APRIL 6-7, 2024

Watch: Peacock


Suit Williams: You can read Suit’s long-form previews and reviews of wrestling from around the world here at Voices of Wrestling. You can also find his weekly reviews of AEW Collision over at F4WOnline. Follow Suit on all social media platforms @SuitWilliams.

This year, WWE had the chance to run what could have been one of the most anticipated WrestleMania main events of all time.

Roman Reigns, the hardest-pushed star in the promotion, defending his position at the Head of the Table against one of the biggest stars in the world in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It’s what the nearly four-year-long saga of the Bloodline was all building toward, the showdown between the biggest Samoan stars in the history of the business. The set-up was there, with Reigns losing control of the unit and Jey Uso defecting against his family. The Rock coming in to challenge Reigns’ authority would have been massive, as even the tease of it on the New Year’s Day Raw showed.

The story was set. The match was right in front of them. But they couldn’t do it. Why?

Because they fucked it up.

Last year, Cody Rhodes was in the perfect position to take the WWE Championship from Roman Reigns. Fresh off of jump-starting All Elite Wrestling, Rhodes returned to the WWE at WrestleMania 38 and immediately felt like one of the biggest stars in the promotion. After a trilogy series against Seth Rollins, wrestling the third match inside Hell In A Cell with a fully torn pectoral muscle, Rhodes returned from the injury with a win at the 2023 Royal Rumble.

Not only was the bloom still on the rose, but Rhodes felt like an even bigger star after his gutsy performance in the Hell In A Cell. The stars were aligned, and the story was set. Cody Rhodes, the second-generation star who became a self-made superstar, would come to WrestleMania and do what his father couldn’t by winning the top title in WWE. Rhodes would have been catapulted into a new stratosphere of superstardom by winning that title and reigning over WWE as the new face of the company, a top babyface the company hadn’t had since John Cena’s full-time career ended.

The story was set. The next megastar of professional wrestling was right in front of them.

And then they fucked it up.

Now, the stories that could have headlined two WrestleManias have crashed into each other, leaving a messy aftermath that, aside from The Rock, leaves no one better off than when it started. Instead of two clean, simple, logical stories, we get one convoluted car crash that feels like it’s being written as it’s being performed. There is the base story of Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns. But there’s the side story of Rhodes and Reigns being unable to trust their partners. There are also these worked shoot aspects of The Rock being on the TKO Board of Directors and using his power to keep Roman Reigns on top.

Instead of the Rock challenging Roman Reigns, he turned heel and joined him. Instead of emphatically finishing his story, Cody gave away his title shot to the Rock before reneging on some backroom deal he and the Rock had and taking it back. Instead of one of the biggest WrestleMania main events of all time, we have a tag team match that Seth Rollins is in for some reason. And instead of Cody Rhodes being the megastar he could have been, he’s playing second fiddle to The Rock. It all could have been so simple.

If only they didn’t fuck it up.

It’s not all bad, though. The Rock, who I once described as a swaggerless robot, has gotten his swagger back in a big way. Instead of Dwayne Johnson playing The Rock, he feels like THE ROCK again. He’s a star in a way that diminishes everyone else around him, not by malice, but by sheer magnitude. He owns the spotlight in ways that no one else in wrestling does, which is probably why he became a massive movie star. Between his unhinged 20-minute promos on social media, the Versace shirts, and the overwhelming charisma, The Rock has been incredibly entertaining in this comeback. He’s also eaten Roman Reigns alive, to the point where some pundits have openly wondered if The Rock should pull back to keep from overshadowing Reigns too much, a damning indictment of Reigns nearly a decade into his main-event push.

