AEW’s first Double or Nothing event was one of the most spectacular events in pro-wrestling history. It featured incredible action, unforgettable debuts, and it cemented AEW’s place as a serious contender in the wrestling world.
One of the fan-favorite matches from the night is undoubtedly Cody vs Dustin Rhodes. Not only a dream match, but also a reunion for the Rhodes brothers that many were uncertain if we’d ever see. The match was advertised as Dustin’s last ride in pro wrestling. Cody, the younger brother by 17 years, took it upon himself to lay his brother’s career to rest, steeling himself like Travis as he prepared to put Old Yeller down. Dustin, on the other hand, was looking to prove the old dog still had some bite to him and wanted this match to be the perfect high note to end his career on.
It was a bittersweet match up to see on the card – as audiences could be happy to see the Rhodes brothers together again, but also had to accept that this would be Dustin’s last match (or at least, it was supposed to be).
Cody is first to enter, accompanied by the thunderous chants of the audience. His entrance is dramatic and theatrical, as most of Cody’s antics are (and I say that endearingly). Of course, the most memorable part of the entrance is Cody taking a sledgehammer and smashing the throne set up on the entrance ramp. There’s a lot to be said on this moment, but I’ll leave it at this: by smashing the throne, Cody made a definitive statement that AEW was his life’s purpose now. When the sledgehammer hit the seat of the throne, Cody officially went All In. It’s a bit of a dramatic statement, but what is Cody if not a man who loves theatrics?
In stark contrast to his younger brother, Dustin looks almost somber as he walks down the entrance ramp, and as he enters the ring the camera finds the Dream tattoo over Cody’s heart, the first of many references to the brothers’ father. As Cody stands in the ring, he looks proud, while his brother looks grim. The crowd begins to chant, “Dusty! Dusty! Dusty!” The brothers take a moment to take in the atmosphere and the emotions, and Dustin points at the sky and nods. The match is underway.
Cody starts the match incredibly cocky. He cartwheels and does the infamous stardust pose in Dustin’s face, generally showing off. The younger brother is on the offensive. He slaps Dustin around, does a dive out of the ring and directly onto Dustin, and then mocks the crowd. It seems like this is going to be a short match after all, like a quick gunshot between Old Yeller’s eyes. Suddenly, Dustin climbs the apron, hits Cody with a senton and the crowd erupts. Chants of “You still got it!” echo throughout the arena as Dustin takes control of the action while the chants are soon replaced with “Never lost it!” Though the crowd is firmly behind Dustin, Cody and Brandi have no intention to give them the happy, satisfying ending they’re looking for.
In an attempt to kill the older Rhodes’ momentum, Brandi throws water in Dustin’s face. Dustin isn’t too thrown off, though, as he gets Cody trapped in the corner, set for the Natural Kick to the groin. Then, Cody offers his brother an ultimatum. He takes out the turnbuckle pad’s cushion underneath him, and throws it to Dustin. Now, if Dustin still wants to go for the kick, he’d have to do so against bare steel. Dustin makes the choice to charge in anyway. Cody, though, is prepared, dodges the kick, and throws Dustin’s head into the steel corner.
As Dustin rolls out of the ring, dazed, he’s caught by a sharp spear from Brandi, who’s then thrown out (with some assistance from Diamond Dallas Page). Cody’s confidence starts to falter, as he realizes this isn’t going to be the quick send-off he thought it would be.
Dustin is busted open and his forehead starts bleeding very, very, badly.
Cody places his hand on Dustin’s head and soaks it in his brother’s blood before he wipes it over their father’s name on his chest. This is such an artful moment that serves as a physical representation of the bond of the Rhodes family. No matter what separates them, whether it be companies or distance, Dusty’s still alive through his sons, and this match is the clearest instance of his presence in AEW.
To smear the blood of your brother over your father’s name, over your heart… it evokes such a powerful emotion, too abstract to be quantified. It’s like a feeling of awe over the sensation of family being both immortal and painfully mortal simultaneously.
