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I Love Professional Wrestling - WWE's 'Endgame'

At the end of WrestleMania XL Sunday, Michael Cole made the emphatic statement: “I LOVE Professional Wrestling”. Same, Michael. Sucks that you haven’t been able to say that out loud for 25 years.

My favorite wrestling match of all time is Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa at NXT Takeover New Orleans 2018. Why? Because that match was a reward to myself and all other wrestling fans for trusting in the process of storytelling in professional wrestling and allowing it to make us feel. The Gargano/Ciampa saga was one that stretched years, with an extended curvature that didn’t allow room for any split crowd reactions. You loved Gargano. You HATED Ciampa. Seeing Gargano perform an STF on Ciampa with the assistance of Ciampa’s dreaded knee brace and Ciampa instantly tapping from pain remains the only wrestling moment that has ever elicited tears from me. Last night’s main event is the closest I’ve ever gotten to getting that again. Last night made me feel. Last night, WWE earned my trust as a fan back.

Rewind a couple of days. Just earlier this week I was at AEW Dynamite in Worecester, MA. I managed to convince three of my friends who had minimal to zero experience in pro wrestling to come with me, and sharing it with them was very special to me. Getting to see Adam Copeland, Will Ospreay, Bryan Danielson, Best Friends, The Young Bucks, and more perform live was so damn exciting, and knowing that in just a few days I’d be watching WWE’s biggest show of the year made me extra thankful for this sport.

Upon Cody Rhodes’ re-arrival into the WWE at WrestleMania 38, many got the impression that he and Roman Reigns were destined to meet each other for the WWE Championship down the line. We got that in 2023, with the main event of WrestleMania 39 unexpectedly (to many) ending with Roman Reigns walking out champion yet again, disallowing Cody from finishing his story of winning the big one in WWE in the name of the Rhodes family. A gigantic deflating moment, this led many wrestling fans to begin wondering when the Roman’s reign would actually end. Was this Vince McMahon’s call? Why did it have to be this way? We as fans wanted so badly for Cody to win, and it was seemingly disregarded.

Rhodes’ journey back to the main event of this year’s WrestleMania capped off another year close to the top of the card, but with some bizarre and unexpected beats along the way. PLE matches against Brock Lesnar, a brief tag team championship run with Jey Uso, and leading his team to a War Games victory over The Judgement Day were some more notable happenings. WWE wanted us to see Cody every week. That was by design.

Cody then won the 2024 Royal Rumble, last eliminating CM Punk (imagine reading that in 2018), and made his intentions clear that he was coming for Roman Reigns yet again. That got a little complicated, didn’t it? At the end of the day, we got a heel Rock defending The Bloodline and the main events of WrestleMania XL were absolutely “cannot miss”. It was the job of the WWE to stick the landing. It was so simple. Thankfully, they did. 

Finally, we make it to the main event last night. In a blog I wrote right before WrestleMania 39 last year called “Roman Reigns Won’t Win…Right?” I stated:

“...but knowing I have to get through every other match prior to finally seeing the bell ring for Rhodes vs. Reigns makes me wish I could skip right to it; that says less about the other matches booked for WrestleMania and more about the booking for this feud and the historical implications of this match.”

That rang extra true last night. By the time Cody’s entrance began I was on my seat, and even my partner Morgan who had been laying down most of the show, shot straight up and was as sure as I was that this match was going to be ridiculous in the best sense of the word.

The match that followed was indeed the most ridiculous overbooked fantasy scenario that I could’ve imagined. Roman and Cody wrestled a fantastic 1 on 1 match the majority of its duration; no bullshit. Until there was. In hindsight, the final gear of this match happened so quickly, but just like Ciampa vs. Gargano, the fans were rewarded for their patience and keeping up with all of the overarching threads the Bloodline saga has spun for the past 4 years. 

Jey and Jimmy brawl through a table. Solo Sikoa repeats the dreaded interference from last year. Samoan Spike and Spear. Cody kicks out. John. Cena. Solo gets AA’d through a table. The Final Boss, The Rock. Face to face with Cena. Rock Bottom. Sierra, Hotel, India, Echo, Lima, Delta, Shield. Gong. Lights out. Chokeslam. Lights out. 

