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31 Days of Wrestling (12/27/16): Cody vs. Jay Lethal, Final Battle

Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. It's that time of year again when we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match a day for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling this calendar year produced for us.

Today, we’re looking at a match between former Ring of Honor Champion Jay Lethal and “The American Nightmare” Cody.


Back on May 21, Cody Rhodes revealed on Twitter that he had requested his release from the WWE. You couldn’t really blame the guy because he was going nowhere in his career fast. Coupled with being saddled with a terribly misused gimmick and years of mediocrity, it was a ballsy move for Rhodes to leave the company that practically shaped the wrestler that he is. Just weeks after being granted his release, he tweeted out this image: his to do list consisting of the who’s who of indy wrestling and events. But one name was absent from that list.


For over a year, Jay Lethal had ruled Ring of Honor, first as its World Television Champion then later on as its World Champion. But he never really achieved Ace status. He wasn’t always seen as one of the biggest stars in the independent scene. Still, he’s a respected veteran in the scene and a former champion, so when he was given the chance to welcome Cody to ROH, you know the latter’s being thrown into deep waters.


While the match itself was largely a forgettable affair, the finish was important in Cody’s budding post-WWE career. Since he debuted in the indies, he’s been treated as this uber-face who’s been trying to right the wrongs done to him. He was an eagle finally set free to spread his wings after years being caged. When he nailed Lethal with a low blow and finished him off with Cross Rhodes, the Hammerstein Ballroom immediately showered him with boos. When he flipped off his opponent after the match and assaulted referee Todd Sinclair and commentator Steve Corino, he became a full blown heel.


Cody’s recently been announced as the newest member of the Bullet Club, and with it, he’s finally embracing the “nightmare” part of being “The American Nightmare.” How this plays out will be something to keep an eye on. Cody’s been a heel before, but he’s never been given the creative freedom to really run with a villainous gimmick. Associating himself with the Bullet Club will only up his profile and give him more opportunities to heel it up with the best the independent scene has to offer. This next chapter of Cody’s career will be one to watch.

*****

31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2016.

Read our previous entries:

#1: The Final Deletion
#2: Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship, SummerSlam
#3: Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Wrestle Kingdom 10
#4: Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, NXT Takeover: Dallas
#5: Main Maxx vs. Crystal for the PHX Championship, PWR Renaissance
#6: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte for the RAW Women's Championship, Hell in a Cell
#7: Prince Puma vs. Rey Mysterio, Ultima Lucha Dos
#8: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, Wrestle Kingdom 10
#9: American Alpha vs. The Revival for the NXT Tag Team Championships, NXT TakeOver: Dallas
#10: TJ Perkins and the WWE Cruiserweight Classic
#11: One Versus All Royal Rumble Match
#12: Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito, G1 Climax Block B Finals
#13: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens, Payback
#14: Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay, Best of the Super Juniors Tournament 2016
#15: #DIY vs. The Revival, 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match for the NXT Tag Team Championships, NXT TakeOver: Toronto
#16: Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, Survivor Series
#17: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii for the NEVER Openweight Championship, Wrestle Kingdom 10
#18: The Return of the Brand Split
#19: Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander, Cruiserweight Classic
#20: Hirooki Goto vs. Kenny Omega, G1 Climax Finals
#21: James Freakin' Ellsworth
#22: Brock, Punk, and their Gall to Hunt in MMA (UFC 200, 203)
#23: Sexy Star vs. Mariposa in a No Mas Match, Lucha Underground
#24: Chris Hero vs. Katsuyori Shibata, RPW/NJPW Global Wars
#25: AJ Styles vs. John Cena, SummerSlam
#26: The DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship US Tour

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