It’s not the worst Mania main event of all time.

That may sound like damning it with faint praise, but honestly this is far from the most awful ring work one’s ever bound to see, even just taking into account the two nights of this WrestleMania. Unlike Jimmy and Jey Uso, they have actual in-ring ideas, a clear and cohesive narrative they want to tell, and a mostly clean execution of all those ideas.

This match also features what I’d call one of Roman Reigns’ stronger efforts in the last two years of his dynastic championship reign. He’s notably more active in his control segments, his shittalk never devolves too far into the lengthy monologuing that has dragged down other efforts, and there’s a greater sense of viciousness from him here than usual. Even in comparison to something like the Sami Zayn match, Roman’s a lot meaner on the offense here. Bringing back the powerbomb for his moveset makes for some great and organic cut offs to Cody’s offense, and later on putting Cody through the announce desk feels like a real potential game changer. His character work also finds a much better balance here than usual: really taking the time to wear Cody down with the power moves, and keeping his shittalk short and sweet. I’m especially a fan of “That move don’t beat nobody” in regards to the finisher that Cody Rhodes has bastardized through his own hacky inability to make a move feel important or special.

As many might have predicted, it’s Cody Rhodes I really struggle with here. Mechanically, he’s not too awful when relied upon to just straight up wrestle Roman in this. I give him credit for taking some cool bumps like those aforementioned powerbombs, and even a bunch of suplexes in the control segment. There’s a few holes in the game that take me out of it though, particularly that his worked punches are so hit and miss. The Dusty jabs are decent enough, but when he’s standing and trading it looks pretty bad to both trained and untrained eyes.

WWE

The biggest struggle with Cody Rhodes though is that I just can not root for him. This is a problem bigger than the match. I find his presentation and his character so deeply unlikable, even within the crazed context of being a top WWE babyface. He is such a shocking outlier to the company’s own traditions that I can’t understand why he’s been so widely accepted. In a company whose heroes have long positioned themselves as blue collar men of the people, Cody Rhodes comes out here in his bleach blonde hair and thousand-dollar suits, and it just makes me want to hurl. Perhaps this figure speaks more to working class America in the 2020s than I know now, but every time it appears on my TV with his grotesque pimping of the aesthetics of raging Americana, I just can’t stand it.

The WWE was never a revolutionary force of good, but they at least tapped into a simple understanding: that the everyday man likes to reject the corporation. For decades and decades, the suit itself was a visual tied to the company’s top heels. It’s such an indelible part of their company’s canon that Stone Cold Steve Austin and Daniel Bryan, two decades apart, made a part of their ascent to the top of the company be centered around rejecting being forced to wear a suit by their bosses. Cody Rhodes though, he just likes those suits, brother.

Cody Rhodes’ heroes are my enemies.

He comes out at WrestleMania with his Nightmare Skull logo clearly evoking the aesthetic of his on-record favorite pro wrestler of all time, Triple H, and it’s fucking disgusting. On a WrestleMania weekend where Paul “Hunter Hearst-Helmsley” Levesque wants desperately for nobody to ask any question Vince McMahon and to forcibly leave his mark on the product, Cody Rhodes is so willing to bend over backwards and bow down to the King of Kings, The Pontiff of Pain, The Game himself. Fuck all that nonsense, how could I possibly root for you?

WWE

And then there’s the promotional nonsense too. I so despise the tricks the WWE tries to play with me here, leaning on the tradition of the Decade Mania, and diluting it for this facsimile of heroism. Not only calling it a “Cody Movement” to parallel Daniel Bryan’s run in 2014, but also doubling down on the connection by giving Cody an Imagine Dragons hype vide here for the pay-per-view. I find it so upsetting how the contrast between the realest thing in the world and this absolute phony doesn’t seem to bother the vast majority of the WWE’s fans here.

I understand that all these points exist beyond the bell-to-bell product here, but it’s important to cover because the match demands one thing of me: I must want Cody Rhodes to succeed. And I simply do not.

