It was a source of speculation even before Cody Rhodes won the 2023 men’s Royal Rumble. Would the popularity of Sami Zayn in The Bloodline angle cause fans to turn on Rhodes on the road to WrestleMania 39, a la Batista and Daniel Bryan in 2014?
There have been no signs of a crowd revolt, but that hasn’t stopped the questions. Rhodes has already taken one stab at addressing the potential controversy on a WWE-produced show. Now he’s been asked about it by The Daily Mail’s Alex McCarthy.
Mostly, Cody sells his own story as someone’s overcome every obstacle put in front of him just to earn a chance at fulfilling his family’s dream of capturing the WWE championship. As he did on The Bump last week, he again talks about his and Zayn’s missions being similar. Rhodes also compares both of their angles to one WWE reportedly would have chosen over either — the return of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson:
“I love that you bring it up that these stories are running parallel, I think sometimes wrestling fans think it’s got to be one or it’s got to be the other, whereas I subscribe - and I’m not in charge - I subscribe to give them everything.
“That’s where it really takes smart planners and creative individuals on how you layer it, but it’s very important and this is something I learned when I was away, is that if someone’s doing great, and they are entertaining and helping move that ship forward - and I would say Seth Rollins is another example on Raw.
“He was another when I was gone who’s really changed and continued to carry Raw on his back. I was fully expecting these things to converge, and I’m still expecting them to converge just because we have these wonderful options.
“With all the respect in the world to one of the GOATs, The Rock, it looks like the options we have here within the roster are even better because of the stories that are happening.
“One story about finishing something that started in 1978 - seven years before I was even born - and another story of really the tragedy of being welcomed into the Bloodline and then what you saw unfolds.
“I think with the amount of time between now and WrestleMania, it’s important I keep my eyes squarely fixed on WrestleMania, squarely wrestling for the WWE Undisputed Championship and as you hinted that may not be against Roman Reigns.
“Now I don’t know if anyone can beat Roman Reigns, I truly don’t, but for me, it’s about picking up the chip. I love the melodrama, I love the heaviness in these stories that develop in our industry, but I am very simply a man who’s looking for a belt.
“I’m looking for a championship title belt, the most important one in our world the biggest in all - not just in the WWE bubble but in all the bubbles - and be the first to say as a Rhodes I did it. And it wasn’t Dusty Rhodes and it wasn’t Dustin Rhodes - it was Cody Rhodes.”
Who knows how Triple H & team would have worked Rock into The Bloodline story. The basic idea was obvious — a battle over who’s the true “Tribal Chief”. But they would have had work to do to integrate that into longer-running rivalries that have developed more organically over time like Sami or Jey Uso vs. Reigns.
So while that’s the juicy headline, I don’t think there’s much of an argument against Rhodes or Zayn being better story options at this point (whereas Cody wouldn’t have an argument if he’d claimed he or Sami were better box office options).
Will there be arguments over whether he or Zayn (or Jey) are the better choice for ‘Mania? We’ll find out over the next couple months.