Cody Runnells was granted his release from WWE on May 22nd, 2016. A lot has happened since that time. It was believed then that Cody was frustrated with WWE’s creative department. He had been pleading with writers to end the Stardust gimmick for months and felt his numerous storyline pitches were being ignored.
Shortly after Cody was released, several members of the media chimed in with their belief WWE never gave Cody a chance.
“I can’t say I blame him a bit. Not even a little bit. WWE never gave him a real chance, and that’s just sad to me,” Dave Scherer of Pro Wrestling Insider stated.
Dave Meltzer noted at the time that Cody was “used as more of a lower and mid-card wrestler in a number of changing roles”, and also added that “his career had gone nowhere and he hadn’t been used well.”
Cody’s frustration would continue shortly after leaving the company when it was revealed WWE would be preventing him from using the last name “Rhodes”. Although he had never used the name outside of WWE, Cody protested against the patenting of a name his father made famous and that was associated so strongly with his family.
Cody debuted in Ring of Honor at the Final Battle PPV that December. He promptly turned heel during his match with Jay Lethal at the event. Cody then signed a deal to make Ring of Honor is home promotion but a few months later the deal would be re-worked.
On December 10th, 2016, Cody was shown in a video package which aired during NJPW’s World Tag League. Cody was announced as the newest member of Bullet Club.
Cody Wins ROH World Title
Cody won the ROH World Title at Best in the World 2017. He defeated Christopher Daniels after being involved in a 3-way feud for the title which also involved Jay Lethal.
He defended the title 14x and held it for 175 days before dropping it to Dalton Castle at Final Battle 2017. Cody has only recently announced he plans to cash-in his rematch clause later this summer.
Cody Reacts to Starrcade
That September, Cody reacted negatively to news WWE would be running an event named Starrcade.
If you're afraid an event won't sell cuz' the holiday and want one of my Dad's events…at least book Goldy..
— Cody Rhodes (@CodyRhodes) September 18, 2017
Michael Hayes then offered Cody a spot on the show:
So Cody, UR right we should have Goldy on the show, by the way, what R U doing that night??? Wanna team with UR Brother?
— Michael PS Hayes (@MichaelPSHayes1) September 18, 2017
Just days after Hayes’ offer to appear on a WWE show, Cody and ROH announced he had signed a multi-year exclusive deal with the company.
Being the Elite and Bullet Club Civil War
Tension began to mount between Cody and Kenny Omega over the leadership of Bullet Club in 2017. This played out mainly on the YouTube series “Being the Elite” as well as on NJPW and ROH shows.
In 2018, the long-teased rivalry between Omega and Cody kicked off. Cody turned on Omega at the New Beginning in Sapporo after Omega lost his IWGP US title to Jay White. The split in Bullet Club would lead to a Young Bucks vs Golden Lovers match at Strong Style Evolved and a match between Cody and Omega at ROH’s biggest show of the year.
Cody would defeat Omega and recently defeated Kota Ibushi at Wrestling Dontaku 2018. There has been tension teased between Marty Scurll and Cody recently as well which could turn into a storyline soon. His feud with Omega appears to be on the backburner as Omega prepares to face Kazuchika Okada on June 9th, 2018.
Not long after leaving WWE, Cody tweeted a list of goals he was setting for himself. One goal he has mentioned repeatedly in the last 2 years is to main event a show in a 10,000 seat arena.
The All-In event organized by the Young Bucks and Cody sold out the Sears Center in Chicago just minutes after going on sale. Cody will challenge for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship at the event.
It’s been an eventful 2 years for Cody, ROH, NJPW and Bullet Club and it’s possible we haven’t even seen the full extent of what Cody can do outside WWE.