Rhodes originally credits his father Dusty Rhodes for starting his wrestling training, when Cody was only 12 years old. However, this was limited mainly to simple fundamentals and taking bumps. From there his training was provided by Al Snow, Danny Davis, Randy Orton and Ricky Morton. Using his birth name Cody Runnels, Rhodes began wrestling in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) in May 2006. His first match was at an OVW live event in Corydon, Indiana on May 13, where he lost to Pat Buck.
Runnels formed a tag team with Shawn Spears in mid-August 2006 and they quickly became embroiled in a feud with The Untouchables over the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship. They first captured the championship from The Untouchables on October 18. In November 2006, Runnels and Spears defeated The Untouchables in a tag team match, and won the services of Cherry, The Untouchables' manager. Cherry accompanied Spears and Runnels to ringside, and soon Spears began to fall in love with her, which began interfering with their matches. On November 29, the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship was vacated after a match between The Untouchables and Runnels and Spears ended in a draw. A rematch between the two teams was held for the vacant championship the following week. During this match, Cherry turned on Spears and Runnels, rejoining The Untouchables and helping them regain the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship. Two weeks later on December 20, Runnels and Spears defeated Deuce 'n Domino in a street fight to win the championship for the second time.
Shortly afterward, Runnels and Spears became involved in a scripted rivalry with each other, after Spears became jealous of Runnels' success as a singles wrestler. This rift started when Runnels won the OVW Heavyweight Championship from Paul Burchill at a house show on February 17, 2007, only to lose it to Burchill the next day. Spears won the OVW Television Championship in response. On April 11, the duo lost the Southern Tag Team Championship to the team of Justin LaRouche and Charles Evans. Runnels defeated his rival on July 6 to become the new OVW Television Champion. However, exactly one week later he lost the championship to Spears in a Lumberjack match. Runnels's last televised match in OVW ended in a no contest as him and Shawn Spears fought in the Steel Cage.
On the July 2, 2007 episode of Raw, Runnels made his television debut, using his family's wrestling last name, Rhodes, in a backstage segment with his father Dusty Rhodes and Randy Orton, where Orton introduced himself to Rhodes and then slapped Dusty as a sign of disrespect. On July 9, Rhodes slapped Orton in return, and the following week, Rhodes was defeated by Orton in his debut WWE match. Rhodes appeared at The Great American Bash to prevent Orton from further attacking his father. The next night on Raw, Rhodes challenged Orton to a rematch from the previous week, only to lose again. Orton followed this up by kicking Rhodes' father in the head. Rhodes' next storyline was a rivalry with Daivari, after he pinned him on the July 30 Raw, to keep his job. In the midst of this rivalry, he also feuded with The World's Greatest Tag Team, defeating both members, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin in singles matches. The two feuds combined, when Rhodes, along with Paul London and Brian Kendrick, beat The World's Greatest Tag Team and Daivari in a six-man tag team match. The following week, Rhodes teamed up with Mickie James to defeat Daivari and Jillian Hall, ending their scripted rivalry.
Three weeks later, he began a feud with Hardcore Holly and lost three consecutive matches to him. Rhodes eventually earned Holly's respect, impressing Holly during their matches with his persistence and several near-falls, and the two formed a tag team. They earned a shot at the World Tag Team Title by defeating Paul London and Brian Kendrick and The Highlanders. They fought against the Tag Team Champions Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch at Survivor Series, in what was Rhodes' first on-screen title shot and pay-per-view match, but were unsuccessful. On the November 19 Raw, Rhodes faced Holly for a fourth time and beat him, although they were both attacked by Randy Orton afterwards. On the Raw15th Anniversary special episode that aired on December 10, 2007, Rhodes, along with Holly, defeated Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch for the World Tag Team Championship, marking Rhodes' first championship in WWE. In May 2008, Ted DiBiase began feuding with the duo, threatening to take their titles in his first match as part of the Raw brand. At the pay-per-view event, Night of Champions on June 29, Rhodes turned on Holly by revealing himself as Ted DiBiase's partner to help DiBiase win the match and also become a two-time World Tag Team Champion.
