CODY RHODES: WWE Champion Cody Rhodes on Rolex, Wrestling and The Rock (Esquire.com)


Posted on 6/11/124 by Mike Informer



WWE Champion Cody Rhodes On Rolex, Wrestling and The Rock
Includes the emotional story of the Datejust that belonged
to his dad. (Or did it?)


By Johnny Davis
PUBLISHED: 10 JUNE 2024

This story originally appeared in About Time, Esquire’s free
weekly newsletter devoted to the world of watches. Sign up
here

April was a big month for the sport of wrestling.

That was when WrestleMania XL – the 40th anniversary of the
world’s most successful and longest-running wrestling event
– concluded in high drama.

‘The American Nightmare’ Cody Rhodes finally won the
Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, defeating Roman
Reigns at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia,
putting an end to Reigns’ 1,361-day run as champ.

The event also saw appearances from superstars The
Undertaker, John Cena and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, the
latter of whom entered the ring as the ‘Final Boss’.

It was the highest-selling single night in wrestling
history, racking up 600 million views on social media and 67
million more on WWE’s YouTube channel – the most successful
24-hours in that channel’s history.

More pertinently, Cody Rhodes’ victory “finished the story”
as he became the first member of his wrestling family, one
that includes his late father, 1970s legend ‘The American
Dream’ Dusty Rhodes, to win a top WWE championship.

The shadow of Rhodes Senior looms large – and not just
because he weighed in at almost 20 stone.

Despite the big man’s fame, his family was frequently broke.
One story Cody Rhodes enjoys telling is how his father
presented he and his sister with a stack of money – it put
Cody through acting school in LA for a year – after pawning
his prized watch.

“He gave both my sister and I $10,000 cash each and I would
find out later that he had pawned his Rolex,” he said last
year. “And I always thought I’d get that Rolex. He was
willing to go great lengths.”

So, April’s victory was emotional.

But it became more so when WWE executive Paul ‘Triple H’
Levesque presented Rhodes with a prize afterwards.
Unwrapping the gift-wrapped box, Rhodes, whose fans call
themselves Cody Crybabies in tribute to their hero’s
propensity to turn on the theatrical waterworks, burst into
tears.


It was his dad’s pawned-off Rolex.

“It’s his watch, you know?” Rhodes spluttered.

Speculation has since been rife whether the solid gold Rolex
Datejust 36 was his father’s actual watch – or just the same
model, year, and reference number. (The watch has been out
of production since 1998. Since Rhodes Junior remembers
seeing it as a kid, it is likely a ref. 16238 from the
1990s.)

Ahead of Rhodes touching down in the UK for WWE Clash at the
Castle: Scotland on 15 June, airing live from Glasgow for
the first time, we spoke with the Undisputed Champ at home
in Roswell, Georgia, not far from where he grew up, about
his growing watch collection, his secret Rolex hookup at
Heathrow Terminal 5, and how he came to smash his prized
Omega Seamaster.

We also tried (and mostly failed) to get to the bottom of
the provenance of his dad’s Rollie.

Esquire: Would you have considered yourself a watch guy,
growing up?

Cody Rhodes: The only watch I had my eye on was my dad’s.
That was the watch I thought I would get. He didn’t have a
lot of material things. But when you go out onto the ring,
there’s a really common wrestler [habit] – you give somebody
your watch. My dad would give [fellow wrestler] Barry
Windham his watch, and he would do the same. That was an
old-school thing. I got into WWE early. I was 20 years old.
And 21 when I debuted on the show [WWE Raw]. And that's
where I first saw the correlation with being a world
champion and watches. I saw it was ‘a thing’. If you were
the world champion, or the WWE Champion, you’d get [a
statement watch]. A lot of times somebody would get one for
you. I thought that was such a lovely touch.

I’d read that you used to go into your dad’s room, pick his
watch up from his jewellery dish, and try it on.

That was pretty much an everyday thing. I’d always looked at
it with reverence. But I also looked at it with confusion
because there were a lot of links added to that watch –
because my dad had a gigantic, perpetually swollen wrist.
Just a monster. To the point where, as a kid, you’re looking
at it thinking: ‘No way does my wrist get that big’.

You were pretty emotional when you were reunited with the
watch.

Revisiting the event [in my memory] is still emotional.
Earlier in the week [of the final] there was a gifting of
WrestleMania XL custom watches that I had got made – dials
with ‘40’, inspired by custom watches Shawn Michaels and Ric
Flair had when they wrestled one another for WrestleMania
XXIII [in 2007, Michaels had a pair of diamond Rolexes
inscribed to commemorate the match, riffing on Flair’s
catchphrase. ‘In order to be the man, you have to beat the
man’. Michaels’ watch said: ‘Richard Flair vs. Shawn
Michaels ‘To be the man’. Flairs’ watch said ‘Richard Flair
vs. Shawn Michaels ‘You gotta beat the man’.] I was just
trying to take care of my team. So, I was really taken
aback. As soon as it was in my hand, I knew what we were
dealing with. And every next piece of the packaging [I
unwrapped], we’re getting closer to it, and it was like all
your dreams coming true. This thing you wanted, this thing
that you thought might happen. This was just, like, dreaming
in the open and it correlating with your real life.

