Where do we begin? At last night’s WrestleMania 39 (night 2) from Los Angeles, California, we got the ultimate Hollywood ending. However, rather than the Avengers: Endgame ending many had expected – with the unstoppable demigod finally being defeated by a band of superheros led by their unifying leader – we got Avengers: Infinity War and, Mr. Stark, Cody Rhodes does not feel so good. Cody Rhodes suffered an upset loss and fans are, perhaps justifiably, angry.
For months, Rhodes has been built as the guy to defeat Roman Reigns. Indeed, it could be argued that he has been groomed for this exact role since making his shocking return to the WWE from All Elite Wrestling (AEW) at WrestleMania 38, where he is remembered as something resembling a founding father. Within the context of the story, he had been groomed for this moment his entire life – with his sole mission being to right the wrong of yesteryear, by etching the name of “Rhodes” into the WWE history books as a WWE Champion. Alas, at least for now, it was not to be. Instead of being the guy to defeat Reigns, Cody resembled “The Guy” (played by Elijah Wood) from Spy Kids: 3D (it was WrestleMania Goes Hollywood, we are getting our references in) and turned out to be little more than a false prophet.
The question coming out of WrestleMania 39 is: why? Why have Cody Rhodes lose in this moment, where the stars had aligned so perfectly for him to complete his destiny and bring home the one belt which had alluded his late father, The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes? Why continue this lengthy, almost 1,000 day title reign of Roman Reigns when, over the past few months, it appeared as though the moment had finally arrived where the Bloodline storyline concludes in spectacularly justifiable fashion? The title reign is historic enough; the storyline is legendary enough and continuing further poses the serious risk of undoing all that greatness and transitioning the Bloodline arc from white hot to lukewarm. Was the purpose merely to allow Reigns to achieve a 1,000 day title reign (something he will achieve next month)? Was it to keep the WWE’s undisputed top star as WWE Undisputed Universal Champion during WWE’s acquisition by Endeavor Group?
Might Cody Rhodes Be Rocky (II)?
For those who aren’t aware (yes, we are talking to the notorious Rocky dodger known as CM Punk), underdog Rocky Balboa loses to Apollo Creed in the conclusion of the first Rocky movie – it is a rags to riches fairytale where the underdog did not need to win; simply going the distance was enough to cement his place in the history books and display that underdogs only need a chance to show that they belong. However, Rocky II is different; it focuses on the aftermath of the iconic Heavyweight Championship boxing contest and ultimately results in the eventual rematch, which is this time won by a triumphant, changed Rocky Balboa. Cody Rhodes, for years, was a mid card act within WWE programming – his ceiling was limited at the WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships. Despite having a famous father, he had to go away and prove that he is a main event level talent. This has become a large part of the Cody character – he is someone looking to prove the doubters wrong, someone looking to prove the WWE establishment wrong.
In facing Roman Reigns last night, this was his opportunity to do just that. By falling to an (albeit controversial) defeat at the hands of Reigns, Cody fell short – but the manner of his defeat, and Reigns’ needing additional help to overcome the American Nightmare, all shows that Cody absolutely belongs at the top of the card. He is no longer an underdog and, much like Rocky in Rocky II, he is now an established threat. Now, the question remains: is this the WWE’s plan? Is Cody Rhodes still the handpicked chosen one to end Reigns’ reign? We do not know. Surely, given the story combined with Cody’s momentum and popularity within both the WWE and wider wrestling fan base, there is no one better than Cody to unseat the Head of the Table. There is now the potential for extra layers in the Reigns/Rhodes storyline – Cody has tasted defeat on his quest but will want one more chance to complete his legacy. Reigns, in contrast to Apollo Creed, will argue that he has already defeated Cody but, in knowing the threat Cody poses, he will know deep down inside that Cody can beat him.
Despite the loss, there is very much still the potential there for a Rhodes win over Roman Reigns. Heck, the rematch might even take place at next year’s WrestleMania. Whereas it (quite admittedly) looks bleak for Rhodes – and WWE does not have the best of track records when it comes to long-term storytelling (though the entire Bloodline arc has been a historic exception to the rule) – there is reason to be optimistic. Last night, for whatever reason, was not meant to be. Should the WWE remain loyal to Cody, however, his time will come and fans will still be behind it. Should the WWE go in a different direction, though, then this will go down as one of the company’s biggest creative missteps.
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