Everyone knew something had gone wrong the moment Cody Rhodes crumpled to the mat. Even more so when they saw the blood.
The 34-year-old All Elite Wrestling (AEW) star was exhausted, having just battled underdog Darby Allin to a time-limit draw during AEW’s Fyter Fest when fellow wrestler Shawn Spears suddenly climbed in the ring, metal chair in hand.
Rhodes had less than a second to react as Spears swung for the fences. The steel made a sickening thud against his skull, busting open the back of his head and knocking him to the mat. Though he managed to walk away without a concussion, the injury left him with 12 staples in his head and served as a sobering reminder of why chair shots, planned or not, are an unnecessary risk in a sport where head injuries are all too common.
AEW has been disrupting professional wrestling since its inception by mixing old-school concepts with new-school sensibilities, but Rhodes’ injury and the questions surrounding it went beyond anything the company had planned for. Owner Tony Khan acted quickly following the Fyter Fest chair shot to address safety concerns, addressing it internally before speaking to the press. “You could build the safest airplane in the world, and if there’s pilot error, there’s pilot error,” Khan said in a press conference. “That was not good.”
Khan didn’t expand on whether the promotion would continue allowing chair shots or other dangerous maneuvers, but a source with firsthand knowledge of the situation tells SB Nation that AEW will not use unprotected chair shots moving forward.
“I understand there were discussions about trying to do it safely without causing brain trauma, but I think the lesson from this is that there’s always a chance for human error,” says Chris Nowinski, a former WWE wrestler and co-founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. “You have to look at the risk-reward for a chair shot to the head.”