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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: March 31, 2014 - The Only Hero Left
By The Doc
Mar 8, 2014 - 12:57:21 PM

(Doc's Note - This is a continuation of the short story series that I wrote in advance of last year's WrestleMania. To read the entries in that series, please click here)

Can a man be two different people living inside one body?

It is an interesting philosophical question, is it not? One could argue that the only difference between the man in the suit and tie and the crazy guy in the straightjacket audibly speaking the different inflections of the various voices in his head is a diagnosis. The diagnosis changes the way that the one man thinks about himself, which simultaneously changes the way that everyone else looks at him, acts around him, and treats him. The man in the suit is keeping up appearances, but he has voices in his head, too. We all do. Primitive psychology states that if you frighten an animal and shake it to its core than it will submit. One might suggest that a crazy man is just a man frightened by being told that he has a disorder that strips him of all control, putting his fate in the hands of others. The man in the suit, by contrast, does not project such weakness. The alpha mentality understands that to outwardly display fear promotes a loss of his position atop the food chain. It makes him vulnerable.

What if you could tap into the fact that, deep down, we are all both the crazy guy and the man in the suit? What would that look like?

Cody Rhodes, a man whose mental instability is well-documented, was recently interacting with a woman who owed him money. In a pristine Armani suit, Rhodes did not look the part of the compassionate man. He was clearly in the position of power. As the woman in front of him began to break down in tears, the inherent authority of the suit caused him to become angry. She sat there recounting her story of falling down on her luck, hence unable to pay her debt, and Cody was enraged…but not at the woman. For her, he felt nothing but compassion. He knew what it was like to fall on “hard times.” The highs and lows of a professional wrestler’s family were burned into his brain from youth. His father was not the only one wining and dining with kings and queens one year, but sleeping in alleys and dining on pork and beans the next. This woman did, indeed, owe him, but to ignore her legitimate plight was to forget his past…and, as of late, Cody was often reminding himself that he should not try to bury his past. No, his anger was not aimed at her. Rather, it was at the men in suits at the bank who, as poignantly described by the woman, showed no sympathy. That was who drew Cody’s ire.

That is Cody Rhodes….for all intents and purposes, a crazy man…in a suit. Two people trapped inside one body and mind. Devoid of all the societal labels, Cody was no servant to traditions, but the master. If it reads as frightening; well, it should. Some of the most radical men in history have embraced all sides of themselves. Most men walk around as trained robots, having been educated since pre-school to follow. Cody Rhodes is a leader.

“Life sure does have a sick sense of humor, doesn’t it?”

The Wrestling Media has brought back the comparison of Cody to “The Joker” of comic book lore. In the last month, Cody Rhodes – WWE Champion for nearly a year – barely resembles the happy newly-wed from last summer. Neither does he appear to be the same maniacal mastermind from late 2012, early 2013. Every action he takes and every word he speaks carries an aura of control. The WWE is his puppet. Recently, he has been surrounded by like-minded individuals, forming a pack of wolves around an already dangerous creature. Strong-willed as they all were prior to Cody’s influence, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt, and Luke Harper now fall in line. Though they maintain their vicious sense of purpose, each man acts as if they are of one mind – Cody’s mind. We never saw it happen on television, but it was as if Rhodes recognized each as either a crazy man or a suit and psychologically broke each one of them down until they had urine running down their legs. And he has his family of hounds on a leash. Most of the time, he treats them as equals, allowing them to roam free through the WWE. Yet, it has become clear that all Cody would need to do is give a hard pull on the leash and each one would bow down. He keeps them frequently rewarded with amenities befitting his own championship status, pulling the right strings at the right moments with a full understanding of each man’s wants and desires. Suits like the finer things – the women, the hotel suites, the cars, and the exclusivity of rolling with the champ. Crazies like reassurance that their exploits are categorized as opposite of their label – they want to be left to do things that crazies do, but not feel as if they are abnormal. Cody’s understanding of these facts is partly what makes him so dangerous.

On the eve of WrestleMania, a scary thought has crept into the consciousness of the WWE’s most ardent supporters: what if wrestling’s Superman, John Cena, cannot beat Cody Rhodes for the WWE Championship? In a rare instance in the industry’s history, evil triumphed a year ago when Rhodes turned Phil Brooks, the Chicago Made Punk, from the WWE’s personification of Bruce Wayne/Batman into a very dark, Dark Knight. Punk is gone altogether now, broken to his core. Enthusiasts are running out of heroes on which to pin their hopes.

Rhodes would have you believe that there is no tale of good vs. evil being told, here. The world wants you to think that everything is black and white, while Cody wants it to embrace the shades of gray. Good and evil are words created by people whose undying faith in subjectively interpreted text gives them a false sense of reality. When he was touring the country over the summer as the WWE’s new poster boy, Cody encountered a young man whose mother and father were incredibly grounded in their higher-power belief. Yet, their son received a flu shot and started having seizures. Constantly misdiagnosed for six months, he got worse and worse, tumbled down the medical rabbit hole, and was eventually labeled as “crazy.” Instead of an inspiring athlete on the rise, the young man had been reduced to a psych ward patient because of men playing God and their egos. Where was the justice in that? All the praying in the world did a religious family how much good when their son was given a pharmaceutical concoction bred for wealth rather than health? The weak minded get tricked every day with these silly constructs – right vs. wrong, good vs. evil. “When you’re staring into the barrel of a loaded gun…what’s the difference?

