The Rock Appears To Replace Cody Rhodes As Roman Reigns' WWE WrestleMania Challenger

Cody Rhodes will not be facing Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 40 after all. Instead, it appears Reigns will be facing his cousin, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, following the events of "WWE SmackDown."

"The Tribal Chief" took to the microphone Friday night in anticipation for Rhodes' WrestleMania opponent announcement. Reigns responded to World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins' recent plea to Rhodes, and dismissed Rollins' self-appointed title of "the guy" and Rollin's complaints regarding Reigns' schedule, among other things. Reigns finished his rebuttal by claiming that he wasn't "going to beg" Rhodes for his attention like Rollins did.

Reigns ultimately did not need to beg, as Rhodes made his entrance shortly thereafter. Tensions were high between the two, to the point that Rhodes dismissed Jimmy and Solo. Initially, Rhodes spoke with the implication that Reigns was his WrestleMania choice, and that the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship was not a Hollywood title, as Rollins claimed, but was "the title that was put into [his] father's hands at Madison Square Garden, and then swiftly taken away". Rhodes openly pondered if his story would be finished when he dethroned "The Tribal Chief", or if his story would be finished when he took "everything" from Reigns. All the pieces were nearly aligned for a Rhodes and Reigns WrestleMania rematch.

Then, Rhodes said that he would not dethrone Reigns at WrestleMania. Instead, Rhodes claimed he spoke to a person Reigns knew intimately.

The Rock was the wild card

Like clockwork, all of Birmingham was prompted to smell what "The Rock" was cooking, and the recently-appointed TKO executive came strutting down the ramp. Rhodes shared a brief moment with "The Rock" as Johnson pulled him in to whisper something in his ear. Rhodes then took his leave. "The Rock" stared down "The Tribal Chief", who was holding onto his title just a bit more tightly. "WWE SmackDown" then went off the air, with neither men having said a single word to each other.

While there was no confirmation regarding Reigns' plans for WrestleMania 40, the general consensus is that he will be facing "The Rock" instead of "The American Nightmare." Johnson has previously expressed desire to face his cousin at some point, and the idea of a family feud headlining WrestleMania 40 has been lurking in the background of Reigns' entire Undisputed WWE Universal Championship run. It is to be noted that Johnson never specifically expressed desire for a title opportunity. Rhodes' cryptic claim that he could dethrone Reigns at a time other than WrestleMania adds into the complexity of the situation. 

In the last moments of the show, WWE promoted a WrestleMania 40 press conference for Thursday evening, February 8.