The Legacy (2008-2010)
After holding the championship for just over a month, they dropped it to John Cena and Batista on the August 4, 2008 episode of Raw. The following week on Raw, DiBiase and Rhodes used their rematch clause to regain the championship. Rhodes and DiBiase were joined by Manu, the son of Afa, in September, forming a stable of multi-generational wrestlers. On the October 27 Raw, Rhodes and DiBiase lost the World Tag Team Championship to Kofi Kingston and CM Punk.
On the November 3, 2008 episode of Raw, Rhodes, DiBiase and Manu entered a storyline with Orton, who constantly criticized and insulted them and attacked DiBiase. At Survivor Series, Rhodes, along with Orton, was a survivor, for Orton's team, in the annual Elimination match. Rhodes and Manu accepted Orton's offer for an alliance in the following weeks and the trio dubbed themselves The Legacy, debuting in a two-on-three handicap match against Batista and Triple H. Orton began scheduling tests for The Legacy members, so they could prove themselves and over two weeks, both Manu and Sim Snuka were kicked out.
On the January 12, 2009, Raw, Snuka and Manu gave Rhodes the chance to align with them to attack Orton, along with the returning DiBiase, but Rhodes refused. As they ambushed Orton, DiBiase instead joined with Orton and Rhodes to attack Snuka and Manu and became a member of the Legacy. As part of the Legacy, Rhodes entered the Royal Rumble match in order to help Orton win, and lasted until the final three, before being eliminated by Triple H. Rhodes and DiBiase became involved in Orton's scripted rivalry with the McMahon family, helping him to attack Shane and Stephanie McMahon, and Stephanie's real-life husband, Triple H. Rhodes was elevated to main event status as a result of joining the Legacy, competing in handicap and six-man tag team matches against Orton's opponents and rivals.
On April 26 at Backlash, Rhodes, DiBiase, and Orton defeated Triple H, Batista, and Shane McMahon in a six-man tag team match, which, per the pre-match stipulation, resulted in Orton winning the WWE Championship. Rhodes suffered a minor neck injury in June, but continued working. Throughout mid-2009, Rhodes and DiBiase continued to compete against and attack Orton's rivals, especially Triple H. This led to Triple H reforming D-Generation X (DX) with Shawn Michaels, and DX defeated Rhodes and DiBiase at SummerSlam. Rhodes and DiBiase defeated DX at the following pay-per-view, Breaking Point in a submissions count anywhere match, but were defeated in a Hell in a Cell match at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view in October, when Rhodes was pinned following a sledgehammer shot to the head.
Tension within The Legacy became apparent at the 2010 Royal Rumble, when Rhodes attempted to interfere in Orton's match for the WWE Championship. Rhodes was caught by the referee, resulting in a disqualification for Orton, who attacked Rhodes and DiBiase, who had tried to help Rhodes, after the match. On the February 15 Raw, Orton took on Sheamus in a non-title rematch, but was again disqualified after Rhodes and DiBiase interfered. During the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match pay-per-view, Rhodes interfered, passing a lead pipe through the cage to DiBiase. DiBiase hit Orton with the pipe and eliminated him from the match. The next night on Raw, Orton attacked Rhodes and DiBiase during a six-man tag team match, and they attacked Orton the following week in retaliation. This led to a triple threat match at WrestleMania XXVI, in which Orton defeated Rhodes and DiBiase.
