Why The Undertaker Was A Better Fit For Cody Rhodes’ WrestleMania Moment Than Stone Cold

When Cody Rhodes finished his story at WrestleMania 40, emotions spilled out across the set. There was Samantha Irvin’s beautifully tearful announcement as Rhodes embraced his mother, his wife, and eventually was lifted onto the shoulders of his fellow professional wrestlers.

Tears appeared to flood Seth Rollins’ eyes, John Cena shared a moment with Rhodes, and CM Punk made his way into the ring to celebrate the new face of WWE. Roman Reigns was even captured hugging his Wiseman, Paul Heyman, at the top of the entrance ramp as he passed the torch to Rhodes.

This all happened after a chaotic end to the WrestleMania main event that lived up to the expectations of many that we’d see an Avengers-style end to this chapter in the Bloodline story. Jey Uso showed up, only for Jimmy Uso to come out and spear him off the ramp and through a table. Solo Sikoa took out Rhodes before Cena made his valiant return. Then, we got The Rock walking down the ramp like Thanos, Mama Rhodes belt en tow and all, to give us his latest WrestleMania moment with Cena. There was even a Seth Rollins appearance in Shield gear that got quickly shut down by Reigns.

When it came time to take things home, fans were caught off guard when The Undertaker’s bell rang out, the lights went out, and he chokeslammed Rock. That’s because over the last month, subtle hints gave WWE fans hope that Stone Cold Steve Austin’s glass would break, he’d hit the ring, and land a stunner on Rock to usher in the Cody era. Instead, WWE reportedly had to pivot from Austin to Undertaker, and all were likely better served for it.

Undertaker’s unique return solved what very well could have been a moment that overshadowed Rhodes’ moment. There’s no question that WWE’s intention was to provide the spotlight to Rhodes, even if Austin had made his return. But the way in which ‘Taker’s appearance played out — the lights go out, he hits a chokeslam, the lights go out again, and he’s nowhere to be seen all in the span of a minute — made it much easier for the spotlight to temporarily be on all the wrestlers who made cameos before returning to (and staying on) Rhodes.

It’s easy to theorize what the ending of WrestleMania 40 may have looked like if Austin had made his return. Maybe we get a beer shower, with Austin sharing brews with guys like Randy Orton, Kevin Owens, Cena, Rollins, and eventually toasting Rhodes. Maybe he just hops onto an ATV and rides back up the entrance ramp after hitting The Rock with a stunner that gets oversold like old times, which frees up Rhodes to finish the match with a trio of Cross Rhodes. Even if he’s meant to take a backseat, Austin’s sheer star power — and the general excitement that can quite literally only come when Rock and Austin are in the ring together — could very well have overwhelmed a moment that was about someone else.

Despite some understandable disappointment at not getting a callback to the Austin-Rock rivalry, the moment worked out perfectly. It’s all because of Undertaker’s brief appearance, which was never supposed to actually be about the person who made it. Instead, it gave way to the deserved spotlight for Rhodes to bask in the glory of winning for the first time in the main event of WrestleMania, and most importantly, winning the championship his late father never claimed.