Missteps aside, all of this brings us to WrestleMania XL in Philadelphia. The Saturday main event will see The Rock and Roman Reigns team up against Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins in a high-stakes tag team match. Rollins has altruistically decided to help Rhodes out to keep the Bloodline from running the company forever. The real reason he’s here is because his Mania main event match fell through, but we’ll cover that later. The stipulation for the Reigns/Rhodes match on Sunday will be determined through this match. If Rhodes and Rollins win, the Bloodline will all be barred from ringside for the title match. If The Rock and Reigns win, then the title match will be Bloodline Rules, which will mean everyone in the pool. It’s a nice stipulation on paper to give the match some heft, but both doors lead to the same room. If they are barred from ringside, the Bloodline will find a way to get involved anyway. If it’s Bloodline Rules, then it’s allowed. There’s no world where we get a straight-up singles match between Reigns and Rhodes. In that sense, it doesn’t matter who wins, no pun intended.

However, it will be interesting to see who does the job here. The Rock would contractually obligate film studios to make sure he won fights, he ain’t laying down for anybody here. Reigns has taken one fall since COVID-19 became a thing, so you can never count on him counting the lights. Rhodes has the title match the next night and pinning him runs a risk of losing steam at the worst time. And then there’s Seth. Poor Seth Rollins has been geeked out at almost every turn here, with Reigns continually shitting on him and his Silver Medal World Title. He’s teaming with a guy who beat him three times in a row, once with one arm. No one sees him on the level of the other three men in this match, and his losing would all but solidify that.

Rock pins Rollins. Eat shit, geek. Prediction: The Rock & Roman Reigns

That brings us to WrestleMania XL Sunday. We’ll start with Seth Rollins defending the Silver Medal AKA The World Heavyweight Championship against Drew McIntyre. According to the Wrestling Observer, the original plan was for Rollins to defend his World Title in the main event of Night One against CM Punk, who would win the Elimination Chamber to earn the shot. But when Punk tore his triceps in the Royal Rumble match, they had to pivot to McIntyre, who had been setting up a feud with Punk presumably for after Mania.

They could have stuck to the plan of Rollins defending against McIntyre in the main event of the Saturday show, especially since McIntyre’s whole deal is having main evented the empty arena WrestleMania in 2020. But that would require Rollins being a bankable star in his own right, and by plugging him into the actual main event feud with actual stars Cody Rhodes, Roman Reigns, and The Rock, WWE has shown that they don’t believe in him that way.

With Punk out, Drew McIntyre slots into the World Title spot. McIntyre has done some of the best work of his WWE career on this run as a hypocritical heel, holding a grudge against YEET Uso for costing him the WWE Title while constantly benefiting from outside interference. He won the Elimination Chamber with outside interference from AJ Styles – more on him later – and he beat Cody Rhodes with the help of the interfering Bloodline. Meanwhile, his mic work has also been very good, with the highlight being when he told Punk that he prayed for his injury, and it happened.

McIntyre has been asking Rollins to recuse himself from the Bloodline tag match to focus on the World Title match to avoid any excuses for losing, but Rollins has refused. The finish I would expect is for McIntyre to benefit from the tag match tiring out Rollins and win the title. This is where the backstage intrigue comes into play.

McIntyre’s contract with the company is expiring. It was set to expire earlier this year, but WWE tacked injury time onto the back end of the deal for it to run after WrestleMania. Would WWE put their World Title on someone with an imminently expiring contract? This is the first time we’ve seen Paul Levesque book a scenario like this. Bryan Danielson main evented WrestleMania the month before his departure, but that was under the Vince McMahon regime. We don’t know what this regime will do in a scenario like this, adding to the intrigue of it all.

The out here may be the aforementioned CM Punk, who announced that he would be on commentary for this match to put the Phil in Philadelphia *ugh*. Punk has issues with both men but more directly has issues with McIntyre, who put him on the shelf when the Futureshock DDT tore his bicep. With McIntyre’s future currently uncertain and Rollins having issues with Punk as well, McIntyre’s hypocrisy will bite him, as his preoccupation with Punk will allow Rollins to survive WrestleMania XL with the World Title. He won’t come out any better for it, as he’s not only a third wheel in this feud, but a fourth wheel in the Cody/Rock/Roman story. He has been geeked out at every turn by five different people in two different feuds. But the people will sing his dumb song, so I guess it’ll all work out. Prediction: Seth Rollins

After that brings us to the biggest match of the weekend. The biggest match of the year. Hell, maybe the biggest match in WWE of the last decade. The potential next ace of the company, “The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes looking to Finish The Story™ that couldn’t get finished last year. The next actual superstar in WWE going one on one with the biggest roadblock in the company and the biggest star in the WWE today. For the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, Cody Rhodes will go one-on-one with The Great One, The Rock.

