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Wrestlemania XL goes for Extra Large over Excellence as Cody Rhodes completes his story

Cody Rhodes realises his dream while Bayley completes her story. Product placement rules over Night 2 as high-profile cameos save Wrestlemania XL from being a total washout. Vinu Syriac writes

Wrestlemania XL goes for Extra Large over Excellence as Cody Rhodes completes his story
Cody Rhodes after his title win | Credit: WWE/X

Last Updated: 02.12 PM, Apr 08, 2024


The cardinal rule of any two-day event is that Day One should never upstage Day Two. The audience should leave with a sense of having participated in something awe-inspiring. If the second day doesn’t reach up to the first, then the event is soon forgotten, no matter how good Day One was. So, how did this Day Two fare?

The evening was kicked off surprisingly by Stephanie McMahon. She spoke about how this was the first Wrestlemania of the Paul Levesque era. Lavesque, known by his ring name HHH, was Stephanie’s husband and also the Chief Content Officer of the WWE. He is supposedly the one in charge of the storylines. After 39 Vince McMahon Wrestlemanias, the company was desperate to get far away from him. Levesque was widely expected to be fired soon, not for any misconduct, but because of his family association with the McMahon family. So, Stephanie coming out was not wholly unexpected. But would the powers have allowed that?

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Seth Rollins vs Drew McIntyre

You have to grab their attention from the first fight itself. In that, this match completely delivered. It was also the only one which didn’t go the way I expected it to.

The intros were ridiculous to say the least. Drew McIntyre was brought out by a bunch of bagpipers and Rollins by a set of musicians all in outlandish costumes. One would have been excused if one thought he was in a Mardi Gras parade instead of Wrestlemania. Special guest commentator CM Punk sat with very visible braces on his hand courtesy of injuries inflicted by McIntyre.

The match followed predictable patterns until Drew won with two Claymore kicks. The celebration and reign lasted for all of five minutes. A crude showing off in front of Punk resulted in the latter knocking down Drew. Before he could get up, Money in the Bank winner Damien Priest came and insisting on cashing in. The new champ was history in seconds and Priest is the new World Champion.


The Money in the Bank event is WWE’s public acknowledgement of capitalism. You can make advantage of any situation by utilizing your briefcase full of cash, right and wrong be damned. Not all cash-ins work to the advantage of the briefcase owner, but this time it worked like a Swiss watch.

Ranking – B+

Philadelphia Street Fight

Another useless Wrestlemania moment. The only reason it existed was probably to add a bit of nostalgia. Bubba Ray Dudley was the guest referee. Bobby Lashley and the Street Profits (Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins against The Final Testament (Karrion Kross, Akam and Rezar). It tuned out less of a brawl and more of a “let’s-finish-this-fast’ match. After a while, Dudley stopped any semblance of refereeing and started telling Bobby and the Profits what to do. In hindsight, this would have qualified as a perfect bathroom break.

Actually, it may not have been completely useless. Big-time WWE fan and even Hall-of-Famer Snoop Dogg was introduced to the crowd. Turns out he was there to promote Gin and Juice, the beverage he brought out with Dr Dre. Product Promotion at its best.

Ranking – C

AJ Styles vs LA Knight

The battle of the initials? I can honestly think of no other reason for this match up. Knight has suddenly zoomed up the popularity charts. Styles has turned heel. There was no other way this match was going to end. Knight prevailed and Slim Jim got a lot of publicity.

Ranking – C+

WWE United States Championship: Logan Paul vs Randy Orton vs Kevin Owens

Let’s talk about Prime Hydration. The drinks company was founded in 2022 by YouTubers Logan Paul and KSI. The sales went through the roof. There were a lot of complaints about the drinks and its contents. Many countries have banned it, and it has come out that the actual folks behind the drinks were not the YouTubers, but hardcore business folks.

Anyway, as the company grew, so did Logan’s wrestling career. At Wrestlemania XL Prime turned out to be one of the biggest sponsors. Their name was on the ring floor and there was a ‘hydration station’ next to the commentators’ table. An inordinately large amount of action happened near it over the two days.

