Fightful Select has provided a very detailed backstage update on The Rock, Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns, where Rhodes said on Friday night’s SmackDown that he would not be finishing his story at WrestleMania 40 this April. Instead, WWE has decided to go with The Rock challenging Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Title at the big two-night event.
According to Fightful Select, the timeline of when the decision came about to go with The Rock vs. Reigns was made, is different depending on the sources they spoke to. It is also said The Rock, in addition making the push to WWE for a match against Reigns, has been making a valid case with the company as why he should defeat Reigns for the title.
Fightful Select notes regardless of what is decided for the final outcome of The Rock vs. Reigns match at WrestleMania 40, multiple sources within WWE said they see this to be more of a political move by TKO. Sources further added the belief is The Rock vs. Reigns has more of a financial gain for WWE, TKO over having Rhodes challenging Reigns for the same title for a second straight year at WrestleMania.
There is belief among sources that The Rock will be bringing in longtime business partner and former head of WWE creative, Brian Gewirtz, to help with his creative process for this feud and the future match with Reigns. Furthermore, Gewirtz is expected to be at some of WWE’s events that The Rock is scheduled to appear at.
The report also notes that per sources, the decision to go with The Rock vs. Reigns was not believed to be made out with wrongful intentions towards Rhodes, as TKO does see value in him and as a top star within WWE. However, the same sources added that feeling is those involved with the final decision have underestimated how much patience there is from the fans as all this has all been wearing thin.
Fightful Select further states Rhodes was informed in advance of Friday night’s SmackDown regarding the change to instead go with The Rock vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania.
Fightful said they contacted sources within WWE to ask if this change up was done to take away attention or publicity resulting from the sex-trafficking lawsuit filed by former WWE employee Janel Grant against the company, Vince McMahon and former WWE Executive John Laurinaitis. Fighful said they were told that The Rock had been pushing TKO well in advance of the lawsuit news. It was added that TKO also said that is can not hurt to get attention from the mainstream media that does not have to do with lawsuits and scandals.
The Rock and Ari Emanuel, who is the CEO of Endeavor do have both a longtime personal and working relationship. The Rock and TKO want to maximize the huge agreement both sides made with The Rock being appointed to the company’s Board of Directors, licensing and Dwayne Johnson getting full rights/ownership to The Rock name.
The report concluded by noting that as of now, The Rock will attempt to work a full-length main event level match with Reigns at WrestleMania. There is no word on if The Rock has any possible intentions of wrestling or working in the ring leading up to his match against Reigns. However, per some within WWE, there is said to be concerns regarding if The Rock can actually work a full-length match, given his last few appearances where he got physical in the ring did not look all that good with doing his few signature moves.
In a separate report from Fightful Select, but still related, one source backstage at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama said they saw “the most outside faces” that they have seen behind-the-scenes at SmackDown in a long time. The internal reaction among WWE talent and staff with The Rock replacing Cody Rhodes against Reigns at WrestleMania was said to be “one of shock.”
It was said The Rock was seen a gym in Birmingham, Alabama earlier in the day and then near the Legacy Arena as it drew closer for the start of SmackDown.
WWE announced during Friday night’s SmackDown, a WrestleMania Press Event for Thursday, February 8 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.
On Saturday, WWE released an official announcement that The Rock and Roman Reigns are set for a face-off at the event, which is an official kick off for WrestleMania 40.