Oh fuck, Cody’s wrestling Roman Reigns on Sunday. You’ll be forgiven if you made the same mistake I made, as all of the major singles angles in the build for this show involved Cody and The Rock. From the slap at the Las Vegas press event to Cody getting his slap back, to the Rock bloodying up Cody in the rain in one of the most pro wrestling angles this company has done in decades, all of this feels like it’s peaking with Cody getting the win and beating the man who literally calls himself “The Final Boss.”

Instead, Cody will be going after Roman Reigns. Reigns, who has held the top title in this company for over 1,000 days and will be main eventing his EIGHTH WrestleMania (his ninth WrestleMania show if you count Saturday as its own main event), has been absolutely dwarfed by The Rock in this feud. He went from being the biggest star in the promotion to the third biggest star in his own feud, saved only by the fact that Seth Rollins is even further down the totem pole. Part of it is the fact that The Rock would dwarf almost any other wrestler that’s ever lived, but part of it is Roman’s own doing.

He feels like less of a star when he stands in his $100 sweats behind The Rock, clad in expensive Versace vests. He speaks like less of a star, sleepwalking through an important face-to-face promo battle with Rhodes – who was equally lifeless in that exchange. And he’s less visible than the other stars, sticking to his infrequent schedule while the Rock makes unannounced appearances on Raw while prepping for the launch of his spring football league later in the week.

All of this leads to an incredibly important question: were the last four years a waste of time? From day one, this entire Roman Reigns/Bloodline/Head of the Table angle was to eventually set up a major WrestleMania main event of Reigns vs. The Rock, the two most successful members of the Anoa’i family, for the position of Head of the Table. Now, after FOUR YEARS ON TOP, Roman isn’t even the person people want to see The Rock wrestle. Why? Say it with me.

Because they fucked it up.

Don’t fuck this up again. Cody Rhodes needs to beat The Roc– goddamn it, I did it again. Cody has to beat Roman Reigns, finish the story, and stand tall as the WWE Champion. Prediction: Cody Rhodes

Believe it or not, other matches are happening at WrestleMania XL, too. We’ll start with the Women’s Royal Rumble winner, as Bayley will challenge former Damage Control stablemate Iyo Sky for the WWE Women’s Championship. The story here is fairly simple, as Damage Control began squeezing an oblivious Bayley out during the fall. Bayley won the Royal Rumble and planned to challenge Rhea Ripley for her title, but an overheard plan to jump her out of the group changed Bayley’s mind and set us up for this match.

I’m not particularly moved by this match, as Damage Control exploding does nothing for me. The first act booked under the Paul Levesque regime spent the better part of their first year of existence as complete non-factors, constantly being beaten like a drum by Bianca Belair. It wasn’t until Summerslam that they finally got one over on Belair, with Sky cashing in Money In The Bank to steal the title from her. Now, with the addition of Asuka and the returning Kairi Sane, Bayley now has to beat the monster that she built.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the Bayley from NXT rolling into Philly. After suffering a nasty knee injury in 2021 that kept her out of action for the better part of a year, Bayley hasn’t been the same worker in the ring. It’s possible that she can tap into the babyface emotion that got her over back in the day and get the crowd behind her that way, but I think we get a match that no one will think about past this weekend. Bayley can win and feud with the group through the spring. Prediction: Bayley

The other women’s title match sees Becky Lynch challenge Rhea Ripley for the Women’s World Championship. This is the match that the company has been protecting ever since Ripley won her title last year at WrestleMania 39. Lynch took a detour to NXT and won their title before coming back up to Raw and putting a half-decade-old beef with Nia Jax in her rear-view mirror.

