TJR: WrestleMania XL Behind The Curtain Review

WrestleMania XL 40 Behind The Curtain

The WrestleMania 40 Behind The Curtain special took WWE fans behind the scenes as the key players in the company reacted to the pivot that was WrestleMania 40.

It took three months after it was originally advertised to air, but the WWE WrestleMania 40 special called “Behind The Curtain” finally aired on the company’s YouTube channel on Wednesday, July 3rd at 7 p.m. and is available on demand to watch whenever we want. I’m a bit surprised that WWE put it on YouTube rather than Peacock/WWE Network, but putting it on YouTube it’s going to reach even more people because it’s a free service.

This isn’t going to be a play-by-play recap of the entire documentary because there will be some parts that I avoid mentioning. However, I’m writing this while watching it for the second time. I think it’s important to go in order because of all the twists and turns along the way.

The documentary was narrated by Tom Rinaldi of FOX Sports, who spent a lot of years with ESPN. Tom does a great job and has worked on a lot of documentaries in his career.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was featured heavily in the documentary. They showed his appearances on WWE television before it was known for sure that he was coming back for WM40. That Smackdown in Colorado was a fun moment when the crowd loved him. On the New Year’s Day Raw in San Diego, Rock teased going after Roman Reigns by saying he wanted to “sit at the head of the table.” Obviously, the fans watching knew who he was referring to.

When The Rock was announced as part of the TKO Board of Directors, they showed some footage of him and Triple H bonding over some old titles in the WWE offices as well as photos. The Rock was emotional looking at a photo of his late father Rocky Johnson. Triple H and Rock also posed with the old version of the WWE Title from Bob Backlund’s era. Many of us can remember Triple H and Rock feuding over the WWE Title as rivals, so I’m sure it’s a great feeling for them to work together in this era.

Also, Vince McMahon was in the documentary because he was there when TKO Group was at the New York Stock Exchange. It was shortly after that when the sex trafficking lawsuit against Vince McMahon became public knowledge and he was gone from the company soon after that.

Cody Rhodes Got Bad News On The Day Of The Royal Rumble

Cody Rhodes was also shown a lot in the documentary and we could see a lot of different emotions from him. We also had it confirmed in the documentary that WWE’s Chief Content Officer Paul “Triple H” Levesque told Cody on the day of the Royal Rumble that the company was planning to have Roman Reigns defend the Undisputed WWE Universal Title against The Rock instead of Cody. Triple H said he didn’t think anybody knew a thing outside of Cody and he thought it was probably a brutal day for Cody. As we know, Cody went on to win the 2024 Royal Rumble match for the second year in a row.

We also got an interesting comment from Triple H saying that if Cody failed to win the Royal Rumble then it would damage him. Hunter made it clear that they had to have Cody win the Rumble and had to see what the reaction was and then go from there. My opinion on that is that it was Triple H’s way of doing the smart thing by having Cody win because he wanted to make sure they had an option for Cody to still get to WrestleMania against Reigns.

They showed a clip of Cody doing a promo on the Raw after the Royal Rumble when he was emotional as he said that on Saturday, you will never know how much he needed you (referring to the fans). This was clearly Cody talking about being told that he wasn’t going to face Roman Reigns at WrestleMania and because of the fans loving him so much, it likely lifted his spirits a lot when he won the Royal Rumble.

There was a clip shown of CM Punk telling Triple H that he tore his triceps. Triple H said that Punk was going to face Seth Rollins at WrestleMania, which we all knew. Hunter said that things were up in the air at that point.

The Cody Rhodes Announcement Led To The Rock’s Official WWE Return

The February 2nd edition of Smackdown was a big night. Cody was shown on his bus and noted he wasn’t over-enthusiastic because of what had to say in a promo that night. That was the night when Cody told Roman Reigns he wanted the WWE Title, but not at WrestleMania. That brought out The Rock, who hugged Cody and Cody left. Rock said he had the staredown with Reigns to tease the new main event of WrestleMania 40. We saw Rock and Roman hug backstage after that.

This was probably the saddest moment of the documentary. Cody was shown on the bus after the show. Cody said that he had to believe that he wouldn’t lose the faith of the fans. Cody was sitting with a bottle of vodka and probably had a few drinks. Cody said he was talking about that WWE Title for two years, yet he’s not going to wrestle Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. Triple H was shown after that saying that he had to figure out what they would do with Cody and said they would see what the reaction was.

At that point in the documentary they covered the reaction to Cody stepping aside and The Rock stepping up to face Roman Reigns.

I thought The Rock was incredible at this point in the documentary because of how honest he was. The Rock said that the people had the power because the fans were angry about it and #WeWantCody was trending for three days after that. Hunter said it was a testament to how over Cody was and how popular Cody was. Rock said you can truck through it or take in what the fans were saying.

