On the ‘Rhodes’ to the 40th Wrestlemania

By Elijah Nevlin

This weekend, on  April 6 and 7, tradition continues for the 40th year as WWE’s “Wrestlemania XL” comes to Philadelphia.

As a two-night event, this year’s “Wrestlemania” has two separate headlining matches. On Saturday, the show’s main event will be arguably the biggest tag team match in the event’s four-decade-long history. World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins will team up with Royal Rumble winner Cody Rhodes to challenge The Bloodline: WWE Champion Roman Reigns and his cousin The Rock.

The rules of this tag team match are unique, as they determine the stipulation for Sunday night’s main event Reigns versus Rhodes for the WWE Championship. If The Bloodline wins the Saturday tag match, then the championship match will be contested under “Bloodline rules,” which essentially means there will be no rules. However, if Rhodes and Rollins are able to defeat Reigns and The Rock, then every Bloodline member except for Reigns will be banned from ringside. This will include Jimmy Uso, Solo Sikoa, Paul Heyman, and of course, The Rock.

When “Wrestlemania” last took place in Philadelphia in 1999, The Rock came up short against Steve Austin in the main event, losing his WWE Championship. A full 25 years later, The Rock has returned to “the showcase of the immortals” in an effort to prevent the same from happening to his family.

The story that faces this year’s “Wrestlemania” started over a year ago when Rhodes won the 2023 Royal Rumble, earning himself the right to challenge Reigns for his WWE Championship at “Wrestlemania 39.” This chapter was cut short when a cheated sneak attack from Solo Sikoa cost Rhodes both the match and the championship.

In a rare achievement, Rhodes won the 2024 Royal Rumble and became only the third man ever to win the Royal Rumble match twice in two years. However, The Rock soon tried to convince Rhodes to give up his guaranteed championship match so that he could face his cousin Reigns instead. 

Rhodes ultimately vowed to finish his story, formally challenged Roman Reigns to a “Wrestlemania” championship match, and made an enemy out of The Rock in the process. 

When Rhodes arrives in Philadelphia this weekend, he will not only have a second chance at winning the most prestigious prize in professional wrestling, but he will face his newest rival in The Rock’s first match since 2013.

For a long time, Rhodes was not a notable figure in professional wrestling. When I attended “Wrestlemania 29” in 2013, the same night The Rock had his most recent match, Rhodes had his match canceled mid-show due to time constraints. Rhodes was not deemed important enough to feature on the event.

All these years later, Rhodes has turned himself into maybe the most unanimously loved wrestler I have ever seen in my years of watching. 

Fans were heartbroken last year, myself included, when Rhodes was cheated out of the WWE Championship. It is rare for a wrestler to have a chance this big to right their wrongs and overcome the biggest odds of their career. The Rock is perhaps the most famous wrestler in history. Roman Reigns is one of the longest-reigning world champions of all time. Rhodes is someone who has had to fight tooth and nail for over 15 years to stand where he will stand this weekend.

 I, and just about every wrestling fan in the world, will be in Rhodes’ corner hoping he overcomes the odds and wins his first WWE Championship.

Stories like this are what makes professional wrestling so special. Some dedicated fans can watch a wrestler across a decade-long journey to get to the top of the mountain. Yet at the same time, new fans can tune in at any point in that journey and still immerse themselves into the story and root for their heroes. Currently, Rhodes is near the end of his journey. In just a few days, he will find himself at the mountaintop. All that will be left to do is plant his flag.

This weekend, on the grandest stage of them all, one of the biggest stories in wrestling comes to a close. Professional wrestling is unpredictable, but millions across the world will be tuning in in hopes of seeing Rhodes finish his story and defeat Reigns once and for all.

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