The Rock vs. Cody Rhodes

Cody Rhodes is walking a very fine line ahead of Wrestlemania 40 in Philadelphia in just a few weeks.

It goes without saying that The Rock’s heel turn upon his appointment to the TKO board, a move for the corporation to distance themselves from Vince McMahon as much as anything else, and return to the company for his first match in over a decade, is a delicate balancing act. Given Dwayne Johnson’s popularity from Hollywood and his standing among wrestling fans as one of the biggest stars in the history of the sports entertainment business, it could’ve been tough to get the fans to boo him, but some stellar mic work, with purpose and importance, not tired catch phrases or cliches, made it possible. That being said, it’s also difficult to avoid The Rock almost unintentionally making Cody Rhodes, the baby face in the situation, look lame in the process. Sure, we’ve heard reports of the real-life Dwayne Johnson’s support for Rhodes, and that’s probably true, especially because the better WM does, the better Johnson looks like a mega star, but again, The Rock made a career of cleverly insulting his foes on the mic.

As I wrote in a few different articles at the time, the notion that Cody was willing to hand over the biggest opportunity of his career, a shot at the championship that he chased for almost two years, to The Rock without any explanation, made him look much less important among the WWE landscape. If it was the plan all along for the shift in the storyline back to Cody/Roman was almost irrelevant since the damage was done in terms of perception. Furthermore, when Cody took a slap to the face without any retaliation at the press conference, it was another segment where he looked foolish. Would Steve Austin, Bill Goldberg, or any other top baby face in the history of the industry just take a slap to the face?

Thankfully, as more layers were added to the angle, including a tag match on night one between The Rock and Roman Reigns and Cody and Seth Rollins to determine the rules for the title match on night two, the roles of each performer were defined in a better manner. However, I’m still not sure how strong Cody looks in the grand scheme of things, and more importantly, Roman Reigns almost appears secondary to his more famous cousin.

The segment on Smackdown where The Rock endorsed Roman Reigns at the leader of The Bloodline was key, as it put the focus on the champion, but the way that Cody’s promo on Raw was primarily geared towards The Rock, it put more of the spotlight on the part-time performer. In a similar fashion, Cody’s slap to The Rock on a recent episode of Smackdown, was a way for him to return the favor and look strong ahead of WM, but the promos between the two have been rather lop-sided. The Rock took to Instagram to torch Rhodes for crying during segments in previous weeks, and since it was online, he used profanity that wouldn’t be allowed on USA Network. Obviously, the language doesn’t make the promo, and if it depended on the profanity, the substance wouldn’t be there for a money promo anyway, but the point being, Dwayne Johnson responded to Rhodes with a clear level of intensity, while Cody is weeping on television. Again, this makes it look like perhaps the Rhodes character is overwhelmed by the moment thus implying that The Rock is a much bigger star. Reportedly, there are some within the WWE that have complained about the “double standard” with The Rock being able to use that type of profanity on social media, but the bottom line is, The Rock is a bigger star than the vast majority of the roster and he’s on the TKO Board Of Directors so the ability to cur the type of promos he wants for his storyline is one of the perks of the job.

As long as the company gets the payoff of Cody as the top guy by the conclusion of the storyline then the argument could be made that any criticism is moot, but none of that is for sure right now.

From all indications, Cody will get his moment of winning the championship for his father, the legendary Dusty Rhodes, but will this angle, particularly with The Rock’s involvement, allow him to be as over with the audience as he would’ve been otherwise?

It will be extremely interesting to see how this scenario unfolds because right now, Cody vs. The Rock is exponentially more of the focus of the angle, regardless of if that was the intent, than the actual Rhodes/Reigns match at Wrestlemania night two. As far as the promos, Cody fired back with some language that could air on television on Raw, but there was a stark difference between that and what we’ve seen from Dwayne Johnson online. Quite simply, Cody’s promo, including the profanity, sounded scripted and forced. It’s not the typical Cody promo style and it showed, as he tried to stretch his verbiage to fit something from The Rock’s playbook. Keep in mind, the reason that the fans became so invested in Cody’s journey to the championship in the first place was that there was a level of authenticity to it, which was the opposite of his segment on Raw. Cody really was typecast as a secondary comedy figure, he really did have the ambition to leave the WWE to prove management wrong, and he really does want to win the championship for Dusty. The office shouldn’t stray too far away from that narrative because if they want to make Cody as much of a top star as possible, that storyline is where the money is for him as a main event performer.

I understand that selling emotion is key to drawing money, and along with that is the emotional investment of the fans, but as I said, the fans already bought into Cody’s journey to win it for Dusty. The top baby face near tears on television seemed a little too over-the-top and it’s possible that the over dramatic presentation might sour some fans, especially because the other side of the coin of this angle is The Rock as one of the most charismatic performers of all time.

Reportedly, The Rock is set to take time off from WWE after WM, which is probably for the upcoming UFL season, but with the status of the angle now, an eventual Cody Rhodes/The Rock bout might be the only resolution. The reason being, not only is Roman portrayed as rather secondary in the storyline, even the visual sends that message, as The Rock looks completely massive standing next to Reigns. Despite the fact that he rarely defended the title last year, I still think that Reigns should take some time off after WM because he was basically the entire focus of the company for almost the past four years. Maybe this is all by design, but if Roman takes time off, maybe that will allow for a Cody vs. The Rock bout this year.

Again, there could be a bigger payoff as the storyline continues throughout this year, but there’s also the risk that Cody is seen as a timid baby face that isn’t quite as cool as The Rock, and Roman’s star power might not shine as bright as it did before he stood next to The Rock for a few months. Don’t get me wrong, The Rock’s involvement is obviously a major positive for the company, but there’s definitely a fine line in terms of presentation ahead of Wrestlemania in a few weeks.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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