On the June 25 SmackDown, Rhodes began a new narcissistic gimmick, claiming to be the best-looking wrestler in WWE and demanding to be called "Dashing" Cody Rhodes. As part of the gimmick, vignettes began airing in which Rhodes gave "grooming tips". He was extremely protective of his face during matches; if he was hit in the face, he threw a fit and checked his mirror. In September, he attacked Christian along with Drew McIntyre after a match, and the duo also attacked Matt Hardy, forming an alliance. At Night of Champions in September, Rhodes and McIntyre captured the WWE Tag Team Championship in a Tag Team Turmoil match. At Bragging Rights, Rhodes and McIntyre lost the championship to The Nexus (John Cena and David Otunga). On the October 29 SmackDown, after losing a tag team match, Rhodes and McIntyre dissolved their partnership.
On January 21, 2011, Rhodes faced Rey Mysterio in a match, during which Mysterio hit Rhodes in the face with his exposed knee brace and legitimately broke Rhodes' nose, which led to Rhodes declaring he was no longer dashing and had required facial reconstructive surgery. Rhodes was off television for several weeks. Upon his return, he wore a clear protective mask over his face and colluded with his father to attack Mysterio and remove Mysterio's mask on the February 25 SmackDown. Rhodes then regularly used his protective mask as a weapon during matches by headbutting opponents and using it to hit his opponents. In 2020, Rhodes said his time as Undashing Cody Rhodes was his second best work as a pro wrestler. Rhodes defeated Mysterio in a match at WrestleMania XXVII on April 3. The duo also faced off in a Falls Count Anywhere match at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view in May, which was won by Mysterio.
Rhodes wearing his protective mask and holding paper bag masks in June 2011
On subsequent episodes of SmackDown following WrestleMania XXVII, Rhodes, with the help of assistants, would hand out paper bags to the audience during his promos. Rhodes demanded the audience to put on the paper bags on their heads to cover their ugliness and imperfections, because they offended him. Rhodes also put paper bags over several of his opponents' heads after matches with them. Rhodes reformed his alliance with Ted DiBiase on the May 20 SmackDown, and the duo went on to feud with Sin Cara and Daniel Bryan. At the second annualMoney in the Bank pay-per-view, Rhodes participated in the Money in the Bank ladder match, but was unsuccessful as Bryan won the match.
Intercontinental Champion (2011-2012)
At the August 9 tapings of the August 12 SmackDown, Rhodes defeated Ezekiel Jackson to win the Intercontinental Championship, his first singles title with the company. The following week, Rhodes and DiBiase had a verbal confrontation with Orton. The following week, Rhodes attacked DiBiase after the latter lost a singles match to Orton, ending their alliance and resulting in an Intercontinental Championship match between the two at Night of Champions, which Rhodes won. Simultaneously, Rhodes had begun a feud with Orton, with Orton defeating Rhodes on the September 9 SmackDown, but Rhodes defeated Orton on the September 12 Raw when Mark Henry distracted Orton. On the September 23 SmackDown, Rhodes defeated Orton by disqualification when Orton took Rhodes' mask off and hit him with it. Post-match, Orton attacked Rhodes with the timekeeper's bell, legitimately cutting Rhodes and causing him to bleed. The following week on SmackDown, Rhodes claimed he needed nine staples to close the wound.
At the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view on October 2, Rhodes debuted a new design for the Intercontinental Championship, which included a white strap and plates similar to the title's classic 1980s design, before successfully defending it against John Morrison. Throughout October, Rhodes continued feuding with Orton, explaining that Orton had mistreated him during their time together as part of Legacy, costing him the World Heavyweight Championship and attacking him. At Vengeance, Rhodes was defeated by Orton in a non-title match. On the November 4 SmackDown, Orton defeated Rhodes in a Street Fight to end the feud; in the process, Orton broke Rhodes' mask. On the November 14 Raw, Rhodes reappeared without his mask, claiming that Orton had set him free, signalling the end of his masked gimmick.
