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A lapsed fan’s information to WrestleMania 40: The Rock is again

Greg Wyshynski, ESPNApr 5, 2024, 08:31 AM ET Close Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer. As a service to fans who have a general interest in WWE but might not have watched a match since the last time The Rock “finally had returned to Philadelphia” in 1999, we’re happy to provide this FAQ as

A lapsed fan’s information to WrestleMania 40: The Rock is again

  • Greg Wyshynski, ESPNApr 5, 2024, 08:31 AM ET

    Close

      Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL author.

As a service to followers who’ve a common curiosity in WWE however may not have watched a match for the reason that final time The Rock “lastly had returned to Philadelphia” in 1999, we’re blissful to offer this FAQ as a information to WrestleMania 40, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Lincoln Monetary Area within the Metropolis of Brotherly Love.

Lastly! The Rock has returned to WWE. He is in a fundamental occasion at WrestleMania. But, after years of teasing it, he isn’t trying to beat Roman Reigns, take his Undisputed WWE Common championship and develop into the Head of the Desk. As a substitute, he is tag-teaming with Roman on Evening 1?

OK, did somebody not scent what The Rock was cooking in interviews like this one with Stephen A. Smith?

Cody Rhodes apparently had some olfactory inconsistency. He did scent what The Rock was cooking briefly. However when the followers misplaced their urge for food for it, Rhodes determined to rewrite The Rock’s recipe.

Please recall that Rhodes had an opportunity to “end the story” — i.e. win the world championship that eluded his WWE Corridor of Fame father Dusty Rhodes — at WrestleMania 39 in opposition to Reigns, only to see his dream shattered by exterior interference from The Wiseman (pending WWE Hall of Famer Paul Heyman) and The Bloodline’s Solo Sikoa.

Within the ensuing 12 months, Cody had facet quests in opposition to Brock Lesnar and The Judgment Day, aligned himself with former rivals Seth “Freakin’” Rollins and Jey Uso and eventually won the Royal Rumble in January by eliminating CM Punk to earn one other shot at Reigns and the title at WrestleMania 40 — if Cody needed the match, that’s.

There was no purpose to imagine it would not be Rhodes-Reigns II at WrestleMania 40. Cody stated after the Rumble that “I wish to be again within the ring with Roman Reigns, and I wish to end the story.”

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On the following version of SmackDown, Reigns requested for a choice. Rhodes stepped into the ring to say that he needed to complete the story, take Reigns’ title and take every little thing from him … “However not at WrestleMania.”

To cite these annoying followers nonetheless doing a bit from 20 years in the past to interrupt each promo: “WHAT?”

Rhodes then revealed that he had been searching for counsel from somebody who is aware of Reigns very nicely.

“In the event you smelllllll …”

The Rock, who had previously returned to WWE on Jan. 1, walked down the aisle, shook palms with Cody and embraced him. Rhodes exited the ring, primarily ceding his spot so The Rock and Roman Reigns may fundamental occasion WrestleMania.

However in a short time WWE discovered that it should not mess with Rhodes’ story.

Wait, who would not wish to see The Rock lay the smackdown on Roman Reigns at WrestleMania?

Apparently, loads of followers. The heel flip from The Rock began on “The Pat McAfee Present” with the time period “Cody Crybabies.”

The WWE Universe wasn’t shopping for the change of coronary heart from Rhodes. The notion that The Rock had “large timed” the Royal Rumble winner, interrupting Rhodes’ story to proceed his personal, was unshakable. Particularly since Dwayne Johnson had been named to the board of directors of TKO, the publicly traded firm consisting of the UFC and WWE, simply over per week earlier.

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That cynicism was particularly engrained for followers who recalled the state of affairs again in 2013, when Punk’s WrestleMania fundamental occasion aspirations had been dashed to ensure that John Cena to face The Rock as a substitute. The individuals needed Punk. That is not what they got.

In a traditional CM Punk transfer, he advised Cody of their pre-Rumble promo section that “proper whenever you’re about to cross the end line and end your story, [there’s] a a lot larger celebrity that hasn’t been round in a really very long time coming to take all of it away from you.” Was he speaking about himself or The Rock?

After Rhodes gave up his spot, WWE occasions had been quickly full of chants of “We Need Cody” and “Rocky Sucks,” the latter being one thing you do not wish to hear when your conquering hero is searching for to take down the corporate’s longest-reigning villain.

These chants continued on the WrestleMania XL Kickoff media occasion in Las Vegas throughout Tremendous Bowl weekend, the place The Rock and Reigns had been anticipated to cement their matchup.

