Cody Rhodes returned to the ring Saturday for a WWE live event in Knoxville, Tennessee, one night removed from SmackDown, where he literally handed over the right to face Roman Reigns at WrestleMania to The Rock.
A replay of what happened on SmackDown aired on a big screen in the Knoxville Civic Coliseum earlier in the evening. Fans booed The Rock upon seeing him saunter out to accept Rhodes’ place against Reigns, which has drawn outrage from many within the wrestling community.
Rhodes later entered the arena to a warm reception, then put his head down and went to work against Shinsuke Nakamura in a Street Fight.
A physical affair, the two rivals battered each other in and out of the ring. At one point, Rhodes attempted to superplex Nakamura through a table set up in the ring. But Nakamura blocked the attempt and countered with a headbutt that sent Rhodes sailing off the top rope and through the table.
However, The American Nightmare rallied after Nakamura came charging through another table, this time set up in a corner. Rhodes immediately followed up with a Cross Rhodes to score the win via pinfall.
Afterward, Rhodes addressed the live event crowd. With a microphone in hand, most were hoping Rhodes would address that scene from SmackDown, an unexpected turn of events that left many disappointed after Rock seemingly swept in from behind the scenes to take what many considered Rhodes’ moment and close the book on his fairytale.
Rather than addressing the recent controversy, Rhodes kept his attention to the Knoxville audience. While preparing to offer a fragment of one of the broken tables as a souvenir, he noticed a sign in the crowd that read, “Legally blind, but trying to see Cody Rhodes.”
Rhodes exited the ring and made a point for the fan to see him closeup as he embraced his loyal supporter before returning to the ring to wish Knoxville a good night.
While it may not have been the statement fans were anticipating, it affirmed the widely held belief by his followers that the second-generation star is the true People’s Champion.