Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes had a deeply personal confrontation before meeting in the main event at WrestleMania 39. Reigns and Rhodes met on WWE SmackDown for the first time since Rhodes won the Royal Rumble in January.
Rhodes promised to defy expectations at WrestleMania, something he’s made in his career. Reigns invoked the name of his opponent’s late father, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, in an attempt to get under the challenger’s skin.
Reigns is looking forward to WrestleMania but is still dealing with the aftermath of Elimination Chamber. It’s clear the champ flinches while dealing with Rhodes, strategizing against Sami Zayn and the constant absence of Jey Uso from The Bloodline.
CBS Sports was with you all night long with recaps and highlights from Capital One Arena in Washington, DC.
Reigns and Rhodes trade barbs, and Zayn continues to split the champion’s focus
Bloodline, the absent Jey Uso, entered to start SmackDown. Reigns dropped his trademark “confess me” line but was soon after interrupted by Rhodes. The American Nightmare called for Reigns to fire Jimmy Uso, Paul Heyman, and Solo Sekua so they could speak in private.
Rhodes professed to have made a career defying expectations: from growing beyond being Randy Orton’s butler to recovering from his sleazy ego at Stardust and even selling a 10,000-seat independent show – the latter a callout to the “All In” event that led to the creation of All Elite Wrestling .
Reigns mocked Rhodes for never headlining WrestleMania, let alone competing for a WWE or Universal Championship. The Undisputed Champion then spoke fondly of Rhodes’ late father, Dusty Rhodes. Reigns explained how Dusty Rhodes often told Reigns that he was the future of the company, but noted that Dusty Rhodes never mentioned his son. The segment concluded with a fiery Rhodes promising to take down Reigns before shaking hands with his opponent at WrestleMania.
Backstage, Reigns inquired about Jey Uso’s whereabouts. Jimmy Owusu said he has spoken with Ji Owusu and that his twin brother just needs time. Reigns asked how much time Jey Uso needed. Jimmy Owusu insisted that his brother was getting better and better every day. Reigns is getting impatient with Jimmy Uso, he warned.
WWE commentator Michael Cole dropped a Twitter video of Sami Zayn posted earlier today surrounded by WWE fans. Zayn bragged that Reigns was feeling the heat, knowing full well that The Bloodline was falling apart. Zayn confirmed that he wouldn’t go away until The Bloodline was gone for good.
Reigns followed up with Jimmy Uso later in the evening. Jimmy Uso was told to leave Ji Uso “hell alone”. Reigns couldn’t understand how Ji Uso could treat his family so badly. Raines suggested that it was Zen’s influence that made Ji Uso greedy and selfish. Reigns demanded that Jimmy Uso dump Zayn tonight. Reigns was confident Zayn’s absence would bring Jey Uso home to The Bloodline.
Sekua is defeated. Zayn via pinfall after hitting a Samoan Spike. Zayn rushed into the ring and took down Sekoa before the match officially began. He tossed Sekoa and Jimmy Uso to the outside and dived them onto the ropes. The camera turned to Reigns backstage due to Zayn’s early success. Sekua and Zayn had a heated competition as soon as the bell rang. Zayn nearly sealed the deal with a Blue Thunder Bomb and Helluva Kick, but Jimmy Uso got Sekoa out of the way. Sekoa took advantage of the opening and took out Zayn with Samoan Spike for the victory.
He put Jimmy Uso and Sekoa into a post-match Zen. Jimmy Uso wrapped a steel chair around Zayn’s face as Sekowa prepared to deliver the killing blow. Jimmy Uso stopped his brother, insisting that he would be the one to finish off Zayn. Hesitation allowed Zayn to recover as he slammed both members of The Bloodline with a chair before fleeing into the crowd.
The opening segment between Rhodes and Reigns was excellent. Both of them speak great at very different beats and quickly build a huge sense of the match at WrestleMania. The best stories in pro wrestling are borrowed from real life. Everything Rhodes said about exceeding expectations — from surviving Stardust to being fired by AEW — was true. Reigns was also going back to his time training with Dusty Rhodes in WWE’s developmental program. Bonus points for Reigns’ inclusion in the ongoing drama with Jey Uso and Zayn. The Bloodline is Reigns’ kingdom and he’s clearly having a hard time patching all the holes in his family. This divided focus may have been the catalyst for his downfall at WrestleMania. Grade: a
What else happened on WWE SmackDown?
- Rhea Ripley Dev. Liv Morgan via Submission With a curved inverted clover leaf holding.
- Dominic Mysterio def. Santos Escobar cross fixation After a frog splash preceded by Ripley’s wave of ringside Ripley. Prior to the match, Escobar challenged Dominic Mysterio for a Rey Mysterio honor defense.
- Dominic Mysterio hit Rey Mysterio with a cheap shot last match.
- Drew McIntyre challenged Gunther to an intercontinental title match at WrestleMania, Infuriated his friend Sheamus. L.A. Knight, New Day, and Karrion Kross interrupted the segment, which led to a brawl in which Kross came out on top.
- Shayna Pazler def. Tegan Nox via Submission After locking the arm bar. Bazler and Nox had an argument earlier in the evening after Nox injured Ronda Rousey’s arm.
- Gunther accused Adam Pearce of bad driving Because he has yet to announce his opponent at WrestleMania.
- Bobby Lashley choked Uncle Howdy After Bray Wyatt’s assistant tried to ignore Lashley.