At a PK in Las Vegas, WWE cancels the seemingly fixed WrestleMania match between Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Roman Reigns at short notice – another star gets his turn
Spectacular turnaround for the WWE comeback of megastar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – as a reaction to the fan discontent that has broken out in recent days?
After it had seemed clear since last Friday that a title match between The Rock and “Undisputed Universal Champion” Roman Reigns would headline the WrestleMania 40 mega-show in April, everything turned out differently than expected
At the official press conference for the big event in Philadelphia, WWE surprisingly announced a different main event and seemingly booted out the returning icon – not without leaving the impression that Johnson will still be involved in a different constellation.
But Cody Rhodes instead of The Rock against Roman Reigns
At the PK in Las Vegas – in the slipstream of the NFL Super Bowl on Sunday at the same venue – everything initially seemed to point to the announcement of Reigns vs. Rock
Reigns stepped up and declared that he would face Johnson at WrestleMania, as Royal Rumble winner Cody Rhodes had “hesitated” on last Friday’s SmackDown TV show, forfeiting his right to the title match. He would now choose The Rock as his opponent of his own accord
The Rock followed Reigns to the stage, spoke about the history of blood brotherhood between his family and the Samoan clan Anoa’i, from which Reigns hails, and explained that the match between him and Reigns was fixed and would be the biggest in history – obviously not everyone would like that, “but you have to accept it”.
At this point, Rhodes interrupted Reigns and Johnson – and put a spanner in the works: Reigns and Johnson were talking “bullshit”, he had not forfeited his right – and would now choose Reigns as his WrestleMania opponent instead of World Champion Seth Rollins. A scuffle ensued.
WWE Chairman “Triple H” Paul Levesque finally officially confirmed the match – to the (feigned) horror of his old ring rival Johnson.
– WWE (@WWE) February 9, 2024
180-degree turnaround from Friday’s SmackDown
The PK was a logically incoherent 180-degree turnaround from Friday’s SmackDown show, where Rhodes had explicitly stated in the show’s closing segment that after careful consideration, he would “not challenge Reigns at WrestleMania” and would leave that up to Johnson.
The son of the late legend Dusty Rhodes then left the stage to the 51-year-old Johnson after a handshake and a hug, and the show ended with a stare-down between Reigns and Johnson.
The official announcement of the match seemed to be a formality and, according to media reports, was the plan – Rhodes should have challenged Rollins instead, as a replacement for CM Punk, who was out with a serious injury.
WWE has apparently changed its mind at short notice
Now WWE has apparently had a last-minute rethink, seemingly in response to the WeWantCody movement: Over the past few days, a large fan protest has formed via social media, opposing the Reigns-Rock match and instead the completion of the Reigns-Rhodes feud at Anniversary WrestleMania that has been building for two years.
The anger also ignited at Johnson personally, with boos directed at the 51-year-old both on Friday and on Monday’s Monday Night RAW show whenever his name was mentioned. It raised the threat that the same thing would happen at WrestleMania, counteracting the WWE script.
The situation is strikingly reminiscent of the “Yes Movement” ten years ago, when WWE fans torpedoed a scheduled match between Randy Orton and Batista (Dave Bautista), who was also returning from Hollywood at the time, before WrestleMania 30 and pushed their then-favorite Daniel Bryan into the WrestleMania main event.
The Rock falls back into his old role
The first hint that WWE would change its plans again this time (and sooner than then) came during an appearance by Johnson on “The Pat McAfee Show” Thursday morning.
Johnson reacted surprisingly nastily to the expressions of sympathy for Rhodes in a conversation with the ex-NFL player and WWE’s own fans and commentators: He spoke of “crybabies” (“Cody Crybabies”) whose opinions he didn’t give a damn about. It was a “heelish” performance in which he reverted to the role that had once made him great: as a self-absorbed meanie mocking fans and opponents alike
The Rock calls out the ‘Cody crybabies’.
– Pat McAfee Show pic.twitter.com/a5GIyDX2JP
– Wrestle Ops (@WrestleOps) February 8, 2024
The same style continued at the PK: The Rock was arrogant and gave Rhodes the opportunity to insult both Reigns – who suddenly got on well with Johnson – and him. Rhodes, alluding to the wrestling families they both come from, declared that Reigns’ and Rock’s grandfathers “would be ashamed of you”. Johnson responded by slapping Rhodes in the face, and a staged brawl between the three stars was then stopped by security.
Towards the end of the broadcast, Johnson – with Reigns in tow – then turned to companion Levesque, complaining about Rhodes and telling him to “fix” the problem.
– WWE (@WWE) February 9, 2024
What happens now with The Rock at WrestleMania?
The storyline constellation between Rock, Reigns and Rhodes has completely changed and there are now many conceivable ways for WWE to proceed.
The subsequent expansion of Reigns vs. Rhodes into a three-way match is just as conceivable as WWE scheduling the match between Reigns and Rock on the first night of the two-day WrestleMania – or at another big show at a later date, which has also been discussed in the meantime.
Reigns and Rock, who recently joined the WWE management team, could also team up for a tag team match against Rhodes and a partner (Rollins?) on the first day of WrestleMania or at the previous big event, No Escape (Elimination Chamber) in Australia.
On the next edition of SmackDown on Saturday night, there may be answers to the many unanswered questions…