We now have an idea of how WWE personnel feel about The Rock vs. Roman Reigns potentially taking place at WrestleMania 40.
On Friday’s Smackdown, Royal Rumble winner Cody Rhodes seemingly gave up his long-planned WrestleMania rematch with Undisputed Universal Champion Roman Reigns. The Rock returned to stare down Reigns, suggesting that the rumored match between the two is happening once and for all. However, the decision to change course was met with mixed to negative reception online, and per a new Fightful Select report, those in WWE are feeling the same way.
“[Fightful] reached out to over three dozen contacts within WWE across all departments. None that got back to us even played devil’s advocate for the decision to run The Rock vs. Roman Reigns, and the decision was universally panned from those we spoke with. Everyone that we heard back from understood the business implications of running the match, but believed it wasn’t a good decision for long-term WWE business.”– Fightful Select
One source Fightful Select spoke to likened it to a decision that the previous WWE regime would have made. Older wrestlers working part-time schedules and receiving (sometimes even winning) main event-caliber matches at the expense of full-time talent was a big part of their old strategy.
A source in WWE creative said that many on the team were deflated about The Rock taking Cody Rhodes’ spot, and it felt like a decision they’d hear about being made under the previous regime at the expense of helping cultivate new crossover talent.– Fightful Select
There have been questions about the quality of a Reigns-Rock match, as while The Rock is in good physical shape, being in wrestling shape is an entirely different ask. However, it seems that The Rock is interested in working a full-length WrestleMania main event. Interestingly, sources indicated to Select that not only has he been pushing to work a “WrestleMania worthy” match, he has seemingly been angling to win the match.
“Those spoken to said that The Rock had not only pushed to work the match vs Roman Reigns, some thought he was even pushing to win the match. The early word is that The Rock will attempt to work a full-length match. There were some concerns about him working a WrestleMania main event-length match after his recent appearances.”– Fightful Select
The last time The Rock worked a full-length match was against John Cena at WrestleMania 29 in 2013. There, he tore his abdominal and adductor muscles, also suffering a hernia in the process. Those injuries, combined with what quickly became one of the most successful Hollywood careers of all time, essentially spelled the end of his wrestling career.
One source was more critical of The Rock and his last few business endeavors. They suggested that he may lose his goodwill with wrestling fans after moving his way into the WrestleMania main event over someone that fans had gotten behind in a big way over the last two years by way of being too visible, too often.
“The Rock eroded his trust with the comic and superhero community, with the film community, maybe with the football community, and might do it with the one he has almost universal goodwill with. He’s not a bad guy, don’t mistake that or get me wrong – he’s a great guy. However, bad timing and overexposure and fatigue will make fools of us all. You have to know when to take a back seat.”– Fightful Select
Dwayne Johnson was also named to TKO’s board of directors last week and has overtaken the McMahons as far as power within WWE is concerned. Paul “Triple H” Levesque has been the head booker of WWE television for most of the last two years following Vince McMahon’s ousting/retirement/”resignation,” but that might not matter much in the future as Endeavor looks to make moves that they believe will maximize their business.
“The Rock’s family passed the McMahon family in the past week as far as power dynamic in pro wrestling, and it’s probably not going to change any time soon,” said one person who has worked with all parties involved numerous times.– Fightful Select
One member of the creative team had this to say about Dwayne Johnson’s new involvement in the WrestleMania main event:
“Not only does it make less sense than ever right now, it’s undermining one of the biggest stories we’ve ever told and turning off a lot of our fans.”– Fightful Select
There is hope from those in WWE that the higher-ups will consider the reaction to this change in plans and pivot back to a Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns rematch. The WrestleMania 40 Kickoff Event is scheduled to take place in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feburary 8. Both The Rock and Roman Reigns are set to appear.
As always, we will aim to provide updates on The Rock and his WrestleMania status as we get them.