Many wrestling fans know Brandi Rhodes only as the beautiful wife of ROH World Champion Cody and a former pro wrestling ring announcer, but she’s certainly not just an arm piece or background player.
No longer entering the ring in an elegant dress with a microphone in hand, Brandi now comes dressed for battle in tights and wrestling boots, and she is determined to become a major player with Women of Honor.
She’s only had two matches with WOH thus far, and while she has yet to achieve her first victory, Brandi has proved that she’s not just another pretty face.
ROHWrestling.com caught up with Brandi recently to discuss her burgeoning career as an in-ring competitor.
ROH: You were thrown into the deep end of the pool in Women of Honor with Kelly Klein as your opponent in your first singles match. What was that experience like?
BR: When you’re in the ring with somebody like Kelly Klein, who’s never been submitted or pinned with Women of Honor, that’s a lot to take in. She’s obviously very confident. She had some moments, though, where I noticed overconfidence, which allowed me to kind of get a little bit of an upper hand on her a couple of times. If I ever come face to face with her again, I definitely see that working to my advantage. That is how you can chop somebody like Kelly Klein down. Hopefully I can get a rematch.
ROH: One of Klein’s submission finishers is called “The End of the Match,” but it wasn’t the end of the match when she faced you. You were able to make it to the ropes to break the hold. Do you think that caught her off guard?
BR: I think it very much caught her off guard. Like I said, she was very confident that the match was going to end how she wanted it to end when she wanted it to end. We definitely had some moments in the match where she beat me to a pulp, I’m not going to lie, but I have a lot of fight in me. Knowing that I can escape those moves gives me a hell of a lot more confidence to face her in the future.
ROH: Because you’re Cody’s wife and everyone knows you were a ring announcer, do you feel like there is added pressure on you when you wrestle? Do you feel you have more to prove?
BR: I absolutely have more to prove than anybody who steps foot in that ring. I’ve had a target on my back since the second I opened my mouth and said that I want to do more. People these days don’t really like that. It’s kind of “stay in your role.” I don’t have a role. I’m not very good at staying in my lane, and I’m not confined to any role or by any rules. So, naturally, there’s always going to be a target on my back. Everybody’s going to look for any mistake they can find whether it’s in the ring or outside the ring. My job is to stay focused on what I’m trying to do. There will be haters along the way and there will be fans along the way. I am definitely very aware that I’m somebody who’s always got a target on them.
ROH: What was Cody’s reaction when you first told him that you wanted to wrestle?
BR: His reaction was, “I think you should absolutely go for it if this is what you want to do.” He said I just need to put 100 percent into it because wrestling is one of those things that you can’t do 50 percent. He’s very much been focused on making sure I put forth the same effort I did at the beginning all the way through, making sure there’s no point at which I get lazy or overconfident or don’t want to go in and train. I doubt that will ever happen with me because I’ve always been a student of whatever sport I’m in, but it’s nice to have him there to keep me fully focused.
ROH: You mentioned participating in other sports. We know you spent 17 years in figure skating. Was there anything from figure skating that has helped you in wrestling?
BR: Oh, absolutely. The No. 1 thing about figure skating is persistence. You skate for hours and hours and hours, day after day after day. You do the same things over and over again, and you continue to fall, you continue to bruise your thigh; it’s cold, it’s wet, it’s 6 o’clock in the morning. When I was skating I was in Michigan in the dead of winter. The one thing you learn is that if you keep plugging at it, if you keep a good attitude, eventually you’re going to stand up and go, ‘Holy crap, for two months straight I’ve fallen maybe a thousand times, and now I’ve got it. And now I’m never going to fall on this again.” I’m noticing that with a lot of things in wrestling. We went and trained the other day and I said, “I need to learn these two moves,” and Cody said, “OK, cool.” Top rope moves kind of freak me out but I needed to get over that. The first two times we tried, he’d say, “OK, jump.” And I’d say, “Where? Where do I put my feet? Where does my leg go? Where are my hands supposed to be? How do I not kill myself?” (laughs) He said, “You just have to jump. You’re going to fall sometimes but you’ll learn and you’ll make it.” I had a couple times where I missed and hit my knee or my elbow, but then it started to work and now I’m like, “I don’t know how I ever didn’t do this.” So it’s very much like skating to where you have to keep plugging at it and can’t be afraid of bumps and bruises. They’re going to happen but you have to stand up to your fear.”
