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The Rock will face Roman Reigns in the main event WrestleMania 40, while Cody Rhodes will face Seth Rollins instead. Cody announced his decision live on Smackdown tonight, with the rationale being that the only thing he can take from Roman is Roman’s title, whereas Rock can take “everything” from Reigns, such as his status as Head of the Table in the Bloodline.
When Cody revealed his decision, he said it was a result of consulting The Rock in this past week about the choice he had between choosing to face Reigns or Seth. Storyline-wise, Rock appears to have advised Cody to let him have the match against Reigns instead of him.
Live on Smackdown, Rock entered the ring and eyed Cody, then offered a handshake. Cody accepted, and it turned into a hug. Rock spoke into Cody’s ear off mic. Cody smiled and nodded, then left the ring. Rock and Reigns closed the show with a staredown.
The Rock worked behind the scenes to get this match at WrestleMania, according to various sources. Cody, by all indications, didn’t prefer this change in what felt just two months ago to be an inevitable crowning moment at WrestleMania 40 against Reigns in a rematch of last year’s WrestleMania main event. Cody did mention at the post-Royal Rumble press conference that he hoped to “finish his story” before 2025, but hedged on whether it’d necessarily be at WrestleMania. He said it could be at Summerslam, Raw, or Elimination Chamber also.
“I think it’s all the sweeter if (beating Reigns to complete the story) were to happen at WrestleMania,” Cody told CBS Sports last week. “Last year it was about the title, the championship itself – and the way the match unfolded and being this close to the moment, that made it now a far more personal situation. So I’d love it to be at WrestleMania. No doubt you never know about WWE. The flow here is quite wild.
“But I think the story that has been told throughout my whole career, the story that has been told since the late-’70s with my father and the WWWF Championship, all of that. I don’t think anyone is looking to step in and hinder that in any way, just because it’s been the leading story that we’ve had and it’s been a real story. And when it’s real, it’s the best.”
As it turns out, Rock and his allies at Endeavor did “step in and hinder” the story that has been building for Cody to face Reigns in a rematch at WrestleMania 40, the story that Cody said he thought was “best.”
The Rock used his influence with top executives at Endeavor to make this happen in the time and place he wanted, and it’s coming at the expense of seemingly what most people “in the trenches” in WWE (on-air and off-air) would have preferred.
Obviously, Reigns vs. Rock has long been talked about as a dream match that everyone in WWE anticipated was a possibility but not a sure thing. It will do big business and fans will likely embrace it at WrestleMania, especially after the next two months of hype. There is, though, a chance fans will resent Rock and side with Cody, something that could manifest into negative crowd reactions for Rock in the lead up to WrestleMania and at WrestleMania. Reigns being cheered and Rock being booed isn’t unfathomable.
While Cody will now be facing Seth at WrestleMania, had C.M. Punk not suffered an arm injury in the Rumble, Punk would have been facing Seth at WrestleMania after winning the Elimination Chamber. It’s not known what Cody’s role would have been at WrestleMania, or why WWE booked Cody to win the Royal Rumble if he wasn’t ultimately going to get a shot against either Roman or Seth, but WWE had plans to explain all that if Punk hadn’t suffered an injury. All indicators are, according to our sources, that there was never any serious consideration given to having Reigns wrestle twice – once against Cody and once against Reigns – at WrestleMania weekend.
In a poll we posted on Twitter/X tonight, two-thirds of votes were against Rock replacing Cody, with over 50 percent of all voters choosing “Highly Disapprove.” Only 18 percent chose “Highly Approve.”
How do you feel about The Rock taking the slot people assumed Cody Rhodes would have at WrestleMania against Roman Reigns? #SmackDown
— Pro Wrestling Torch (@PWTorch) February 3, 2024
Because of Punk’s injury, Cody can now slide into a match with Seth instead and headline night one of WrestleMania in a title match after all, although it’s coming across already as a consolation prize, despite Seth’s best efforts on Monday to frame his World Hvt. Title as more aligned with Cody’s identity as a hard-working, full-time championship level wrestler.
Cody is expected to “complete his story” against Reigns later this year, but just not at WrestleMania.
OR CHECK THIS OUT AT PROWRESTLING.NET: WWE Friday Night Smackdown results (2/2): Barnett’s review of Roman Reigns responds to Seth Rollins and Cody Rhodes, appearances by Royal Rumble winners Cody and Bayley