All of the fan service came rushing down like a waterfall. And even still, it pales in comparison to the final moments. Roman Reigns, the champion of 3 and a half years, 1,316 days; seemingly the only thing he has cared about in this time is himself and the title. And yet, when Roman came face to face with a choice, he let us know that he never forgot.

Holding a chair in the middle of the ring, with Cody Rhodes defenseless to his right and his former brother Seth Rollins defenseless to his left, Roman’s choice was to once again remind Rollins that he never truly forgave him for a betrayal at his hands 10 years ago. Steel chair. Roman took his eyes off the prize for just a second too long, giving Cody just a second more to recover and counter the spear. Hatred was his downfall. 1. 2. 3. Story finished. 

When Seth Rollins said that he would be Rhodes’ “Shield” last month on Raw, I was a bit dubious at first. Maybe a LITTLE melodramatic for me at the time. But after having seen and witnessed and rewatched the final 12 minutes of the match from Jimmy Uso’s superkick to Cody, to the pinfall, it all came together. I have been a lifelong fan of professional wrestling. I watched live at 16 years old as Seth Rollins hit Roman Reigns in the back with a steel chair, dismantling The Shield. For that to have been called back to, and being the reason that Roman finally lost his title; I don’t think I could’ve written a better way for it to happen.

This could be recency bias. It likely is. But to me, regardless of why or who made the decision for Cody to lose to Roman last year, the domino effect of it made Cody’s victory last night that much sweeter. Perhaps the new WWE leadership regime knew that the moment had to be worth the headaches caused by the previous one. The final 12 minutes of Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania XL was a love letter to fans of professional wrestling, and to the kids at heart we all possess that keeps us invested in this silly sport as adults. On top of that, it was an apology for some of the times we got led astray, taken advantage of and made to be fools for wanting something. WWE staff and wrestlers are now touting a “new era”. We certainly heard that one before. However, there is a difference between telling and demonstrating. Last night was a demonstration of WWE’s new philosophy when it comes to fan empowerment and investment. We are not always going to agree with the direction of the storylines and pushes, but I feel comfort in knowing that we as fans seem to truly have a seat at the table in the Paul Levesque Era”.

Was #WeWantCody engineered in the writing room, or did The Rock and company leadership actually intend on pushing Cody out of the WrestleMania XL main event? We likely won’t ever know the answer, and that answer surely lies somewhere between both goal posts. What I do know is that regardless of what the original intention was, we got what we wanted. We wanted Cody to win, and he won. WWE gets to print money, and we get to cheer on OUR guy. It was that simple.

The locker room flooded out to congratulate Cody. Jey Uso, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Randy Orton, LA Knight, Seth Rollins, John Cena. All previous victims of The Bloodline and Roman's dastardly deeds. Finally getting the catharsis of seeing someone beat him. And not just any guy. THE guy. Again, our guy. And to top it all off, Cody got to hand the WWE Championship to his mother. Man. It's not often you get to see the coronation of the next top guy in WWE in real time, in a definitive moment that can be traced. One could argue it hasn't happened since Cena in 2005. For Cena to be in the ring for this moment made it that much better. It is so unbelievably clear that Cody Rhodes has been handed the torch and the keys, and we all get to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Before wrapping up, it is important to ACKNOWLEDGE one Roman Reigns. He will get an additional article on this website about what he has accomplished and how he ended up in the position that he was in. We will save thoughts and feelings for that where we can really dig deep in. What I will say now is that Roman deserves praise, credit, and of course acknowledgement for what he has done for WWE, for the prestige of the world championship, and for being the centerpiece of this storyline that we questioned and/or couldn't get enough of at times. The wrestling fandom was rewarded for sinking their teeth into Roman’s title run, and Roman should be thanked endlessly for what is an all-time championship run in the entire history of this sport.

Being a fan of WWE in recent years has been tumultuous to say the least. For many, including myself, the company has had to work to regain the trust of its fans. I can say that my trust in their booking and storytelling has gone a long way in being repaired. If there is one thing I am sure of, it is a damn good time to be a fan of professional wrestling. 

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