Why Cody Rhodes Lost His Story

Cody Rhodes stepped aside from his WrestleMania 40 title opportunity, so he's not finishing the story! So what the heck happened?!
WWE WrestleMania 39 - Cody Rhodes vs Roman Reigns

The pro wrestling community is buzzing right now following last night’s edition of WWE SmackDown. None other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was back on WWE programming, his second appearance of the year after appearing at WWE Raw Day 1 on January 1. The bombshell was finally dropped, Cody Rhodes revealed that he won’t challenge Roman Reigns for the WWE Undisputed Universal Championship (see the full video of the segment below). Despite having a clear path to finally “finish the story,” Cody’s mantra since he returned to WWE, it looks like WWE is now gearing up a blockbuster matchup between The Rock and his younger cousin Roman Reigns.

In short, despite winning a second Royal Rumble match at this year’s event, becoming the first man to win back-to-back Rumble matches in the 26 years since Stone Cold Steve Austin did it last, Cody Rhodes is not finishing his story at WrestleMania 40, aka WrestleMania XL.

The Rock got the nod for the epic title clash with Roman Reigns, something he’s talked about before on numerous occasions and confirmed was in the works for WrestleMania 39. Unfortunately for The American Nightmare and his fans, Cody is now the victim of WWE choosing “what’s best for business” over what the fans want to see and what organically works for the storyline and top Superstars.


Now for clarification, WWE has not officially announced The Rock vs. Roman Reigns yet, but it’s all but assured at this point. WWE confirmed that there will be a WrestleMania XL Kickoff press conference on Feb. 8 in Las Vegas, Nevada at T-Mobile Arena. The Rock and Reigns are confirmed for a face-off at the event. Smart money says this is where WWE and Chief Creative Officer Paul “Triple H” Levesque, who will also be in attendance, will announce The Rock vs. Roman Reigns as WrestleMania 40’s main event.

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The Rock vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania is nothing short of a dream match. The Rock has not wrestled an actual match (not counting WrestleMania 32) since 2013 when he lost the WWE Championship to John Cena in the main event at WrestleMania 29. He hasn’t even really taken a bump in the ring since that match either. It doesn’t matter though because The Rock is still one of the biggest stars in wrestling. He crossed over from wrestling into Hollywood and had huge success there, becoming one of the biggest stars in entertainment in the world.

But there are added layers of intrigue to this situation. WWE’s parent company, TKO Group Holdings, just before this latest scandal with Vince McMahon broke, appointed The Rock as a new board member. This signaled that TKO and WWE want to be doing big business with The Rock for years to come. It also means that The Rock has the full backing and support of TKO CEO Ari Emanuel and WWE President Nick Khan.

Wrestlemania XL kickoff
Image via WWE

There is also this major scandal WWE is facing right now, with horrific allegations of sex trafficking and much, much worse by a former WWE employee against disgraced former WWE Chairman and TKO Executive Chairman of the Board Vince McMahon. Word of this lawsuit, in which WWE is named as a defendant, emerged right after WWE named The Rock as a board member and also announced a huge Netflix deal that will bring Monday Night Raw to the streamer in January 2025. It’s valued at $5 billion over 10 years (about $500 million a year).

It comes as no surprise that the executives at the top of WWE would choose what will get the company the most mainstream publicity and hopefully some positive PR in light of the recent allegations. WWE won’t be able to bury this story no matter what. There is no getting around it, so this is part of their managing what is a major crisis.

Not only that, Ari Emanuel and Nick Khan only answer to the company’s shareholders. That means keeping profits and revenues up and costs down when WWE announces its quarterly earnings. If the WWE brain trust has the opportunity to deliver The Rock in a main event at WWE’s biggest show of the year, they are going to take it. That’s why WWE chose The Rock over Cody Rhodes. Is it fair? No, it’s not, but the professional wrestling industry rarely is.


In a way, Cody Rhodes should’ve expected this. If you think about it, Cody Rhodes left WWE back in 2016 because he was disgruntled and unhappy with the direction of his career and spot in the company. Cody was ambitious. He wanted to be the top face of the company. He wanted to be the poster boy. He wanted the acclaim and accolades given to John Cena. He wanted to be “the guy.” It’s a spot that few men in WWE history are ever allowed, and it’s a spot that Roman Reigns currently holds.

