Posted in: Doctor's Orders Doctor's Orders: August 20, 2012 - A Viper at a Cross Rhodes
By The Doc
May 30, 2012 - 8:16:02 PM
(Doc's Note - To maximize the following experience, please watch the opening crawl)
August 20, 2012
Money in the Bank may have been a terrible day for the city of Chicago and millions of other WWE fans that witnessed CM Punk lose the championship to John Cena, but it was the best day in the young life of Cody Rhodes. It had seemed, for a couple of years, that it was only a matter of time before Rhodes became a world champion. The time came a month ago, with Cody defeating Sheamus and Wade Barrett in a triple threat match. His current friend and former teacher, Randy Orton, was on hand the next week on Smackdown to congratulate him. Cody’s Hall of Fame father was there, as well. It was a momentous occasion that ended with the three of them fending off an attack by the Union, who collectively made it clear that they, in addition to the Celtic former champion, were gunning for the new title holder.
It came as a surprise to Rhodes when Orton won the Battle Royal to crown a #1 contender to his title a week after he retained against Sheamus due to Barrett’s minor interference. He had been mentally preparing for a member of the Union to emerge as his Summerslam challenger. Orton winning caught him off guard. They had just gotten back on the same page a couple of months ago. To face each other so soon, with the World Heavyweight Championship on the line, would certainly be a bad thing for their friendship. “Wait a second,” he thought. “Is this really a friendship?” Rhodes knew better than anyone how vindictive Orton could be when it came to the world title. On the other hand, it certainly seemed that they were friends. Besides, why did their title match need to get personal? Couldn’t they just have a classic match and that be the end of it? Not every title bout needed to be about something other than the title, right? Cody figured that the best thing that he could do would be to defeat Orton at Summerslam, move him to the back of the line, and subsequently shift his focus to the honor and privilege of being World Champion and carrying the brand.
Orton, meanwhile, quietly studied his former protégé. He could see the conflict in his eyes. He’d been there before; the young champion holding the big belt for the first time and, low and behold, his first major title defense on PPV ended up being against his mentor. From personal experience, he understood that it wasn’t the most ideal of circumstances. Orton had his own issues to deal with, though. The World title meant a lot to him. He wouldn’t tell this to anyone, but he was young enough and had enough years ahead of him in his career that he’d set his sights on breaking Ric Flair’s record of 16 World title reigns. He was at a point in his career where he knew he’d never be labeled as one of the biggest money-making stars of all-time, but he still had the chance to be remembered as one of the best. 17-time World Champion would ensure that, he figured. Unfortunately, to do it, he had to unseat Rhodes and make history repeat itself. It gave him an uneasy feeling to do to Cody what had been done to him. Yet, he took solace in the fact that he had no plans of turning his back on Cody the way that Triple H had done to him in 2004. Randy figured the best thing he could do would be to defeat Rhodes at Summerslam, have a classic series of matches with him, and help Cody build a legacy in the midst of continuing his own as the World Champion.
Cody and Randy kept their respective cools, tagging up to take on the Union in rematches from Vengeance. On the surface, all seemed well between the two. Oh, to be, though, inside the minds of two historically unstable superstars…
For Randy Orton, the maturity that came from his past mistakes gave him guidance. He had a clear cut goal in mind. He’s always been one of the best in the sport at giving you a better understanding of his emotions through his body language rather than his words and his expressions leading up to and during the Summerslam match showed the poise and confidence of a 10-year veteran with two handfuls of World title experience. It was not malicious, his quest to regain the gold. He looked at it like a veteran quarterback of the NFL with unfinished business to attend to in his Hall of Fame career facing the signal caller in the Super Bowl that would one day be in his shoes. There was mutual respect between them, Orton surmised, but he knew how to game plan for a championship situation on a big stage like Summerslam and he intended to use that advantage. Nothing personal; but this was the World Heavyweight Championship; Orton’s World Heavyweight Championship.
For Cody Rhodes, the pressure was beginning to mount. It had been his goal from day one to become the World Champion and shoulder the load for the WWE. Riding the roads with John Cena years prior, he learned that he wanted that responsibility; that’s why he wanted Orton to guide him earlier in his career. He saw himself as being cut from the same mold as the Viper; as a man that would do whatever it took to get to the top and stay at the top. He saw Orton differently than the other veterans. Randy smelled like smoke because he’d been through fire. Expectations were heaped upon him, perhaps too many and too quickly, but he persevered. From Orton, Rhodes learned a lot about the modern wrestling business and what to expect, but he was starting to find that there was no replacement for living it. Cody looked and acted ready for the challenge of being the champion and one of the new faces of the WWE, but his inner peace was gone. How odd was it that Rhodes was put in a similar situation as Orton had been for his first title defense? It was as if the universe was playing a game with them, bringing the World Championship full circle from seven years and eleven months prior. The difference, Cody knew, would be the outcome. He would win. That much, he could foresee. The burning question in his mind was whether or not he could do it and shake Orton’s hand afterward.
Truth be told, Rhodes would have felt more comfortable if Orton had turned on him in the weeks building to Summerslam. He felt out of his element facing a man that he openly respected. Usually, his respect for his opponents stayed buried and it was his animosity that took center stage. It was easy for him to flip a switch in the ring, channeling years of pent up aggression toward his father and brother into a ravenous need to destroy the man on the opposite side of the ring. That was what set him apart from his up-and-coming peers. Those guys weren’t teased for their polka dotted father dancing like a buffoon in front of some of the largest wrestling viewing audiences of all-time. They weren’t picked on for their brother cross dressing and acting like a perverted maniac. He’d not yet admit this in an interview, but he didn’t fall in love and enter this business because of his family’s wrestling heritage, but in spite of it. So, this whole “fighting for the glory of being champion with all due respect to your challenger” thing was not Cody’s comfort zone. You’d only know that by studying his demeanor very carefully, though. On a few occasions, that old lip curling snarl has been there. It’s been an internal battle for Cody.
