The Rock Has Been So Good Since Returning To WWE That It’s Creating A Major WrestleMania Problem

 The Rock at WrestleMania 32.
The Rock at WrestleMania 32.

We’re in the midst of one of the strangest WrestleMania seasons I can remember. Massive behind the scenes changes and multiple injuries to main event stars forced major rewrites to the original plans and convinced The Rock, who is now a board member of WWE’s parent company, to come out of retirement and get involved. Fans were, at first, furious about how his return upended main protagonist Cody Rhodes’ quest to finally win the WWE title from The Rock’s cousin Roman Reigns, but after weeks of fantastic promos and must-see television, WWE now has another problem on its hands. A growing segment of the audience is siding with The Rock and Roman and no longer want to see Cody finish his story.

Now, a bit of context is important here. So, let’s back up and tell this story chronologically, as the overall trajectory is the bigger problem, not the fact that some fans are rooting for Roman Reigns and The Rock.

Cody Rhodes returned to WWE at WrestleMania 38 to great fanfare, and after beating Seth Rollins, he vowed to win The WWE Championship for his late father, The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, who came close on several occasions but couldn’t close the deal. His story, despite some setbacks, built for the next year until he faced Roman Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania 39 and to the shock of most fans, lost after some outside interference. He then spent the next year building himself up to challenge Roman at WrestleMania 40 and finally finish his story.

Most fans were like an 8/10 invested in seeing him close the deal this time around, especially given Reigns has now held the belt for more than 3 consecutive years, but then CM Punk, who was widely expected to main event night 1 of WrestleMania, got hurt and The Rock decided to come back. In a decision that seemed to blur the lines between real life backstage politicking and on-screen story, The People’s Champion asked Cody Rhodes to stand aside so he could save WrestleMania and fight Roman Reigns in the main event, which would be a bigger draw for fans.

Cody initially acquiesced to the order/ request, but to hardcore fans who watch the product every week, it felt like a giant slap in the face. The crowd quickly turned on The Rock and started backing Cody so loudly and so aggressively that WWE decided to change course and do a tag team match featuring Roman Reigns and The Rock vs Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins on night one at ‘Mania and give Cody another chance to finish his story in a singles match versus Roman Reigns on night 2.

Now, at this point in the story, which happened about a month and a half ago, I think it’s fair to say Cody Rhodes had never been more popular. He’s always had the support of a rabid fanbase, but even casual supporters like myself who had mixed feelings about him potentially ending Roman’s title reign, were fully on board. I went to the Monday Night Raw in St Louis where The Rock was loudly booed and chanted “ We Want Cody” alongside the crowd. He was having a real moment, and I fully expected to cheer my head off when he beat Roman at ‘Mania.

But then The Rock started doing Rock things. Instead of trying to win the crowd over, he leaned into being a heel. He created an updated version of his Hollywood Rock persona and reminded everyone of why he’s one of the greatest mic workers in the history of the business. For the last six weeks, he’s dropped fantastic promo after fantastic promo to euphoric crowds, and while most of his insults have been directed to Cody and Seth Rollins, the simmering tension between him and his cousin Roman Reigns over who actually runs The Bloodline has been the most interesting storyline we’re getting every week.

Long story short, The Rock has been reminding everyone why he’s one of the biggest stars in the world every week. At the same time, Roman Reigns has been reminding everyone why he’s been the biggest star in the wrestling world for the last three years, and as they’ve delivered with every promo, more and more fans have started to question whether Cody Rhodes winning is even a good idea. The sentiment has been building over the last few weeks, but over the last several days, more and more noted wrestling fans and journalists have started saying these feelings out loud.

As a general rule in wrestling, you want the act fans care about the most to be the one holding the championship. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good guy or a bad guy. It just needs to be the person the fans care about the most because then they want to tune in to see if that person can win and/ or hold on to the title. For awhile, that was Cody Rhodes, making it very obvious he should win at WrestleMania. That was especially true after he was first asked to move aside, which galvanized the entire wrestling community behind him, but a lot of people just aren’t feeling it as intensely right now, which creates a big problem for WWE.

The wrestling business is about creating moments, and creating moments is about timing. Cody Rhodes' support was at an all-time high six weeks ago, but as The Rock and Roman Reigns have risen, Cody hasn't kept pace. We need him to remind everyone why he's just as big of a star as they are. We need him and Seth Rollins (who has been inconsistent) to give us two great weeks of storytelling so when WrestleMania comes, this match can pay off all the potential and create something special that fans will reminisce about for decades to come. If not, it'll feel like a major missed opportunity.