Rhodes then feuded with SmackDown commentator Booker T, attacking him from behind on several occasions and successfully retaining the Intercontinental Championship against him at Tables, Ladders & Chairs and on the January 6, 2012 SmackDown. In the 2012 Royal Rumble match, Rhodes lasted over 40 minutes and eliminated more wrestlers than other any other competitor with six, before he was eliminated by Big Show. At Elimination Chamber Rhodes pinned Big Show in the World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber match, before being eliminated by Santino Marella. Rhodes spent the following weeks highlighting Big Show's embarrassing moments in previous WrestleManias, often costing Big Show to lose matches in the process. At WrestleMania XXVIII, Rhodes lost the Intercontinental Championship to Big Show, ending his near eight-month reign of 233 days.
Following the loss at WrestleMania, Rhodes went on a brief losing streak, due to Big Show distracting him during matches. Four weeks after losing the title, Rhodes regained it at Extreme Rules by defeating Big Show in a Tables match. On the May 7 episode of Raw, Rhodes retained his title against Big Show in a rematch after getting himself counted out. Two weeks later at Over the Limit, Rhodes lost the Intercontinental Championship to the returning Christian. On the June 29 SmackDown, Rhodes and David Otunga were defeated by Christian and United States Champion Santino Marella in a Money in the Bank qualification match for the World Heavyweight Championship, due to Otunga being pinned. Afterwards, Rhodes claimed that he had not lost and demanded another chance. Four days later on Super SmackDown Live, the WWE Board of Directors granted Rhodes another shot and he defeated Christian to earn a spot in the match. However, at Money in the Bank, he was unsuccessful as the match was won by Dolph Ziggler. On September 16 at Night of Champions, Rhodes failed to capture the Intercontinental Championship from The Miz in a fatal-four-way match, also involving Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara.
Team Rhodes Scholars (2012-2013)
Rhodes then aligned himself with Damien Sandow, attacking Tag Team ChampionsTeam Hell No (Daniel Bryan and Kane) on the September 24 Raw and vowing to become the next champions. The team, now known as Rhodes Scholars, were entered in a Tag Team Championship tournament and defeated The Usos to advance. Ultimately, Team Rhodes Scholars defeated Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara on the October 22 Raw to win the tournament and become the number one contenders to the Tag Team Championship. Team Rhodes Scholars got their title opportunity against Team Hell No on October 28 at Hell in a Cell, where they won by disqualification, thus Team Hell No retained the title. Rhodes Scholars received another shot at the WWE Tag Team Championship on the November 14 of WWE Main Event, but were defeated by Team Hell No. During the match, Rhodes suffered a concussion and a strained shoulder, resulting in him being removed from his traditional five-on-five tag team match at Survivor Series.
Rhodes sporting a moustache following his return from injury
Rhodes returned from injury on the December 10 Raw, sporting a mustache, and he and Sandow defeated Primo & Epico, The Prime Time Players (Darren Young and Titus O'Neil), and The Usos in a fatal four-way tag team elimination match to earn the right to face Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara in a number one contender Tables match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs. Six days later at the pay-per-view, Team Rhodes Scholars defeated Mysterio and Sin Cara to become the number one contenders to the WWE Tag Team Championship. Team Rhodes Scholars received their title shots on the next Main Event episode, but were once again defeated by Team Hell No. On the January 7, 2013, Raw, Team Rhodes Scholars defeated Team Hell No in a non-title match to earn another shot at the WWE Tag Team Championship. The title rematch took place on January 27 at the Royal Rumble, where Team Rhodes Scholars once again failed to capture the tag team titles. On the next SmackDown, Rhodes and Sandow mutually decided to dissolve Team Rhodes Scholars and remain "best friends". However, they reunited during the pre-show of Elimination Chamber on February 17, but were defeated by the team of Brodus Clay and Tensai. Rhodes and Sandow then aligned themselves with The Bella Twins as they began feuding with Tons of Funk (Brodus Clay and Tensai) and The Funkadactyls (Cameron and Naomi). The two teams were originally booked to face each other in an eight-person mixed tag team match on April 7 at WrestleMania 29, but their match was cut due to time constraints. The match instead took place the following night on Raw, where Tons of Funk and The Funkadactyls emerged victorious.