For twenty-three minutes at Summerslam, they fought like only could a teacher and student separated by several years since their classroom relationship. Rhodes pulled out some tricks that Orton was not prepared for and they nearly cost Randy the match on numerous occasions in the first half of the match. During that same stretch, Orton perfectly characterized that old wrestling adage that he might’ve taught Cody most of what Rhodes knows, but he didn’t teach Cody everything that Randy knows. He picked his spots and pushed Cody’s buttons, testing his maturation and patience. That may not have been the best strategy, given Cody’s psyche, but Orton is no mind reader. How was he to know that all Rhodes was looking for was the most minor of excuses to mentally morph into the deranged psychopath that we’ve seen in the past. Most assumed that was Rhodes playing a character, but was it really?
Roughly thirteen minutes in, Rhodes threw the first punch. Orton responded in kind, for it’s not as if he lacks his own brand of rage that he can draw from in a moment’s notice. The difference between Rhodes and Orton is that Randy knows better when to use it and how to control it. Orton actually smiled when Rhodes started the brawl. In his mind, it made Cody more prone to mistakes. In fact, he was counting on it. Orton’s strategy slowly began to unfold. He wanted to goad Rhodes into making the same mistakes that he, himself, had made years ago. Triple H had taught him to make every move count, be prepared to withstand the onslaught of your opponent’s comeback – because, at this level, perseverance is a championship pre-requisite – and then conserve your energy while preparing for your final strike. Being groomed by the man known for cerebrally assassinating his assailants has its advantages and making Cody believe that the match had just evolved into a battle that he was better equipped to win, opening the door for the comeback, was the psychological ploy Orton had become well known for.
The problem for Orton was that being trained by a predator at the apex of his career has advantages of its own and Cody had thought one move ahead of his mentor in this grappling game of chess. Making every move count was one of the first lessons that Orton passed onto Rhodes, so it was no accident and no deviation from his own plan when he threw down the fisticuffs. Allowing Orton to assume he was in control was the clever ploy he was attempting to execute. At what he figured was just the right time, he started the very comeback that Orton thought he knew was the last ditch effort. He went so far as to purposefully attempt the Beautiful Disaster knowing that the Viper was lying in wait to strike with the RKO. Certain victory for his challenger seemed imminent when Orton connected, but there was something about knowing what was coming that helped Rhodes better absorb the impact of the blow. He managed to kick out, assuming that he’d foiled Randy’s approach and spoiled his title quest. Essentially, Cody had just out-snaked the Viper. Now, it was Rhodes in position for the final strike after overcoming Orton’s comeback. The script had been flipped.
The dream sequence that had played out in Cody’s head seemed to be coming true as he took Randy to the Cross Rhodes, but when the ref’s count didn’t reach three, it was as if Cody was waking into a nightmare. As Orton struggled back to his feet, he oddly had a smile on his face, as if he was taunting Rhodes’s failure to remember the lesson about resiliency at the championship level. At that point, Rhodes knew of nothing else that he could do. This was no longer a game of chess where he could map out his next move in time. He had to think quickly as if he was in a football game and the seconds on the clock were ticking down to zero. So, he thought of the one thing that he could do that was previously known to send Orton flying off the hinges.
What Cody did, Randy couldn’t believe, at first. He stared at him incredulously. If you couldn’t hear Orton’s words audibly, the camera was zoomed close enough on his face that you could read his lips. “Are you f*cking serious?!”
Rhodes didn’t spit on Orton; he hadn’t reached the point of the ultimate sign of disrespect, in his mentor’s eyes. However, he did spit near Orton. Predictably, Randy lost control. He nearly got disqualified. Perhaps that was what Rhodes was hoping for. In fact, that must have been the result he was aiming at. Unfortunately for Cody, Orton was able to keep it together long enough to score with another RKO. The brilliance, intentional or not, in Cody’s audible was that the engaged challenger did not go for the cover. The anger spilled over and he instead decided to unleash the Punt that had once taken Rhodes out of commission at a Wrestlemania. That was a younger, unassuming version of Cody, though. The World Heavyweight Champion edition of Rhodes was poised to take advantage of Orton’s mistake. In one swift movement, Rhodes backpedaled to avoid the kick, poked Randy in the eye, vaulted into a springboard off the ropes for the Disaster kick AND……
Second time was the charm.
Randy Orton became the World Heavyweight Champion again. As he celebrated his victory, Rhodes writhed around on the mat, careful not to show his face. The crowd showered the two with congratulatory applause. They’d just seen a classic match to add to Summerslam’s rich history. Cody rolled out of the ring and snatched the World title before it could be handed to the new champion. He got back in the ring and “Voices” stopped playing; this was not a moment that needed a musical backdrop. Orton’s gaze darted up and down between Cody’s face and the title he was holding. You could see Orton say to him, “You spit at me,” half questioning and half stating. Rhodes shook his head and shrugged his shoulders before extending the belt Orton’s way. Randy cocked his head to the side, studying Cody’s expressions. Then, he smiled at him and nodded. He clapped his hands and patted him on the shoulder, telling him just loud enough for the cameras to pick up, “I look forward to the rematch.” The crowd applauded again in approval of the sportsmanship. Cody replied, “So do I.”
The crowd gasped.
Rhodes didn’t hand the title to Orton after all. Instead, he blasted him right in the face with it, eyes wide with rage and filled with moisture. Clutching the title tightly to his chest, he bent down and screamed at Orton, “SO…DO….I!!!!”