WrestleMania XL Kickoff press conference live coverage: Cody Rhodes announces his decision, The Rock, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Rhea Ripley, Bianca Belair, and Triple H appear

By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

WrestleMania XL Kickoff press conference
Las Vegas, Nevada at T-Mobile Arena
Streamed live on Peacock and WWE social media outlets

-The press conference opened with a shot of Lincoln Financial Field, which host Michael Cole noted will be the host of WrestleMania XL. They cut to a shot of the Las Vegas Strip. Footage aired of Paul Levesque, Cody Rhodes, Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman, and The Rock arriving either last night or today.

-A video package aired that showed footage from the first WrestleMania along with highlights from the event over the years. The video package played up WrestleMania XL as the biggest WrestleMania yet.

-Michael Cole, Pat McAfee, Big E, and CM Punk were at a desk on the main floor of the venue (similar to where the premium live event Kickoff Show panels normally are). Punk had a brace on his surgically repaired right arm. Big E said he was just there so Punk wouldn’t get fined. “We love you, but you have a reputation,” Big E cracked. There were loud CM Punk chants. Cole introduced Punk as “most importantly” being the husband of AJ Lee.

-Cole asked Big E about his neck. Big E said it was good and he thanked the fans for everyone who has checked in on him.

-Cole asked Punk about his arm. Punk said it sucked. He said he’s a week out from surgery so it’s not fully healed. Punk said he’s heartbroken that he can’t compete at WrestleMania, but he told the fans not to worry because his mouth still works and he can piss people off.

-McAfee spoke about having The Rock on his show earlier. Some fans booed, others chanted Rocky. McAfee recalled Rock calling “people who aren’t thinking about the big picture Cody Crybabies” on his show. Cole noted that Punk went something similar when The Rock made a prior return. Punk had some fun with it and then said we could be in for one hell of a rollercoaster considering the wrestlers involved. Cole said the situation is like replacing one of the Super Bowl quarterbacks with Tom Brady. He said he would be upset if he was the replaced quarterback, but he would understand.

-Big E said he was there “to beat the drum for Cody.” He spoke about Cody’s relationship with fans and how he does Make-A-Wish events. He also pointed to the way Cody has been there for the Huber family (the late Luke Harper/Brodie Lee).

-Jackie Redmond stood backstage and said she could confirm that The Rock was in the building. She said people close to The Rock told her that he is very excited to address the media today.

-Byron Saxton interviewed Paul Heyman in a backstage area. Heyman held the WWE Universal Championship and mocked Saxton for asking about Roman Reigns’ mood. Heyman said it’s made Roman’s mood so much better to come to Vegas and see Saxton. Heyman spoke about hearing “We Want Cody” chants along with people siding with “the biggest movie star in history” The Rock. Heyman said the hype is about who gets to headline the biggest WrestleMania in a match with Roman Reigns. Heyman said that until someone beats Reigns, that’s where the main event of WrestleMania will remain to be. Heyman mocked Saxton again for asking about Roman’s mood.

-Cole asked the panel who they think Reigns wants to face. McAfee and Big E both selected The Rock. Punk said understanding box office, Reigns wants The Rock. However, Punk said Rock didn’t eliminate him from the Royal Rumble match, Cody Rhodes did. Punk said it’s more about who Roman doesn’t want to face and he said that’s Cody.

-Cole announced that WWE Speed will be coming to X (Twitter) in the spring of 2024. Cole said it will feature fast paced matches.

-Paul “Triple H” Levesque was introduced by Cole. Levesque walked onto the stage set up in the venue while his entrance theme played. Levesque said that in 1985 in a sold out Madison Square Garden, a tag team match took place between Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper against Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. Levesque said the night was so big that anybody who was anybody had to be there. He recalled the involvement of Muhammad Ali, Cyndi Lauper, Liberace, and The Rockettes. Levesque said WrestleMania launched WWE from being a small regional promotion to being a global juggernaut.

Levesque said a lot has changed since then. He mentioned the cable television boom, closed circuit television, pay-per-view, going direct-to-consumer via WWE Network, and now deal with Netflix for over $5 billion. Levesque spoke of icons such as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Mick Foley, Batista, and John Cena. Levesque said those people catapulted WWE to where it is today.

Levesque said they will take it to a whole new level on April 6-7 in Philadelphia. He said it’s a new time and a new era in WWE. Levesque promised the fans that they haven’t seen anything yet. Levesque did the “Are You Ready” routine. He told the fans they better because they were starting the road to WrestleMania 40.