On July 14 at Money in the Bank pay-per-view, Rhodes competed in the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank ladder match, which was won by Damien Sandow after Sandow turned on Rhodes and threw him off of the ladder just as Rhodes was about to win the match. The following night on Raw, Rhodes attacked Sandow and dissolved Team Rhodes Scholars, turning face for the first time since 2008. On the July 26 episode of SmackDown, Rhodes stole the briefcase from Sandow and threw it into the Gulf of Mexico; Sandow was unable to save it as he could not swim. On the August 5 episode of Raw, Rhodes gave Sandow the briefcase that he retrieved from the Gulf of Mexico but kept the contract itself. Rhodes continued his feud with Sandow on that same week's SmackDown, by preventing Sandow from cashing in his new Money in the Bank contract on a vulnerable Alberto Del Rio. On August 18 at SummerSlam, now no longer sporting a mustache, Rhodes defeated Sandow in a singles match, and did so again the following night on Raw. The following week on Raw, Rhodes teamed with The Miz to defeat Sandow and Fandango to end the feud.
Partnership with Goldust and Stardust (2013-2015)
On the September 2 Raw, as punishment for speaking out against Chief Operating Officer Triple H's authoritarian rule, Rhodes was forced to put his job on the line when he faced WWE Champion Randy Orton in a non-title match; Rhodes lost and was duly "fired". This storyline was put in place to give Rhodes time off for his marriage and honeymoon to Brandi Reed, known on-screen as Eden. Over the next few weeks, Rhodes' brother Goldust also lost to Orton with Cody's reinstatement on the line, while his father Dusty Rhodes was knocked out by Big Show while pleading for his sons to get their jobs back. In return, the vengeful Rhodes brothers gatecrashed Raw by attacking The Shield.
In 2013, Goldust returned to WWE, teaming with his half-brother Cody
On October 6 at Battleground, Rhodes and Goldust won their jobs back when they defeated the WWE Tag Team Champions, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins in a non-title match. The Rhodes brothers then defeated Reigns and Rollins with the help of Big Show in a no disqualification match on the October 14 Raw, to capture the tag title. On the December 13 SmackDown, it was announced that Cody Rhodes and Goldust would defend the WWE Tag Team Championship against The Real Americans (Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro), RybAxel (Ryback and Curtis Axel), and Big Show and Rey Mysterio in a fatal four-way tag team match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs. At the Royal Rumble, Rhodes and Goldust dropped the tag title to The New Age Outlaws. In the Royal Rumble match itself, Goldust accidentally eliminated Rhodes right before Roman Reigns eliminated him. Goldust and Rhodes faced the Outlaws in a rematch on Raw after the Royal Rumble, which ended in a no contest after Brock Lesnar attacked them both. The titles rematch was then rescheduled for the February 3 Raw in a steel cage, which The New Age Outlaws won.
They lost momentum and went through a losing streak. After losing to Curtis Axel and Ryback, Cody, told Goldust to find a better tag team partner and left his brother. Following Payback, Rhodes tried to find a new partner for his brother, getting Sin Cara, R-Truth, and Kofi Kingston to replace him in the team, both times losing to Axel and Ryback.
In mid-2014, Rhodes was repackaged as the face-paint wearing "Stardust"
On the June 16 Raw, Rhodes debuted a new character called Stardust (a ring name also previously used by his father during his time in American Wrestling Association), with face paint, a bodysuit and mannerisms similar to those of Goldust. He teamed with his brother to defeat RybAxel that night and then at both Money in the Bank and on Raw. On the August 18 Raw, Stardust and Goldust defeated the WWE Tag Team Champions The Usos in a non-title match. This led to a rematch on the August 25 Raw, where Stardust and Goldust defeated The Usos via countout, but did not win the titles. After the match, both Stardust and Goldust attacked The Usos. At Night of Champions, Stardust and Goldust defeated the Usos to become WWE Tag Team Champions for their second reign as a team. At Hell in a Cell, they successfully retained against The Usos. They lost the title to Damien Mizdow and The Miz in a fatal four-way tag team match also involving The Usos and Los Matadores the next month at Survivor Series, while also losing a rematch the next night on Raw.