Is gifting watches a big thing in wrestling?

Not really! It’s not really anymore. You’ll see WrestleMania
gifts sometimes. And typically, even if you hate the person
you’re wrestling – I mean even if you hate them – there is
this element of respect to it. Because that’s the hardest
show to get on. It is the Super Bowl of what we’re doing.
And the WrestleMania main event just screams ‘Rolex’ to me.
It just does. And we might look back at this, like many of
the old timers have done and be, like, ‘Gosh, I wish I’d
saved that money’.

But I was glad to carry on the tradition. It’s not really as
prominent as it used to be. But I think it’ll probably make
a comeback. Because when you battle against one another, and
you’re competitive with one another, you need to be flanked
by great people. And you need to take care of those people.

And why Rolex?

Because it’s the big statement piece. And also because we
grew up watching Ric Flair, Buddy Rogers and Dusty Rhodes
and during that time hip-hop wasn’t doing it as much [ie:
using luxury objects as status symbols] And now they’ve
completely overtaken the old wrestling [tradition], which is
awesome. But it’s what Ric Flair was doing. He was just
going through all the things he was wearing [One of Flair’s
adages was that he was ‘the man’, and that part of being the
man was to wear a Rolex]. And there was an element of
legitimacy when you saw a statement piece on someone’s
wrist.

You knew they were one of the best in the world. You knew
when they were telling you about their global fame, that
they weren’t lying. And that suspension of disbelief with
wrestling, that perception of reality is always best when
[the razzmatazz of the ring and the reality of real life]
meet in the middle. And Ric Flair talking about Rolexes
established Rolex as the world champions in all of
wrestling.

Is the watch ‘Triple H’ tracked down actually your father’s
watch, or another Rolex from the same year? There’s a bit of
confusion about this.

My understanding is that the whole idea was the works for
over a year. Because I believe they thought that I was going
to beat Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39. [He didn't].
[Wrestling executives] Bruce Prichard, Nick Khan and 'Triple
H', this was their idea. But there’s actually a third party,
who is well-known to wrestling fans. And that’s [promoter]
Conrad Thompsom. He loves a watch. That’s his thing. They
tracked it down. It’s the watch.

They found it using the serial number?

Yeah. I think they might have used my mom in this, too,
because they had some time. But I’ll tell you this: even if
it wasn’t the watch, to me it was. You know what I mean? I’d
seen that thing. I’d known that thing. No questions needed
to be asked. I also thought: ‘Oh man, I hope there’s no
strings attached to this’. Other than ‘Hey, be a good
champion for us.’

You mean: ‘I hope I’m not expected to pay this back in
installments…’

Right, right!

It’s an amazing gesture.

I’ve never seen anything like it. Thinking about it now, the
amount of love in that was really, really special. When I
watch that video, and I’ve seen it a few times, of me
getting the watch – it seems like my dad was in the room. He
was there. You just couldn’t see him, you know?

Going back to the watches you gifted to other wrestlers, one
of them was for The Rock...

Well, I’ve never confirmed who they went to. But I will say
this – and I’m sure you can read between the lines. There
were four of them made for WrestleMania main eventers. And
again, even if you don’t like the person you’re standing
across from, we’ll never be back in that place in time. And
I wanted something to remember it. So, I can’t confirm
that’s where it went. But that’s probably a pretty good
guess.

There’s beef between you and The Rock, right? You’ll have to
excuse my lack of knowledge here…

Well. So, it’s highly suspected that what The Rock put back
in my hand the day after WrestleMania [there was a further
'heated exchange' between the pair on TV the following
night] was the watch I had given him – the WrestleMania XL
commemorative watch with the logo on and the custom dial,
and for him a few extra links, because he's got a big boy
wrist. And that return of said item… I don’t want to use the
word ‘trouble’, but it spells something brewing in the
future. I don’t know with his schedule, if he’s ever going
to come back [to wrestling more permanently]. But I do
believe he will. And I believe he'll come looking for me.
And I'll be right where he left me.

You’ll be ready for The Rock?

Indeed.

Who does your custom watches for you?

A wonderful student who came through the Nightmare Factory,
my wrestling school, in McDonough, Georgia. This kid has
several jewellery schools in Buckhead, Atlanta called Luxe.
He does stuff for Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal]. There’s a lot of
hip-hop. A lot of Braves, Falcons, Hawks… the big sports
teams in Atlanta [baseball, American football and
basketball, respectively].

He also does Ric Flair… he’s just a really talented guy with
custom stuff. And he’s one of our favourite students because
wrestlers never really had access like that before. And now
when I want a new watch, it’s really easy. When I got my
‘Tiffany blue’ Rolex, he just brought three or four of them
in, laid them out and I picked one. We call him the Diamond
Sheikh. It would be helpful if I knew his actual name. His
wrestling name was Diamond Sheikh.

He's The Watch Guy.

He is The Watch Guy. And there’s another Watch Guy at London
Heathrow Terminal 5.

Really?

