At the end of what was largely a well received WrestleMania, WWE controversially decided to have Roman Reigns beat Cody Rhodes. Apr 2, 2023; Inglewood, CA, USA; Roman Reigns during Wrestlemania Night 2 at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Roman Reigns has held the WWE Universal Championship since August, 2020. He’s been WWE’s undisputed champion since winning the WWE Championship on Night 2 of Wrestlemania 38 on April 3, 2022.

Everything seemed aligned for Cody Rhodes, winner of the 2023 Royal Rumble, to beat Reigns in the Main Event of Wrestlemania 39’s Night 2 on Sunday night.

It didn’t happen.

Reigns and Rhodes put on a classic match with interference from Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn on Rhodes’ behalf and Solo Sikoa, The Usos and Paul Heyman for Reigns. In the end, WWE decided to keep the belt on Reigns. 

WWE fans didn’t understand the decision to keep Reigns as Universal Champion.

And perhaps more than anything, WWE was light on viable challengers for Reigns before Sunday. Rhodes reappeared in WWE at WrestleMania 38 a year ago, then missed much of the subsequent year recovering from an injury. So, he was still a relatively fresh option.

But going forward, Reigns has defeated nearly all of the WWE’s top names during his run as champion and in many cases, has beaten them multiple times.

So going forward, who challenges Reigns and more pressingly, who will ultimately beat him and when will that be?

Fan interest at subsequent shows will ultimately determine if the right call was made. But it will certainly be a lot harder to sell someone else to challenge (and ultimately defeat) Reigns than it would have been to have Reigns or someone else defeat Rhodes if his time as champion didn’t do good business.

And while there’s something to be said for steering away from expectations, it’s also worth noting that in WWE’s most popular periods, the biggest shows of the year almost always ended with the expected person standing tall. It’s one of the beauties of a sport with predetermined results. The best stories don’t always win in the NFL, MLB, NBA or any other league. In WWE, they can.

That was not done on Sunday night.

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