To be fair to him though, most of what’s here fits what’s asked of the moment. Even those continuous run-ins of legends and heroes coming out to neutralize at least call back to a certain tradition within the WWE framework—it’s an attempt at recapturing the magic of Austin’s glass shattering on January 4, 1999, the classic idea of all the good guys banding together to put an end to an oppressive regime. It also is sensible enough to genuinely pay off what they’ve spent years building: Jey to neutralize Jimmy, Cena avenging the lost to Solo, and even The Undertaker who feels like an outlier might still be licking his wounds from the main event of WrestleMania 33.

Having it happen here though, in service of the most corporate (literally, in his last company, he was an executive) hero of the WWE to date, just feels so wrong and so self-congratulating for what the WWE has always wanted: the brand is bigger than any person. All things in service of the almighty Titan Towers, individuals merely a vehicle for uplifting the corporation and making a profit. In any other context, I might concede that I’m overreaching and projecting ill feelings about the company onto the match, but it can not be avoided that this is the literal text of what happens here.

WWE

Don’t believe me? What does Cody Rhodes do after winning the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship? He gets on the mic, not to thank his mother (who has been a center of this feud) or his father who was the motivation for this storyline to begin with or the fans or anyone else, but rather to pay homage to the real heroes of the story: Iron Cross enthusiast “Terra Ryzing” Hunter “Paul ‘The Game’ Levesque” Hearst “The Cerebral Assassin” Helmsley and noted Vince McMahon crony Bruce “Brother Love” Prichard. Two men whose knowledge of Vince McMahon’s sexual misconduct remains in question and whose creative direction within the WWE I find wildly overrated at best and infuriating at worst. Fuck those two, they’ve not earned my good will nor the benefit of the doubt.

Vomit-inducing bootlicking. No wonder Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins get along so well.

If the bell-to-bell worked for you as a Cody Rhodes fan, I get it. The concept for me was spoiled at the core simply because I don’t like Cody as a babyface, but I can see how the pieces fit together to make a satisfying end for those that did care. The narrative feels contained and it hits most of the notes that fans expected it to. As a piece of pro wrestling storytelling, it achieves most of what it sets out to without much fail. All the moves are nailed, all the booking carried off without a hitch, all the while referencing years of character and storytelling throughout. Hell, if one’s able to separate the art from the artist and the product from the executive (something I’m certainly not innocent of as a fan of this business), then I can understand setting aside all the corporate ass licking too if one really cared about this match. I understand what there is to like about it.

I just can’t look past the masturbatory elevation of the rotten institution of the WWE and the men in charge of protecting it. If the wrestling and the wrestlers involved were better, they might have helped me forget. But instead, they seemed determined to remind me.

Hunter month never ends, and none of us can ever escape.

Rating: *3/4 (**1/2 in the ring and a DUD in the soul, feels bad classic)

4 Comments

  1. I can tell you didn’t like it lol very good review but your right about the the e culture .Apparently there Pro Wrestling

    Jim

  2. It was an decent match honestly. I love triple h rn. Unless triple h is indicted in the vince stuff he has earned my respect as a great booker. Not a perfect one mind you, (the awesome truth as champions is a stinker as a decision and the uso match Saturday was one of the worst matches i have ever seen. Only rivaled by brey vs undertaker and the zombie advertisement match in wwe a few years ago. I get that jey’s yeet stuff is very popular but damn is it dumb that after Saturday het get’s a match with priest.)

    But man this main event was with 3 big things going for it, the big run ins (got big pops from me), the wonderful storytelling at the end (not letting go of his past ruining his future), and the best part of the whole ppv the celebration. Seeing cody give his mom the belt made me legit cry. I don’t cry often, but if there’s 2 things that open my cold heart it’s dogs, and it’s family.

    So yeah agree to disagree. 5 stars after match while the run ins were five stars with a 3 star match ignoring those factors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *