We have officially entered the week of WrestleMania 39, and with another two-night event in store, it looks the first Showcase of the Immortals with Triple H at the helm is shaping up to be a pretty solid show. With matches including Edge vs. Demon Finn Balor in Hell in a Cell, the Usos defending their Undisputed Tag Team Championships against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, and the anticipated rematch of Charlotte vs Rhea Ripley for the Smackdown Women’s Championship, perhaps no other match has wrestling fans more excited than the main event of night two. Roman Reigns will be defending his WWE Undisputed Universal Championship against the 2023 Men’s Royal Rumble winner, The American Nightmare Cody Rhodes in what is shaping up to be one of the more anticipated WrestleMania world title matches in recent memory.
To be in this position was a long time coming for Rhodes, who returned to WWE after over a half a decade away from the company, a time in which he actualized the latent potential he had all along in terms of in-ring performance, promos and character work. Oh, and he was one of the founders of WWE’s biggest competitor in 20 years, or whatever. Rhodes’ decision to leave All Elite Wrestling at the beginning of 2022 was shocking, and even to this day feels surreal, as he serves as the first major AEW star to jump ship to WWE, and not the other way around. Following his frankly amazing return match to the WWE at last year’s WrestleMania against Seth Rollins, Cody made his intentions for returning blatantly clear: he wants to become the WWE champion.
A long-term feud with Rollins ensued, resulting in what belongs in the conversation as the greatest Hell in a Cell match ever. Prior to the match, Cody gave us what will go down as one of the most iconic images of his career: taking off his entrance jacket to reveal deep bruising and discoloration of his right pectoral, giving a visual to what it surely felt like internally. Rhodes went on to wrestle for just under 25 minutes straight. He took time away from WWE thereafter to nurse the injury, before returning at the 2023 Men’s Royal Rumble, last eliminating Gunther to claim his spot in the Main Event against Roman Reigns.
The buildup to this match has been built slowly since January. Paul Heyman fired the opening salvos of the feud, culminating in a promo matchup against Cody Rhodes by proclaiming that Dusty Rhodes, the father of Cody, called Roman Reigns the son he always wanted. Since then, we have seen the rivalry build in such a way and the one word I use to describe the crux of this match is: Legacy. On one side, we have Cody Rhodes: The American Nightmare, The Grandson of a Plummer. The logical choice for the next major babyface star of WWE (Sami Zayn fans stand down please), and undoubtedly one of the most complete wrestlers there has perhaps ever been in WWE, who is working to finish his story and claim the prize that has eluded his family: a world championship in WWE. And who stands in his way?
Roman Reigns has stood as WWE’s premier star for almost 3 years straight. Though WWE has promoted him as such for nearly a decade now, it is in this current run that even the staunchest Roman opponents can agree that he is WWE’s biggest star and having an all-time run. Revamping his character after returning to WWE following an absence from WrestleMania 36, Roman returned as a heel and won the Universal Championship on August 30th, 2020 and has not taken a loss since then. Working down the proverbial “Who’s Who” list of performers, Roman has successfully defended the title against the likes of Kevin Owens, Brock Lesnar, Edge, Bryan Danielson, Drew Mcintyre, and the list goes on. What is striking about this is the quality of the matches. Roman has put on amazing matches against all of the above during this championship reign, and at the same time has managed to remain fresh. Roman owes that to two major things besides his in-ring track record: his phenomenal promo work, and The Bloodline.
Currently composed of Reigns, Paul Heyman, Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso and Solo Sikoa, the Bloodline is the demonstration of Reigns’ family pedigree as part of the Anoa’i family. The inner workings, ups, downs and drama of The Bloodline has been the primary constant of WWE television for the last few years. Roman’s path to defending the Undisputed Championship at WrestleMania comes from the conclusion of Sami Zayn’s involvement in the Bloodline which has surely cracked the outer layer and exposed the volatile innards of his family and his place as the Head of the Table. Roman enters the WrestleMania 39 main event trying to keep his kingdom intact and his proverbial table set. With the Usos defending their tag team titles against Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens at WrestleMania, predominant voices feel the latter are going to win; giving invested fans a satisfying conclusion to Zayn’s involvement in the Bloodline, albeit not their first choice.
Roman finds himself in an interesting position. His match at WrestleMania will conclude two major arcs: his stable and his championship. He CAN have one without the other. That brings me to the crux of this article: could Roman ACTUALLY win? It seems a foregone conclusion for some, that Cody Rhodes will finally fell the scourge of WWE and take the world championship for his own, but the implications of a Roman victory are beginning to surface in online discourse and have some wondering. Going into Night 2 of WrestleMania, Roman Reigns will have held the WWE Universal Championship for the past 944 days. That’s pretty damn close to 1,000. Being so close to the millennium mark as world champion, the case for Roman winning on the grounds of hitting such a remarkable milestone makes one wonder if WWE will pull the trigger and have Roman win. Hitting this mark would make Roman only the fifth wrestler and sixth instance of reaching 1,000 days on a single world title reign in WWE history. Knowing that WWE is in the business of creating history, it could very well happen, especially if they can promote him in the same breath as Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Hulk Hogan and Bob Backlund more. If the opportunity is there, which it is, I would not put it past WWE to take it.
However, WWE is also in the business of making moments, and none carry more weight than WrestleMania moments. The prospect of almost three years of booking finally coming to an end, and seeing such a historic run ended makes this WrestleMania can’t miss. I get goosebumps at the potential surrealness of seeing Roman pinned 1-2-3 in the middle of the ring. Though it wouldn’t be nearly as shocking as the end of the Undertaker’s streak at WrestleMania XXX in 2014, this would be of a similar ilk in my humble opinion. I look forward to both nights of WrestleMania, 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. WWE deserves credit for that. On Sunday night we will see two generational stars (in more than one sense of the word) clash for what I believe is still the most coveted prize in the sport. Legacy is at stake for both, something has to give. And I cannot wait. Like all others before him, Roman Reigns’ run as WWE Undisputed Universal Champion has to come to an end at some point. With how long it has already lasted, one has to think that the ONLY place he could lose the title is under the WrestleMania lights. The question is, will it be this Sunday?
WWE's WrestleMania will be live from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, CA on Saturday and Sunday, April 1st and 2nd at 7:00 PM each night.
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