Here’s what The Rock said about how he knew they needed to change things.

“I called Nick [Khan] and Triple H and I called Ari [Emanuel]. I said, here’s how I’m feeling. We can truck through this and we can put on this main event. And the majority of the world, many of which who don’t watch WWE who we do plan on pulling in…they’re going to love this idea of Rock and Roman and we’re going to tell this amazing story. Hopefully this will be the first chapter of a few. We could do that.”

“However, my gut says Ari, Nick, Triple H, my gut says I don’t like, even if its like a segment of fans, I don’t like that they’re upset. And that really bugged the s**t out of me. And it’s not how I’ve operated my entire career. I don’t like it. And I knew, essentially, the choice was mine.”

If you are a fan of The Rock, this should make you love him even more for being such a great team player. The Rock could have been selfish and taken that spot, but he listened to the fans because he is the People’s Champion and knows how important the fan reaction is to what WWE does. This is a reminder of how smart a legendary wrestler like The Rock is. My respect for him grew even more after this storyline.

Triple H talked about how they pivoted in a way that blurred the lines of fiction and reality.

WrestleMania 40 Kickoff Event Sets The Wheels In Motion

The next big event focused on was the February 8th WrestleMania 40 Kickoff event at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. As Bruce Prichard said in the documentary, this is where WWE could pivot because they never specifically said what was happening at WrestleMania.

That’s when The Rock and Roman Reigns hugged on the stage saying it would be the biggest main event in the history of WrestleMania. Cody Rhodes interrupted: “This right here is bulls**t.” That led to Cody telling Reigns. We heard from Reigns saying that if you can continually swerve them and keep them on the edge of their seats then that’s the way to do it. That led to Reigns insulting Cody’s dad so Cody said that Rock and Roman’s families would be ashamed, which led to Rock saying they have a problem. Rock slapped Cody at that point. It was a clip that was played a lot.

There was more great insight from behind the scenes with The Rock talking about how he spoke to former WWE writer Brian Gewirtz, an executive on The Rock’s Seven Bucks Production team. Rock said they came up with what we saw at WrestleMania with Rock & Reigns vs. Rollins & Rhodes on WrestleMania Saturday, which then leads into Reigns vs. Rhodes on WrestleMania Sunday. A good call by The Rock and Brian.

I liked the behind-the-scenes footage showing The Rock, Roman Reigns, Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins doing a photo shoot to set up their WrestleMania 40 match. We saw that staredown video dozens of times on the road to WrestleMania, so it’s cool to see what that process is like.

Triple H described it by saying it wasn’t the original plan, but it was the plan that the world told us what it should be.

The Final Boss Emerges

The Rock spoke about how he called Nick Khan and Ari Emanuel telling them about his idea of creating The Final Boss. Those promos from The Rock were incredible as he insulted the crowd while showing off his big ego. Reigns spoke about how it was powerful and you had to have chops to do this shit.

There was a clip of Seth Rollins moving around with the knee brace on his left knee and he told Triple H that he felt confident he would be 100% for WrestleMania.

It was also cool to see how The Rock prepared for his entrance change after becoming The Final Boss character. We saw him even counting how many steps he would take from the backstage area before he reached the cameras at ringside. That shows how prepared these guys are and it’s something that we fans might not think about, so it’s great to have that kind of access.

The Rock said that becoming this new version of the character was “the most gratifying decision that I’ve ever made.” Triple H called it a fresh coat of paint on The Rock. We also saw Cody getting his receipt when he slapped Rock in the face.

The Road To WrestleMania Continues

Cody Rhodes spoke about spending time with fans at WWE shows and saying he won’t change. Cody said if he didn’t have this connection with the people then Rock would be in that spot against Reigns. Cody said that the fans want him in that spot. Cody said that’s why he thanks the fans at every show.

The Rock spoke about how much they love doing what they do and it’s always important to take care of the fans.

That led to a clip of The Rock telling Phoenix about how they use a lot of cocaine and meth. There was also a clip of The Rock’s concert. That was really well done too.

The Rock said that he got a lot of feedback about The Final Boss character. The Rock said it’s about doing things his way and saying things his way.

It was time for the memorable scene at the end of Raw on March 25th when The Rock bloodied Cody Rhodes and whipped him with a leather belt repeatedly. Rock said that there’s nothing that The Final Boss can’t do and can’t say.

The Rock said that what matters the most is that the character is entertaining to the fans. That led to a cut of Triple H shaking Rock’s hand saying: “That’s f**king being a heel.” I love that.

WrestleMania 40 Saturday Behind The Scenes Access

They showed a clip of Cody Rhodes and his wife Brandi meeting friends and family for dinner just two days before WrestleMania. It looked like a private room at some restaurant. Shawn Spears was there along with a lot of Cody’s family including his mother.

