WWE WRESTLEMANIA 40 on-site REPORT (4/6 & 4/7): The ebb and flow of the two night experience, my star ratings for big matches, did Cody ultimately win me over


APRIL 6 & 7

I’m not a fan of Cody Rhodes the wrestler. I find his promo style grating, and he’s not spectacular enough in the ring to compensate for his annoying quirks. I was among the fans booing him at AEW shows. I don’t have an emotional connection to the Cody character, and I begin my write-up with that as a way to explain why the climax of night two – which Dave Meltzer called the greatest in WrestleMania history – didn’t feel that way to me.

Although I’m not a fan of Cody the wrestler, I am a fan of Cody the person and respect him as much as I’ve respected anyone in wrestling. As Bret Hart once famously said, wrestling is more real than people think. The matches have predetermined finishes, but if you think about it in terms of movies, an actor dreams of being a lead, not a side character, and certainly wouldn’t want to be typecast pejoratively as a clownish side character.

The man whose name I dare not mention did not see Cody Rhodes as a main event talent, instead putting Cody in a Goldust-inspired Stardust costume meant to diminish him, which frustrated Cody, who viewed himself not as a mid-card joke but as a potential star.

WWE is the major league, and most wrestlers are just happy to be there, and none chose to do what Cody did, betting on himself, leaving the company to work the independent scene, sometimes in front of a few hundred people, to prove WWE wrong.

I was certain Cody would fail, as I agreed with WWE’s assessment, and was therefore shocked to find when attending an ROH show in 2016 or 2017 that Cody was the most over wrestler on the roster. There were fans in Cody shirts EVERYWHERE. I thought to myself, for Cody Rhodes? I recognized there was something to this, even if it didn’t connection with me.

Fast-forward to WrestleMania 40. I’ve been a wrestling fan (that’s putting it lightly—I don’t have interests; I have obsessions) since shortly after the first WrestleMania in 1985.

I attended WrestleManias 10 and 20, which were held in Madison Square Garden. I’d never previously attended a WrestleMania, or a wrestling event of any kind, in a stadium, and felt like I did as a kid as I anticipated the big cards (WrestleMania is now a two-night event: WrestleMania Saturday and WrestleMania Sunday).

WrestleMania Saturday had something working against it, as it was freezing inside the stadium. It was an especially windy day and night, and the wind would pierce right through you. On television, they said it felt like the mid-40s in the stadium, but I can assure you where I was sitting it felt like it was in the 30s.

The weather Sunday was so much better that I tried to take it into account in my evaluation of the cards. There is universal agreement WrestleMania Sunday was not only better than Saturday, but that it blew it away.

Maybe due to my inability to connect with Cody, I preferred Saturday, even in the cold.

Saturday had what I thought was the best match of either show, Sami Zayn vs. Gunther, with Sami finishing his (shorter) story. Sami is one of my favorites, I emotionally connect with him, and I loved the match start to finish both live and watching it later on television. (I should note that almost everything I watched in the stadium was on the big screen, as being 5-foot-6 and sitting on the floor, I couldn’t see in the ring.) I had the match at four-and-a-half stars in the stadium; four-and-three-quarters when watching at home. Sami’s wife deserves special mention for her acting abilities.

WrestleMania Saturday also had the Rock’s first real match in over a decade, and though it went too long and dragged during its first half, Rock is my favorite wrestler of my adulthood and this match was the one I was most looking forward to.

Although I couldn’t see the ring, our seats were just feet away from the entrance ramp, and I had a perfect view of wrestlers entering and leaving. I’d go so far to say Rock’s entrance was the highlight of the night for me. It induced goosebumps.

Whether it’s due to Rock’s star-power, or perhaps there’s something about Cody that grates on others too, there were noticeable boos for Cody, and not just from me. There was a kid several rows back, high-pitched voice so he was young, yelling, “Cody’s a jabroni!” and “Silence him Rock!” throughout the match, to my delight. When Rock pinned Cody, I celebrated with the fans behind me, with screams and high-fives.

With the now permanent removal from WWE of the man whose name I won’t mention, Paul Levesque (Triple H) is now in full control of WWE booking (err, creative), and, well, WWE is GREAT right now. It’s professional wrestling again, and it’s not just semantics.

The storytelling here was adult, compelling, and sophisticated; it’s way beyond anything they’ve presented in decades. For the first time in WrestleMania history, the main events of both nights were linked in storyline, and with Cody losing on Saturday, we had an “Empire Strikes Back” to “Return of the Jedi” scenario unfold over the cards. Anyone familiar with Star Wars, or wrestling booking, knew how this story would (finally) end.

WrestleMania Saturday had an excellent opener between Rhea Ripley and Becky Lynch, which I had at four stars live and at home.

One more thing giving Saturday the edge for me was the ladder match, not because I thought it was great (I enjoy the stunt shows, but don’t love them), but because so much of it took place on the ladder, I could actually watch a good deal of this one in the ring.

I note too that I was told I made a great call in choosing the Uso vs. Uso match as my bathroom/food run.

WrestleMania Sunday’s opening match between Drew McIntyre and Seth Rollins was fun, and I was thrilled when Drew McIntyre won. Forgetting that C.M. Punk was on commentary (angle alert), I darted for the exit, because the upcoming street fight was my bathroom/food run for Sunday.

Thankfully the shit went down while I was still leaving and I was able to watch Punk beat down Drew and the subsequent Damien Priest cash-in on the big screen.

Still, this was a BAD call, because not only did I plan to skip the six-man tag, I wouldn’t have minded missing A.J. Styles vs. L.A. Knight either, so there was no reason for me to rush out as soon as Drew won.

Io Sky vs. Bailey was the match benefiting most from television. It’s a big stadium, and where we were sitting, the crowd seemed kind of dead until the last five or so minutes.

It didn’t come across that way on television, and I rated the TV presentation at four-and-a-half stars whereas I thought it was a four-star match live. On television, for me, it was the best match of the night, though obviously not the most memorable.

I had the main event both live and on TV at four-and-a-half stars. It was a spectacle, it was memorable, but to me it was a four-and-a-half star match. I had Roman vs. Cody last year at five stars.

What this had was Cody’s completing his story, the end of the longest title reign in the modern era of WWE (my emotional connection here was to Roman), and a super post-match celebration.

I went from booing Cody to cheering him as soon as he won, even cheering the three-count itself, because I know how much this meant to him. Whether it’s the pseudo-story about Dusty, or the very real one of Cody betting on himself and going from undesirable to undeniable, he’s earned all our respect.

Speaking personally, it didn’t pack the same emotional wallop that seeing Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero celebrate in the ring at WrestleMania 20 did. That memory was of course forever stained, but I’ll add Cody’s win wasn’t as emotionally satisfying for me as Bryan Danielson’s at WrestleMania 30.

From my perspective, seeing the end of Roman’s historic title run was the central draw. I’m happy for Cody, but you had better believe when the time comes for the next BIG match, I’ll be Team Bring It, cheering, “Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!”

RECOMMENDED NEXT: LECLAIR’S WWE WRESTLEMANIA XL NIGHT 2 REPORT: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Reigns vs. Rhodes, Rollins vs. McIntyre, Sky vs. Bayley, more

OR CHECK THIS OUT AT PROWRESTLING.NET: WrestleMania XL results: Powell’s live review of night one with The Rock and Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins and Cody Rhodes, Rhea Ripley vs. Becky Lynch for the Women’s World Championship

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