SMF 12: CODY IS BOOKED RIGHT, DRAG ME! (also Tay Conti vs. Nyla Rose III)
Updated: Sep 10, 2021
If this is your first SMF, please read the "Styles Make Fights" introductory post, to be sure you understand our premise, then come right back and join us!
Last week, I previewed the latest edition in Cody Rhodes's seeming never-ending quest to beat every wrestler in the world in singles competition-- victim du jour: Lucha legend Pentagon. Based on Cody's established shoulder injury, and Penta's arm-breaking finisher, I forecast that Penta would target the shoulder, but that (based on their respective win records) Cody would find a way to barely eke out a win. This was exactly correct as far as it goes, but I was entirely wrong about how, exactly, Penta would go about targeting Cody's shoulder:
I wrongly assumed that if Penta wanted to attack Cody's shoulder, he would naturally employ submission holds and stretch that limb. It did not occur to me that instead, he could use targeted strikes and grapple attacks focused directly on that injured left shoulder.
The offense going more to Cody than to Penta, my system categorizes this as a "rope a dope" strategy by Penta, but in this case it instead represents offense from Cody that technically counts, but proved ineffective. Particularly: two of the increasingly toothless Crossroads move that failed to keep Penta down. Cody could not defeat Penta with his own strengths and had to fall back on using Penta's weakness-- mind games and showboating-- rolling him up when he was prematurely celebrating after hitting the armbreaker that his offense the entire match had been building to.
In these columns, I primarily discuss matches within the storyline, because I want to discuss how the choices that wrestlers make with their offense and strategy make sense for their character within the story, and not just to serve the direction the story is currently moving. But in the case of this match there was a great deal more controversy regarding how those choices made sense outside of character: how do those choices advance stories and build toward anything?
Griff from General Admission made an excellent video-essay case on our YouTube channel that the way Cody has been booked and how he works his matches are mistakes that are undermining both him and his opponents:
I disagree and discussed my reasons with Griff, (and I think changed his mind at least a little,) on our podcast together (also with Anthony from Down Under):
I also went into it a bit in the weekly Dynamite Roundtable --I'll quote the most relevant bits:
...AEW understands that a gatekeeper is only convincing if he almost always wins. Cody Rhodes is like a spring, storing potential energy for the guy who eventually beats him. But he needs to beat a lot of guys to store that energy up, and last week Penta was just one more. ...make no mistake, the match clarified that Cody is a level above Penta, and that's not for Cody's benefit, (he has nothing to win, nothing to prove,) but solely for the benefit of whoever is next to defeat Cody.
Dynamite has three big singles matches lined up Wednesday night, an embarrassment of riches for my analysis: a championship match, a match with the World Champion, and a match that's the competitor's third try to defeat a rival, with no particular title implications at all. Since you've read the title of this installment, you know that I am focusing on the last of those three.
Tay Conti vs. Nyla Rose III
That's because, short of some really unusual (in AEW) fuckery, a loss by either champion tomorrow night would be an astounding upset. And despite the fact that Tay Conti has fallen to the Beast Bomb in both of her previous attempts to defeat Nyla Rose, she continues to learn and improve, and has a legitimate chance to score the upset in her match.
In her first attempt, also her very first AEW match, Tay Conti tried to control the match from bell to bell, and dominate her much larger opponent. She succeeded amazingly well, all things considered, but in the midst of this dominating performance Rose caught her with the Beast Bomb and it was all over.
Her second attempt was the first round of the Championship Eliminator Tournament, and I recommended in my preview that Conti should slow down and let Rose control the early going, and try to take her into the deep water of a longer match where Conti's fantastic conditioning and smaller muscle mass would become more of an advantage. You can see that she was attempting that type of strategy, but before it reached that point, Rose hit the Beast Bomb once again, making all strategy moot.
Conti may change it up to some third strategy this time, considering the lack of success with the first two, but for the life of me I couldn't say what that might be. I still believe she was on the right track last time, and she should stick with it. She needs to avoid injury to her fighting base (her legs) and be ready with counters and reversals for set-ups of the Beast Bomb, and this time she may prove that the third time's the charm!