Following his departure from WWE, Cody Rhodes began wrestling on the independent circuit, also making several appearances in Total Nonstop Action (TNA). In the time frame spanning from early 2016 to early 2017, he competed at WWE's WrestleMania, Ring of Honor (ROH)'s Final Battle and the New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) Wrestle Kingdom events as well as appearing for TNA at Bound for Glory.
In September 2017, Rhodes wrestled in ROH, where he became a one-time ROH World Champion, one-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion (due to ROH's partnership with the National Wrestling Alliance), one-time IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion and a one-time ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Champion (with The Young Bucks)—at one point holding the NWA World, IWGP U.S., and ROH Six-Man titles simultaneously.
On January 1, 2019, Cody unveiled a new promotion, All Elite Wrestling (AEW), in which he, along with Matt and Nick Jackson of The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega, would serve as Executive Vice Presidents and on-air talent. Both Cody and The Young Bucks signed five-year contracts with the promotion.
At their inaugural pay-per-view event on May 25, Double or Nothing, Rhodes defeated his real life half-brother Dustin Runnels. On June 29 at Fyter Fest, Rhodes wrestled Darby Allin to a time limit draw. After the match, Rhodes was attacked by Shawn Spears and struck with a chair shot that caused Rhodes to bleed heavily from the back of his head.
While Rhodes did not suffer a concussion, he did require 12 surgical staples. On a recent episode of Busted Open Radio, Rhodes reflected on AEW’s critics: “You know, there’s people who are plenty critical of what AEW does.
And instead of signal boosting that, I’d rather [deliver for] 100 of the fans that we have in that base than that one sulky son of a bitch that’s not coming on-board anyways, if that makes any sense. You guys know that first way to fail is to try and please everybody.
But I gotta take care of the people who brought us to the dance in the first place, and I think that will be appealing on a global level. I geniunely do”.