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WWE Superstar Cody Rhodes on His Killer Mustache, Ribbing Damien Sandow, and Which Legendary Tag Team He'd Love to Battle

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When second-generation WWE superstar Cody Rhodes came back from injury late last year, he shocked the world upon his return. He didn't sport a new attitude or unleash a heinous attack on an unsuspecting foe, mind you, but offered a new addition to his look: A killer mustache.

The 27-year-old son of the legendary Dusty Rhodes has gotten plenty of grief over his new cookie duster (from both his fellow superstars and the WWE Universe), but he's taking it all in stride. Especially since it's getting him a whole lot of attention, period, which is what any wrestler craves. Rhodes' 'stache isn't the only thing that WWE's fans are focusing on these days, as he and his tag partner Damien Sandow have been racking up victories lately and will challenge for the WWE's tag team titles this Sunday during the Royal Rumble at US Airways Center.

See also: - WWE Superstar Antonio Cesaro on Ugly Americans, Being the United States Champion, and Why He's Tired of Being Called Eurotrash - WWE Superstar Ryback on Comparisons to Goldberg, Avoiding Injury, and How He'll Steal the Show at Royal Rumble - WWE to Bring Fan Fest to US Airways Center a Day Before Its Royal Rumble Pay-Per-View

Jackalope Ranch had an opportunity to speak with Rhodes via telephone and learned a few things about how he ribbed [a.k.a. pulled practical jokes] on Sandow, his feelings on the tag team situation in the WWE, why Kofi Kingston's attention-grabbing handstand at last year's Royal Rumble wasn't all that great, and other topics. Rhodes was definitely in a mood to shoot during our conversation, which you can see for yourself below.

So how's your mustache doing? It's growing. The first few weeks of having it were pretty tacky and it really wasn't there as much as it might have appeared on TV. But now it's actually [there]. It's weird because I never seen any of the men in my family with facial hair, so I guess from my mom's side it's pretty thick.

Did Dusty or Dustin never rocked a mustache during their careers? Dustin does that little Val Kilmer kind of thing, the scraggly hair-type thing on the face [a soul patch] and so does my dad occasionally. They've never grown things in a full flush manner. I don't think I've ever seen my dad with a lot of facial hair.

There's no thought of shaving it despite any the negative feedback? I cannot shave it, because now it's to the point of...I came back after 25 days from two very serious injuries. I had the foolish thought in my mind that I thought the crowd was going to maybe even react to me in a positive manner from this Rocky-like montage I had put together to get back, but instead they chanted "Cody's mustache." So at this point I just am angry enough at everybody enough to continue to keep it.

Just to spite them? Just to spite them. And honestly if they're chanting...I saw two mockups for a t-shirt yesterday, at least I get the money from that t-shirt. There's actually a proud tradition of mustaches in wrestling... Oh my gosh, yeah.

...Like Magnum T.A. or Rick Rude for instance. Bret Hart texted me and said, "Are you paying homage to Rick Rude?" and I felt bad that it was such a long, stupid explanation for the mustache that I just said, "Yes." And now he's really into it. I love Rick Rude. I've paid homage to Rick Rude in other ways.

Does that include being a villain? Like looking at some of the WWE's major heels of the past such as Rick Rude who really knew how to work a crowd? I call it stealing, just flat out stealing. Everyone who lives with me hates it because all I do, I watch either Netflix or Classics on Demand because I still get a kick out of different elements of sports entertainment, so I see something every week. Whether I remember [something] when I get there and I'm nervous as hell on Monday or Tuesday but I always try to watch guys that have that side to them like the moves they did. The stuff they did in between the moves is just amazing to me. I still remember today, so I try to steal something pretty regularly.

There's supposedly a seven-year statute of limitations on gimmick infringement. Oh yeah?

Yeah, it dictates that anything older than seven years is fair game. Man, I look at it this way, if a guy's retired, it depends on how popular it was. Like you can't just steal something, there's backlash when you try to steal something that was super, super popular. I like it when guys steal stuff that was popular, but it's more you're doing it your own way. As far as moves go, if a guy out...fair game. If you put him out...it's fair game. I don't know what I'm going to steal from Booker T. I've literally tried that spin around sunset flip in the corner 50 times and fallen on my head twice so I've got to steal something from him.

But even with the mustache do you still have the prettiest face in the WWE? I can use a mustache. I was just telling a gentleman that asked a similar question what an excuse I have, I did 14 vignettes on how to make yourself dashing. I can get away with a mustache for a short period of time, I think. I hope.

You were out of action recently because of injuries. After coming back, do you take extra care to avoid going back on the shelf? First day I came back, against everyone' wishes, I got in the ring with Ted Dibiase and he gave me a backdrop. I needed to do that. When you're afraid of getting hurt, I feel you will get hurt. What happened was a freak thing and I'm very lucky. I turned my head in just a way that I tore those muscles in my back and deltoid but I didn't break my neck. But I'm no good if I just tone it back. I'm not 300 pounds, I can't walk around as a big bruiser. I have to be able to fly. So, no.

