Cody Rhodes left AEW in early 2022 after his three-year contract expired in January. His last match was an astonishing ladder match against Sammy Guevara which earned a five-star match rating from Dave Meltzer.
Once he’d gone, his future was up in the air. Some theorised he could return to the WWE at the Royal Rumble. Others thought that it was all a work that would lead to his long-awaited heel turn in AEW.
However, they were both wrong. Cody Rhodes left AEW and returned to the WWE at WrestleMania 38 as the surprise opponent for Seth Rollins.
He defeated Rollins in a fantastic match and put on one of the most entertaining performances in wrestling history.
He wrestled Seth Rollins twice more but suffered an injury in his third match. At Hell in a Cell 2022, he wrestled with a torn pec inside the Hell in a Cell, winning a five-star match but putting himself on the shelf for 8 months.
Cody Rhodes returned to WWE at the 2023 Royal Rumble, entering at number 30. He lasted all the way to end, eliminating Gunther to win the match and book his place in the main event of WrestleMania 39.
Sadly, he lost in the main event of WrestleMania to Roman Reigns, and will continue his quest to become the WWE Champion later this year.
But why did Cody Rhodes leave AEW? We reveal that reason in this article and explore the reasons why he re-joined the WWE in 2022.
Why Did Cody Rhodes Leave AEW?
The reason for Cody Rhodes leaving AEW to sign for WWE has long been speculated, but one wrestling journalist has spoken to the former TNT Champion and speculated the real reasons why he left the company in January 2022
On the latest edition of “The Mailbag” on Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer answered a number of questions about this week in question, with fans most notably asking about the current CM Punk situation.
One fan asked “A few weeks before Cody left AEW, he cut a promo on Punk that seems very similar to the argument the rest of the Elite would make towards Punk nowadays. Was CM Punk part of the reason for Cody leaving?”
Answer this question, Meltzer revealed that Cody Rhodes left AEW due to money issues and the fan reaction he was getting, with fans booing him despite presenting himself as a face in all his feuds.
He also said that there was one overarching reason for Cody Rhodes to leave AEW to sign for WWE but both Cody and AEW President Tony Khan were sworn to secrecy on the matter.
“On Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer said;I don’t think so. There’s a reason and both Tony and Cody basically made an agreement that they would never tell. They were just going to part as friends and all that. I mean, with Cody, look, when I asked him, he just said – there’s a reason.
He gave his word about not going to say why. But it was just time to go. I don’t really think Punk had a lot to do with it. I do think that his wanting to be a babyface and the crowd not letting him – and I’m not saying that’s the reason – but that had to be frustration. And money. Money’s always a big part of this and he probably felt that for whatever reason in AEW he wasn’t – he was getting weird reactions. He was over to more people than he was not but it was not that giant thing and he guessed that if he went back to WWE in this situation that he would get a great reaction and he did.
He guessed correctly. And that was the move that he made. And he gave up a reality show to do it – and other opportunities – the Go Big Show and all that. For AEW he was the guy that TBS and TNT was looking at for other projects. And he gave that up to go.
And I would presume that the money he lost by not doing these other shows was more than made up for in the money he got in jumping – because his jump was very very valuable to WWE – so I would expect that they paid very highly for it. And because they did, he made out well. Of all things, that’s probably the biggest thing.“
Whilst CM Punk wasn’t the reason for him leaving, his signing was an indirect catalyst.
With CM Punk being the highest paid wrestler in the company, Rhodes felt he was comparable in star power and should be paid the same. Tony Khan (and many others) disagreed which affected contract negotiations and led to Cody Rhodes leaving AEW and joining WWE.
Cody made his second WWE debut at Wrestlemania this year, defeating Seth Rollins as his surprise opponent in an incredible match. He would fight him twice more, including a five-star match at Hell in a Cell 2022 with a torn pectoral muscle.
What did you think of Cody Rhodes leaving AEW for WWE? Let us know in the comments or click below to read more
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.