Oh, yeah. Because I remember looking at a Rolex there at the
store in Terminal 5. Looking at it longingly. This was when
I was away from WWE – and knowing ‘I could get it. I could
afford it. I could’. But also feeling it wasn’t the time.
But now I go in there and browse all the time.

a large building with a glass front
Johnny Davis
Rolex, Heathrow Terminal 5. Rhodes knows a man
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

And there’s a guy who works in the Rolex store in Terminal 5
who’ll hook you up?

You know this about people in the jewelry game. There’s not
really a ‘hook-up’ to it, you know? It’s more that they can
find something for you. For a while I was exploring the
Rolex 'Hulk' [rare and expensive Submariner with a green
dial and matching bezel]. And he could find me a couple of
those. Or a 'Batman' [GMT-Master II with a black and blue
bezel] – some of the classic ones. And he’s been great about
[helping me find] whatever I’m looking for. It’s a
collection that I’ve been responsible with and enjoy having.
Now that has started and I wear them on [long-running WWE TV
show] Smackdown very often, I’ll probably continue down this
road. I’ll probably keep going with it all.

You’ve got the Rolex bug.

I have the Rolex bug. And I have a [Omega] Seamaster. The
Seamaster is really based on my love for 007 [Bond has worn
an Omega Seamaster in every film since 1995’s GoldenEye.]
So, I had the blue one. And I just told you I was
responsible. Well, I may not have the blue one anymore. I
have a green-faced one now. And I also have a No Time To Die
one, too [a brown titanium Seamaster 007 edition, released
in 2019]. Pierce Brosnan was my first Bond.

Using his Seamaster in GoldenEye and what it could do [it
came equipped with a laser concealed in the lume, used to
burn through the floor of a train so Bond could escape]… and
then in the GoldenEye Nintendo 64 game which was so famous,
you could use the watch in the game as well. That was
actually the first one in my collection. Just because of the
love I had for his 007. And now all the 007s.

You played the GoldenEye 007 game?

Oh yeah. I’m 38 [years old] now, about to be 39. So, I
played it when it came out [1997]. And then we [Rhodes is
married with a three-year-old daughter] revisited it around
pandemic time, where I put four TVs back-to-back and we did
local area network stuff [ie: connected several devices
together]. We got four controllers for the N64 on the big
screen downstairs. We went back to it, the old rules. You
couldn’t be Oddjob [yes, Oddjob is from Goldfinger but he
appeared as a villain in the GoldenEye 007 game. You could
play as him in multiplayer mode, with a distinct advantage.

The character’s short stature meant he was very hard to
kill, with bullets flying over his bowler hat. True
GoldenEye oo7fans consider this cheating and ‘playing
Oddjob’ is banned.] That game was so insanely ahead of its
time. If you watch the behind-the-scenes stuff on that game,
the multiplayer [option, in which you can compete in several
scenarios, via split-screen] was the secondary thing back
then. They weren’t putting all this effort into it. And it
ended up shaping our lives a little bit [many other games
subsequently used split-screen]. Wonderful, wonderful game.

And so you traded the blue Seamaster for the green?

Every now and then wearing a watch in the ring goes wrong. I
would never go out there and front with a fake watch on. You
got to have your real duds on. And I made the mistake. The
blue one went down [to be clear, you can’t actually wrestle
with a watch. Wearing them for any promotional appearances
and in-ring hijinks is another story].

You cracked the glass?

It didn’t quite crack the glass. It shredded the band and
pushed in the glass a little bit. It was quite a job.

No more blue Omega?

I’ve got both. But the green is the one I like rocking. Just
because I don’t have anything quite like it. I’ve got the
‘Tiffany blue’ Rollie and then the other two – the
WrestleMania XL one [returned by The Rock] is grey. I like
to have a little colour in the actual face. And the reason
for that is WWE has this amazing team of photographers – and
an uncredible social media team. And when you get those
pictures on SmackDown or a PLE [Premium Live Event, ie:
streaming pay-per-view WWE] and have that little splash of
colour, it always stands out.

It's a nice watch collection. For some people, taste goes
out of the window when they get success. You haven’t got
anything totally over-the-top.

I haven’t had the one that’s over-the-top yet. Because my
dad’s one means so much to me, my thinking is: ‘I’m looking
but I’m not looking’. I look at all these many wonderful
watches that are out there, and I look at them very much as
milestone things. ‘This happened because of WrestleMania
XL’. That was 20-something years of work. My family has been
trying since 1978 to win the WWE title. That deserves that
marker, and that watch. So, I think I’ll set some goals for
myself. And I probably will go a little over-the-top,
depending on how over-the-top those goals are. And keep
adding to the collection.

Which one currently gets the most attention?

The ‘Tiffany blue’. There are people who have no interest in
what’s on your wrist at all. And then there’s the ‘unique
watch aficionados’. And they’re always the ones who notice
that. Another notable watch man is John Cena. And he did me
the courtesy of letting me wear his Rolex [a Daytona] on the
episode of [wrestling show] NXT that featured me, him and
The Undertaker. He wanted me to have it on for that. It was
a nice touch from the top guy.

Return To Pro Wrestling Between The Sheets Message Board