Just under a week after it looked like WWE would make Cody Rhodes step aside for The Rock at this year’s Wrestlemania, the Royal Rumble winner is back on track to “finish the story.”
Rhodes announced Thursday that he will face WWE Champion Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania in April. This announcement came after a segment on last weekend’s Smackdown, where he brought out The Rock and implied that he is a better-suited opponent for Reigns this year.
Even though last week’s Smackdown was promoted as the night when Rhodes would decide his Wrestlemania opponent, nothing was set in stone by the end of the night. This continued through this week’s Monday Night RAW when World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins pleaded with Rhodes to face him at Wrestlemania.
A segment involving all four wrestlers (Rock, Reigns, Rollins, and Rhodes) took place Thursday in Las Vegas, Nevada as part of a long-hyped press event.
The “Wrestlemania XL Kickoff,” not to be confused with the pre-show “Kickoff” broadcasts that take place before a Premium Live Event, was held at the T-Mobile Arena in front of a live audience. While the press was invited to the event and frequently mentioned on the broadcast, the floor was never opened up for questions at any point during the hour-long broadcast. Instead, it came off as a segment that could have also aired on Smackdown or RAW.
Rhodes’ request to face Reigns at Wrestlemania frustrated The Rock, whom Rhodes had originally brought into this story. The Rock — who is now fully embracing a heel persona that labels Rhodes fans as “Cody crybabies” — promoted the idea of facing Reigns in a match that would show a clash between two wrestlers from the “only one dominant and powerful royal family in professional wrestling.”
“If you can’t see that, and if you think The Rock and Roman Reigns isn’t the biggest main event in the history of Wrestlemania, then if that’s what you think, in simple Rock speak, it doesn’t matter what you think,” he said.
Rock disliked that Rhodes used his Rumble victory to pick who he wanted at Wrestlemania. Reigns claimed that Rhodes isn’t even allowed to anymore, which Rollins quipped is “not how it works.”
A brawl closed out the press conference after Rhodes said that Rock’s grandfather would be ashamed of Reigns.
An enraged Rock slapped Rhodes, forcing a pull apart. Rollins, who along with his championship was treated by everyone in the segment as the less prestigious choice for Wrestlemania, seemingly was on Rhodes’ side.
By the end of the press conference, the big match was announced: Reigns would rematch Rhodes after the champion retained his belt in 2023. However, what else could happen is up in the air. Panelist Big E threw out the idea that Reigns and The Rock could team against Rhodes and Rollins.
It’s worth remembering that Wrestlemania is a two-night event. This gives the spacing that allows for wrestlers to work twice, and it also forces WWE to make two major headlining matchups.
Earlier in the event, Becky Lynch and Rhea Ripley faced off. Their appearances at Wrestlemania are not confirmed yet: Ripley must beat Nia Jax at the Elimination Chamber, and Lynch must win the women’s chamber match. Not present on Thursday were Bayley or IYO SKY, the sole wrestlers who were already booked for this card before the event.
Thursday’s WWE event captured attention in Las Vegas just a few days before the NFL Super Bowl took place in the city. They corrected course by announcing their biggest Mania pairing this year, a rematch between Reigns and Rhodes, and also had The Rock appear. But the event left more to desire, both in the questions that the media could ask and the details about some of the promotion’s top players. The future of Rollins and The Rock at Mania will likely be decided in the weeks to come.