Powell’s POV: The new era talk is clearly the right approach given Vince McMahon’s fall from grace.

-Cole and McAfee walked onto the stage and set up a video package on Bianca Belair. Cole introduced Belair, who said it was amazing to be in Las Vegas during the week of the Super Bowl “to talk about our Super Bowl.” Belair plugged her Hulu docu-series that co-stars her husband Montez Ford. Belair spoke about how history is made at WrestleMania. She recalled making history by headlining with Sasha Banks, then beating Becky Lynch, and then “three-peating” by beating Asuka and walking out as champion again. Belair said this year is different for her because she is not walking in as champion. Belair said she wants to continue her undefeated streak at WrestleMania. Belair said you can’t spell WrestleMania without EST.

-Cole said Belair’s road to WrestleMania would start on Smackdown when she competes in an Elimination Chamber qualifier. Cole and McAfee set up a video package on Rhea Ripley. McAfee spoke about how “bonkers” the fans would be when Ripley appears at Elimination Chamber in her native Australia.

-Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley was introduced. “Las Vegas, Mami’s here,” Ripley started. Ripley said people scratch and claw to get to WrestleMania. She said this isn’t just any WrestleMania, it’s WrestleMania 40. She boasted about being the most dominant woman in the history of the company. Ripley was interrupted by “Mami” chants. She said it was no surprise to her that Royal Rumble winner Bayley chose to face Iyo Sky. She said why waste a golden ticket when you know you are going to lose. Ripley said once she if finished dealing with Nia Jax in Australia, she will be ready for whoever wins the Elimination Chamber. She said it doesn’t really matter who that person is. Ripley tried to deliver her catchphrase.

-Becky Lynch’s entrance theme interrupted Ripley and then she joined her on the stage. Lynch asked the crowd if they really thought they could have a big time WrestleMania press conference without Big Time Becks. Lynch said she will be in her first Elimination Chamber match and will win it, then face Ripley for the first time ever. “That is if you can get past Nia Jax first,” Lynch added. Lynch said Ripley likes to say that it doesn’t matter who she faces because Mami is always on top, but it does matter. Lynch said she has made a legendary career out of knocking golden gooses out of their top spots. “So Mami is going to learn what it’s like to be a bottom,” Lynch said. Ripley held up her belt and went face to face with Lynch. Raw general manage Adam Pearce came out and got between Ripley and Lynch.

Powell’s POV: As if the outcome of the women’s Elimination Chamber match didn’t feel predictable enough…

-Cole hyped Bianca Belair vs. Michin in an Elimination Chamber match for Friday’s Smackdown.

-A shot aired of Seth Rollins’ arrival and then Cole and McAfee hyped Roman Reigns, The Rock, Cody Rhodes, and Rollins as still to come. An ad aired for the pizza chain sponsor followed by other advertising.

-Footage from the first WrestleMania event was shown followed by a Seth Rollins video package.

-World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins was introduced by Cole and McAfee. Rollins moved around the stage pretty well and did not have his knee brace over his pants. Rollins addressed the Vegas fans by saying, “It’s a party in here tonight.” The fans chanted the Rollins theme song and then he said he loved them. Rollins did his “revolutionary” bit and had the fans fill in his name. “Still a pretty big pop, I would say,” Rollins added. Rollins said they should cut to the case and get a main event. Rollins said he’s not the man who makes the decision so they should get that man out there. Rollins introduced Cody Rhodes as a two-time Royal Rumble winner.

WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns’ entrance theme played instead and then he and Paul Heyman walked onto the stage together. Reigns told Las Vegas to acknowledge him. “Hey, guys, he showed up for work once,” Rollins said. “I love to see it. Good to see you, big brother.” Roman said Rollins showed up for work in his wife’s shoes.

Roman said he wanted to talk about someone who matters. “Let’s talk about Cody Rhodes,” Reigns said. “The man who can’t make his own choice. Mr. Hesitation.” Roman said that if you hesitate, your moment is going to move on. Roman said it’s no longer Cody’s decision. Roman said he would decide who he faces in the main event of WrestleMania. Roman motioned at Rollins and said, “Get his bum out of here already.” Roman announced that he chooses to face The Rock. Rollins said that’s not how it works.