The followers nonetheless needed Cody to complete the story, so the WWE determined it was time for a rewrite.

What occurred in Vegas?

play

3:28

Tensions rise after The Rock slaps Cody Rhodes

After Cody Rhodes decides to struggle Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 40, The Rock slaps Rhodes throughout the cheek.

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Properly, it definitely did not keep in Vegas, if that is what you are asking.

The Rock supplied a historical past lesson about his household, placing up a “Bloodline Household Tree” on the display prefer it was a TED Discuss Samoan wrestling. Rhodes interrupted the information convention, calling the state of affairs “bulls—” and proclaiming that he had determined to problem Reigns at WrestleMania in any case.

Within the course of, Rhodes referenced The Bloodline’s ancestry a bit an excessive amount of for The Rock’s liking, and he emphatically slapped Rhodes throughout the face, signaling a heel flip and aligning with Reigns, the particular person he was planning on beating the snot out of roughly 30 seconds earlier.

However hey, The Rock’s been within the “Quick and the Livid” film franchise. He is aware of it is all about household.

So the match was made: Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 40 for Undisputed WWE Common Championship and the completion of tales, probably.

And shortly, one other match was made: Reigns would group with The Rock on Evening 1 in opposition to Rhodes and Rollins, who discovered himself in the course of that Las Vegas information convention chaos.

If Rhodes and Rollins win, The Bloodline will probably be barred from ringside for the Evening 2 fundamental occasion. In the event that they lose, then the principle occasion is “Bloodline Guidelines,” that means run-ins and interference galore from Roman’s compatriots.

In the event that they’re barred from ringside, why would not The Bloodline simply intervene within the match anyway, for the reason that title cannot change palms by means of disqualification?

Uh … perhaps the ref simply will not see it. As traditional.

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Did we ever get a adequate rationalization, in storyline, for why Rhodes handed his spot to The Rock?

Probably not. Rhodes responded to a really “Angle Period” promo from The Rock on social media by claiming he was manipulated into giving up the match after The Rock satisfied him that the individuals actually needed to see him in opposition to Reigns. Rhodes later stated it was The Rock’s conceitedness on the Vegas information convention that lastly broke him and made him retake the spot he’d earned.

Please learn this terrific inside story from Marc Raimondi and Mike Coppinger that particulars the non-kayfabe pivot for WWE away from the match. Complicated and inexplicable because it was, the entire state of affairs speaks to the modifications behind the scenes for WWE that allowed followers to will an enormous change like this into existence.

What about The Rock in all of this?

For all of the considerations about his in-ring rust and whether or not his schtick interprets to 2024 — not all of them misplaced considerations, thoughts you — there is no query that the magnitude of his star energy has helped WWE pivot from an admitted mistake in judgment.

It has been a minute since we had a heel with this type of old-school warmth: The corporately chosen, entitled star whose violent assaults on the hero depart little children crying out of concern for Rhodes’ well being.

#TheRock and #RomanReigns simply DESTROYED #CodyRhodes and #SethRollins simply days earlier than their blockbuster tag group fundamental occasion at #WrestleMania XL! pic.twitter.com/xYxynqNXKb

— WWE (@WWE) April 2, 2024

However there’s additionally been one thing decidedly new-school about The Rock in his use of social media to construct the feud. It is not simply dropping extreme F-bombs on Instagram: Witness a current assault on Uncooked by which The Rock bloodied Rhodes with a weight belt exterior the sector. The Folks’s Champ later launched a video, ostensibly shot by his personal social media group, exhibiting him persevering with the assault after the WWE crew had stated “that is a wrap” on the section. That was ingenious.

If there’s one fundamental challenge with the way in which this performed out for The Bloodline, it is that The Rock’s heel flip dimmed the highlight on Reigns. We have been constructing towards Cody vs. Roman II for a 12 months and that construct ends with The Rock proclaiming himself as “The Closing Boss” forward of their match, which is what Roman had at all times been offered as vis-à-vis “ending the story.” Now Reigns feels just like the penultimate problem, which does not really feel proper narratively.

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Maybe that is the purpose. One may simply see a situation by which Rhodes wins and ascends to his place as the corporate’s babyface champion whereas The Bloodline continues to implode. The Rock usurps Reigns as Tribal Chief, Reigns is bitter about being pushed apart, and so they end their very own story at (the following) WrestleMania — maybe as Dwayne Johnson at all times supposed.

Talking of Bloodline household drama, what’s up with the Uso brothers?

