THE POWER OF THE PIN - Feb 5, 2023: The Fly in the Ointment
The best-laid plans of WWE and Triple H aren't going quite the way they imagined, as Sami Zayn has stepped in the way of Cody Rhodes' planned coronation
Royal Rumble 2023 has come and gone and (as expected) Cody Rhodes has punched his ticket to WrestleMania 39. He will be in the shining lights of Hollywood when he battles Roman Reigns at the Showcase of the Immortals for the WWE Undisputed Universal Heavyweight Championship.
This storyline is very reminiscent of the movies that Vince McMahon & Company produced for generations. Whether it was the Rise of Rock 'n' Wrestling or the trailblazing path of Stone Cold Steve Austin, WWE has always found different ways to build new stars.
In Cody's case, it really didn't take much. The Grandson of a Plumber is a gregarious golden boy who looks and dresses the part. He's a cardboard cutout of exactly what you want your franchise player to be. He's got the handsome features of a motion picture star, the fearless heart of a survivor, and all the moves you'd expect from a second-generation grappler.
Perhaps that's why he was earmarked as a main event player from the time he walked in the door. It was as if the prodigal son had come home, ready to live the dream of The Dream: To be the top guy in New York, the toast of Broadway.
It would rightfully have to culminate in Tinsel Town. And a one-year odyssey that included a terrific series of matches with Seth Rollins, a horrific injury, a triumphant comeback, and the rise of an eventual (?) champion. You can't make this kind of stuff up. It was perfectly set for a coronation in Hollywood, where all the big stars are made. As a matter of fact? It was almost too perfect.
Then, Sami Zayn came along and reminded us how much wrestling fans love perfect imperfection
In a program that was not designed to be long-term (Sami Zayn himself has said he thought it would be a flop), the Quebec native found himself as an unlikely member of wrestling's coolest faction. After becoming buddies with Roman Reigns and being eventually welcomed into The Bloodline, Zayn became the lovable little brother. Fans could empathize with this guy who looked like a lifelong benchwarmer finally getting his varsity letterman's jacket.
For months, the trial and tribulations of the members helped shape the storylines on Smackdown, before eventually getting so big that it spilled over to RAW. This thing had everything, with the five men and their manager intertwining in what felt like a hundred different storylines all at once.
Through it all, Sami just kept gaining more and more popularity. Mind you that all this happened while Cody was away dealing with a serious injury. And you know the old saying about 'out of sight, out of mind'? Well, that seems to may unfortunately be what Rhodes is dealing with right now. Through no real fault of his own, he was a non-factor, while Zayn was tearing it up on television.
Now, WWE is in a real quandary. Their hand-picked successor and storyline Superman may not be the fans' first choice. In fact, there may be a lot of heat that comes raining down on the promotion, Triple H, and even the new champ if Cody goes on to be that guy. As strange as it sounds, the guy who it's supposed to be the king of the dance may end up being the wallflower.
Sometimes? The best-laid plans of mice and men go by the wayside. Especially when emotions take over for logic. The heart wants what the heart wants. Right now? There are an awful lot of hearts that want to see Sami turn out to be the unlikely hero in the end.
This isn't the first time that WWE has dealt with a fly in the ointment when it came to their booking concepts
In the past, WWE has had other chosen future champions moved over for the people's choice. For example, the Lex Express was supposed to cruise all the way to the World Title back in the 90s, only for the fans to almost unanimously vote for Bret Hart to be the next one in line, instead.
The underdog rise of Mick Foley is another example, as is the emergence two decades later of Daniel Bryan and the 'Yes' movement. As much as the WWE Universe may think that their voice doesn't matter, in those cases, it clearly did. The promotion was forced to bow to public opinion.
That same phenomenon may be occurring again. Just a few weeks ago, it was almost set in stone that Cody Rhodes would be the Royal Rumble winner and fulfill his destiny at WrestleMania 39.
Like Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, this is Cody's birthright, He didn't return as a conquering warrior to settle for less than the very top of the mountain. The money match is there, too. The seemingly unbeatable champion, now well over two years of a dominant reign, against the son of a legend, seeking to ride the kind of lightning bolt his father always told him about.
That would be one hell of a story. A true WrestleMania moment, without a doubt.
Except it may NOT be the magical occasion that the fans truly want. Now with Zayn challenging for the championship in two weeks at Elimination Chamber, the intrigue is as thick as smoke. There's no doubt that at least some talks about a change of plans have been going on behind the scenes. Triple H is way too smart not to weigh the pros and cons of all the gifts he has laid out on his table right now.
Regardless of what happens or what anyone wants to see personally, this is a terrific thing for WWE and sports entertainment. If the 'script' had been followed to the letter, we'd likely be bored right now. Once Cody won the Rumble, everything else would be melodramatic for three months. We would basically just be waiting around for him to win the title in LA. It would be all over before we got there, and all that would be left is to wait for the closing pyro.
But thanks to Sami Zayn, the Road to WrestleMania has a lot more curves in it than in the past. We really have no idea what could happen next, and all because of the most unlikely of pests.
That fly in the ointment... the one with the bushy red beard? He's got everyone buzzing.