Even though his torn pectoral injury could keep him side-lined for as long as nine months, Cody Rhodes is being lined up as a potential WrestleMania 39 headliner in 2023.
The 36-year-old suffered the gruesome injury on an episode of Raw, and after exacerbating the issue in the gym, Rhodes was left with a right pectoral muscle that was barely attached to the bone.
Nevertheless, he showed tremendous heart to continue his feud with Seth Rollins inside Hell in a Cell, and WWE chiefs had hoped to use that trilogy victory to catapult Rhodes into the title picture.
— Cody Rhodes (@CodyRhodes) June 9, 2022
However, the former AEW Executive President will now spend months in rehab following surgery, which has derailed plans to push Rhodes to main event status as soon as Summerslam.
Despite his expected period out of the spotlight, Rhodes has been installed as the sportsbook favourite to win next year’s Royal Rumble, with his online betting odds of +220 the clearest indication yet that WWE story writers will look to return him to top billing as soon as they possibly can. The Rock (+550), Big E (+800) and Roman Reigns (+800) are the other leading contenders, according to the bookmakers.
A Royal Return
There is, of course, a considerable precedent when it comes to injured stars returning in time for the WWE’s flagship events.
Triple H, one of the industry’s biggest stars at the time, suffered a torn quad in May 2001 that forced the WWE to completely re-write their plans for the year.
The Game’s surgery and recovery were documented in a series of videos to hype his return, and that would come in the magnificent surroundings of Madison Square Garden at Royal Rumble 2002.
Nobody was particularly surprised when Triple H eliminated Kurt Angle to win the battle royal and advance to WrestleMania. What was surprising, though, was the emotion and electricity of his return were so tangible that Paul Levesque later admitted he broke down in tears afterwards.
“When I got back through the curtain and made sure I was out of sight, I lost it,” he confirmed. “I was bawling. The whole ordeal was just so emotional for me – what I’d gone through, what I almost lost, the appreciation the fans showed me – it all just hit me at once and I lost it.”
Surgery in the AM…
…makes you stronger. pic.twitter.com/7jB0YS4Ykf
— Triple H (@TripleH) November 6, 2018
Ironically, Levesque also tore his pectoral muscle in a bout against Kane and The Undertaker in November 2018. Although far from a full-time wrestler at the time, he was fit enough to return to the ring six months later in that No Holds Barred contest against Batista at WrestleMania 35 – despite undergoing the same surgical procedure that Rhodes has had.
A torn pectoral muscle is also not uncommon in the NFL, and while former Houston Texan Whitney Mercilus needed eight months to get back to full fitness, his teammate J.J. Watt returned to training just eight weeks after surgery.
Rhodes, and the WWE universe, will be hoping that his rehabilitation goes swimmingly. He will surely be eyeing a momentous return at the Royal Rumble.