Cody Rhodes left the company, but in 2019, something changed. Along with other wrestlers and billionaire Tony Khan, they formed a new, national mainstream wrestling company, All Elite Wrestling (AEW). This upstart company made waves very quickly with a national cable TV deal on TNT for the company’s flagship program, AEW Dynamite.

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Courtesy of WWE

As a founder and EVP, Cody Rhodes was positioned as one of the company’s top stars. Cody was frequently in the top feuds, top matches, and events for AEW. WWE wouldn’t make Cody Rhodes a main eventer, so he basically carved out that spot for himself. Outside of WWE, Cody made himself an even bigger star, and he cemented himself as a star in NJPW, ROH, and later AEW.

But Cody wasn’t just out to prove himself as a top star in the wrestling industry. He literally declared war on WWE and top executive Triple H! I was there at the inaugural AEW event, Double or Nothing, in May 2019. Before his classic match with older brother, Dustin Rhodes, Cody had an epic entrance, during which he took a sledgehammer (Triple H’s trademark weapon of choice), and he destroyed a familiar-looking throne. Cody was sending a message to Triple H live on pay-per-view. That message was clearly received.

Much of the WWE versus AEW buzz after AEW started largely came from Cody Rhodes. It was Cody Rhodes who was constantly adversarial about WWE. It made his return to WWE that much more shocking. His own theme song, which he still uses in WWE, it’s literally about his journey, blaming WWE for taking his freedom, leaving, and making WWE bow to him.

No matter what Triple H and Cody ever say on the matter, I refuse to believe there were never any hard feelings over the incident. There were clearly hard feelings on Cody’s part when he left WWE and were left unresolved. If Cody Rhodes is upset about his current predicament, this is the business he basically signed up for. It’s a bitter business, and it’s a brutal, unfair business. Cody tried to change things and start his own company to compete with WWE, and he did that. But eventually, Cody got complacent in AEW and felt it was a good time to return to WWE.

WWE WrestleManai 39 - Cody Rhodes
Courtesy of WWE

Credit is due to Cody for always betting on himself. He bet on himself and won after leaving WWE almost seven years ago. He did it again when he left AEW and returned to WWE. However, this was the calculated risk he was taking, that no matter how good he is or how popular he became, WWE will always choose what gives the company the best mainstream publicity over the rising stars or what the fans say they want. That’s why Cody Rhodes won’t finishing the story.

And now, it’s been seven years since the first time Cody left WWE, and now he’s becoming the new Bryan Danielson. He might be the chosen guy in the fans’ eyes, but not the front office’s eyes. Now, the fans were so loud bout Bryan Danielson in 2014, 10 years ago, that WWE was forced to change course for the WrestleMania XXX main event. In light of recent events, I don’t see WWE executives changing their minds. They will do everything in their power to deliver The Rock vs. Roman Reigns.

In 2022, Cody Rhodes found himself back in WWE with newfound momentum. Despite fans growing tired of Cody’s antics in AEW, the change of scenery did him good. Even though Cody failed to beat Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 39, it seemed that support for Cody Rhodes even grew as he sought to finally finish the story. Well, Cody Rhodes didn’t finish the story. The Rock did.

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WrestleMania XL takes place on April 6-7 at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. The two-day event will be broadcast live on Peacock.

But what do you think? Do you think WWE made the right call not choosing to bring Cody Rhodes’ story to fruition at WrestleMania 40? Do you think The Rock vs. Roman Reigns is the right call for WrestleMania XL? Let us know what you think should be done on The Illuminerdi’s social media.

KEEP READING: WWE, Don’t You Dare Sacrifice Cody Rhodes’ Story for The Rock!


Jeff Harris

Jeff Harris

Jeffrey is an entertainment journalist and podcast host based in Los Angeles. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Radio, TV, & Film and a Bachelor of Arts in Theater. Jeffrey is also a Staff Writer at where he writes about movies, TV, games, wrestling, interviews talent, and covers special events such as Anime Expo, Comic-Con, and CinemaCon. When Jeffrey is not binging his favorite seasonal anime or show, he enjoys playing dodge ball, gaming, watching films, and enjoying UT football. You can find him on Twitter @Wheeljack83.