WWE WrestleMania 2022: Cody Rhodes and Biggest Winners, Losers from PPV

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2022

WWE WrestleMania 2022: Cody Rhodes and Biggest Winners, Losers from PPV

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    Credit: WWE

    An event the magnitude of WrestleMania 38 is destined to have its fair share of winners and losers, men and women who excelled on the grandest stage in sports entertainment, and those who faltered for one reason or another.

    That was the case in Arlington, Texas, as WWE's most prestigious event featured stars who rose to the occasion, stole the show and left AT&T Stadium with their stock as high as it ever has been. It also produced a star or two in need of creative rehabilitation after a disappointing weekend.

    Who ended up on each side, and why?

    Find out with this recap of this year's Showcase of the Immortals.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

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    WrestleMania 38 featured the return of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to action for the first time in 19 years, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar battling in a blockbuster main event for the top two championships in WWE and two quality women's title matches. But when all was said and done, the biggest takeaway from the two-night extravaganza was Cody Rhodes' return to the company after six years away.Β 

    Rhodes, the young star who departed the company in 2016 in search of his own identity and determined to forge his own path, returned to the company that gave him his first exposure as a bigger star than ever before.

    Do not believe it? Listen to the crowd erupt as his music plays and he rises from beneath the stage.

    The American Nightmare, once a prince, returned to the company as a king. He was no longer "Dusty Rhodes' kid" but, rather, his own man. He traveled the world, built his reputation and revolutionized the industry by starting All Elite Wrestling alongside The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega. And when it was time to move on, he did.

    Saturday marked was a homecoming, a return for Rhodes to the company in which he has plenty of history and for which his father prepared so many of today's top stars. The pageantry of the return and the quality of the match made for an unforgettable moment that only added fuel to Rhodes' "bet on yourself" mentality.

    On a weekend featuring some of the biggest stars in wrestling history and a match billed as the biggest ever, it was the man once trapped in the creative hell that was Stardust who stood on the grandest stage the industry has to offer and stole the show.

Losers: New Day

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    To say that New Day was done dirty at this year's WrestleMania would be an understatement.

    First, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods watched their match against Sheamus and Ridge Holland get cut from Saturday's show. Then Sunday, as they paid tribute to injured friend Big E by wearing gear inspired by his WWE Championship victory last year, they lost in a matter of minutes.

    It was a crushing blow and one that made little sense.

    Sheamus and Holland dominated the feud up until this point, repeatedly beating the babyfaces and establishing dominance. They did not need the win, but there they were, beating a much more over and beloved act in a match that did nothing for anyone involved.

    It continued the questionable use of New Day, an act that has stayed popular and relevant for nearly a decade. Why, when your company needs star power, would you keep sacrificing them when no one else is made as a result?

    The booking was head-scratching, the match was meaningless, and one has to wonder whether Kingston and Woods would have been better off had WWE scrapped it entirely.

Winner: Bianca Belair

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    At WrestleMania 37, Bianca Belair defeated Sasha Banks to win her first SmackDown Women's Championship. The look on her face that night was one of cheerful exuberance. She was elated about the opportunity and excited for everything to come.

    Fast forward a year, and the Belair we saw emerge from the locker room, played to the ring by the Texas Southern University marching band, was different. She was confident. She was ready. When she drove Becky Lynch to the mat and stood tall in the center of the ring, the Raw Women's Championship held overhead, the look on her face was that of someone who knew she belonged in that spot.

    Belair was better than she was a year ago, delivering a surer performance. She knew she was a star, carried herself like one and genuinely believed she was The EST as she took to the squared circle for her showdown with Big Time Becks.

    In delivering a Match of the Year candidate and capturing gold at 'Mania for the second consecutive year, she established herself as the undisputed face of women's wrestling's present and future. She is a generational performer whose agility is matched only by her charisma and magnetism. People like her and want to see Belair succeed.

    She has and is growing in confidence with every major match and championship victory.

    Saturday was just the start of the next chapter of Belair's career, a chapter in a book seemingly destined for the Hall of Fame.

Losers: The Mysterios

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    It felt like this was the year that Rey Mysterio would get a signature victory at WrestleMania. Competing alongside his son, Dominik, against two unbearable heels in The Miz and Logan Paul, it should have been an unforgettable moment that would double as hype for the WWE 2K22 video game, for which he is the cover star.

    Instead, it was another major loss for a legendary performer who deserves better than significant losses time and time again.

    Did he get to work alongside Dominik in a match that probably meant as much to him as winning the tag team titles with his oldest child? Sure, but winning and celebrating afterward would have meant even more. Instead, he dropped another WrestleMania match.

    That it came against Paul, who spent the contest openly mocking the late, great Eddie Guerrero, made it even worse because the babyfaces did not avenge the their friend's honor.

    The whole thing stank of questionable booking, and the future Hall of Famer was left wallowing in defeat rather than standing triumphantly on the WrestleMania stage, as other stars of his stature would.

    Rey is an all-timer and one of the most influential stars in the history of the sport, and it is about time WWE treated him as such.

Winner: Sami Zayn

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    If there were ever a doubt that Sami Zayn is one of the most gifted wrestlers and entertainers in WWE, it was silenced Sunday night as he delivered one of the greatest performances in WrestleMania history.

    Not because he pulled a Shawn Michaels and stole the show with a five-star classic or because he made some stunning return after being gone for years. No, Zayn's performance was great because he managed to get the most out of a comedy garbage match against Johnny Knoxville.

    It helps that theΒ Jackass star is, himself, a consummate showman, but Zayn guided his inexperienced opponent through the match. He was in the right spot for every gag, took the necessary bumps and knew exactly when to turn on the intensity and when to fall into the hilarity.

    He was the MVP of a match that exceeded expectations and earned Knoxville praise for his performance. That does not happen without Zayn by his side, knowing exactly what to sell when and how to maximize the crowd's reaction.

    The bodyslam he took from Wee Man was especially well done, and that was all Zayn.

    On a weekend when his best friend (and frequent on-screen foe) Kevin Owens also shined as a definitive winner, Zayn reminded the world why he is one of the best in the world at what he does.

    It was simply a brilliant performance that should be rewatched in order to comprehend exactly what he accomplished on the biggest stage any wrestler can ask for.

Winner: Austin Theory

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    For the second time in his career, Austin Theory competed on the grand stage of WrestleMania, and while the match with Pat McAfee may not have turned out in his favor, there is no denying the 24-year-old prodigy had one of the biggest nights of his career Sunday.

    He wrestled a mainstream media star, had Mr. McMahon in his corner at ringside and ate a Stone Cold Stunner from one of the biggest stars the industry has ever seen.

    Even in defeat, there is no denying Theory established himself as one of the stars of WWE's bright future. Do not be surprised if he follows up his loss to the former Indianapolis Colts punter with a United States Championship victory as soon as Monday.

    The company has been teasing as such by way of his TV program with Finn Balor, so that monumental moment should not be discounted.

    On the grand stage, Theory was trusted to carry the bulk of his match with McAfee and did just that, more than likely earning himself some favor with those in management along the way.

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