Please recall again to final August at SummerSlam when Jey Uso misplaced the prospect to develop into the brand new Tribal Chief as a result of Jimmy pulled him out of the ring and superkicked him. Jimmy claimed it was to maintain Jey from being corrupted by energy, and Jey responded by superkicking your complete Bloodline earlier than finally “quitting WWE” and naturally ending up aligned with Rhodes on Uncooked.

So at WrestleMania 40, we get Jey Uso vs. Jimmy Uso, twin vs. twin, Bloodline vs. exiled former member. However extra importantly, we get “Yeet!” (Jey’s catchphrase, which the group echoes) vs. “No Yeet!” (Jimmy’s response to that catchphrase), making this maybe the primary match ever booked by means of gross sales of novelty T-shirts.

So Seth Rollins spends your complete 12 months crushing it because the energetic heavyweight champion … please inform me that he is doing greater than only a tag group match with Rhodes.

RIP Seth Rollins’ title run
RIP CM Punk’s #WrestleMania desires pic.twitter.com/xNAuQrZlgp

— Drew (@DMcIntyreWWE) April 2, 2024

Rollins defends the world heavyweight championship in opposition to Drew McIntyre, making this three title pictures in six months for the Scottish Warrior in opposition to Seth. Maybe that is why McIntyre has been as centered on CM Punk as he is been on this match.

It was McIntyre’s Future Shock DDT that allegedly led to Punk tearing his triceps at the Royal Rumble, costing him the prospect to fundamental occasion WrestleMania for the primary time. McIntyre has leaned into this slightly devilishly, wearing a T-shirt depicting him celebrating at a grave with “CM Punk’s WrestleMania Important Occasion” on the tombstone.

In truth, McIntyre’s been on hearth in his promos, together with a current one the place he was giving a “eulogy,” saying Punk’s “brittle, fragile physique failed him worse than it did in UFC” and that Rollins is a “cringe-lord” who “noticed Jared Leto as The Joker and constructed his whole character round him.”

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(Properly, it was truly Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, however the level nonetheless stands.)

So, in abstract: CM Punk is getting concerned on this match by some means, except you imagine his duties will probably be restricted to “particular visitor commentator” as at the moment listed by the WWE.

Who’s difficult for the ladies’s titles?

After Bayley gained the Royal Rumble, she earned a title shot at WrestleMania. Issues hadn’t been going nicely for Bayley in her faction Harm CTRL, as Iyo Sky, Kairi Sane and Asuka had been overtly mocking her in Japanese. Too dangerous Bayley additionally speaks Japanese! After that surprising revelation, Sane and Asuka attacked Bayley, leaving her with no selection however to problem her former pal Sky for the SmackDown belt at ‘Mania.

Harm CTRL’s Asuka, Sane and Dakota Kai are set to tackle Bianca Belair, a returning Naomi and Jade Cargill in a six-person tag group match. Cargill made her WWE debut in January after leaving AEW. Few wrestlers have ever arrived in WWE wanting extra like they had been born to compete there than Cargill. And it is laborious to not think about Cargill is the one which will get the pin on Sunday evening. She’s already on the poster for an upcoming WWE Premium Stay Occasion this summer time.

What about Rhea Ripley, the ladies’s world champion?

#RheaRipley and #BeckyLynch cannot wait for his or her #WomensWorldTitle match at #WrestleMania! pic.twitter.com/PcD0n9nSDN

— WWE (@WWE) April 2, 2024

She has a date with The Man, and no, we’re not speaking Dom Dom. By the way in which, congrats to Dominik Mysterio for getting married in actual life and for Damian Priest for main the boos when Mysterio grabbed a microphone at his personal marriage ceremony. Unbelievable.

It is Ripley vs. “The Man” Becky Lynch for the title at WrestleMania, after Lynch gained the Elimination Chamber match for the correct to face her. The construct for this has been superior: Two rivals that know their means round a promo, with Rhea because the cocky champion wanting to attract the hearth out of Becky. And that she did on “The MMA Hour” the place Lynch confirmed as much as assault Ripley on the set. It is Randy Savage tackling Dennis Rodman in 1999 on “The Tonight Present” for the digital age!

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These two have not met in a singles match since 2019. They completely ought to steal the present on Evening 1.

What are the opposite title matches at WrestleMania?

Evening 1 has Intercontinental champion Gunther dealing with Sami Zayn. Gunther is constructing on his historic reign with the title, which will probably be round 664 days by the point WrestleMania hits, or 663 days longer than a minimum of two of The Miz‘s IC title runs. It is a Gunther match and it is a Sami match, which implies we will count on abject punishment and fantastic underdog moments of hope.

And chops. Many chops. We requested Zayn about them on ESPN’s “The Drop” podcast this week, and he stated Gunther’s chops are “laborious to elucidate” for him.