Logan came to the triple threat match in a specially designed Prime truck, with a man in a Prime suit dancing beside him. Randy Orton and Kevin Owens came in a tame golf cart. The match began with Logan getting beaten up by both Orton and Owens. It ended up with Logan outsmarting the others and retaining the title. There was a little help from the Prime suit guy, who turned out to be another YouTuber IShowSpeed. The Internet czars and their followers are here to stay. To be fair to Logan, he did acquit himself with some exceptional high-flying maneuvers.

Ranking – B-

WWE Women’s Championship: Iyo vs Bayley

There are a few Japanese wrestlers in the Women’s Division. Most of them are part of Damage CTRL, that was started by Bayley. As Damage CTRL grew, Bayley’s influence decreased. Finally, things came to a head. Iyo Sky, who became champion with Bayley’s support, turned against her mentor and friend. Bayley, though not being remotely er physical best, won the Royal Rumble and got a chance to go against Iyo.

Bayley got a chance to finish her story and win the championship, though I think it was mostly because Americans couldn’t afford to have a Japanese champion for too long.

Ranking – B-

Undisputed WWE Universal Championship: Cody Rhodes vs Roman Reigns

In the end it all boiled down to this. Cody versus Roman. David versus Goliath. Blood versus Bloodline. The match of the year. The hype had reached fever pitch. The story had reached its final chapter. Would there be a twist in the tail of the tale?

By now, Roman Reigns had become a full-on bad guy. He still had loads of fans, but they didn’t reach Cody Rhodes’ levels. Roman put on an exaggerated avatar. He was trash talking a lot, goading the fans, trying to sneer for the cameras. The idea was to alienate him even further from the fans.

There were a few surprise elements in the fight like when Reigns pulled off Cody’s signature move – Cross Rhodes – and Cody speared Roman. But for most time it was Roman toying with Rhodes and the latter hanging for dear life, nearfall after nearfall. There was an unnecessary interlude where the action shifted from the ring to the middle of the audience. But other than that there was hardly anything that signaled Bloodline Rules.

Over the months it was evident that one Cross Rhodes was not going to bring down Roman. But every time Cody went for three, he would be interrupted and Roman would end up winning. It was evident that it would need to happen here. But would The Bloodline let it?

Remember Avengers Endgame? The final battle where everyone was trying to get the Infinity Gauntlet to the time machine? It was a silly relay, but it was thrilling to watch. WWE decided to replicate it. Roman and Cody were no longer the main event.

It all began with Cody attempting a second Cross Rhodes, Jimmy Uso foiled it. Only for the music to play and his twin brother Jeh Uso to come and knock him out of commission. A few minutes later Cody was at it again. He was going for the third when the Usos’ younger brother Solo Sikoa came and prevented it. The music comes on again. The crowd loses it as John Cena ran down to the ring to take care of Solo. The question of smelling the cooking comes through the loudspeaker. The Rock had enough. He Rock Bottoms Cena. The music of the old Shield comes on. Seth Rollins attempts a rather pathetic entrance with a chair. Roman takes care of his former partner and Rock unbuckles his Mama Rhodes belt to give Cody what he got yesterday. And then the bell tolled. The light went out. When it came back, standing behind the Rock was the Emperor of Wrestlemania – The Undertaker. He chokeslams the Rock. The bell tolls and light goes out. When it is back, it is just a tottering Cody, an angry Roman and Seth getting up. Roman goes after Seth, giving just enough time for Cody to gather his bearings. Three Cross Rhodes finally happens and the story is finally complete.

During the celebrations, Cody called out HHH to the ring. Now Stephanie’s appearance made sense. It would be some time, if ever, when Vince McMahon would be rehabilitated. But the game must go on. The Game will take the game forward.

Cody Rhodes won because that was the only option by then. Him losing would have benefited no one; least of all, WWE. The audience had been manipulated for almost two years. Now the time was right. Wrestlemania – XL would end with a bang. It would also end with the best result that would keep the fans interested.

Ranking – B-

*The author, Vinu Syriac, is a part-time reader, part-time writer, part-time armchair critic, and full-time nostalgiamaniac.

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