You and Damien Sandow will face Team Hell No at the Royal Rumble, correct? I wouldn't be surprised if you saw a tag title match with us and Team Hell No. [Note: This interview was done a few weeks before it was announced that the Rhodes Scholars would face Team Hell No at Royal Rumble.] I certainly think that might be Damien and myself, that might be the direction we go in. We don't really consider ourselves -- talk to him he'll tell you the same thing -- a tag team. I think other people consider us a tag team more than we do but we certainly like what we are doing.

Where does Damien come up with all those poems and obscure quotes? Is it something you rehearse behind the scenes? That's all Damien. He has a little devotional book and there's a lot of that information in there. That's something he's very into. Very few people help him with that. If you tried to write something for Damien, it would probably backfire because he knows something that's better. But for the quotes -- like the T.S. Elliot quotes and things like that -- they pale in comparison to the little things.

I'll watch one of our segments and he just makes me laugh at how he gasps at certain things, how he'll be talking while you're talking but what he is saying is rather funny. I think he told me this past Monday "good form" on an absolutely horrible, horrible high-class joke but it made the joke funny because he said, "Good form." He's brilliant, he's one of the better guys on the mic in years.

Do you guys roll together on the road? I'll be honest with you, we don't. I tried to ride with him two weeks ago and he has this secret road agenda he's up to that I'm like now curious about spying on to see what he's doing. I have no clue. But he basically ignored me for the first time in our long friendship because I've known him since OVW. So now I will never ask him again because now he offers every week, but I will never ride with him again because he's up to something so I'll let him get it out of the way.

Do you ever rib him at all on the road or backstage? I don't know if I rib him as much as he's extremely driven. He's really just a passionate guy. We're on a lot of tours together, like we're getting ready to be in Puerto Rico this weekend and we spend a lot of those times together trying to come up with different ideas for what the team can do. And I'll end up kind of fleshing them out, but they'll usually start with him. But with that stuff it's fun to rib him because I'll just use a little bit of experience I have here, and I'll say like, "Oh, such and such really hates that," which is a complete lie. And he'll be like, "Really?" So yeah, I always try to use my little bit of seniority I have here to get under his skin. But that's it, I really don't rib anybody. I dress alone, I keep to myself. I've been there long enough I pretty much don't like anybody.

What do you mean by "such and such"? I said, "Such and such really hates that," like if he's coming up with some sort of thought he's going to go run by one of our producers or one of our bosses, I just try to get under his skin with a little inside politics stuff, but it's never true.

How do you feel about the recent renewal of tag team wrestling in WWE? You know, when it's like classified like that, I hate it. Because tag team wrestling -- especially in the south, not so much in old WWE -- but tag team wrestling is just part of sports entertainment. That tag at the right point, on the right night should be the most exciting 15 seconds of your life.

But when you talk about the overall, the renewal, I don't know, I still want to see something from a lot of guys. I think Damien and I stick out like sore thumbs because we're very good at what we do. But we also have guys like The Usos, that's a true tag team, they're brothers, and I keep wondering when are they going to give themselves the kick in the ass to show us all what they can do because I know for a fact they're extremely talented.

The same with guys like Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd. Anybody who's in the know knows that Jason Kidd is an absolute assassin in the ring. So if they want to be part of this resurgence, if they don't want a guy like Kane and a guy like Daniel Bryan -- who are as well good as singles as they are in a tag, same with Damien and myself -- if they don't want to [things] dominated by guys like that, if they want it to be the true tag teams, then they really have to step up.

Among the greatest tag teams in wrestling history -- from the Rock 'n' Roll Express to the Midnight Express -- who would you love to face in an hypothetical scenario? In a hypothetical situation, it would be The Freebirds, and I would say [Terry] Gordie and [Michael] Hayes of the Freebirds because Michael has been instrumental in my career. He has been a guiding light for me. And I forget sometimes, until I go back and look at footage of him when he was 21 or 22 years old, tearing up the World Class Championship Wrestling territory, just setting it on fire. And it would be a good opportunity for someone like Damien and me to watch and learn, especially from two guys like that. Midnight and the Rock and Rolls is a very obvious selection, but The Freebirds, Gordie and Hayes would be fun, personally for me and Damien. We make fun of Michael on the road regularly, it would be a lot of fun.

Which two singles wrestlers would you love to face off against? Hmmm...like in the current way of things? Good question, because I'm really trying to think of who's better. You know what, just off the top of my head, I wouldn't mind seeing a tag team -- and it's highly unlikely -- I wouldn't mind seeing a tag team with Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio. Because as much as they probably gravely dislike one another, it's very similar in how they are as singles competitors, and their aggression, and they're very similar. I know with Randy first hand, whenever you get involved with him he's always trying to one up you and you're always trying to one up him and I think that would be very compelling not in a comedy way, in a real sports entertainment way.

