“A wise man shall never be conquered by a deceitful false prophet; but fools and simple minds shall revere the prophet as they would a deity.”RJ Intindola – (Gandolfo) – 2015
This maybe the hardest piece I’ve ever had to write as a wrestling fan, for 26 years I have loved this business through the good and the bad and I have never walked away from a show more angry or disgusted than I was after Friday’s Smackdown.
The Rock Stole Cody’s Moment:
Let me make this clear I’m not angry about the idea of Rock vs Reigns, I fully get and understand that is the bigger marquee match than Cody vs Reigns 2. What I do have a problem with is how this was played out because essentially the match with the more compelling story and more deserving challenger for the WWE Undisputed Universal Championship is being pushed aside because of possibly someone’s ego and politics wanted this match and because he happens to be a member of the board.
This image of Cody Rhodes becoming only the fourth man to ever win back-to-back Royal Rumbles should have been an iconic moment and chapter in Cody Rhodes finishing the story that was started by his father before Cody was even born. Instead, this is an image of yet another injustice and tragedy in this story that should have been finished at WrestleMania 40 in a glorious moment, but instead Cody is being screwed over.
It has been well documented, and I have written more about Cody Rhodes than anyone else here at Wrestling Republic, and that Cody finishing the story is a personal one that I can relate to and therefore, it is compelling to me. Arguably it is the most compelling story in all of wrestling. Dusty Rhodes was such an iconic figure in this industry and pretty much did it all in this business except win the most prestigious world title in this business.
Cody made a vow at 8 years old that he would one day win the title that Dusty was unjustly denied. I was there in the building at WrestleMania 39, and I understood Cody’s motivations for wanting that title so bad, not because it was the top prize in this industry or even because it was his childhood vow, but because it would allow him to finish Dusty’s story and feel that connection with his father that he lost years ago.
I cannot truly explain it, but anyone that has lost a parent, there is a feeling of loss that never leaves you no matter how much time has passed. It never goes away, those that say time heals all wounds, it’s not true, you just find a way to live with the pain it never truly heals. You find ways to try to still feel connected with them and for Cody it is that championship.
I wrote many months ago, that there was a way to allow Cody to finish the story and still get Rock vs Roman at WrestleMania 40. However, what they did do had Cody win the Rumble literally become the first person ever to point at the champion that he wanted at the Rumble and then go ah never mind five days later. WWE had been doing a masterful job presenting Cody as the chosen one that should be the one to dethrone Roman, but instead you allowed that all to be thrown away when a newly appointed board member let his ego get what he wanted instead of the better story you were telling.
Cody Rhodes got the closest to ending Roman’s reign than anyone else. They would imply from time to time during the past year that his goal remained unchanged to defeat Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 40 for the WWE Undisputed Universal Championship. You had Cody survive the trials of Brock Lesnar, you had him survive the assassination attempt of Nakamura, you had him outlast 29 other men to become the first person in 26 years to win back-to-back Royal Rumbles and then we are supposed to believe he is willingly giving up his WrestleMania Night 2 main event spot in the rematch he has been begging for the past year so that the Rock could get the match that is only a dream match for him and Roman? That is the biggest bunch of BS I have ever been asked to accept as a wrestling fan and keep in mind I was asked to accept that the Undertaker came back from the dead.
I know I’m not alone in my disgust over this situation as of the time I’m writing this piece, the video segment on WWE’s YouTube page has over 400K dislikes so far making it the most disliked video in WWE’s history and also on YouTube Cultaholic Wrestling has a poll of who should main event WrestleMania 40 with Roman and Cody has 83% to Rock’s 17% with over 50K votes so far. For anyone that is making fun of Cody being screwed over, you should be ashamed of yourself as a wrestling fan.
I have said this many times before that storytelling is the lifeblood of this business and there is no one that can make a convincible that Rock’s obsession with this match with his younger cousin Roman to prove who is the true “head of the table” is more compelling than Cody finishing the story. At the end of the day the Rock is the biggest name in the history of the business and win or lose it won’t impact his star power or legacy even if he wins the title yet again. What does an extra reign really achieve here? Absolutely nothing other than some headlines the next day in the papers. You will have wasted a 1,300 day plus reign and made NO ONE in Roman’s defeat. Rock sure as hell won’t be defending the title and if he actually does drop it, it will not carry the same weight of dethroning Roman. If Roman wins, you send the fans home for a second year in a row unhappy…yeah real smart business strategy there.
