So, another WrestleMania in the books and we have another year where the ending has a lot of people questioning what happened.   In the shocking result of the weekend Cody Rhodes did not defeat Roman Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania 39, and boy are people upset.  There are a lot of people calling this an all time mistake and bag fumble by WWE, that by not going forward with crowning Cody as champion that they have committed a fatal error, and some have mentioned Cody in the same sentence as the man who has come to embody what it looks like when the booker hits the brakes on someone when they’re a few feet from what looks to be the finish line.  That name is Lex Luger.  When Luger did not win the title from Yokozuna at Summerslam 1993 it was the beginning of the end for any hopes of him becoming WWF champion, and within two years he was back in WCW where he came from. And now almost 30 years later Cody, after a huge buildup to this moment at WrestleMania 39, did not walk away with the title.  Which has some people equating the two situations.  And if you know me, then you know if I’m writing about it then I just don’t agree with that.  To be quite honest I think there’s a whole lot of overthinking going on from every corner.  I think this is just a booking decision and not part of some grand meta scheme connected to the sale of WWE to Endeavor or some attempt at 10 level chess storytelling or whatever. They see money in prolonging it a bit, so they did.  So I’m not going there, but I do want to think about how this does or doesn’t equate to what happened 20 years ago.

Lex’s ‘victory’ in 1993

First let’s look at the full historical context of Luger not winning the WWF title.  The match at Summerslam with Yokozuna was not the first time Luger was brought right to the door of winning the title only to have the rug pulled out from under him.  Before that, there was his time in the NWA where in a span of 2 years he was kept from winning the title in some utterly ridiculous ways:

  • A blood stoppage at the 1988 Great American Bash, when he was barely bleeding.
  • A countout loss at WrestleWar 1990 when he went to save an injured Sting from getting jumped.
  • A win by disqualification in a cage match at Capitol Combat 1990

In between those was a pinfall loss to Flair at Starrcade 88.  And then when he finally did win the title it was from Barry Windham, not Flair, in a title match at maybe the worst big pay per view ever the 1991 Great American Bash.  (Flair was fired from the company in a contract duspute weeks before the match)  All.of this happened before that match at Summerslam in 1993, so when that went down the way it did it was the fifth time he’d been swerved out of the title by management, across two different companies.  If you’re going to equate Cody losing once to all of that then you are sadly mistaken as the two aren’t remotely close to being the same thing.  One match, one decision does not determine the entire fate of all this.  This is one loss in the very first bite at the apple, not the fifth bite across two different companies over a five year period.  If we’re having this same conversation a year from now ok sure but today?  No.

But what now?  It depends.  The real question with Cody from a business standpoint is what kind of legs does he have after winning.  From all measures and metrics he’s delivering at a Roman Reigns level today, but Roman has been doing it for much longer.  He’s been at this level for two years roughly, but he was the top merchandise seller since at least 2017 and in lots of other metrics he’s been way out ahead of everyone else in the company even when he was getting booed out of the building.  We’re talking six years of being a business leader in the company and being the man out in front when they started signing those billion dollar TV contracts in 2018.  He said it himself and I’ll repeat it here – Roman Reigns out in front was good enough even in the darkest days to secure billions of dollars in TV money.  No it wasn’t just the brand; that same brand had bigger names than Reigns and his 2018 contemporaries before and wasn’t able to do that. 

That’s the standard that has to be met here.  And when you consider that Roman isn’t leaving or slowing down any time soon then we’re not talking about taking over for a guy that’s leaving. If Roman was retiring or becoming a legit part timer then yes Cody wins with no debate.  But with Roman still around, it’s not so cut and dried.  Mapping things out in the best case scenario Cody is the man on RAW and Roman on Smackdown,  with similar results.  If Cody truly is that guy then I don’t see how having him win at Summerslam in his second try is some egregious sin.  We’re not talking a year later, folks.  And also given how the match ended, with copious run ins and not in a way that made Cody look like a goofball, then I don’t think this harms Cody unless they bungle the aftermath. 

Now if your concern is that they just won’t do it all or will do it in such a convoluted fashion that it ruins the moment then I don’t know what to tell you.  I don’t have an answer. Yes, there are examples of them screwing the pooch on this kind of thing. Reigns in 2018 is the most glaring one; inexplicably losing at WrestleMania put a cloud over everything that lasted for at least a year after.  That ending satisfied no one; Reigns fans were deflated and Reigns haters who had resigned themselves to Roman winning found themselves totally confused.  Reigns finally winning at Summerslam on his fifth attempt at Brock was anticlimactic at best.  This is not that. Book the next few months right and give Cody the win next time and everything should be fine here.

But we should note that even when they have pulled the trigger at what looked like the right time it hasn’t always worked out for various reasons.  Ultimate Warrior in 1990, Shawn Michaels in 1996, and (because of injuries) Daniel Bryan in 2014.  Making what we think is the right call at the time doesn’t guarantee anything either.  

So yeah, I think as of April 4, this is fine. What’s telling is that for a distraction feud they didn’t put him back with Seth Rollins or in an obvious time filler, but Brock Lesnar. Getting a feud with Brock during what is normally Brock’s break time is a sign of Cody’s Station within the company, and getting an eventual win over the Beast only propels him higher before he gets his next shot against Roman. Now if you give up on him before that, then that says something about you. Namely that you weren’t really into him that much anyway. And if that’s the case, then Cody’s not that guy in the first place.

So tell me again, why they just had to do it here? I’m all ears.


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