There are a slew of second and third generation wrestlers in WWE. Not only you, but also on the roster of NXT. Yeah...Bray Wyatt, Bo Dallas, Richie Steamboat.

Are you look forward to eventually facing them? And do you think it's great these wrestling families keep on producing superstars? Honestly, when I hear, "Hey we signed such and such's kid." I get a little trepidatious, because it's so hard. It's so difficult. It's easy as can be when you have that legacy to get in the door, but my gosh, you have to do everything great. Dean Malenko -- who's another second generation told me this once and he was 100 percent right -- I used to do the Dusty jabs. He said, "Don't do the Dusty jabs, definitely don't do the Dusty elbow, don't bleach your hair. Do everything fresh." And he was right. And that's what those guys, that Bray Wyatt of NXT has really stepped outside any parallels to his father, and I think that's what guys need to focus on because all you're doing is you're bringing up old memories when you go out there as a junior. You need to go out there as yourself and see what you can offer.

Do you think that's why Joe Hennig is not Joe Hennig? He's like a hot button issue because he's obviously really talented and he has his legacy and Mr. Perfect was who he was. I always looked at it and I think I'm wrong cause I don't know anything other than what anyone else would know in this situation. I always looked at it as that "Boy Named Sue" type of thing and if he could move forward with such a silly name then he really was worth his weight. I don't know if he looks at it...that's just the philosophy I had on it.

It is such a bad name. But there is, certain guys have certain magic and I don't mean to bring myself up on here but this crowd today is chanting Cody's mustache. I feel like if my mustache is getting a certain reaction then I'm doing something right. And this type of thing when I think about Joe, if I had put together a stable of young second generations it would be Joe Henning. I don't, at this point, I don't know if it will ever be Joe Henning.

If you somehow wind up in this year's Royal Rumble match, are you hoping to be the standout? Like when Kofi Kingston did that handstand last year? I would so argue with you that it wasn't Kofi Kingston because who lasted over 45 minutes eliminated six WWE super stars and two of them old timers. You remember who that was? It was me. It wasn't Kofi and his stupid, stupid handstand. Kofi is always a guy who finds something like that to stand out.

I think for me, I'm very worried about the Royal Rumble. I did last over 45 minutes and I thought I really put myself in a great area to shine. I want to do that again. I love the Royal Rumble. My first year in the Royal Rumble was in Madison Square Garden and one of the happiest things, best things I ever did was exploit in the ring and beat up CM Punk for just a second, he'd been in there for just a little while and I had nothing else to do so I went over and I hit Undertaker in the back and the next series of things that happened were one of the very early highlights of my career so the Rumble to me can really make, break, define guys eyes in the people and in our superiors so I'm trying to think of how to do it again.

Is the Rumble itself booked down to the individual move? Honestly, I wish people could be flies on the wall when it comes to the Rumble match itself. You cannot plan a match like that with 30 superstars because here's what your forgetting: 30 egos make for compelling television. I really can't answer that, but no, it's not something that is booked down to the last move.

Do superstars freedom to actually improvise? A Rumble is improvisation. The Rumble is improv.

You feel like a musician out there, riffing solo or collaborating to make a great match? No, I really don't know how to describe the Rumble. I know that it's one of my favorite matches. I know that it can end a career and it can make a career. I treat a lot of what I do in a solo situation like it is music and maybe that's the best way to look at it. Here's all these great musicians and what can they provide.

Every year, the Royal Rumble feature surprise entrants. Who would you love to see make a return? Back in the day, surprises were kind of like offhand, goofy surprises. If one guy could be a surprise entrant in the Rumble and I could be the one to throw him out, I'd say it would be Triple H. I don't think there's anything more exciting than throwing your boss out. I know he's moving away from the in the ring stuff and he's had a Hall of Fame career but I had a shot at him when I was 21/22 and Ted Dibiase and myself were unsuccessful, I'd take another shot.

What would your reaction be if you heard your father's theme song and saw the "Son of a Plumber Man" coming down the aisle? I would try to meet him the aisle because I don't know if he would survive because going over the top rope so I would certainly try to meet him in the aisle and say, "Maybe this isn't the best situation for you." Now if it was my brother I would just wait for him to get in the ring and kick him right in the teeth and that's a different story, but my old man, I don't think he could handle the Rumble.

The Royal Rumble pay-per-view takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 27, at the arena. Admission starts at $25.

WWE's Royal Rumble Fan Fest takes place at noon on Saturday, January 26, ouside US Airways Center. Admission starts at $10, VIP all-access is $250, and the discussion panels are $90 each. See Ticketmaster for more info.

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