Cody Rhodes and the art of the promo

October 5, 2018

New Japan Pro Wrestling ran its third show in Southern California – Fighting Spirit Unleashed this past Sunday at The Pyramid in Long Beach, California.  It was an underrated card with some great talent and I was able to check out one of the best promos in the business as Cody Rhodes became a double champ.

The first match of the night featured two “young boys.”  A young boy is a young pro-wrestler still in the training stages of their career.  You might see these young boys act as ringside attendants in other matches to help veteran pro-wrestlers.  This match featured Clark Connors and Alex Coughlin.  Coughlin was a former WWE Tough Enough contestant and has wrestled on the indies.  Connors was trained by Lance Storm and wrestled in the Pacific Northwest.  Notably, I saw him wrestle for Washington state based promotion, Defy Wrestling.  New Japan opened up a Los Angeles-based dojo to train here in the states and these two are a part of the school.

Both Connors and Coughlin were indistinguishable in black trunks, black boots and no knee pads.  Both fighters ran to the ring and bowed to the crowd.  The match was devoid of any fancy moves or fanfare.  But, it was a solid performance focusing on the basics and strong style.  Connors won via Boston crab-type submission where he bridged over to obtain more leverage.

My favorite match of the night was Marty Scurll versus Will Ospreay.  It was a fast-pace back and forth match with both wrestlers working really hard.  Ospreay is one of the truly special guys in pro wrestling.  There are things he can do that no other wrestlers can.  Scurll plays up to his nickname, “The Villain.”  In the post-match press conference, he railed on the media calling them losers.  Perfect.

Then, there was the hometown favorite Young Bucks taking on the Tongans in a battle for the Bucks’ tag team titles.  The story of the match was the back of Matt Jackson.  I am not one to know how much Matt was selling the injury and how much was legit, but Nick had to do much of the load.  This was one of the best matches from Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa.  They came off as great heels and the crowd just hated them.

The main event saw The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi) take on Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii.  Most of the match saw the tease between Omega and Okada as it was the first time since one of the best matches fans have seen this past summer.  It was a definite strong style match with Ishii giving and taking some very stiff shots.  In the end the Omega and Ibushi double knee “V-trigger” to Ishii won it for the Lovers.

One of the best promos of the night came after Cody won the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship over Juice Robinson.  After an unsatisfying stint in NXT as CJ Parker, Robinson left for New Japan where he has reinvented himself.  He has been on a roll as of late in New Japan and had won the belt in San Francisco at the G1 Special in July.

Unlike other wrestling promotions, New Japan Wrestling conducts post-fight interviews just like most other sports.  This is a great opportunity for the wrestlers to get reps to respond to reporter questions.  It’s also a way for the wrestlers (in character) to move forward their storylines and establish new ones.

Despite enjoying his time in the WWE, he laid into the company and Juice.  He talked about heritage, “Juice Robinson is one of what the NXT people said he was one of ‘Dusty’s Kids.’ Guess what, I’m his actual God damn kid!” He then exclaimed, “if you didn’t think it was personal, its very personal.”  The promo exemplifies Rhodes’ mastery of the mic and an audience.  Without concern for promoter or promotion, Rhodes rules his own world of wrestling and has attracted many searching for alternative options for pro wrestling.

His years of learning to cut a promo have helped him outside of the company in attracting fans.  The delivery is deliberate when it needs to be and he’s ready to adapt to any situation.  In fact, he called out several reporters when he asked them questions and complemented one who exuded passion for the sport.  He touted his championships and his success in the industry.  And, he’s not afraid to let people know it.  Cody has been able to create his own persona while reminding opponents and fans that the Rhodes name is royalty in the sport.

Since leaving the WWE, Cody has remastered his legacy and instead of being relegated to the mid-card and relative stability of WWE, he opted to go outside of the company on his own.  He’s linked up with the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and Marty Scurll in creating a buzz with The Bullet Club.  Coming off of All In, his brand is at a high and concern about going back to Uncle Vince is always a worry.  He did talk a bit about this in his post-match press conference.  While he has used the WWE as a heel straw man in most of his setups, he admitted that he had a good time with the company.  He also didn’t rule out going back.  A concern for many non-WWE wrestling fans as the Bucks and Rhodes cite January 1, 2019 as the end of their current contracts.

With that being said, Rhodes is enjoying the freedom of being his own boss.  He talked about not being concerned about any of the promoters he worked for in New Japan, Ring of Honor or the NWA.  That’s why it doesn’t appear that Cody will be going anywhere.  Its always hard to do it yourself but its clear that Cody is happy where he’s at and how he’s done it.  While I wouldn’t rule out a return to the WWE (Royal Rumble surprise anyone), he’s become a much bigger star than he’d ever would have been in the WWE.

If you didn’t watch Fighting Spirit Unleashed, you can catch it Friday night on AXS TV.

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