Sacrificing What Is Right For Ego:
WWE sacrificed the best story in wrestling so someone’s ego could be stroked as a “savior” of WrestleMania with the lame excuse of CM Punk’s injury and McMahon/Lesnar mess giving the Rock the perfect ammo to force his way to get the dream match that is only a dream match in his own mind. Rock forced CM Punk out of the title and the main event years ago and once again he is thinking only about himself in my opinion but selling as it is best for business when it isn’t what is best for long term business.
I completely understand trying to get the casual and mania season fans on board, but you do not do that by spitting in the faces of the hardcore fans that have been there week and week out watching the product. That is exactly what the Rock and WWE did last night, they spit in the face of Cody, Dusty and the WWE fans.
This moment the most disingenuous handshake and hug, forcing Cody to give up his Mania spot that he earned by winning the Royal Rumble to the Rock. I will always love the Rock character, but I lost a ton of respect for Dwayne Johnson last night. Not only did he force his way into getting a match that it seems mania fans don’t want, but he also did something I didn’t think was possible, he actually ruined my excitement for my hometown WrestleMania. No one wants to see Cody battle Seth for the consolation prize “world” title. All due respect to Seth, but there is no lineage or prestige to that title, it sure as hell doesn’t finish the story. No one wants the silver medal or to come in second, and that is what that title represents. It isn’t the workhorse world title; it is the lesser world title and when you come into Philly they bury BS just like when they buried Roman when he won the Rumble here and the Rock couldn’t even save him.
This is what popped in my head the moment it became clear to me that Rock essentially screwed Cody and the fans over. It reminded me of Hogan playing his political card to get the WWF Championship instead of Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX. For the Rock to talk about how much an admirer of Dusty Rhodes he was and for knowing Cody since he was a child, to just blatantly steal Cody’s moment is disgusting in my eyes. How would the Rock have felt if he won the Royal Rumble all those years ago before he became a Hollywood star and Hogan came in as the bigger name and stole his WrestleMania main event? Believe me I don’t think he’d be happy about it.
Those that are making the argument oh it is because of the TV deals, I’m not buying that at all, Cody is one of the company’s biggest merch sellers and draws and has been for going on three years so I’m not buying USA Network or Netflix are forcing WWE’s hands here. Those that are saying oh Cody will get it at Summerslam, it may be too late at that point because Cody getting screwed over the second mania in a row maybe enough to lose you some hardcore fans.
There were only two places to end this story either at WrestleMania 40 on in MSG where this story began, nowhere else makes sense and no disrespect to the host city of WrestleMania 41 it won’t be the same type of moment if Cody won it in front of the most hardcore fan base in all of sports, Philadelphia.
If the Rock truly wanted to help WrestleMania, he could have had a match with literally almost anyone else, hell they could have even possibly got Austin to come out of retirement one more time to literally have Rock vs Austin one last time literally 25 years later from their first WrestleMania encounter at WrestleMania 15.
In my opinion this was more about selfishness and ego being sold as “I’m saving the show” and “best for business”. The same way he “saved” the DC Universe. I stand by my opinion that Cody Rhodes should finish the story at WrestleMania 40 in Rocky 2 style. Having the Rock vs Roman at WrestleMania 40 after having Cody win the Rumble maybe one of the dumbest booking decisions that I have seen from WWE since they thought it was a good idea to end the Undertaker’s Streak.
Congratulations WWE and Rock on getting your bigger marquee match to attract the fake fans that only watch WrestleMania by alienating the lifeblood of this business the hardcore fans. Storytelling is more important than egos and nothing will make me happier than this backfiring on them because this is the wrong decision.
Making the argument that it wasn’t done out of malice towards Cody doesn’t change the fact that he was screwed over just because Rock likely wants this match. It is like someone playing with a loaded gun and it goes off and hits somebody. You didn’t mean to shoot the person but they still have a bullet in them.
I really have nothing else left to say here other than I think WWE made a colossal long-term booking decision here. You don’t build this up for year and then have Cody go “I want your title Reigns not Seth’s, but I’m going to let the Rock have my mania match”, it is downright insulting to Cody and the audience. I’m beyond disgusted by the apparent massive ego winning out over the logical booking decision. The Rock could have had this match anywhere and at any time, but it seems to me his ego wouldn’t allow this to happen anywhere but WrestleMania 40 regardless of who got screwed to get what he appears to have wanted.