In a stunning turn of events during Friday's "WWE SmackDown," the roadmap to WrestleMania 40 witnessed an unexpected twist. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson emerged as the new contender against Roman Reigns, overshadowing Cody Rhodes who had clinched his second consecutive Royal Rumble win for a title shot at the grand stage.
This shift comes in the wake of CM Punk's withdrawal from the anticipated main event against Seth Rollins due to a torn triceps, prompting WWE to revamp its main event lineup. Consequently, Rhodes is now sidelined from concluding his narrative at this year's WrestleMania.
A comprehensive investigation by Fightful Select, involving consultations with over three dozen WWE insiders spanning various departments, unveiled a unanimous dissatisfaction with this sudden narrative pivot. One wrestler poignantly observed, "The expressions on Cody and Dwayne's faces spoke volumes.
It seemed like Dwayne realized that this decision might not resonate as expected, reminiscent of the 2015 Royal Rumble backlash when Roman Reigns' victory was met with disapproval despite The Rock's endorsement."
Backstage Unrest Resurfaces
The backstage sentiment mirrors the discontent of 2015, where Reigns' victory, despite fan favorite Daniel Bryan being in the fray, led to an adverse reaction despite The Rock's support.
Sources disclosed to Fightful the immediate business logic behind The Rock vs. Reigns but voiced concerns about the long-term repercussions on WWE's storytelling fabric. Within WWE's creative circles, there's a palpable sense of disillusionment.
Echoes of past discontent under Vince McMahon's tenure were noted, with the abrupt shift seen as detrimental to nurturing emerging talent. A figure close to The Rock suggested his actions might erode the widespread goodwill he enjoys across various entertainment sectors, including wrestling.
Despite no ill intent attributed to Johnson's return, the implications of sidelining Rhodes have raised eyebrows. Questions about the rationale behind the decision abound, especially given the longstanding pitches for a Rock vs.
Reigns showdown. Critics argue that this move not only disrupts one of WWE's most compelling storylines but also shifts the power dynamics within the industry, positioning the Anoa'i family, which includes Johnson and Reigns, at the zenith of wrestling's hierarchy, a stature that may remain unchallenged for the foreseeable future.