and Tony Khan. He became the first ever TNT Champion in the company, but left in 2022 to re-join the WWE as Cody Rhodes. Upon re-joining the company, he requested that the WWE never mention Stardust again in relation to him.

He did reference the character himself however during his re-debut match in WWE. During his match at Wrestlemania 38 against Seth Rollins, Cody Rhodes performed Stardust’s signature cartwheel and accompanying hand gesture, a nod to the fans who remembered him during this dark period in his life.

Stardust & Goldust Became WWE Tag Team Champions

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY – NOVEMBER 15: Goldust reacts during WWE Live 2014 at Festhalle on November 15, 2014 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. (Photo by Simon Hofmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Despite all the negativity surrounding the character, it was not all doom and gloom for Goldust and Stardust. The pair won their second WWE Tag Championships at Night of Champions 2015 by defeating The Usos. This was the first and only WWE Championship Cody Rhodes won as Stardust and it would be a short peak for the face-painted brothers as a tag team.

The Rhodes brothers had previously won the titles during a feud with The Shield. Teaming together to save theirs and Dusty Rhodes’ jobs, they beat the team of Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins to win their jobs back. This created one of the best feel-good moments in WWE history as they embraced in the ring with their father after a tiring match.

Soon after, Cody Rhodes and Goldust defeated the two in a match on Raw to win the WWE Tag Team Championships. They became the first real-life brothers to win the belts since Carlito and Primo. The win also gave Goldust his chance to make a comeback in the company after years out of the ring.

Sadly, they would lose the belts at Royal Rumble 2014 to the New Age Outlaws which would star Cody Rhodes transformation into Stardust. Prior to this he had feuded with the likes of Randy Orton and Damian Sandow (then an up-and-coming star), but now teaming with his brother in this ridiculous costume was a low point in the career of Stardust/Cody Rhodes.

Things have since started to look up the American Nightmare now. He returned to WWE in 2022 and beat Seth Rollins at Wrestlemania. He had a five star match in Hell in a Cell despite an chest injury that kept him out for 8 months. He then made his comeback at the 2023 Royal Rumble, winning the match from number 30 and booking an Undisputed WWE Universal Championship match at Wrestlemania 39 against Roman Reigns.

Why Did Cody Rhodes Become Stardust?

Cody Rhodes became Stardust because his tag team with Goldust was becoming stale and the change was suggested by Stephanie McMahon. His role as “Cody Rhodes” had become boring and his team with his brother wasn’t going anywhere.

Making Cody similar to Goldust was the idea to shake the team up again. This involved him abandoning his previous identity, painting his face and acting crazy. Superficially it was a copy of Goldust but deep down it was just a failed imitation of an all-time great character.

Stephanie McMahon one day asked Cody to paint his face like brother in an effort to make the team more interesting. This lead to the creation of the Stardust character, which became the bane of his existence and led to Cody Rhodes leaving WWE to become a real professional wrestler on the independent scene and eventually helping form All Elite Wrestling.

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