ROH: Tell us about your education and professional background before you got into wrestling.
BR: I went to the University of Michigan. My goal was to do TV news. I launched my career in reporting in Michigan and instantly hated it. I knew it was not going to be for me, which was a shock since that’s what I went to school for and wanted to do, so it was like, “What do I do now?” I went through a quarter-life crisis. I decided to move to Miami and become a model. I started from the bottom. I was making $50 to model a bikini. ... Within a year’s time I was a full-time model making a six-figure salary. I was happy with that, but I knew I needed more than to just be pretty. I had a degree and I knew that I had other talents. So I went back to school at the University of Miami for a master’s program in -- guess what? -- TV broadcasting. The goal this time was not to be a reporter, but an anchor. Then I randomly got a phone call from my modeling agent who said, “Hey, I don’t know if you know anything about it, but this company called WWE wants to know if you’d be interested in wrestling.” I said, “The last time I looked at [WWE] it was in a women’s studies class and Trish Stratus was barking like a dog and everybody seemed to not like that. So let me watch this and see what’s going on with it currently.” At that point, it was the PG era. No one was barking like a dog, no bra and panties matches or all that stuff. So I was like, OK, I’m an athlete at heart, so this could be that something more I was looking for. So they signed me to a developmental contract and there we went.
ROH: When you were in FCW, WWE’s developmental territory, what was your relationship like with the late “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, who would go on to become your father-in-law?
BR: I had a friendship with Dusty before I had a friendship with Cody. When I walked into FCW -- I was familiar with wrestling but I wasn’t a guru -- I knew who Dusty was. I was like, if that’s who’s teaching, I’m definitely going to learn something. I took to him immediately.
ROH: Were you ring announcing and training at the same time?
BR: I was at first, but then I wasn’t. Part of the reason I left the first time is because I was a little down-hearted that I wasn’t getting to wrestle, and I wasn’t getting to announce in a very big role either. After Cody and I got married, that’s when I decided I wanted to go back and I only want to do the wrestling. We tried, and that worked for a while, but then it ended up being a situation where it made the most sense to take the path they were familiar with first to ty to get to the path they were unfamiliar with. So I went back on the road to announce and get in front of them again so that they could think, “Oh, yeah, we remember Brandi, we like Brandi. Let’s think about her in these other roles.” But it turned into, “We really like her in this role. We can’t see her in any other role. We don’t even want to hear it.” So then it was like, “We don’t want her training because we can’t have her hurt herself and miss shows. And we don’t want her to mess her face up.” But sometimes you just have to listen to your heart, and my heart was saying that I need to do more, I’m not happy with this. Life is short. I can’t just do a job I’m not happy with. I’m happy that I made the choice to branch out and take a bit of a risk.
ROH: Now that you’re here in Women of Honor, what are your thoughts on the competition?
BR: The women in Women of Honor are very passionate about what they do. They also hit extremely hard (laughs). So the competition is extremely stiff. I’m very proud that I’ve been able to get in the ring with the people that I have so far and not look like a complete fish out of water. I’m happy that I’m earning my keep here and it's going to be a slow and steady game, but every time I get in the ring with these women I learn so much because they really are a plethora of information and ability. And no two of them are the same as far as what to expect from them in the ring, so that’s a great way to learn. It’s just being thrown into the deep end, as you said, and trying to swim.
ROH: What are your goals as a competitor in WOH?
BR: I’m already meeting a lot of them, because one of my goals was just to actually become a competitor. I couldn’t just walk in and say, “Hey, I’m Brandi Rhodes and I’m going to wrestle.” You actually have to have some ability and earn your keep. I’ve shown that I’m determined, I’ve shown ability and I’ve shown that I can hang in the ring with these women. Am I the world’s greatest wrestler? Not today. Will I be to tomorrow? Wait and see. My goals are to keep trending upward and changing people’s minds. The more comfortable I get, that’s when the wins will happen.