Meanwhile, Rhea Ripley has had an utterly disappointing reign as Women’s Champion over the past year. After a promising start with the war she had with Charlotte Flair last year, Ripley spent her past year either backing up Judgment Day or having mediocre matches with all the stars of Raw’s women’s division. Who could forget the classics she had with Natalya and Raquel Rodriguez? I could, very easily as a matter of fact. Apparently, she had a title match against Zoey Stark at Survivor Series? I reviewed that show for this site and until I read the result on Cagematch, I had no clue that match ever happened. I seem to have given it two stars.

Anyway, Lynch would be my favorite, if only to freshen things up in a sense and have someone topple the unbeatable Ripley. But, as I begin to sound like a broken record, Becky Lynch revealed to Ariel Helwani that her contract is up in two months. My assumption is that Becky is working for a better deal, but between her deal almost being up and Ripley being someone Becky can use her star power to put over, I’ll go with Ripley retaining the title here. Prediction: Rhea Ripley

The Intercontinental Title will be on the line here, as Sami Zayn challenges the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time, Gunther. Zayn earned this title shot via a gauntlet match, surviving the final challenge of sentimental favorite Chad Gable to get the title match here. Zayn’s goal was to find a way to get onto the WrestleMania XL card, and he’s found it. Ultimately, I think Chad Gable is the one to beat Gunther for the title. Plus, ending this reign the same weekend – possibly the same day – as Roman’s title reign would be very silly. Zayn puts up a strong challenge, but Gunther survives it and retains the title. Prediction: Gunther

In a battle of brothers, YEET takes on NO YEET. These two split up back at Summerslam when NO YEET cost YEET the WWE Championship in the truly awful Tribal Combat match. NO YEET’s reasoning then was that he didn’t want YEET to end up like Roman Reigns, so he helped Roman win. If that doesn’t make sense to you, that’s because it doesn’t make sense. Main Event YEET spent the meantime hanging out on Raw, while NO YEET just fell back to the Bloodline. There’s also no real suspense here, as YEET is a moderately pushed midcarder whereas NO YEET is a total job guy. YEET will win and raise the roof as he is one to do. Prediction: YEET

This year’s “Everybody In The Pool” match sees Finn Balor & Damian Priest defend the tag team titles against *deep breath* The New Day, DIY, The Awesome Truth, A-Town Down Under, and The New Catch Republic in a ladder match. I have zero thoughts on this. R-Truth has been feuding with Judgment Day as a comedy act, and they beat him up a few weeks ago. My guess is that he and The Miz will win these titles as payback. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: making me have to care about The Miz in 2024 should result in jail time. Prediction: The Awesome Truth

It’s Duffman vs. Bonesaw McGraw, as LA Knight takes on a boulder that was named AJ Styles. AJ was set up for a title match against Roman Reigns in the fall but got taken out by the Bloodline. LA Knight ended up getting that title shot, leading to resentment from Styles. After taking the Super Soldier Serum, Styles returned in January and laid out Knight with a chair. After they both lost a four-way match for the title at the Royal Rumble, Styles flew to Australia to cost LA Knight the Elimination Chamber and another shot at Reigns’s title. At first glance, this match looks to exist only to get Knight a win on a big show. However, should the World Title picture work out the way I think it will, WWE needs some credible heels to go up against the champs. Plus, LA Knight feels so…last year. Styles gets a win to set him up as Cody’s monster of the month. Picture it: Homelander vs. The Hulk. That’ll put some asses in the seats. Prediction: AJ Styles

The United States Title is on the line in a Triple Threat match, as Logan Paul defends against both Kevin Owens and Randy Orton. Paul screwed Owens out of the US Title at the Royal Rumble and cost Orton the Elimination Chamber match, both with his now-trademark brass knuckles. Logic would lead you to believe Paul getting his comeuppance with the knuckles, but I expect Orton and Owens to get in each other’s way and for Paul to escape with the US Title again. Prediction: Logan Paul