The Rock’s entrance music played and he walked onto the stage and stood in between Reigns and Rollins for a moment, then walked to both sides of the stage. Once Rock’s entrance theme stopped playing, there were more boos than Rocky chants. Rock held the mic in front of his face and then pulled it away once the boos grew louder. Rock held the mic up again and then delivered the “Finally, The Rock has come back to Las Vegas” line.

Rock asked the fans if they thought Reigns would beat him at WrestleMania. Reigns laughed. Rock then asked if the fans thought he would beat the Tribal Chief at WrestleMania. Rock looked to the crowd and then a “We Want Cody” chant broke out. “Or do you think that The Rock and Roman Reigns will be the biggest main event in the history of the WWE?” Rock asked. There were more boos.

Rock said he loved the passion. “So, to members of the press, welcome, I’m glad you’re here. To the WWE Universe…” Another “We Want Cody” chant broke out with a smaller number of fans who chanted, “No We Don’t” in response. “To the WWE Universe, welcome. To everyone watching around the world, welcome.” Rock did the millions bit and welcomed his fans. Rock then introduced everyone to “The Cody Crybabies.” Reigns and Heyman laughed,. Rock flashed a smile.

Rock said he had something to say that he thinks they would like. He paused after various lines to play into the “What?” chants and said the fans would respect it. Rock pointed to the big screen, which had The Bloodline Family Tree. Rock said at the top of the tree was his grandfather and Roman’s grandfather. Rock said that if the fans can’t see that there is proof that there is only one dominant and powerful royal family in professional wrestling and think that Rock vs. Reigns isn’t the biggest main event in the history of WrestleMania, then in Rock speak, “It doesn’t matter what you think.”

Rock declared that it will be the WWE Universal Champion versus The People’s Champion. Rock said that whether the fans liked it or didn’t like it, it would be the biggest main event in the history of pro wrestling and it would be bound by blood. Rock held up his hand and then Reigns grabbed it and they hugged.

“Hold on, hold on,” Cody Rhodes could be heard saying. Cody walked out and was censored when he said this was bullshit. Cody said that Reigns was trying to dictate what would happen at WrestleMania. Cody said Reigns has a lot of stroke, but it’s not his right. “I won the Royal Rumble,” Cody said. Rhodes said he and Rock had many wonderful conversations and he has made his decision.

“At WrestleMania 40, in the main event, I choose you, Roman Reigns,” Cody said. Reigns said Cody must be crazy. Paul Levesque, Adam Pearce, and Nick Aldis joined everyone on the stage. Reigns said it was a done deal. Reigns told Cody to go to the loser’s table. Roman said Cody had his moment last year and called Cody a chapter in his book. Reigns said Cody is irrelevant, just like his father. Cody called out Roman for daring to talk about family and then asked him how Jey Uso is. Cody said that if Roman’s grandfather or Rock’s grandfather was there, they would be ashamed of Reigns.

The Rock stepped forward. “Let me make something perfectly clear to you,” Rock said. “When you talk about his family, you’re talking about my family. When you’re talking about his ancestors, you’re talking about my ancestors. And when you’re talking about his blood, you’re talking about my blood. So now we have a problem.” Rock slapped Cody across the face. Levesque, Pearce, and Aldis stepped in and held back Cody and Rollins and the ushered Cody to the back. Rollins jawed at Rock. “Open your mouth about our family again,” Rock said before Rollins headed to the back.

-Cole was back at the desk with McAfee, Big E, and Punk. Cole asked Punk what he thought. Punk said when somebody slaps you, you slap them back. Punk said he wanted to see Cody slap Rock in the face. Punk said Cody won the Rumble and it was his shot to call. Big E said he didn’t know what they were building and wondered if it was a tag match. He said he loved that he doesn’t know where it’s going. McAfee said Rock just went to bat for his entire family and smacked Cody right in the mouth. McAfee said he heard Rock or Roman say they would do whatever they want. He said it was flexing from The Bloodline.

Cole said Cody came out and did what he earned the right to do by choosing to face Reigns. Cole asked Cody if he could finish the story. Punk said he thinks he can, but he needs to start firing back. Big E mentioned that Rock is essentially the boss and he has ties to Nick Khan too.

Cole asked what would happen to Seth Rollins, noting that he had been disrespected. Punk said Rollins went on television and said he hated his guts, so he had no love lost for him. Punk said Rollins needed to take his balls out of his purse and start punching people in the mouth.

