WWE WrestleMania 40’s five best moments: Cody Rhodes finishes his story, Sami Zayn pulls off the impossible

Written by on April 8, 2024

No event in wrestling can hold a candle to WrestleMania when it comes to big moments. For 40 years, WrestleMania has produced moments that have defined not only the direction of WWE but that of the industry as a whole.

This past weekend’s two-night WrestleMania 40 in Philadelphia was no different. From Cody Rhodes’ crowning moment to R-Truth winning for the first time on the WrestleMania stage, the show had something for everyone. And, as always, the biggest moments at the event will shape the coming year of WWE storylines.

Given the sheer number of “WrestleMania moments” over Saturday and Sunday, we sat down to look back at the event and determine the five best. Let’s take a look at our choices.

Cody Rhodes finishes the story

Every WrestleMania has that moment, the one that will define that year’s event for the rest of time. There’s no doubt that moment for WrestleMania 40 is Cody Rhodes ending the 1,300+ world championship reign of Roman Reigns, finally “finishing the story” of earning the Rhodes family the championship they’d never held.

The match itself was not one that ranks as the greatest in WrestleMania history, but also managed to deliver a spectacle worthy of the years of build-up. Everyone knew that Rhodes had the deck stacked against him with “Bloodline Rules” in effect, but Rhodes was bailed out through the help of Jey Uso, Seth Rollins, John Cena and The Undertaker.

Rhodes’ long, improbable journey to the top of the wrestling world is over. The stink of WWE not pulling the trigger on Rhodes beating Reigns at WrestleMania 39 has faded and the real challenge now begins. It’s hard to create a babyface the fans fully get behind, but it can be even harder to maintain the momentum when you do and that babyface finally vanquishes the dastardly heel champion.

Cody has the ball, now he has to run with it.

Honorable mention here for The Rock’s surreal return to the ring in the main event of Night 1, helping Reigns defeat Rhodes and Rollins, but for the sake of not just listing multiple Rhodes and Reigns matches, we are lumping that in here.

Sami Zayn ends Gunther’s record-breaking run

WrestleMania 40 featured several feel-good moments across the two nights. One of those was Samil Zayn ending Gunther’s record-breaking run as intercontinental champion on Night 1. Gunther entered the match having held the intercontinental championship for 666 days while Zayn’s story was one of needing to find the confidence to take down the dominant champion.

Before the match, Zayn was shown talking to his wife and child before Chad Gable, who had trained Zayn in the weeks leading up to the event, told him he would not be going out to the ring in support. It was time for Zayn to stand up to Gunther on his own and prove he could get the job done. Zayn got one final boost before he went through the curtain, with longtime friend Kevin Owens telling Zayn to get it done.

Zayn went through hell in the match, with Gunther brutalizing him with chops, powerbombs and splashes, all while taunting Zayn’s wife. But Zayn couldn’t be kept down, and after firing up, he delivered a series of Helluva Kicks (and a top turnbuckle brainbuster, a move he hasn’t broken out since joining WWE) and got the pin to win the intercontinental championship for the fourth time in his career.

This time, Zayn holding the title feels different. His previous three reigns lasted a combined 172 days and were generally forgettable. Being given the spot as the man to take down Gunther should give Zayn the momentum he was lacking on those previous runs and he has the opportunity to have a special run this time around.

Drew McIntyre’s ego costs him dearly

Drew McIntyre had just won a fantastic match against Seth Rollins to win the world heavyweight championship. McIntyre had done exactly what he’d said he would for weeks and won a world title in front of a packed stadium, unlike when he defeated Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 36 in an empty WWE Performance Center at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rollins gave McIntyre his respect and told the new champion he deserved it. It should have been a great moment for McIntyre, but his ego wouldn’t allow him to celebrate his victory and move along. Instead, McIntyre went to the commentary desk to taunt CM Punk. McIntyre eventually pushed too far and was taken down by Punk, setting up Damian Priest to run to ringside and deliver a blow with the Money in the Bank briefcase before cashing in his contract and hitting South of Heaven to end McIntyre’s reign literal minutes after it began.

It wasn’t deep, complex storytelling — the best wrestling storylines often aren’t — but McIntyre allowing his hatred of Punk to stand in the way of his own success was the kind of story beat that only serves to enhance his character and the eventual matches with Punk down the road.

Bayley gets her WrestleMania moment

Bayley had won matches at WrestleMania in the past, but there’s a difference between winning a match on the biggest stage in wrestling and truly having a “WrestleMania moment.” On Sunday, Bayley finally had that moment when she defeated Iyo Sky to win the WWE women’s championship.

Bayley and Sky both went all-out to create a fantastic match that showcased what both women do so well. While Bayley has spent the majority of recent years as a heel, her return to the babyface side has been refreshing. Once upon a time, Bayley was labeled as someone who could never really work heel because she was such a natural babyface. She proved that wrong several times over, but she will always been strongest with the fans behind her.

In beating Sky and getting revenge on the Damage CTRL group she created before they threw her to the curb, Bayley finally has her defining moment on the grandest stage of them all. That said, it’s almost certain her issues with Damage CTRL are far from done.

R-Truth and The Miz cap off a fun ladder match

A six-pack ladder match for the undisputed WWE tag team titles was always a recipe for a fun bit of chaos. The match delivered plenty of crazy moments and big spots, as expected, but it was R-Truth and The Miz pulling down the Raw tag team titles that turned out to be the standout moment.

Setting aside his 53 reigns as 24/7 champion, Truth has only held one title since 2012, a 35-day run as United States champion in 2019. Truth is a fan favorite and beloved in the locker room.

For all his time in WWE, Truth had only been in three non-battle royal WrestleMania matches in his career and had never had his hand raised at the event. So, for Truth to win a championship at WrestleMania in a wild match? That’s a sneaky feel-good moment in a weekend filled with them.

The post WWE WrestleMania 40’s five best moments: Cody Rhodes finishes his story, Sami Zayn pulls off the impossible first appeared on CBS Sports.

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