Cody Rhodes sitting on the shoulders of men holding him up after Wrestlemania

‘Wrestlemania 40’ Was Some of the Best Storytelling Out There

Yes, you can boil down professional wrestling to spectacle but it also has some of the best storytelling out there. For all the fighting and drama that happens in the ring, you’re also watching the rise of heroes and the downfall of villains right before your eyes.

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Well, the rise of a face and the downfall of a heel, if you want to get wrestling technical.

I grew up in a family of wrestling fans and decided the way to be different was to just understand who these people were and what wrestling was but to refuse to get that into it. I was successful in my endeavor for years and then I watched Cody “The American Nightmare” Rhodes wrestle and realized I was a goner. Rhodes has a backstory that makes his rise as a face one of the best storylines I have ever embarked on within the WWE.

The son of the American Dream, Dusty Rhodes, his entire arc as Cody Rhodes (he had other parts to play in the WWE before that) has been about his father’s legacy. Dusty Rhodes never won the title. He got close but never had that belt in his hands and his son’s vision was to “finish the story.” At Wrestlemania XXXIX in 2023, the American Nightmare got so close. He was up against Roman Reigns in a match that felt like it was purposely against Rhodes and he, inevitably, lost to Reigns who continued to hold the title.

Reigns, who is part of the Bloodline with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jimmy Uso, and Solo Sikoa, used the Bloodline rules to his advantage in his quest to keep the title but what made Wrestlemania XL so good was that it let the Heels (the Bloodline in this cast) lead into that bad boy energy and give Rhodes the win he so rightfully deserved.

It is just theatre!

Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns standing together in the ring
(Peacock)

Cody Rhodes is meant to be your hero. He’s someone you want to root for and to win. Every time Reigns knocked him down or the Rock stepped in to “put him in his place,” the love for Cody Rhodes grew. It made his win that much sweeter because he fought to take that title. Because it was “Bloodline rules,” it meant that it was not a match between just Rhodes and Reigns. It was one that had the odds stacked against Rhodes and then he had a team of legends coming to his defense.

Just when it looked like Rhodes was outmatched, the Calvary started to come to his defense. He had John Cena taking people out, Seth Freakin’ Rollins back on his side, and even the Undertaker came back to throat slam the Rock to the ground. It was an epic battle of faces vs. heels and one that resulted in Cody Rhodes taking the title after doing the Cross Rhodes on Reigns three times before pinning him.

Using your legacy to your advantage

Cody Rhodes standing with the title belt at Wrestlemania
(WWE/Getty Images)

It would have been easy for Rhodes to ignore his family’s history in the WWE. He did at the beginning of his career a bit. Even when he was “Dashing Cody Rhodes,” it wasn’t about his father as much but the minute that he lost him, Rhodes had a path to being everyone’s favorite face.

Dusty Rhodes passed away in 2015. Speaking as someone who often gets to do things I want my dad to see, the American Nightmare’s story is one that I could connect with on a personal level, as could so many other fans. Trying to make your father’s dreams come true when he’s not even there to see it hurts and it made me root for Cody Rhodes and want him to win above all else.

This storytelling structure, this rise of Rhodes as a face and a hero in the WWE, has made this victory that much sweeter. I am a proud Cody Cry-Baby and I cannot wait to see what story he gives us next.

(featured image: Peacock)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.