Jade Cargill will team with Naomi & Bianca Belair to take on Asuka, Kairi Sane, & Dakota Kai. I’ve complained about WWE not striking while the iron was hot with Jade, having signed and debuted her back in October. She had a feature spot at the Royal Rumble, getting the big slam on Nia Jax and eliminating her to a big pop, but disappeared to nebulous backstage segments after that. WWE finally got things going with Jade on Smackdown, having her sign her Smackdown contract before saving Naomi and Bianca from a Damage Control beatdown later in the night. This will be WWE showing off their shiny new toy, as Jade will pin Dakota with Jaded. Prediction: Jade Cargill, Naomi, & Bianca Belair

Santos Escobar & Dominik Mysterio will take on Rey Mysterio & Dragon Lee. Escobar has been feuding with Mysterio and the LWO since Survivor Series when he injured Mysterio and defected from the group to reform his Legado Del Fantasma unit alongside Angel Garza and Humberto Carillo. Dominik Mysterio helped Escobar beat Rey in the return match on Smackdown a few weeks back, leading to this tag. Much like the Jade Cargill match, this is to showcase and highlight Dragon Lee as a possible successor to Rey. It’s funny the number of times I’ve heard “the next Rey Mysterio” over the years only for WWE to have to pivot back to Rey again. But Lee has the talent to hang on the WWE roster if given the opportunity, with IF being the keyword there. Dragon pins Dominik and takes his place as Rey’s son. Prediction: Rey Mysterio & Dragon Lee

We will have trios action at WrestleMania, as Karrion Kross & The Authors of Pain, known collectively as The Final Testament, will take on Bobby Lashley & The Street Profits in a Philadelphia Street Fight. The Final Testament is about as TNA of a unit as you’ll find. The leader is Karrion Kross, who you could generously call a midcarder. His heaters are the Authors of Pain, a mid-level team from the dog days of this company a half-decade ago. They have two managers, Scarlett and Paul Ellering, yet neither do any talking. Meanwhile, you have Bobby Lashley and the Street Profits, who have been a team for months yet have no real purpose for teaming. Lashley gave them suits and got upset when they lost. I don’t understand any of this. Anyway, I think it would be funny if Booker of the Year Paul Levesque tried to get behind Karrion Kross despite Kross’s complete lack of crowd connection or talent. They need more heels, baby! Prediction: The Final Testament

Full WrestleMania XL Card

WrestleMania XL Saturday

  • Dominik Mysterio & Santos Escobar vs. LWO (Dragon Lee & Rey Mysterio)
  • WWE United States Title Triple Threat Match: Logan Paul (c) vs. Randy Orton vs. Kevin Owens
  • AJ Styles vs. LA Knight
  • WWE Women’s Title Match: IYO SKY (c) vs. Bayley
  • WWE Women’s World Title Match: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Becky Lynch
  • Cody Rhodes & Seth Rollins vs. The Bloodline (Roman Reigns & The Rock)

WrestleMania XL Sunday

  • Jey Uso vs. Jimmy Uso
  • Bianca Belair, Jade Cargill & Naomi vs. Damage CTRL (Asuka, Dakota Kai & Kairi Sane)
  • WWE RAW Tag Team Title / WWE SmackDown Tag Team Title Six-Pack Ladder Match: The Judgment Day (Damian Priest & Finn Balor) (c) vs. Austin Theory & Grayson Waller vs. Awesome Truth (R-Truth & The Miz) vs. #DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa) vs. The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) vs. New Catch Republic (Pete Dunne & Tyler Bate)
  • WWE Intercontinental Title Match: Gunther (c) vs. Sami Zayn
  • WWE World Heavyweight Title Match: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Drew McIntyre
  • WWE Title / WWE Universal Title Match: Roman Reigns (w/Paul Heyman) (c) vs. Cody Rhodes

WrestleMania Weekend 2024 Coverage at Voices of Wrestling