KELLER: WWE shouldn’t shift away from Cody vs. Reigns at WrestleMania 40 in order to have Rock vs. Reigns instead

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

The Rock (artist Travis Beaven © PWTorch)


The Rock returned for what could be a one-off segment last night on Smackdown. He happened to be in town doing the Pat McAfee show, one thing led to another, and Nick Khan invited Rock to make a last second appearance just for fun. That seems most likely given that Rock didn’t do or say anything related to The Bloodline or future aspirations in WWE. Rock beat up Austin Theory, who was the right person for that type of segment for Rock to play off of.

Maybe Rock returns for a one-on-one match with Theory for WrestleMania next year, but that isn’t necessarily on anyone’s mind either. It just might’ve been a self-contained segment to create some buzz for a WWE TV show that has drawn under 2.1 million viewers three of the last five weeks. It’s quite possible we don’t see Rock in a WWE ring under any circumstances for another few years.

Or maybe this is part of something bigger that is already planned or it’s the start of planning something bigger.

Rock said on the Pat McAfee show yesterday that in early 2022 he met with Nick Khan and Vince McMahon and agreed to do a match at WrestleMania 39 against Roman Reigns. He felt it “was locked.” From there, though, it fell apart.

“We got really, really close, but we couldn’t actually nail what that thing was, so we decided to put our pencils down,” he said.

Whatever stopped the match from happening might prevent it from happening again. It could’ve been money. But Rock’s wording suggests that he had a different vision creatively for how a match with Roman would go.

The Bloodline storyline is a big success, and Rock might’ve approached the creative side thinking the match build, content, and outcome should be his vision and centered around him. Reigns, Paul Heyman, and Paul Levesque might’ve had something else in mind entirely. Egos could have clashed and negotiations broke down.

This could have been during the time Vince McMahon wasn’t with WWE, and that could’ve been a key also to Reigns, Levesque, and company moving on to other ideas despite whatever conversation took place with Rock, McMahon, and Khan earlier that year.

During this time, Cody Rhodes became a red-hot new top babyface with fans on his side. He then suffered an injury and was out for a while. From April to October 2022, Cody was recovering, but plans were being made to have him face Roman at WrestleMania 39 in 2023. Cody appeared to be a red-hot character who, unlike Rock, would benefit from a high-profile WM match and could be a full-time workhorse in his prime for WWE. He also wouldn’t put up a fuss if the story being told was focused in great part on Reigns and storylines that would extend beyond WrestleMania 39.

As Jake Barnett pointed out on last night’s Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Post-show, there’s not much financially to be gained by having Rock instead of Cody main event WrestleMania 39 – or WrestleMania 40, for that matter. The Peacock money is baked in and WrestleMania tickets sell out at high prices before matches are announced. Sure, Rock might pop some ratings in the build, but he wouldn’t be around after WrestleMania to ride the momentum of being a WrestleMania main eventer like Cody.

WWE could take a detour next year on Cody finishing his story, but Reigns, Heyman, and Levesque might believe the better story for business is to have Reigns vs. Cody at WrestleMania 40. Cody is 38 years old. He is in his prime, but that prime is running out soon. If Cody were 28 or 32, maybe you take a detour. If he was 43 and downshifting, maybe then you go with Rock because neither are full-time options. But given the circumstances, and how WWE business is set up, and the importance of the Bloodline storyline not taking a backseat to a one-off match with Rock, Cody seems like the better choice for WrestleMania 40.

Especially when you consider the possible outcomes of a Rock-Reigns match.

Does Rock beat Reigns to end his historic title reign? That’s not a good idea at all. Whoever beats Reigns should get a big boost and pay dividends to WWE for years to come. That’s not Rock.

Does Reigns beat Rock? Would Rock agree to that? If Reigns cheated to win, does it accomplish anything storyline-wise? Reigns is past the Austin Theory stage of bragging about a cheap win to increase his star power like Theory is doing regarding his win over John Cena.

Reigns isn’t at a stage of his WWE career where he needs a boost from a movie star or Attitude Era star. He’s at the stage where he should be giving a boost to someone who can wrestle the next 12 PLEs and appear at every Raw or Smackdown and wrestle at house shows because of the boost he’s given from ending Roman’s historic reign.

Cody isn’t a luke-warm option for Reigns. He’s a great option. The match will be good, and the build can include Cody appearing on TV every week. If WWE didn’t have Cody or another great option, then Rock would make sense to target and even make compromises to satisfy Rock’s vision. That’s not where WWE is right now.

There are other ways to incorporate Rock into the mix if he’s eager to return be it a match against Theory instead or a match involving the Bloodline at a later time (Summerslam?). Taking Cody’s spot at WrestleMania next year isn’t the best of the options.

(Wade Keller is the editor, publisher, and founder of Pro Wrestling Torch and He has covered pro wrestling since 1987. He studied journalism and economics in college, interned at a major market broadcast news station (KMSP in Minneapolis/St. Paul), worked at KFAN radio for two years in the 1990s, hosted the “Ultimate Insiders” DVD series with international distribution, hosted the “Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast” on Podcast One and now on Spreaker, and has been a guest on the Steve Austin Podcast dozens of times as an analyst (nobody has been a guest with Austin more times). He has broken major pro wrestling stories in five separate decades and has interviewed some of pro wrestling’s most influential names in their longest insider interviews including Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Lou Thesz, Jesse Ventura, Jon Moxley, Jim Ross, Eric Bischoff, Bill Watts, Paul Heyman, Jim Cornette, Goldberg, Steve Austin, Vince McMahon, The Rock, Kevin Nash, and over 100 others including more than a dozen ex-WWE creative team members. He was inducted into the Tragos/Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 for “Excellence in Wresting on Professional Wrestling” in a class with Beth Phoenix, B.Brian Blair, Greg Wojciechowski, Jim Londos, and Matt Lindland. He continues to cover pro wrestling here at and on the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast.)

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OR CHECK THIS OUT AT PROWRESTLING.NET: The Rock was “locked” to face Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39, open to having the match at WrestleMania 40 (video included)

1 Comment on KELLER: WWE shouldn’t shift away from Cody vs. Reigns at WrestleMania 40 in order to have Rock vs. Reigns instead

  1. Reigns should be dethroned by LA KNIGHT! YEAH! Knight has another 10 good years in him and a few decent ones after that. Let him run it! Cody is too much of a corporate guy with his suits and BS. Too artificial. They’ll turn on Cody for Knight by WrestleMania time if they choose Cody.

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