Hot Take: Forget Finishing the Story, Roman Reigns Should Break Hogan’s WWE Record | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors
When it comes to the inevitable-feeling Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns rematch at WrestleMania 40, only one story matters.
And it isn’t the one belonging to Rhodes.
As it has been for a long time, this is all about Reigns—as it should be—given the historical course he’s steered the entire industry on after a character change and how much that has benefitted WWE business and Superstars around him.
Now, if Reigns retains over Rhodes (or even someone else) at the next ‘Mania, he’ll be all but be guaranteed to surpass Hulk Hogan’s 1,474 days as champion, putting him second all-time behind only Bruno Sammartino (2,803 days).
That trumps anything involving Rhodes, no matter how over with fans he might be, which at a certain point, starts to work against a Superstar because WWE will see that fans will back him no matter what happens.
WWE has been on a history-making kick under the guidance of Triple H, doing lengthy title runs that modernize the record books. Why they’d fall short of Hogan with the modern Hogan, Reigns, is hard to fathom at this point. One is a much better brand ambassador than the other over the long-term, too.
More to the point, Rhodes finishing his story just isn’t all that interesting. It wasn’t last year when he returned and had a late entry in the Royal Rumble, getting the predictable win with little in the way of story. That didn’t change much all the way up to ‘Mania itself as he was awkwardly inserted into a family-based tale, in large part because of his prior AEW connection.
That has only gotten worse this year. Rhodes had what felt like a half-year fun run with Brock Lesnar. But now that it’s time to slowly being the ramp up to a ‘Mania, he’s been all over the place. He’s been randomly fighting with Judgment Day, brand-hopping, winning tag titles until abruptly losing them, pretty much stuck in a WWE-offseason purgatory that is doing anything but weaving an interesting tale.
There aren’t many interesting ways to get Rhodes back to Reigns, especially at the expense of guys like Jey Uso. Does he get another Royal Rumble win, too?
Much more interesting is the long-term possibility of keeping it in the family. After Reigns surpasses Hogan, maybe Jey gets the nod. Best of all might be the idea of continuing to build up Solo Sikoa into a monster heel who the survival-minded weasel Paul Heyman aligns with to end the run (insert a name like Bron Breakker if not Sikoa).
The key word around Reigns losing his title must be organic. Given the careful storytelling, there was something organic about Sami Zayn possibly ending it after leaving the Bloodline. Given the real-life return of Drew McIntyre (one could argue better than Rhodes’ story, by the way) and the way he carried WWE on his back during the pandemic era, his besting Reigns in the U.K. last year felt natural.
There’s not a lot of natural feeling about Rhodes’ story other than Reigns happens to hold the belt his father never won. It feels like a more traditional WWE storyline for the belt around Seth Rollins’ waist, not the insular, carefully laid plans around Reigns’ title.
This doesn’t even mention that hey, what if it’s not Rhodes getting the shot at Reigns anyway? What if The Rock’s schedule clears and fans get an all-timer of a ‘Mania headliner that keeps the family theme? A Rock disgruntled with Reigns’ treatment of his family returns for one last match…that’s about as good as it gets.
No doubt there would be some measure of fan backlash if Reigns beat Rhodes again.
But…good luck trying to argue it would have a detrimental effect on anything WWE. The company has fully hit its stride under Triple H, flirting with a new golden age of sorts. NXT is on fire, Raw has a stacked roster starting with Rollins’ title at the top, there are multiple must-see factions, L.A. Knight is the Attitude Era throwback fans always wanted, the already-great women’s division added Jade Cargill and it feels inevitable that CM Punk static interrupts programing at some point—just to briefly touch on a few items.
Looking at this requires historical context. Remember how dreadful the part-timer-champion Lesnar era was? The surrounding WWE just wasn’t built to endure that type of champion. This WWE, though? It certainly is, and even better, Reigns’ story is captivating. It’s the perfect fit after the merger with UFC and in the process, every single Reigns appearance has felt momentous and the number of Superstars elevated because of it (stop pretending you thought Jey could be a solo act, deal?) are many.
Unfortunately for Rhodes, he just can’t compete with all of this. If he takes down Reigns, the top title scene in the company suddenly goes back to normal WWE style. There’s a big fan overlap between those who demand fighting champions and those already complaining about Rollins’ current run, anyway, so it’s not like WWE can win with everyone at all times.
But it can win with Reigns continuing to march up the history books with one of the best reigns and stories ever. When he passes Hogan, fans will look back fondly on the run, which is much better than playing the what if? game if he drops the title to Rhodes prematurely for a cheap, predictable pop.
WWE hasn’t had a presence or story like Reigns in a long time and right now, throwing it all away at its height would be an unspeakable botch, especially when the loudest fans against his run will keep watching anyway.