“It hurts, but it surely’s virtually extra jarring than something. You virtually cannot imagine the response it has in your physique,” stated Zayn. “One thing about that chop, it takes your breath away and does bizarre issues to your physique.”

The U.S. title is on the road as champion Logan Paul takes on Randy Orton and Kevin Owens in a triple risk match. Paul has been the champion since final October, and Owens has been chasing him and that belt ever since.

Orton returned from a long-term damage at Survivor Collection, to the delight of the followers. At Elimination Chamber, Paul took an RKO from The Viper, feigned damage after which whacked him within the face with brass knuckles to value Orton a shot at a WrestleMania fundamental occasion. Which is usually not what we would advise anybody to do to Randy Orton, however this being Logan Paul, he most likely noticed it as mild trolling.

Please word that Logan Paul’s Prime Hydration is the unique “official hydration drink companion” of WWE and the primary companion to ever seem on the middle of the WWE ring. Clearly, a transparent battle of curiosity to have a competitor within the match additionally sponsoring it. We want Congressional hearings on this, instantly.

There’s gotta be an enormous tag group match, proper?

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Tag group ladder matches have a legacy of their very own at WrestleMania. The mere point out of 1 conjures photographs of midair spears and stupefying dives onto stacks of ladders.

Whereas there will probably be no tables and chairs on this match — a minimum of formally — The Judgment Day (Finn Balor and Damian Priest) will defend their belts in a “Six-Pack Ladder Match” in opposition to 5 different tag groups.

From Uncooked, we now have The New Day, DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa) and Superior Reality, which pairs The Miz with R-Truth, maybe the single funniest individual in wrestling today. From SmackDown, we now have Grayson Waller and Austin Theory and New Catch Republic, which is Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate having adopted a moniker that shouts out wrestling from the 1800s.

Please word that Priest remains to be the proprietor of the WWE Cash within the Financial institution briefcase and has stated he was ready for Uncooked model champion Rollins to get wholesome earlier than cashing it.

Any multiteam matches at WrestleMania?

After all there are. How else are they getting as many wrestlers on the roster as attainable on the cardboard, with the Andre The Large battle royal having been relegated to SmackDown?

The Satisfaction (Bobby Lashley and The Street Profits) will tackle The Closing Testomony (Karrion Kross and the Authors of Pain) in a Philadelphia Road Struggle, which is about as brutal a mixture of phrases as one may string collectively for a match stipulation.

The opposite match continues the long-standing feud between Rey Mysterio and his son, former convict Dominik Mysterio. Rey will group with Dragon Lee in opposition to “Soiled” Dom and Santos Escobar, in a battle between the Latino World Order (LWO) and Legado del Fantasma. Dom continues to have warmth with the followers that is barely hotter than the floor of the solar, and we like to see it.

Talking of crowd response, the place’s LA Knight on this card?

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Last year’s sensation, LA Knight, is dealing with AJ Styles in a singles match, stemming from some beef they began at Elimination Chamber. They’ve had some enjoyable right here. Knight was “arrested” for trespassing at Kinds’s home whereas in search of him. He additionally ambushed AJ after disguising himself as a safety guard at SmackDown, full with a wig.

Look, it is an excuse to observe Kinds be phenomenal within the ring and Knight to most likely get his revenge. Not every little thing must be a multiyear construct to an operatic end. Typically, you simply watch to provide 90,000 followers an opportunity to say “Yeah!” so much.

It is WrestleMania. Do we now have celebrities in attendance?

You imply moreover essentially the most electrifying man in leisure right this moment, The Rock?

We all know Lil Wayne will probably be there. A number of experiences have discuss present host Drew Barrymore showing, probably working with The New Day. There have additionally been experiences that WWE has reached out to lately retired Eagles legend Jason Kelce, who will hopefully dress in his Mummers Parade outfit from their Tremendous Bowl social gathering in 2018 ought to he seem. Or convey his brother Travis and his girlfriend Taylor Swift with him. One of many two.

Lastly, does this stack as much as be a traditional WrestleMania?

Clearly, a variety of that relies on how the WWE sticks the touchdown with the Bloodline vs. Cody Rhodes drama, which may wrap up as both a storybook ending or one thing utterly convoluted to push the angle deeper in 2024. However the undercard behind these matches is so stable that it’d make up for no matter disappointment lingers. Rollins vs. McIntyre, Ripley vs. Lynch, Uso vs. Uso … we have some potential show-stoppers right here that on the very least are going to have the Linc rocking.

That stated, if Cody loses once more, it isn’t going to be fairly.

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