"I got the opportunity to work with Shawn Michaels, but guys like that are your heroes. I like to keep them at arm's length, because you don't want to find out they're not how you thought."
As a second-generation WWE superstar, son of "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, Cody Rhodes is obviously comfortable around professional wrestlers - and comfortable with throwing them around a ring, or he wouldn't be much good at his job.
His attitude towards elder statesmen like Michaels is shared by many of his peers. Rhodes and his former partner, Ted DiBiase, spent a whole summer going back and forth with him in a tag-team storyline of epic proportions. It unfolded across multiple pay-per-view events and weeks of wrestling shows on TV. They probably spent every day together.
Is Michaels your friend, I ask him? "No," he says, indicating that this is out of respect.
The veneration of past superstars is a thread that runs throughout World Wrestling Entertainment. It's the reason Rhodes and I have both worn suits today - trussed up for the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. There, wrestlers past and present gather to share anecdotes and pay tribute to retired masters for over three hours.
Obviously there are PR benefits to showing that WWE has a lot of love behind it, especially as it now competes for viewers with less cuddly mixed martial arts promotions like UFC. But anyone who sat through wrestler Triple H's speech inducting Michaels into the Hall of Fame, and Michaels' emotional response, knows that this really matters to these men.
It also matters to the fans, which is one reason THQ put together 7/10-scoring WWE All Stars. An accessible and over-the-top take on wrestling, it breaks things down to a series of grapples, reversals and show-stopping finishers, allowing players to create bouts featuring present-day stars like Randy Orton and past masters like Hulk Hogan.
I get to speak to many of the wrestlers the night before Hall of Fame, at a special Superstars Challenge where they all face off on the game. Some of them are gamers who appreciate both the accessibility and the context.
Evan Bourne is a small guy who performs incredible acrobatic manoeuvres in WWE and obviously wants a higher profile. Ask him which legend he wishes he could have worked with and there's only one answer: Eddie Guerrero.
"Eddie was a guy who a lot of us moulded our styles after," Bourne says. Slightly prickly in conversation, he says this with great conviction. "He paved the way for a lot of the smaller guys in the industry to make a name and not just be thought of as lower-card guys."
Speaking to other wrestlers like the lovably vicious "Celtic Warrior" Sheamus, you get a sense of how hard these wrestlers have to work to get to the position they are in, and why those with legendary status probably deserve it.
Like many wrestlers, Sheamus was on a developmental contract with the regional Florida Championship Wrestling promotion, which acts as a feeder to WWE's televised outings, when he was suddenly called up.
"It's a huge culture shock. You go from Florida Championship Wrestling, where you go training every day, you live local, you go to the school, you go to the gym, you have your time at night time... Then boom," he says.
"All of a sudden you're leaving first thing on a Friday morning, travelling four to five hours to every show, finish Monday Night RAW, may have to go to SmackDown Tuesday, get home Wednesday, have Wednesday off, have Thursday off, head out again on Friday morning.
"It's a completely different lifestyle - not for the faint-hearted. You've got to have a tough neck on you to do what we do."
Sheamus has been wrestling since 2002. He has held the title of WWE Champion twice since his breakout on WWE RAW in 2009. That's nearly 10 years of graft and yet his rise - especially with regard to his capture of the WWE Championship from John Cena at the TLC pay-per-view in 2009 - is considered meteoric.
"There were a lot of shocked faces in the building that night," he says of TLC, which stands for Tables, Ladders and Chairs (he won the championship by throwing Cena through a wooden table in the centre of the ring).
"People expected me to come in and Cena to beat me and that would be the end of the Sheamus story, and it was time for someone else to take on Cena. But it was amazing, fella. Probably one of the best nights of my life. I was pinching myself for a long time after that."
If it all sounds very silly, it probably is. My favourite moment reviewing WWE All Stars was when I first took control of Randy Orton - an Adonis clad in viper tattoos - and knocked out an online opponent with his signature RKO. This involves suddenly spinning round, grabbing the other guy's head over your shoulder and dropping to the canvas.
The move is mainly memorable to me because I was practically miming it in my lounge with the Xbox pad and in the course of pulling it off, I broke a plate. (As the WWE says: "Don't try this.")
Meanwhile, my favourite moment at this year's WrestleMania - the pinnacle of the pay-per-view schedule - was when Stone Cold Steve Austin did a Stone Cold Stunner on Booker T at the end of a match, for no reason at all.
Sitting at the Hall of Fame event after the wrestlers have finished their press interviews (which they all visibly enjoy, especially Sheamus, who seems delighted to have some people "from back home" to pal around with), it seems like the games industry could learn a lot from WWE.
At its heart, the company built by infamous chairman Vince McMahon is a rickety enterprise. It is losing market share and smothered by increasingly garish advertising.
I've argued before that the success of hardcore video games like Call of Duty is illusive too, and that if you ignore outliers like COD and Grand Theft Auto, the middle ground is now a much harder place to recover your development capital.
Gaming still needs to find an answer to this. Because as the likes of Guitar Hero have proven in recent years, even extraordinarily successful brands are vulnerable to collapse in a short space of time. With every reboot and rehash, consumers are pushed further away from what once engaged them, and it matters less and less.
It's tempting to say WWE has the same problem now. That it's too dependent on expiring heroes to bring in the big bucks. The fans may have loved seeing The Rock, Steve Austin and The Undertaker as the main attractions in Atlanta, but perhaps the shareholders didn't.
But that misses the point. WWE is unlikely to fall down any time soon, even if commercial realities eventually adjust its size and shape, precisely because it remembers and respects its past. These are real people, real families - and we really like them. Watch the Hall of Fame ceremony and you know all the talk of WWE's heart is more than metaphorical marketing.
Sheamus may have spent 10 years wrestling his way around dingy venues in Ireland, trying out in sweaty conference halls for talent scouts, before uprooting his whole life to take a punt on a few years' training in Florida. But how he is any different to my friend Max, who worked on first-person shooters in Nottingham for years and shifted his whole life to Seattle to work on the AI in Halo?
Video games can't easily be fronted by real people but they are developed by real people. Apart from a few Fellowships and Halls of Fame, the industry does a poor job of keeping more than a couple of dozen of them in view of the public, and often seems more content to do the opposite.
Cody Rhodes told me that he doesn't want to spoil the image he has of his heroes by getting to know them too well. Watching and loving WWE makes me realise I wish I had more gaming heroes to worry about getting to know.
Seeing studios like Bizarre Creations - themselves corporate entities, but at least corporate entities with a signature - crumble and fracture makes me realise the number I do have is probably shrinking, even as we're told gaming is bigger than ever.
Hopefully, by the time people like Sheamus have shifted from the Superstar side of the WWE roster to the Legend one, that will no longer be the case.