In early February 2015, Goldust and Stardust were defeated by The Ascension and once again began tensions with Stardust showing his frustrations at Goldust. After the match, Goldust called Stardust "Cody" and Stardust responded by telling Goldust to never refer to him by that name again. On the February 16 Raw, Stardust executed Cross Rhodes on Goldust after a tag match, dissolving the team. He then explained to his father that Cody Rhodes was dead and Dusty may as well be, too. This led to a match between Goldust and Stardust at Fastlane, which Goldust won. Afterwards, Stardust attacked Goldust backstage, while exclaiming to his father that he had killed Cody Rhodes. Stardust also attacked Goldust after Goldust won a match against Adam Rose while pretending to be one of Rose's Rosebuds in a costume suit. The feud officially concluded as Stardust then became involved in the Intercontinental Championship ladder match at WrestleMania 31, which was won by Daniel Bryan.
Continuing solo as Stardust and departure (2015-2016)
The Stardust character eventually evolved to resemble a comic booksupervillain, which led to him entering a storyline rivalry with actor Stephen Amell. After confronting Amell on the May 25 Raw, Stardust renamed his finishing maneuver The Queen's Crossbow, after Oliver Queen, Amell's character from Arrow. After taking a brief hiatus following the death of his father, Stardust returned on the July 13 Raw, defeating Neville, starting a new rivalry between the two. Stardust then went on a winning streak, defeating the likes of R-Truth, Zack Ryder and Fandango. He attacked Neville following his match with King Barrett, and also attacked guest star Stephen Amell, leading to Amell attacking Stardust. At SummerSlam, Stardust and Barrett were defeated in a tag team match by Amell and Neville.
On the September 3 SmackDown, The Ascension aligned themselves with Stardust by attacking Neville before their match, forming the faction "The Cosmic Wasteland". At Night of Champions, they defeated Neville and The Lucha Dragons in a six-man tag team match in the pre-show. After this, they were defeated in every match in which they participated. During the 2015 Slammy Awards, Stardust stole Stephen Amell's trophy for celebrity moment of the year. He then suffered back-to-back losses during his feud with Titus O'Neil, who attempted to convince Stardust to go back to being Cody Rhodes.
On the February 15 Raw, Stardust participated in a five-way match for the Intercontinental Championship, but did not win the match. At WrestleMania 32, Stardust competed in a seven-man ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship, which was won by Zack Ryder. Post-WrestleMania, Stardust lost to Apollo Crews four times on television, which was followed by a loss to Zack Ryder on the May 20 episode of Superstars.
On May 21, 2016, Rhodes revealed on Twitter that he had requested his release from WWE, which was officially granted the following day. Rhodes cited frustrations with WWE's creative department and his position within the company as the reasons for requesting his release, noting that he had "pleaded" with writers to end the Stardust gimmick for over 6 months and pitched numerous storyline ideas which had been ignored.
Reflecting on Rhodes' WWE career, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer wrote that following his run with Legacy, Rhodes was "used as more of a lower and mid-card wrestler in a number of changing roles", adding that "his career had gone nowhere and he hadn't been used well". James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch wrote that Rhodes "had been floundering as the Stardust character over the past year or so, mostly landing on Superstars or Main Event". Jason Powell of Pro Wrestling Dot Net commented that Rhodes choosing to leave was "surprising in the sense that Cody and his family have worked for WWE for so long". Meanwhile, Dave Scherer of Pro Wrestling Insider wrote: "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".
In September 2019, Rhodes revealed WWE Executive Vice President Triple H's reaction to his WWE departure, where Rhodes stated
"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."
