A not insignificant portion of the WWE fan base, or at least the most vocal part of it, were awfully upset by the decision to have Roman Reigns retain the WWE Universal championship in the main event of WrestleMania 39 in Inglewood, California, a couple weeks ago. Much of the criticism revolved around the same basic idea — they’ll simply never get Cody Rhodes to the level he was at going into that match.
What’s more, it speaks to how he’s viewed among the powers that be more generally. He may be a star, and may even be worthy of a WrestleMania main event, but there’s a difference between being a guy worthy of challenging for a championship and a guy worthy of actually winning the damn thing.
I’m of the mind his loss in that match doesn’t necessarily rule out the latter. Actually, his booking in the immediate aftermath of that defeat will likely tell us everything we need to know in that regard.
That’s because he’s staring down none other than The Beast himself, Brock Lesnar.
Let me tell you something you already know about Brock Lesnar: he doesn’t lose very often, and when he does lose it’s almost never clean. I went back and looked at each of his matches since he returned to WWE in 2012 and, excluding Reigns, who has been a made man from damn near day one, here is the list of guys Lesnar has put over clean:
- Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania 36 in 2020
- Seth Rollins at SummerSlam in 2019
- Bill Goldberg at Survivor Series in 2016
- Triple H at WrestleMania 29 in 2013
- John Cena at Extreme Rules in 2012
That’s pretty much a who’s who of top stars in WWE over the past decade or so. This is the guy Vince McMahon chose to end The Streak. If you are given a clean win over Brock Lesnar, you’re a made man.
Which is why I can’t wait to see how the main event of Backlash plays out on May 6 in Puerto Rico. If Lesnar ends up staring up at the lights for three seconds — without any shenanigans before it — that will tell us a whole hell of a lot more about Cody’s place in the pecking order than his loss to Reigns at WrestleMania did.