There is life after WWE. Just ask Brandi Rhodes. She and her husband Cody Rhodes sought and received their release from the sports-entertainment giant in May 2016, and have been the hottest spousal duo in pro wrestling since. Cody (now competing under that eponym) has been creating buzz and raking in bucks from continent to continent as current Ring of Honor World Champion, frequent New Japan Pro Wrestling competitor and high-ranking Bullet Club member. And Brandi has come along for the ride, first during a brief detour with the GFW (formerly TNA) promotion and now as one of ROH’s Women of Honor. But she’s also spun off their shared success by landing a spot among the cast of reality series WAGS Atlanta, which premieres January 3rd on E! (Though she and Cody don’t appear until three episodes in.)
Two days before she and Cody pull into NYC for ROH’s annual Final Battle PPV on December 15 – where he will defend his title against the eccentric Dalton Castle – we caught up with Mrs. Rhodes about in-ring bumps, mixing wrestling and reality, and the couple’s expanding career paths.
So, what’s more intimidating: Vying for camera time with the women of WAGS or stepping in the ring with competitors like Stacey Shadows?
Honestly? Being in-ring is much more of a challenge. I’ve been being myself since 1983, so that’s pretty natural and easy for me. I’ve been in-ring for about a year now, and am still learning my trade. My first match was on television with no buffer, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel like I’ve learned faster than a lot of other people for that reason. Every time I wrestle, the last thing you’ve done is the best thing you’ve done, so you have to improve every single time.
By no means are you getting on in years, but being 34 and relatively new to the ring, is WAGS a better indicator of your career’s long-term direction?
[Laughs] As far as setting myself up, good luck pegging me, because I have been the biggest career adapter you will ever meet. It’s hard to keep up with me. I have ideas in my head, but you’re just going to have to wait and see. People have given timelines for their wrestling career, and a lot of those people are still in the ring, women included. This family I’ve married into, they’re very ingrained in the wrestling business. Gosh, Dustin, what is he, 70? And he’s still wrestling. If you’re in it and you love it, it’s part of your life for the long haul in some capacity.
Did any of the WAGS cast look down their nose at wrestling, or has wrestling finally assimilated into the wider tent of mainstream sports?
I think people are still finding out about wrestling, but it’s definitely made its way to a top sport. I didn’t have any concerns about any of the women in my cast. However, I do think a lot of the women were not sure how I would be, so they kind of walked on eggshells, because a lot of them aren’t familiar with the wrestling industry and it was always in the back of their mind of, “If I said the wrong thing to this girl, is she going to knock me out?” [Laughs] And I like that they had that in the back of their minds.
Have you and Bachelorettealum Kenny King bonded over doing double duty between Ring of Honor and reality TV?
[Laughs] No, not at all. I honestly haven’t even thought about it that way. I don’t think I’ve said more than hi to Kenny King ever. And I think that’s in part because The Bachelor is a much different type of show than something like WAGS.
Your blog’s been another key component to your brand, and you’re often pretty candid on it. Has stepping away from WWE and succeeding on your own helped embolden you at all?
I’ve always been a straight shooter and an open book. It’s how I’ve chosen to live my life. I wouldn’t say the success has come our way has opened me up more. It’s given me more of a platform. When I was very young, I didn’t talk a lot. If an adult was speaking, I was listening. I think it was the moment I turned 18 when I was like, “I’m an adult now and have opinions and things to say, so now it’s time for people to listen to me.”
You and Cody are onscreen together for this storyline heading into Final Battle but, otherwise, do your own things. Was that a conscious decision when you both left WWE concurrently?
I think that was just a natural thing. Cody and I early on realized we were always going to want to have our own things. We love working together on some projects, but what’s healthy for us is having our own projects as well. Even if I don’t quite understand what Cody’s up to, I do see his passion behind things and my job is to be supportive. And he’s the same way with me. My blog is his biggest “I don’t get it,’ but he tries so hard. [Laughs] I show him all the money that comes in from that thing, and he still doesn’t get it. But he’s very supportive of it, and we work together in that kind of way.
You’ve actually said that you never expected to marry a wrestler because of things you tend to hear about them. What kinds of things did you hear, and what made Cody different?
Just pay attention to social media. This past year, I’m not gonna name any names, but it’s been rough on a lot of people. Not wrestlers, but athletes in general. And I’m not just talking about men – women as well. Athletes don’t have the best track record as far as relationships go, but when I did decide, “OK, I’m going to explore a relationship here,” I noticed he seemed to be different than what I thought to be typical. He was not a flirt. Cody was hard-working and focused on the job. The respect he had for his father, the general love there, I could feel his heart. I never consider Cody a famous athlete, because the way he treats me and my family and my friends and his friends and family, it’s like my dad does, which says a lot.
In a cultural moment where we hear a lot about men behaving badly, then, it sounds like Cody is a true gentleman.
Absolutely, yes. He was raised very well.