The ends justify the means. And what does it matter, anyway…the means? Who are you to judge him? You want what you want until you get what you want and then you want something else. The manner in which you achieve is detestable by Cody’s definition. You whine and complain, standing on your soapbox like you know something about anything. Perception shapes reality and your views have been sculpted by a builder who flunked out of architecture school. What do you know? Your black and white views of the world are why the fifth and sixth generation Americans whose forefathers worked so hard to put you in a land of opportunity are working so hard to get back to their homelands. “Self pity is an insidious destroyer of self reliance.” So, you go ahead and continue to wonder aloud about how little you understand the actions of Cody Rhodes. Continue being self righteous. Cody will go on as WWE Champion for as long as he wants because the people you put against him in opposition – men like John Cena - are laughably easy to influence.

You don’t get to the position that John Cena is in without knowing a few things about the ways of the world. It was no happy accident that he became the face of the world’s preeminent sports entertainment company. He came to the WWE with an old school, bring your lunch pale and go to work mentality. His failures were not perceived as such; merely as doors closing to open the ones that led to success, as far as Cena is concerned. Every decision that he made on his road to superstardom was made with the goal in mind to be the very best version of himself that he could be.

That may very well be why Cody Rhodes loses to John Cena at WrestleMania. Rhodes underestimates Cena’s psychological understanding. What Cody fails to understand about Cena is that John can see the same things that Rhodes does. He sees the way that people are. Sometimes, he and his family joke around about how little the wrestling world seems to think of Cena’s intelligence. “Do those people really think that you care what they think,” his dad once asked at a gathering at the elder Cena’s West Newbury, Massachusetts home. “You represent them as well as any wrestler ever has as a spokesperson for the brand. You’re articulate and thoughtful and insightful and genuinely care about what you’re doing. Stay the course, son. Someday, they’re going to appreciate what your passion. That will be your legacy.” What Cody does not seem to grasp about Cena is that John has been around so many different people from so many diverse backgrounds – the poverty stricken to the filthy rich – and yet he still maintains the same outlook on life because he chooses to. Not because he is ignorant or because he has his head in the clouds (or the sand) about the current state of the world, but because he believes in the innate ability of people to do great things. He believes in concepts such as “benefit of the doubt” and of giving people the chance to learn and grow. It is why he has spent so much of his wrestling career failing to retaliate when the fans that did not like him boldly stated their positions. He believes that by countering their hate with love that he can inspire them in a world where it has become increasingly difficult to find inspiration. Besides, from the industry’s perspective, John Cena has been doing for the last ten years exactly what Shawn Michaels taught him, who was taught by Tully Blanchard before him – making people react the loudest for the longest.

In today’s society, people have a hard time grasping that someone like Cena can still exist. He is wrestling’s Superman, but the public no longer wants a Superman. They much prefer the flawed, tortured soul that is Batman – they can relate to Batman (even wrestling’s version, who was turned upside down by the destructive influences of an honest-to-goodness cerebral assassin and has now quit pro wrestling). People would rather embrace the harshness that they believe that their realities can create instead of standing up defiantly and saying “I will absolutely not allow this moment of defeat to be the end game.” Last summer, Cena met a family on a Make-A-Wish Foundation stop that had established a destructive pattern of doubts. Every day, they awoke to thoughts of the same plights that had shaped the day before. Yet, rather than embrace a new day full of new possibilities, they carried yesterday’s pain forward, creating a vicious cycle. Round and round they went every day, consumed by the negativity and carrying it into tomorrow. Cena suggested to them that they find an outlet to channel their stress into something more constructive. In November, he was forwarded an email from WWE, sent by the patriarch of that family. The man said that he had started playing guitar again for 30 minutes per day and it had been enough for him to break the cycle. Just months after the world seemed fundamentally opposed to his family’s success, he had pulled himself out of the muck by merely waking up to the possibility of playing a musical instrument for a small portion of the day. The next thing he knew, he had a job working for a man who shared his affinity for playing guitar. The positive energy had worked its way into his ailing child’s psyche. Another email over Christmas relayed a message to Cena that the child had beaten her once dire diagnosis and she was in full remission.

Such stories were the reason why Cena maintained his outlook, fully aware of the unfortunate circumstance surrounding the lives of many, but concentrating his attention and influence on the people that he could inspire. You see, Cena believes with every fiber of his being that the joy that he experiences from doing his job trumps all the doubters and naysayers who well represent the modern society of people that seem convinced that the world is a bad place with incompetent morons at the helm driving us in directions that we don’t want to go. He wants to be the lightning rod. Even though it attracts so much energy, he – as a lightning rod - causes that energy to be met with a force so full of positivity and know-how about the way that things “could be” that it can overpower the learned behavior of pessimism and judgment.

Momentary lapses, such as the one that he publicly displayed to the world in 2012/2013 were the exception in his life rather than the rule. It was part of his journey. As Cody Rhodes might say, “the ends justified the means.” He had to go through that destructive experience to help him regain his psychological form. In conversations with his father, Cena reflects on the trials of between WrestleManias 28 and 29 like a fellow athlete might about a career-threatening physical injury. He is a genuine guy with an admirable approach to life. John, Sr. recently told his son, “You live this life long enough and the world changes around you along with all the people in it. You’re the kind of guy that shows people that they don’t have to change just because everyone else does.”

Superman has been around for nearly a century. We’ve seen World Wars, real men in space, computers, cell phones, the internet, electric cars, and on down the line. Superman is still here, sporting the red and blue suit and the cape. At WrestleMania XXX, Cody Rhodes will find out why Superman has endured…

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