Report: Why Cody Rhodes Initially Stepped Aside For The Rock At WWE WrestleMania 40

Since the start of 2024, a slew of unexpected factors have seemingly resulted in some major shifts in the plan for WWE WrestleMania XL. Many fans have been captivated, for good or for ill, by the saga of Cody Rhodes in the lead-up to this year's big event. In the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer offered some additional details on the journey to Rhodes' main event rematch against Roman Reigns.


According to Meltzer, following the injury to CM Punk, the decision was made internally to have Rhodes shift to facing Seth Rollins. With that in mind, WWE head of creative Paul "Triple H" Levesque came up with the idea for the segment on the February 2 edition of "WWE SmackDown," with Rhodes stepping aside and offering his support for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to face Reigns instead.

Levesque reportedly believed that Rhodes' endorsement of The Rock would tie up the storyline's loose ends, but the fan reaction was overwhelmingly negative. At that point, an audible was called, with Johnson and his longtime writing and producing partner Bryan Gewirtz (a former WWE head writer) feeling that The Rock should turn heel based on the crowd response. That led to the WWE WrestleMania XL Kickoff press conference, pitting Rhodes and Rollins against Johnson and Reigns.


When the plan was for Rhodes to face Rollins, the idea within the company was that there would be no Men's Elimination Chamber match at the next premium live event. However, as plans continued to shift around, it was decided to go back to that match to set up Rollins' WrestleMania opponent. As many may have expected, the original plan was for Punk to win the Men's Elimination Chamber until he suffered an injury at the 2024 WWE Royal Rumble.