KELLER’S TAKE: Was the right call made to have Reigns retain his title against Cody at WrestleMania, knowing what we know now?

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor


Who eventually defeats Roman Reigns and when has become one of the bigger storyline issues in pro wrestling lately. Going into WrestleMania earlier this year, a lot of people thought Cody Rhodes was going to be the one. I’ve been told that was absolutely considered, but the decision was made within a few weeks of WrestleMania that Reigns retaining was the better plan.

Has it worked out? Certainly when that decision was made, WWE’s creative team had to have plotted out both scenarios. If Cody had won, then presumably Reigns would have spiraled downward as The Bloodline disintegrated. Perhaps the angles we’ve seen in recent weeks would have played out sooner, setting up Reigns vs. Jey Uso sooner. Or maybe everything we’ve seen would have played out largely the same timeline wise, but with the twist that Reigns wasn’t the champion anymore and that was driving the issues within The Bloodline and affected the mood of Reigns as he coped with not having the title and what that meant to his sense of authority over the rest of The Bloodline. It would have meant no 1,000 Day Title Reign celebration.

Then Cody might have still moved into a feud with Brock Lesnar, but with the Undisputed Title on the line. The complication – and certainly a factor in their decision-making – is that they felt it was important to have Cody remain on Raw and not move to Smackdown in the Draft just in terms of keeping Raw’s top star depth chart deep enough for a three-hour show, with the safe assumption that Smackdown could continue to be built around The Bloodline storyline without needing someone of Cody’s level to help draw viewers.

The ramifications of having Cody win the Undisputed Title that Reigns held but staying on Raw would extend to the new WWE Heavyweight Title that has since been created for Seth Rollins. Would that title have ended up on Smackdown if Cody won Reigns’s title and stayed on Raw? If WWE wanted to have a “work horse” world champion with the credibility with fans to be seen as worthy of a new world title, there weren’t a lot of options other than Seth.

So that would have meant sending Seth to Smackdown, which would have weakened Raw’s star depth chart. But would Cody winning the Undisputed Title have eliminated one of the public-facing reasons to create this new title – which is that this new champion would defend it more often. Certainly Cody would have vowed to do the same thing if he had won the Undisputed Title.

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Today, over three months after WrestleMania, we have a better idea of what WWE had in mind when they made the controversial decision to have Reigns retain against Cody. Things have certainly gone well enough that no one can say it was a disastrous decision. WWE continues to break records with ticket sales and and revenue at live events along with PLE viewership on Peacock.

We still don’t know what their plans are beyond Summerslam, but they likely had plotted all the way through to WrestleMania next year scenarios with Cody winning and scenarios with Reigns winning that WrestleMania match. There were fears that Cody coming up short would extinguish or hamper his momentum, but that hasn’t happened. He’s as popular, by all indications, as he likely would have been had he become champion. He is still on a journey and the payoff has been delayed, but that card can still be played.

WWE now has Roman defending against the very popular Jey Uso in a match where many fans are going to see Jey as a possible victor while Cody is embroiled in a feud with a top legacy act in Brock Lesnar, one that he could come out of even strong than he entered. Plus, they have fans singing along to Seth Rollins’s song and a new WWE Hvt. Title to ostensibly frame him as a star at the level of Reigns rather than someone who is in non-title feuds on the undercard. WWE has a future Reigns-Cody match, perhaps at WrestleMania next year after Cody “does the impossible” and wins the Royal Rumble again.

Even if you think Cody should have won, it’s difficult to look at what’s happened since and argue that you’ve been proven right. It’s not that Cody winning would have been a disaster, but it’s clear Cody coming up short hasn’t been a disaster either. Everything is going really well, in fact.

It wasn’t a given that things would have gone as well as they have. In retrospect, it’s clear WWE had a plan and that plan is working well enough that I doubt there’s any second-guessing internally over their call to have Reigns beat Cody at WrestleMania.

What do you think? Email me at with your thoughts on the choice that was made if you think it was the right one.

Also, vote in our poll asking who you most want to beat Roman eventually.

RECOMMENDED: KELLER’S TAKE: The pros and cons of various wrestlers becoming the first WWE World Hvt. Champion on Raw

OR CHECK OUT THIS ARTICLE AT PROWRESTILNG.NET: McGuire’s Mondays: No, do not give The Bloodline an Emmy

(Wade Keller is the editor, publisher, and founder of Pro Wrestling Torch. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for Excellence in Writing on Professional Wrestling in 2015. He has interviewed many of pro wrestling’s top names over the last 35 years in long-form insider interviews including Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Cody Rhodes, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, and dozens of others. Those interviews are available on-demand to read or listen to on the PWTorch VIP website in the newsletter back issue section or the podcast archives. Email him at

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