For two years, all anyone heard Cody Rhodes say was, “Finish the story.” With another chance to do that after winning the 2024 Royal Rumble, Cody Rhodes — unexplainably — stepped aside and surrendered that opportunity to The Rock.
Of all the ways to set up the long-awaited dream match between Roman Reigns and The Rock, this wasn’t it. And as a result, Rhodes’ story is dead, and WWE killed it, with The Rock being an attractive accessory to said murder.
For a lack of a better word, this sucked.
From a booking stand point, Rock vs. Roman is the biggest match they could put on the card.— Rick Ucchino (@RickUcchino) February 3, 2024
Storyline wise, how do you have Cody willingly give up his spot after going through Hell to earn it? Makes no sense. https://t.co/RGduz1N3TN
After winning the men’s Royal Rumble last Saturday, Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns seemed destined to clash at WrestleMania for Reigns’ Undisputed Universal Championship. However, an unexpected development occurred on Raw when World Champion Seth Rollins challenged Rhodes to a match at WWE’s grand spectacle. Many perceived the move as a way to introduce intrigue and fill TV time before delivering the anticipated rematch between Reigns and Rhodes.
But then came the Feb. 2 edition of SmackDown, where WWE violently yanked the carpet out from under countless fans who thought this was Rhodes’ time to defeat Reigns.
As he contemplated his options, Rhodes openly wondered whether finishing his story meant taking the championship from Reigns or seizing everything from him, including the title. It was an odd pivot as since his return to the company in 2022, Rhodes has consistently stated that “finishing the story” meant winning the WWE Championship, which eluded his Hall of Fame father, Dusty Rhodes.
But after Rollins’ proposal, Rhodes said he sought advice and ultimately decided he wouldn’t conclude his saga this year at ‘Mania. Instead, he introduced Reigns to one of his advisors, The Rock, before exiting without explaining why he was postponing his dream.
Sadly, the why didn’t seem to matter to those gathered inside the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, AL, who gladly accepted his WrestleMania resignation in favor of The Rock. Meanwhile, fans online expressed their displeasure, and rightfully so. The execution here lacked logic and diminished Rhodes as a star and performer.
From that, he may never recover.
First, the crowd’s response and Rhodes’ meek departure made him seem like anything but the top babyface in WWE. One could not imagine Steve Austin graciously handing over his opportunity to headline WrestleMania to Hulk Hogan had Hogan returned to WWE in 1998. Such scripting would have cut the Rattlesnake off at the head.
That’s not to say that Rhodes is or isn’t at the level of Austin. But given his position as WWE’s top good guy, one would expect a better presentation than what Rhodes received here.
And in a weird twist of fate, WWE and Rock robbing Rhodes of all he earned seemingly validate Arn Anderson’s public yet kayfabe criticism of Rhodes in All Elite Wrestling in 2021 when he said of Rhodes to Rhodes, “You pull up to a red light, a man jerks your door open, says ‘Out of the car, I’m taking your car.’ You say, ‘Okay, take it. Just don’t hurt me.’”
From the look of it, WWE and The Rock rolled up to Rhodes and
carjacked ‘Mania-jacked him, and Cody said, “Okay, take it.”
Instead, when WWE proposed this ridiculous storyline to Rhodes, he should’ve asked what would Arn do before pulling his metaphorical Glock out on The People’s Champion and moving on to complete his tale at WrestleMania.
Second, as a character in a story, sympathizing with Rhodes’ quest in the future will be difficult. Regardless of the reason — in kayfabe or reality — Rhodes seemingly didn’t fight hard enough for the dream he allegedly held so dear. And if Rhodes doesn’t care, why should the fans?
It’s a bad look made worse as the SmackDown results page on WWE.com lists the Rhodes, Reigns, and Rock segment as “The Rock stepped up to Roman Reigns as Cody Rhodes refused to fight Reigns at WrestleMania!”
He refused to fight Reigns?
What heroic tale ends with the protagonist letting someone else fight his battle?
After failing to capture the Undisputed Universal Championship from Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39, most fans and pundits questioned WWE’s decision to have Rhodes lose, with some insisting his career had been ruined. But Rhodes regained momentum as he defeated Brock Lesnar at two premium live events, won the tag team titles with Jey Uso, albeit briefly, and once had a faceoff with Reigns on SmackDown to tease an eventual rematch.
Most importantly, Rhodes had done everything he could to distinguish himself from Reigns, such as performing at nearly every non-televised event across the United States. Fans at each stop rejoiced in his words as if Rhodes was running for president, as he told anyone within earshot, “I’m the right man for the job. I’m the best man for the job,” with regards to becoming the champ and the face of the brand.
Rhodes’ campaign had everyone, including this writer (an ardent Roman Reigns supporter), believing that 2024 was his year and WrestleMania was his time. But by producing the wretched SmackDown segment in the nonsensical way it did, WWE ruined Rhodes and his story. It’s soiled, any magic it had is gone, and contrary to my previous statements, Cody Rhodes is not fine.
Cody Rhodes is finished.
End of story.