By Chuck Carroll
Brandi Rhodes grew tired of what he felt was a lack of opportunity in WWE. She was feeling underutilized and decided to leave. She knew that what she saw in the mirror, what she knew in her heart, was correct — there was so much more that she could accomplish if only given the chance. But no matter how hard she pushed, she could never move forward and instead was relegated to her singular role. It was a role she played very well, but it was not satisfying. She wanted more. And so she risked it all and walked away from the biggest wrestling promotion in the world.
Brandi Rhodes followed her husband, Cody Rhodes, out of WWE and into the unknown. Her husband’s gamble has paid off handsomely with global stardom; his status in professional wrestling has never been higher. It would be easy to ride Cody’s coattails, but that’s not what Brandi wants. She’s eager to carve her own path and solidify her own brand.
That is what brought Brandi to Ring of Honor. Cody’s presence there may have cracked the door for her slightly, but she kicked it down. And to ensure that she’s out from under his wing, she’s wrestling in a division he would have no place in — Women of Honor. After getting her first taste of action recently, she’s promising more in the future. As her hunger grows, she’s out to prove she is more than just an announcer.
Gambling on herself and leaving what many would consider a dream job is turning out quite well. Not only is she working on future dates with ROH, but she’s also busy with a new non-wrestling-related television project in the Atlanta area and gaining a steady following for her musings as a blogger.
I spoke with Brandi Rhodes recently about her ROH debut and the touching tribute she paid to her late father-in-law, Dusty Rhodes. She also cleared the air about the circumstances surrounding her departure from Global Force Wrestling and talked about missed opportunities in WWE.
>>LISTEN: The full Brandi Rhodes interview
It seems like there are a lot of new and exciting things going on in your life right now. You just debuted in Ring of Honor…
Yeah, I did. That was quite something! That was something I decided to do on my own. There’s always the comfort of being able to do something with Cody and be part of his brand, and the fun that he’s having, and ride that wave. There have been some attempts for me to do things standalone, and unfortunately they’ve all gravitated to Cody Rhodes. But Women of Honor is just Women of Honor, and there can’t be any Cody in Women of Honor. They expressed interest in me and working together. I like all of the girls so much, so I thought that would be a great way to branch out to Brandi Rhodes by herself. I know that people like the Brandi and Cody thing, which is great and fun, but it’s nice to do your own thing sometimes.
I hear there are some big things coming down the pike for Women of Honor, so you have to be pretty excited about the future there.
From what I’m hearing, there are all sorts of opportunities coming. They have been very welcoming… I’ve expressed that I’m very much interested in continuing on with them and working with them in whatever capacity we can agree to. Their core group of women has been working at this for quite some time. I don’t know if people realize they’ve been putting in all sorts of work behind the scenes and trying to get this thing to take off and do it the right way. Their motto is they don’t want anything handed to them.
Does that mean I can infer that your appearance was just a one-time thing and there aren’t dates booked in the future?
That is not true. There is some future stuff coming up for me, but as far as definitely being on the roster, that part we’re still talking about. But I’ll definitely be making some appearances there in the future.
In your ROH debut, your ring attire was a tribute to your father-in-law, Dusty Rhodes. Talk to me about the decision to do that. It must have been an emotional thing.
When people want to honor other people, it’s a wonderful thing. But there are a lot of factors that you have to take into consideration when you do that. A lot of time it’s the families of those people. How do they feel about it, how are they dealing with things and what does it mean to them? It took me awhile to do this, even though I am family. It took me some time to decide that I was ready to wear the polka dots.
I wanted to make sure it was going to be a match that meant something. For me, stepping into a Ring of Honor ring was going to be the biggest match I ever had. So, I wanted to commemorate that in a great way, and the best way I could think to do that was to wear these polka dots. That was for me and for Cody. It was an emotional thing.
But I was so shocked at how well received it was. It was like they were waiting for it. I’m so glad I was able to do that and people can appreciate it. It encourages people to then be more open about their feelings about things and say, ‘Hey, I was the biggest fan of Dusty, and I got to meet him one time.’ I love hearing things like that. It was really cool for me. It’s something I will continue to do sparingly. I’m a fashionista, I have a lot of ring gear and different looks I’m going to be trying. But those will definitely be around for some time.
Recently, you left Global Force Wrestling. There was a report that the company wanted a cut of your revenue from a non-wrestling-related television show. What’s the story there?
Unfortunately, that story is kind of a mess. There are some valid statements that I’ve seen, but it’s really not as dramatic as people want it to be. Basically, Cody and I were very candid with what we were doing after WWE as far as contracts go. People are confused. I never signed the contract that people think I signed with Global Force stating that they got percentages.
What I did sign was a tentative contract with Impact Wrestling when they were still Impact. That contract had a clause for me, because I was already working on some stuff in other areas of television. That clause basically said that if something else in television were to happen for me, they can’t be uncooperative. And if they were uncooperative, we would be able to part ways. And that is honestly what happened. So, I am filming something awesome in Atlanta, but I can’t say what it is.
Not even a hint?
(laughs) Nope! Now that is what I am under contract for. I really can’t say things. I really do have legal obligations there. It is really great and amazing and requires a ton of my time. It has what they call in Hollywood a “first option,” meaning the network I’m working with gets first option on everything — the dates and everything that I’m doing pretty much.
So, when Impact changed over, I spoke with them about different things that I needed to do regarding the show… But there was a lot of buck-back. I just said, ‘Okay guys, I just want to exercise this clause and move on. No harm, no foul.’ They completely understood, and that’s what happened. It’s not a grudge story, nobody is angry, nothing like that. They did not have the ability to take 10 percent of my revenue for anything at all. That is not true. They did not try to take 10 percent of anything. They just were not cooperative with some filming things, and this company is the one I’m under contract with, so they won.
You’re getting all sorts of opportunities now, and it makes me think back to your time in WWE. You initially joined Florida Championship Wrestling, you were training to be a wrestler. And then somehow ended up transitioning into an announcer. Were you disappointed with the way things turned out? Maybe feel like there were missed opportunities?
Yes, and no. I really enjoyed ring announcing and had a lot of fun with that. I had many different ways to challenge myself with that and make it fun and interesting. But when you’ve been an athlete and used to being a physical person, sometimes that takes over. And you’re kind of like, ‘Okay, when am I going to get my chance to do my thing?’
While I was announcing I was the same person I am now, who was in the gym, eating right and doing all of these things. Being physical [is] something I’ve always done. I figure skated for 17 years on a highly competitive level. So, sitting down and watching other people compete is a difficult thing for me. … I felt like there was potential for more, and I did try. People have seen some of the backstage shoots with myself and Cody doing these different characters. It would have been so much fun. Just not being able to get there got a little frustrating. Being able to do all of the stuff now, it’s so much fun and confirms for me I was able to do more, and I was ready to do more.
We’ve heard WWE, Vince McMahon in particular, say we don’t have people who necessarily step up and get that brass ring. It sounds like you tried really hard to get that brass ring. And it makes me wonder whether or not the environment is actually conducive to letting people step up there. Or is it a case where people are pigeonholed into their one role, and it’s hard to change lanes from that.
I think it’s definitely hard to change lanes if you’re doing a good job, which is a catch-22. Of course you want to do a good job. No one wants to put a half-foot forward. You always want to put your best foot forward. It’s very difficult when you’re doing well, which is a compliment to you. But at the same time, if you’re a hungry person and you want more, it’s not going to be enough.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.