Cody Rhodes made his WWE return on Saturday at WrestleMania 38 as Seth Rollins' mystery opponent.
Rhodes famously left WWE in 2016 as he was unhappy with his creative direction and wanting more for himself. Rhodes would go on to help launch AEW as one of the four Executive Vice Presidents. He and AEW were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract in January, making him a free agent.
Rhodes has spoken about the courting process he and WWE had, with Vince McMahon, Bruce Prichard, and Nick Khan meeting with him.
Speaking to the media on Sunday, Rhodes continued to detail their conversations.
"I can say that, we had a meeting in Atlanta and I didn't expect it to go bad, but I thought, 'Oh, I'll be presented with something that is not for me,' but I'll be able to say, 'Thank you so much' and I'll be able to get closure on the first chapter. The first chapter ended real poorly. 'I'll see you next week' 'no you won't. Here is my post on how I'm gone, no one is keeping me down.' I never got closure on that. I never got it with Hunter, I never got it with Vince, I never got it. That conversation was just sparkling. 95% of that conversation was about my daughter. That was just special. I remember telling him after, 'Thank you, if we never talk again, I feel so good.' There is a lot of equity and history with my family. I'm the meanest of all the Rhodes guys. I'm like an angry little kid still, sometimes," he said.
Rhodes went on to tell the story of his father Dusty spending money on Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling and the family going broke because of it. When WWE brought Dusty back in 2005, giving him a full-time job as a writer and producer, it provided a steady income for the family and Cody's mom thanked God when the residual check came in from the Dusty Rhodes DVD.
Cody said he got a chance to tell Vince that story and thanked him before going back to the courtship.
"The fun part was, the pitch was really good. It was really good. I was like, 'Oh, I thought he was going to tell me something terrible.' This was really good and was everything I needed to hear. It became the easiest decision I've ever made because it wasn't about money. Everyone pays really well in wrestling now, thankfully. It was about unfinished business," he said.
When asked when he thought a WWE return would be possible, Rhodes said, "Maybe around the Royal Rumble, because I didn't think I would get another shot at it, in terms of, I was really proud of the run I had in WWE, but in AEW I was Executive Vice President, head of community outreach department, and I had a lot of 'kids.' I didn't have time to think about it. We had a show and a business to run. It was moving so fast and I had so many other fun projects that I love doing like Go Big Show and Rhodes to the Top. I'm working on a pilot now about vintage spirits and bourbons in the US that I'm really excited about. Everything was moving so fast. As soon as the baby was born, the second thing I thought after 'she's so beautiful' was, 'I have to make a lot of money.' I was busy, busy, busy."
Rhodes also noted that his Rumble "stats" are very good as he's top ten all-time without having won the Rumble.
"Also, around that time, it started creeping in my mind, as much as I loved where I was, I loved my job. It's no one's dream to be an executive. It's pretty cool for a minute, then you get blamed for everything. That's not your dream. Everyone wants to be a wrestler. You're putting the belt on in your underwear, that's the dream. I locked myself out of that because I didn't want to upset fans...and they still got pissed. Fuck, sorry. I locked myself out of the main title picture. I told myself, I didn't want to be a gatekeeper wrestler. I didn't want to be, 'New debut, Cody program, new debut, Cody program.' I didn't want to be that. Around that time, I thought, 'What would it be? It would be different.' It would probably be what's best for the whole business to do this. I think it's best for everything to do this and free up real estate. They hired 15 guys with what was available at the time, that's good," he said.
Rhodes has consistently said he will remain silent on his AEW exit out of respect for Tony Khan, who has praised Rhodes following his departure.
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