Cole wondered what would happen now. He emphasized that Cody chose to face Reigns. Punk said McAfee was right in that Rock is on the board of directors. Big E asked if we would see both matches on the two nights of WrestleMania. McAfee said there’s a lot going on in Las Vegas and yet a few thousand people came to show they support Cody. Cole said they would have a lot to talk about on Monday’s Raw.

-Backstage, Jackie Redmond asked Paul Levesque for a comment on what was going on. Levesque said moments like this are difficult with people going into business for themselves. Rock, Reigns, and Heyman strolled by. Rock told Levesque to fix it. He told Levesque to have them talk shit about his family again. Levesque said Rock was out of line. Rock said that if Levesque didn’t fix it, “we will.”

-At the panel’s desk, Punk said the way you fix it is to have people fight. He said this is pro wrestling. He said there are a lot of man buns in WWE and a lot of them are not attached to men. He said put them in the ring and fight. Cole thanked his panelists and said WrestleMania 40 is just 58 days away. The big screen had images of Reigns and Rhodes after previously displaying Reigns and Rock for WrestleMania. A WrestleMania video package closed the press conference.

Powell’s POV: They made an interesting pivot with Rock leaning into the boos and essentially joining forces with Roman. I like the touch of the panelists playing up the Rock is on the board of directors. That should mean he has more power that Levesque and the general managers in the storyline universe.

The only thing that was truly really settled was Cody choosing to challenge Reigns at WrestleMania. They could obviously do a tag team match that weekend or another time, but there’s still the matter of who will challenge Rollins for the World Heavyweight Championship. I enjoy the uncertainty as opposed to feeling like we know all of the major matches two months out, and this left me looking forward to seeing what comes next.


Readers Comments (17)

  1. Well if I was right in the beginning before CM tore his tricep, they may be sticking to that side of it anyway. The Rock at Mania not wrestling, getting involved in the main event leading to Cody winning (only now it will be a swerve), and then The Rock v Roman at Backlash in France. The only question now is who faces Seth at Mania?

  2. One more point – CM Punk (without saying it obviously) was all fight talk and I was immediately thanking of Omega, the Jacksons and Perry when he said that. The comparison is easily drawn and I loved it because I have always said that Punk was provoked both times and in the case of Perry it was absolutely intentional.

  3. SCOTT Michael ARONOFSKY February 8, 2024 @ 7:44 pm

    Night 1=Rollins v McIntire plus Rock v Reigns with Rock winning and beating down Reigns to go back to a babyface Rock- night 2 is Rock v Cody, Cody wins, finishes his story-everyone goes home happy.

    • Then we’ve got Cody “winning” against a beaten down Roman so the win feels hollow. He’s got to beat Reigns when Roman is 100% unless they’re planning on turning Cody heel almost immediately afterwards.

  4. They announced its official, Cody vs Roman. Unlike the ‘OMG NO MATTER WHAT I CAN’T SAY ANYTHING POSITIVE ABOUT AEW!’ idiots here and elsewhere, I, who am not a fan of the WWE, give BIG props to Hunter listening to the fans. Great decision.

  5. Rockvs.Roman night 1
    Codyvs.Roman night 2
    There you go!

  6. Fatal 4 way – Unification title match. Cody wins!

  7. “Punk said Rollins needed to take his balls out of his purse and start punching people in the mouth”

    Said the guy who sucker punched one of the Young Bucks from behind lol.

    • Original Jabroni February 9, 2024 @ 1:19 am

      Where in the room were you standing when that went down? I forget…
      PS. In a brawl, there’s no such thing as a suckered punch.

    • The Tiny Fucks tried to jump Punk 3 on 1 with Kenny in tow and still got their asses kicked.

  8. You kind of knew that when HHH mentioned the main event of WM 1 as a tag match where this is headed: Cody and Seth vs Rock and Roman
    Becky and Rhea will probably headline night 1

  9. The whole EVP angle sucks in AEW because it feels forced.
    The angle with The Rock and HHH doesn’t. That’s how you build something out of a power trip.

  10. night 1 – Cody vs Rock – the last obstacle posted by the Bloodline to reach the final boss
    night 2 – Cody vs Roman – Cody finishes the story obvs

  11. Currently the press conference has just under 2.4 million views. WWE has a press conference drawing 3x the viewership of Dynamite.

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