Despite that, Rhodes has consistently spoken highly of WWE in the years since his departure, adding that there are no grudges between him and the company and understands any decisions the company makes regarding him are largely business-based. This included WWE redesigning the Intercontinental Championship belt around the same time AEW launched being a coincidence as opposed to trying to separate themselves from Rhodes, as Rhodes himself acknowledged that the physical belt was due for a redesign anyways.
Independent circuit (2016-2018)
Rhodes (right) and Ethan Page as A1 Tag Team Champions in June 2017
On June 6, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) announced that Rhodes would be wrestling in their annual Battle of Los Angeles tournament. On September 3, Rhodes, billed as Cody R, defeated Sami Callihan in his first round match in the tournament. The following day, Rhodes was eliminated from the tournament in the quarterfinals by eventual winner Marty Scurll.
On November 26 at WrestleCade's Showcase of Champions, Rhodes defeated Sonjay Dutt for the GFW NEX*GEN Championship. On March 3, 2017, Rhodes appeared for Northeast Wrestling (NEW) in Connecticut, defeating Kurt Angle in a steel cage match. On March 18, 2017, Cody defeated Mike Bennett for the NEW Heavyweight Championship. On December 1, 2017, Rhodes lost the NEW Heavyweight Championship to Flip Gordon in a triple threat match.
On October 6, 2016, he made his debut with What Culture Pro Wrestling (WCPW) at the iPPV Refuse to Lose under the ring name Cody Rhodes, defeating Doug Williams. The following day at the 14th episode of Loaded, Rhodes unsuccessfully challenged Joseph Conners for the WCPW Championship. Rhodes faced Kurt Angle at True Legacy in a losing effort. After the match, Rhodes issued a challenge to El Ligero for the WCPW Internet Championship, which Ligero accepted. On November 30 at Delete WCPW, Rhodes defeated El Ligero for the WCPW Internet Championship and retained his GFW NEX*GEN Championship at the same time in a title for title match.
On April 29, 2017, at No Regrets, Rhodes lost the WCPW Internet Championship to Gabriel Kidd in a triple threat match also involving Joe Hendry. Later that night, Rhodes took part in a battle royal for the WCPW Championship but was eliminated by Joe Coffey. The following day, Rhodes defeated former WCPW Champion Drew Galloway in his final match with WCPW.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling/Impact Wrestling (2016-2017)
Rhodes was expected to work events for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) while simultaneously working in ROH, both deals being non-exclusive. On September 22, TNA confirmed Rhodes, billed as Cody, would be debuting for the promotion on October 2 at Bound for Glory. At Bound for Glory, Cody, alongside his wife Brandi Rhodes, made his debut as a face, attacking Mike Bennett and his wife Maria to begin a feud between the two couples. On the October 6 episode of Impact Wrestling, Cody cut a promo where he put over the company and said he has a shot at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, but Bennett and Maria interrupted and the segment ended with a brawl. On the October 13 episode of Impact Wrestling, Cody made his in-ring debut by defeating Bennett. On the October 20 episode of Impact Wrestling, Cody challenged Eddie Edwards for the Impact World Heavyweight Championship, but lost the match. On the October 27 Impact Wrestling, Cody and Brandi defeated Bennett and Maria. After the match, Cody was attacked backstage by Lashley, and this was done to write him off television.
Cody returned on the February 23, 2017 episode of Impact Wrestling, calling out Moose to thank him for helping his wife Brandi while he was away. However, after learning Brandi had Moose's phone number, Cody attacked Moose, thus turning heel. On the March 30 episode of Impact Wrestling, Cody unsuccessfully faced Moose for the Impact Grand Championship. Rhodes' contract with the promotion ended shortly after.
