There are several theories for why WWE pivoted away from Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns and toward The Rock vs. Roman Reigns as the main event of WrestleMania 40. But whatever the reason or reasons, the architect of the move seems to have been identified.
Both Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and PWInsider’s Mike Johnson are reporting that Dwayne Johnson pushed for the move.
CM Punk’s injury and the sexual assault allegations against Vince McMahon (which in addition to causing WWE to be the subject of a lot of bad press, also took Brock Lesnar out of the mix for WrestleMania) creating a situation where the new TKO Group Board member could argue he was needed in the main event of this year’s Showcase of the Immortals.
One source told PWInsider that Rock is replacing Rhodes in order to “save WrestleMania” after Punk and Lesnar were taken out of plans for the show. Another told the site Rock wanted to return to the ring as soon as possible as it will help him hit certain milestones in the lucrative new contract he struck with TKO to join the Board.
In either case, The Rock is said to have the backing of Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel, WWE President Nick Khan, and other power players in the organization, so “it’s very possible that no matter who was injured or not, Cody vs. Reigns would not have taken place because The Rock was back in the game and the most important members of company management were going to acquiesce to Dwayne Johnson’s ideas.”
Meltzer wrote something similar on f4wonline’s The Board:
The Rock pushed super hard for it. The WrestleMania 40 card changed when CM Punk & Brock Lesnar were out and all the dominoes fell. Dwayne already wanted it and they [WWE] felt they now needed it as well. Felt this was better to change the news flow away from Vince.
Cody was the plan. Dwayne was going to face him [Roman Reigns] later, maybe next year’s Mania, maybe Saudi. The Vince thing ends up worse than they thought and they changed the plan. 100% it was Punk vs Seth and Cody vs Reigns until Punk got hurt.
Insider adds that the change wasn’t pushed or executed out of any “malice” for Rhodes, but because Rock believes it’s the best business move — and he’s now in a position where he can make that call. Mike Johnson writes:
This was a strategic move to give [Dwayne] Johnson more political power overall and to show Endeavor’s faith in his involvement and that even Paul Levesque [Triple H], who has done an admirable job as the Chief Creative Officer, would “lose that power struggle with Johnson at this point”, as one source surmised.
Overall, while it will be interesting to see how the change to the WrestleMania card plays out in story, it will be even more interesting to see how some of the events that may have helped make it possible change WWE behind-the-scenes.