After failing numerous times to get a spot at WrestleMania 38, Seth Rollins was gifted a match by Vince McMahon on Monday just because. “Why didn’t you just ask me?” was the justification for this match. But when Rollins asked who his opponent was, the question was left lingering. All we know is that he’ll be facing “an opponent of Mr. McMahon’s choosing” and that we’ll find out who it is when that person is announced to the ring.
Obviously, everyone’s minds has run toward one name in Cody Rhodes. He’s been reportedly signed to the company for a few weeks and his return would be monumental. There have been numerous teases in the past month dropping hints at his return with colorful language about dreams turning into nightmares and being dashed and so on.
But what if it isn’t Cody Rhodes?
WWE has been tone deaf before. There have been plenty moments where everyone in the world knew something had to go a certain way because it was the only thing that made any sense and the alternatives would be met with disdain, only for WWE to pull a fast one, go in another direction and say either “gotcha” or hope the swerve was good enough for the sake of keeping things interesting and shocking, or just “we didn’t advertise that, so why are you upset about getting your hopes up?” or any other philosophy.
It isn’t guaranteed Rollins will face Rhodes, so before WrestleMania takes place, I wanted to break down some of the potential other ideas WWE might have in mind.
If it isn’t Rhodes, the only person I could see not getting booed would be The Undertaker. Not only does he have the history and lineage behind him that fans would pop instead of be disappointed, he also has a built-in presence for this WrestleMania and onward.
The Streak was one of the biggest things in the company. The Dead Man eventually lost twice, and he’s supposed to be retired, but his farewell took place in front of nobody. His last match was a glorified vignette and his goodbye at Survivor Series was in front of video screens. Technically, he can have his Hall of Fame speech and have that be another farewell, but what if WWE wants to have him squash Rollins just to say he had another “last match” in front of thousands in Texas?
McMahon will be inducting him. It would make sense for Undertaker to be his choice opponent for Rollins. Then, you’d find out he’s the challenger when the gong strikes. All the match has to be is a big boot, a chokeslam and a tombstone and fans will go nuts.
Supposedly, the original intention was for Shane McMahon to do something in the Royal Rumble match that would lead to a match against Rollins for WrestleMania. Nothing at all has been hinted at in the past two months to signify that’s still on the table, but this year has been heavily built around people just saying “I want a match” and “you got it”, so don’t be shocked if they think its good enough just to have McMahon show up as a surprise.
The familial connection is obvious for why Vince would pick him. Nepotism is about as good of an excuse as any.
But I fully expect fans to be pissed if this were the case. McMahon would be booed while Rollins would be cheered, if the crowd stopped chanting “We want Cody” at any point.
WWE does love bringing Goldberg back for big matches, and for all we know, he could have signed a new deal. Outside of fighting for a Saudi Arabia event like Crown Jewel, the next biggest thing would be an appearance at WrestleMania.
I’m not expecting this would be the case, but it’s worth mentioning. In my mind, if Goldberg were to wrestle on this show, they would have at least advertised it in advance to try to build more hype and sell more tickets. He doesn’t strike me as a last-minute surprise on the show type of guy.
Obviously, this would result in another chorus of boos. I don’t think fans care to see Goldberg beat Rollins in a squash match just for the sake of seeing another legend from the past return when they’ve already got Stone Cold Steve Austin doing something on this night.
We know Gable Steveson is done with his amateur wrestling career and will be making some sort of appearance at WrestleMania, but we don’t know the capacity.
I’m assuming he’ll just have a “Hey, look, it’s Gable Steveson! He’ll be joining the Raw roster soon!” type of deal, but he could get physical, too. Maybe someone calls him out and he takes them down. Or, maybe he’s such a high priority for WWE to be the next big thing that he gets picked by Vince McMahon himself to fight Rollins and score a victory over a multi-time world champion in a “main event” match, as McMahon’s advertising it to be. (Side note: You can’t have 4 main events on the same show. The finale is the main event. Stop acting like the opening match and anything else can be a main event as well.)
This would be a major mistake. Fans want Cody Rhodes and WWE knows it. If Cody isn’t coming back, they have a responsibility to not tease it and disappoint people. That’s also a responsibility to whoever would come out, as WWE would be setting them up to be a disappointment and booed. Just look at how even Rey Mysterio was booed as the final entrant of the Royal Rumble when fans wanted it to be Daniel Bryan. Nobody is exempt from possibly being in that bad position and it would be a terrible way to start off Steveson’s career.
For all we know, WWE could just be planning on having Elias return or they think it would be hilarious for McMahon to have picked Jinder Mahal. But if this is a “main event” match that has this much hype surrounding it, and they don’t go with a big name, they’re actively saying they like messing with the fans.
The only other person that springs to mind that could fit the bill of a welcome surprise is John Cena. While The Rock is a name some people would suggest, I just don’t think he’s appearing at all, whereas Cena could be more playful and just want to show up on the day of the event for some fun.