In November 2018, several trademarks were filed in Jacksonville, Florida that indicated the launch of a new wrestling promotion. On January 1, 2019, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) was unveiled during a conference in Jacksonville, with Cody revealing that he, along with Matt and Nick Jackson of The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, would serve as Executive Vice Presidents, as well as on-air talent. Both Cody and The Young Bucks signed five-year contracts with the promotion. At their inaugural event on May 25, Double or Nothing, Cody defeated Dustin Rhodes. On June 29 at Fyter Fest, Cody wrestled Darby Allin to a time limit draw. After the match, Rhodes was attacked by Shawn Spears and struck with a chair shot that caused Rhodes to bleed heavily from the back of his head. While Rhodes did not suffer a concussion, he did require 12 surgical staples. Spears' actions would be condemned by MJF, Cody's self-proclaimed best friend. MJF would later become Cody's cornerman for his matches.
At All Out on August 31, Cody emerged victorious over Spears. With this win, Cody improved his win-loss-draw record in singles matches to 2-0-1, granting him a match for the AEW World Championship against Chris Jericho at the Full Gear pay-per-view. On the premiere episode of Dynamite on October 2, Cody and The Young Bucks were beaten down by Jericho, Sammy Guevara, Jake Hager, Santana and Ortiz, leading to the creation of The Inner Circle to rival The Elite. On the November 6 episode of Dynamite, Cody announced that if he were to lose at Full Gear, he would never challenge for the AEW World Championship again. At Full Gear on November 9, Cody failed to win the championship from Jericho after MJF threw in the towel. After the match, MJF turned on Cody by kicking him the groin.
Over the following months, Cody attempted to secure a match with MJF, which MJF agreed to do as long as Cody met three stipulations: he could not touch MJF until the match, he would have to defeat MJF's bodyguard Wardlow in a steel cage match, and he would have to take ten lashes with a leather belt. After taking the lashes, Cody defeated Wardlow in a steel cage match on the February 19, 2020 episode of Dynamite to arrange the match for the Revolution pay-per-view. However, Cody was defeated by MJF at Revolution on February 29.
Cody returned on the September 23 episode of Dynamite, attacking Brodie Lee and members of his faction, The Dark Order. Cody would defeat Brodie Lee to win the TNT Championship in a Dog Collar match on the October 7 episode of Dynamite, beginning his second reign with the championship, also marking Lee's final match before his death in December of that year. On November 7, Cody, now once again under the full name Cody Rhodes due to WWE cancelling their trademark on the name, lost the TNT Championship to Darby Allin at Full Gear.
On the March 31 episode of Dynamite, Rhodes began a feud with QT Marshall, after Marshall and his allies Aaron Solow, Nick Comoroto and the debutant Anthony Ogogo assaulted Rhodes after a match. At the Blood and Guts event on May 5, Rhodes defeated Marshall, before going on to defeat Ogogo at the Double or Nothing pay-per-view later that month. At the Road Rager event on July 7, Rhodes defeated Marshall in a South Beach Strap match to end the feud. Later in the night, the debuting Malakai Black attacked Cody's coach, Arn Anderson. This forced Rhodes to run down to ringside to aid Anderson, but received a kick from Black. A week later, Rhodes called out Black to the ring, which then resulted in a brawl. On the homecoming episode of Dynamite on August 4, Rhodes lost to Black. After giving a post-match speech, Rhodes took off one of his boots in the middle of the ring, before Black hit him in the back with a crutch. He then picked up the boot, with commentary questioning if Black retired Rhodes.
Rhodes guest-starred on Arrow in the fifth-season episode "A Matter of Trust" playing Derek Sampson, a drug dealer turned metahuman with the inability to feel pain (Sampson's drug of choice was named Stardust in homage to Rhodes' WWE persona). Rhodes reprised the role on episode 21 of the fifth season of Arrow. In July 2018 Cody announced that his character would be back for a couple of episodes in Season 7 as well.
In September 2013, Rhodes married fellow professional wrestler Brandi Reed. On the December 16, 2020 edition of AEW Dynamite, Cody and Brandi announced that they were expecting their first child, a baby girl. Their daughter, Liberty Iris Runnels, was born on June 18, 2021.