Dustin’s wound is pouring out blood, to the point where he’s blinded by it. He throws a desperate, wild clothesline at Cody, but hits nothing but air, and then collapses to the canvas. Despite the shape he’s in, he tells Referee Earl Hebner not to stop the match.
Dustin then misses an arm drag, and Cody capitalizes on his brother’s weakness and pounds his head into the mat with a curbstomp. The match seems just about over, or at least, the audience starts to hope it will be soon. It’s ironic, in a sense, that now the crowd that was firmly on Dustin’s side just moments ago might be starting to hope Dustin will be put out of his misery, much like Cody had said he’d do. Dustin isn’t done yet, however. He catches Cody in a quick powerslam, proving to his brother, and to everyone watching, that he’s still in the fight. Cody soon applies a figure four, but is unable to bring his brother to tap out. Instead, Dustin reaches the ropes, and the brothers are forced to separate and recollect themselves.
“I need my older brother”Cody Rhodes
Cody takes off his weight belt with clear intentions of foul play, but Hebner quickly confiscates it from him. An atomic drop from the elder Rhodes sends Cody flying to the second turnbuckle, his back to the action while Dustin slyly takes the weight belt off the mat. The older Rhodes brother then pulls down his younger brother’s tights and gives him a sharp lash across the rear. Excalibur describes it as, “basically making Cody go to the yard and cut his own switch.” The spot’s bizarre, for sure, but I think the whole purpose of the spot is the fact that it’s so juvenile. For a brief moment, Cody and Dustin are no longer international wrestling superstars; they’re two southern brothers getting up to a crude, sibling fight. It’s very telling about the core of Cody and Dustin’s relationship, and it’s good for a pop, too.
The pace picks up after that. Dustin superplexes Cody off the top rope, and hits him with his own finisher, the Cross Rhodes. Cody kicks out, and then delivers a low blow to his older brother. The pair exchange Cross Rhodes and 2 counts, coming to a stalemate.
The pace slows for a moment, as the brothers recollect themselves. Cody’s laying on his side, disoriented and exhausted. Dustin seems to be transported out of the ring for a bit. Despite being covered in his own blood, he’s no longer the picture of brutality, or the violence that people expect to come in wrestling rings. He tenderly rubs his younger brother’s shoulder, looking like he’s trying to apologize to Cody for getting him into this. It’s a touching moment that shows the grace and maturity of Dustin; even when his younger brother taunts him, tells him to retire, cheats against him, Dustin will always be looking out for Cody’s well-being.
Jim Ross takes a second to reflect on what he’s witnessing. He tells the audience, “this is one of the most emotionally charged matches I’ve ever seen. I’ve known these two kids— these two men, now— since they were children.”
It’s an incredibly sentimental moment. More than a wrestling match, this is a tribute from the Rhodes brothers to both their father and the business that they love so much.
The two make their way to their feet once again, and go back to exchanging blows. The end is coming, but that’s the only thing for certain. Cody drops Dustin on the back of his head, and the ref starts a count as Dustin struggles to his feet. Cody, sensing that things are coming to a close, decides to end it on his own terms. He stops the ref’s count, picks up his older brother, and hits Dustin with one last Cross Rhodes for the win.
After the match, Excalibur remarks, “I don’t think Cody knew what it’d feel like, on an emotional level.” I’d argue that that’s the story of the whole match summed up in one sentence. Cody came into Las Vegas cocky and eager to lay his older brother’s career to rest. The fight Dustin put up, though, was so much more than Cody expected it to be, both physically and emotionally. The match changes Cody’s opinion of Dustin so much, in fact, that he then asks Dustin to be his tag partner against the Young Bucks at Fight for the Fallen. Dustin, though he seemed reluctant, accepted, and has been a key member of AEW’s roster ever since.
Dustin Rhodes has been a great addition to AEW. He not only provides wisdom to the younger wrestlers, through his promo classes for the women’s division and his coaching at the Nightmare Factory, but he’s proven time and time again that he can still put out a barn-burner when he’s driven to it. His match against his younger brother at Double or Nothing, both for its stellar quality and emotional value, was the perfect way to welcome him home.
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