Fans Would’ve Hated The Rock’s Original WrestleMania Plans “More Than Life Itself”

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Brian Gewirtz says fans are lucky WWE changed The Rock’s WrestleMania plans.

By now it’s well-known that The Rock was originally scheduled to face Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 40. However, what’s less well-known is the backstage maneuvering that caused the shift back to the main event between Cody Rhodes and the Head of the Table.

During an appearance on Busted Open Radio, Brian Gewirtz broke down a timeline of how everything played out, and when key decisions were taken.

The former WWE writer and current Seven Bucks Productions SVP said he informed WWE right after WrestleMania 39 that there was a possibility Rock could wrestle in 2024.

“When WrestleMania 39 happened, I called my friend at WWE on the creative team and I said, ‘Just so you know, I’ve been talking with The Rock.’ Similar to The Rock-Ronda tag match (that was set up, but didn’t happen), I said, ‘There is a chance, there is a good chance, that Rock and Roman might be a possibility for WrestleMania 40.’ This is a year before.

I said, ‘What do you guys have planned for WrestleMania 40?’ This is the day after WrestleMania 39. ‘Cody lost, the idea is to give him a solid year to go through many trials and tribulations, starting with Brock, and then do the rematch at WrestleMania 40.’

I said, ‘Okay, great. Well, this might exist, just so you know. You don’t need to change anything because who knows.’ A year in advance, so many things can happen. ‘Just know, in the back of your mind, he’s thinking about it.’

By the end of 2023, the ball was well and truly rolling on plans for Rock vs. Reigns to main event WrestleMania 40. This played into The Rock’s return to Raw on January 1st where he clashed with Jinder Mahal before referencing the “Head of the Table.”

Gewirtz said the reference to Reigns was very deliberate and was meant as a test to gauge the audience’s reaction to the potential match.

“It started, in the fall, looking more and more like a possibility. That led us to January 1st and the promo with Jinder (Mahal). At that point, it was looking very much like a possibility that Rock and Roman was going to happen. We had a meeting in Rock’s hotel room. It was me, Rock, Triple H, and Nick Khan. We talked about it all. Triple H was very aware and astute of the Cody storyline, and we brought that up and talked about it for a while.

At the end of that meeting, everyone enjoyed the promo with Jinder, but what everyone was talking about was the ‘Head of the Table.’ That came about super late into our meeting at the hotel. As we were talking about Cody, it was said, ‘I hear you, maybe we should test poll the audience.’ Not just the audience in San Diego, but the audience all over the world. ‘What if I tease it, but not say it directly.’ We brainstormed on how do that. He did it. The place went nuts. Online went nuts.

For the most part, it was overwhelmingly positive when he teased Head of the Table. At that point, ‘That gives us our answer.’ He did the TKO announcement, he went to WWE HQ, I have 96 pages of merch and title belt ideas. It was pretty much locked in at that point, which begs the question, if all of that is the plan, why do you have Cody Rhodes win the Royal Rumble?”

Gewirtz said he felt plans for Cody Rhodes to win the Royal Rumble were “problematic,” before saying fans would have hated the plan they originally sketched out.

“The idea of Cody winning the Rumble, I thought, was problematic. I said in San Diego, in that meeting, I thought the cleanest thing to do, if we’re booking Rock and Roman, is to have (CM) Punk win the Rumble and challenge Rollins because there is a difference, storyline-wise, of Cody wanting to finish the story and having earned the right to finish the story by winning the Royal Rumble.

Once you win the Royal Rumble, that dynamic changes. It goes from something ‘we all want things,’ but now he’s got it. Why would he do anything other than focus on Roman? That’s what he did when he pointed to him. Why wouldn’t he? That’s what the character would do.

I’ll just say, with 100% certainty, the original plan is something many more people would have hated more than anything in life itself. I can’t state that any more clearly. Punk gets hurt, the dominos start falling, things start shifting, and we get to a point where the WrestleMania press conference is coming up and we need to promote something, and now we get to the infamous Alabama promo.”

The Rock Pitched Heel Turn

Brian Gewirtz reiterated that Cody Rhodes didn’t help matters with his delivery of the promo on SmackDown, openly showing how disappointed he was to step aside for The Rock. The writer said the story around Rhodes was the fact he needed to win the title his dad couldn’t, not that he had to beat Reigns at WrestleMania. He added that Rhodes had been due to deliver the promo differently, but conceded the American Nightmare was put in an impossible position.

Gewirtz explained that after fans turned on the idea of Rock vs. Reigns, it was the Hollywood star who made the call to turn heel.

“He proposed a tag match, as the main event of WrestleMania. He liked the elements, he liked teaming with Roman, the image of badassery, the throwback to WrestleMania 1 and the tag match that main evented. I said, ‘I love the tag match too, but that can’t be the main event. That can be night one, but I don’t think there is a world that exists anymore that can’t end with Cody beating Roman for the title on night two.’ It was agreed.

‘Figure out a way to get the tag match to the singles match.’ We had an idea, by the time we got to the press conference, it was a different stipulation than it ended up being. I don’t think anyone loved them. Without getting into specifics, it was more, ‘If this team wins, this is the match. If this team wins, this is the match.’ It was problematic because it required Cody winning twice. You need that emotional release. He has to lose the first night. You have to have Cody win when he wins with everything on the line.

Two days after the press conference, I threw out Bloodline rules or everyone is banned from ringside to Rock. Rock loved it. He called Nick (Khan), Ari (Emanuel), he talked to Triple H. I talked to Ed (Kosky) and Bruce (Prichard) on the creative team. Everyone was like, ‘Great, this is what we’re going to do now.’ We’re off to the races, and then everything started flowing,”

It’s been reported that The Rock will meet Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania 41 in a huge singles match.

H/t to Fightful