WWE WrestleMania XL Kickoff Show Recap: The Rock, Cody, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Belair, Ripley, Punk, Big E


FEBRUARY 8, 2024

Panel: Michael Cole

-Michael Coe commented on an aerial shot of the outdoor football stadium in Philadelphia, Pa. that will host WrestleMania. Then they cut to an aerial view of the Las Vegas strip. Then they showed Paul Levesque arriving earlier in the afternoon. They showed Cody Rhodes arriving earlier. Cole talked about the fan sentiment for Cody that has been trending for days. Cole said, “It seems he’s chosen World Champion Seth Rollins at WrestleMania. Or has he? Cody on Instagram earlier said he has made his choice.” Then they showed Paul Heyman and Roman Reigns getting off of a private jet. Then they showed The Rock arriving last night. “Will Rock face Roman Reigns at WrestleMania? We find out now.”

-A video aired of WrestleMania history with big moments over the decades with some of the biggest stars, including Daniel Bryan and Sasha Banks, by the way. The narrator referred to WrestleMania 40 this year as the biggest of all time with new energy and unprecedented excitement.

-They showed the exterior of T-Mobile Arena and then the gathered audience in the arena. Cole introduced Pat McAfee. McAfee introduced Big E and C.M. Punk. McAfee said decisions will be made tonight that will be “talked about until the end of time.” Cole called Big E one of the most entertaining people on the planet. Big E said he’s just there to be sure Punk doesn’t get fined. “We love you, but you have a reputation and you fly off at the handle,” he said. Punk smiled and bowed to Big E. A “C.M. Punk!” chant broke out. Cole listed his accolades and said he’s most importantly the husband of A.J. Lee.

Cole asked Big E how his neck is. He said it’s doing well and he is grateful for everyone reaching out. Cole asked Punk about his triceps. He said he’s pissed that it’s not back at 100 percent a week after surgery. He said his mouth still works and his brain still works. “Let’s piss some people off,” he said.

Cole talked about The Rock joining McAfee earlier on his show. Fans booed. McAfee tried to get a “Rocky!” chant going. It worked, briefly. McAfee said The Rock called people who aren’t thinking about the big picture “Cody Crybabies.”

Cole said Punk had a similar story in 2013. Cole asked what he thinks should happen with the main event matches at WrestleMania. He said they could be in for one hell of a roller coaster ride. Punk used the quarterback analogy I’ve been using this week about a star quarterback such as Tom Brady replacing a quarterback to carried a team to the NFC Championship. He said he wouldn’t be happy, but he’d understand. He mentioned the value of “box office.”

Big E talked about how Cody related to people so genuinely. He said that’s what you want from someone who is going to be there every Monday. He said wrestling isn’t a meritocracy, but he’s the type of guy you want to put the crown on and say, “You’re the guy, let’s carry this company forward.”

-They went backstage to Jackie Redmond who said Rock is excited to address the media today where he said he plans to cement his Road to WrestleMania.

-Elsewhere backstage, Byron Saxton asked about Roman’s mood. Heyman mockingly said how happy they are to see Byron. He said the mood in The Bloodline is the same. He said Rock is the biggest star in Hollywood history. He said the hype is all about who gets to headline WrestleMania with Roman. He said until someone beats Roman Reigns, that’s where the main event of WrestleMania will remain.

-Cole asked McAfee who Roman wants to face. McAfee said he thinks Roman wants to find out who the Head of the Table is since they’ve been talking about that for their entire lives. Big E agreed, but he said he wants to see Cody finish his story. Punk said Roman wants The Rock because he understands box office. He said it’s not who Roman wants, it’s who he doesn’t want, and he doesn’t want Cody.

Cole said they have breaking news. He announced that WWE has teamed with Elon Musk’s Twitter/X to launch WWE Speed, a new series of rapid-fire short matches that last a maximum of five minutes. Cole then introduced Levesque who came out to his entrance theme.

Levesque talked about the first WrestleMania main event tag match and the celebrities. “It launched WWE from a small regional promotion to a global juggernaut you see today selling out stadiums all over the globe,” he said. He talked about the cable television boom, closed-circuit television, pay-per-view, direct-to-consumer streaming, and now a deal with Netflix for over 5 billion dollars. He said, “Along the way, it’d create global Superstars like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, Andre the Giant and Ric Flair, Bret Hart and ‘Heartbreak Kid’ Shawn Michaels, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Mick Foley, Batista, John Cena, the list goes on and on.” Rock was booed a bit. He said it’ll be an all-new era for WWE this year at WrestleMania. He asked Las Vegas, “Are you ready?!”

He said they now start the Road to WrestleMania 40. He walked off the stage. Cole and McAfee replaced him on the stage. McAfee said, “That was awesome.”He threw to a video package on Bianca Belair.

Belair made her way onto the stage to her entrance music. She plugged their reality series on Hulu that just started. She then talked about the spectacle of WrestleMania with the best entrances, the best gear, and the best matches. She said that’s where she made history. She touted Sasha Banks as her opponent and later Becky Lynch and Asuka in subsequent WM matches. She said she won’t enter this year as champion, but you can’t spell WrestleMania without EST.

Cole plugged her involvement in the Elimination Chamber. Then he threw to a video on Rhea Ripley

Ripley made her entrance. “Las Vegas, Mami’s here,” she said. She said this isn’t any WrestleMania, it’s WrestleMania 40. She said she’s walking in and walking out as WWE Women’s Champion. She said it was no surprise to her that Bayley would choose to turn on her friends and choose to face Iyo Sky (she actually said “Iyo Shirai” by mistake) instead of her. She said she has a big match at Elimination Chamber in Perth, Australia first dealing with Nia Jax. She said she’ll be ready for whoever wins that Chamber match. She was interrupted at that point by Becky Lynch’s music.

Becky walked out and confronted her. Becky said you can’t have a big time press conference without Big Time Becks. She said as of Monday, she’s officially in the Chamber for the first time ever. She said that means she’ll win the Chamber for the first time ever, which means The Man will challenge her for her title at WrestleMania “where it will be Mami vs. The Man for the first time ever.” She said she has to get past Nia Jax first, though. She said she’s made a career of knocking top women off their spot “so Mami is going to learn what it is like to be a bottom because that is what happens when The Man comes around.” She threw the mic down and they had a staredown. Adam Pearce wedged himself between them.

Cole hyped the Chamber match and Rhea vs. Jax. He also plugged the qualifying match between Michin and Bianca Belair. They showed Seth Rollins arriving earlier at T-Mobile Arena. [c]


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