Roman Reigns was shown having a private moment where he’s training on a treadmill all alone. Reigns said it was creative fun while saying that this is art. He’s right.

The Rock and Triple H were shown talking backstage before WrestleMania Saturday. Triple H showed The Rock what his entrance would look like.

They showed footage of the Cody/Seth vs. Roman/Rock tag team match in the main event of WrestleMania 40 Saturday. It featured the moments where Cody & Seth nearly got the win, but after Cody hit Cross Rhodes, The Rock broke up the pin and stopped it from happening. This would lead to Rock & Reigns picking up the win after Rock hit a People’s Elbow on Cody for the win.

I’m surprised that they didn’t have Rock comment on how he felt after the match. I know at the press conference he said he felt terrific in his first long match in 11 years.

WrestleMania 40 Sunday: Cody Rhodes Finishes The Story

The final ten minutes were about the WrestleMania 40 Sunday story. We saw Cody Rhodes leaving his bus and showing his father Dusty Rhodes smiling on the side of a truck nearby. Cody said it felt like a good morning to finish the story.

That led to a scene of Triple H and the WWE crew showing how the orchestra was set up for Roman Reigns’ entrance. They went over the details of where Roman was going to step and how the people in the choir had to step aside at a certain point.

I loved that Roman Reigns-Cody Rhodes match in the main event of WrestleMania 40. Being there live for it was one of my favorite experiences at a wrestling event in my life. It was cool to see the documentary footage with different camera angles showing the action.

All of the run-ins during the match drew such big reactions. Jimmy Uso helps Roman, so Jey Uso takes out Jey by putting him through a table. Solo Sikoa was next to help Roman, which led to John Cena putting Solo through a commentary table. The Rock was next and he put Cena down with a Rock Bottom. That’s when The Undertaker arrived to drop Rock with a Chokeslam. The key moment was next as Reigns hit Seth Rollins with a chair instead of hitting Cody with it, which allowed Cody to recover and Cody hit three straight Cross Rhodes moves in a row for the pinfall win. What an amazing moment. One of the loudest crowd reactions ever.

Cody Rhodes celebrating with the WWE Title and looking up at his dad was a wonderful moment. Cody’s hug with mom was also great to see. Triple H and Cody sharing a hug was really cool too.

They also showed Cody walking backstage and getting a standing ovation from everybody back there. Cody was greeted by the likes of Michael Hayes, Becky Lynch, Sami Zayn, The Undertaker, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, and John Cena among others. Triple H also took photos with Cody. Triple H told Cody now they have to navigate this moving forward.

Cody Rhodes said that the first thing on his mind is what do they do next? That just shows you how quickly things move in WWE because there’s always a lot of time to soak in those big moments because you have to think about what’s happening next.

A clip was shown from the Raw after WrestleMania 40 when The Rock told Cody Rhodes that their story had just begun.

Triple H said that they delivered what he feels is beyond any and all expectations.

The documentary ended by showing Triple H getting in a car as Rinaldi said that the offseason lasted only eight hours before the planning of WrestleMania 41 begins.


Final Thoughts on WWE WrestleMania XL Behind The Curtain

I rate this at 8.5 out of 10 or something along those lines.

I liked this documentary a lot. I think anybody that likes WWE is going to enjoy a documentary like this. It might confuse some kids watching it who don’t know about the inner workings of pro wrestling yet, but this was geared more toward the smart fans and showing them what the WWE creative process is like.

I think WrestleMania 40 is going to be remembered as one of the best WrestleManias ever, so having a one-hour documentary that covers the event is cool to have access to. They did a nice job of showing the key decisions that led to the two night main event. It’s a wonderful thing for fans of this product.

Kudos to Triple H, The Rock, Cody and everybody involved for being smart enough to pivot when the fans rejected the idea of a Reigns-Rock match. As Triple H said, it would have been a huge match to do any other year, but the fans were so invested in the Cody story that it was wise for WWE to give the fans what they wanted. As The Rock smartly said numerous times in the documentary, it’s all about giving the fans what they want.

For the people who don’t like The Rock, I wonder if your opinion of him changed after this documentary. They made it clear that it was The Rock’s call to make the change to go away from the Rock-Reigns match and go with Cody-Reigns instead because The Rock emphasized how important it was to listen to the fans. As I stated in the review, it shows how smart The Rock is and how much of a true wrestling guy is because he knows how important it is to pay attention to what the fans want.

The 60-minute runtime felt just right for this documentary. Sometimes a documentary goes too long or doesn’t go in-depth enough, but I think they nailed it with this one going for one hour. It was fun to watch.

Check out the full documentary on WWE’s YouTube channel.


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John Canton


Twitter/X @johnreport