4 Major Events That Affected WWE’s Initial WrestleMania XL Plans

WrestleMania XL is set to be one of the biggest editions of WWE’s iconic annual flagship event ever. From The Rock unleashing arguably his most vicious heel work ever all the way to LA Knight and AJ Styles executing a blood feud for the ages, everyone seems to be firing on all cylinders. As good as the Philadelphia show is set to be, though, it could have quite easliy been very different.

The rumors and reports going around as The Road To WrestleMania began to take shape painted a starkly different picture to the reality that unfolded. While some matches like Jimmy vs. Jey Uso and Rhea Ripley vs. Becky Lynch always seemed to be in the works, other clashes on the card seem to have been steered by circumstances beyond the Stamford-based company’s control.

Here are four of the biggest events that altered possibly WWE’s initial WrestleMania XL plans (and which matches they altered).

#4: Vince McMahon’s allegations altered Gunther’s WrestleMania XL destiny

According to multiple reports in late 2023 and early 2024, Gunther was supposed to defend the Intercontinental Title against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XL. Arguably the two most physical, destructive and believable stars in WWE today were allegedly set to clash in a dream match for the ages, with The Ring General likely to retain in a career-solidifying win.

However, Vince McMahon’s sexual trafficking allegations, which seemingly hinted at Lesnar as a person of interest, stopped those plans dead in their tracks. The Beast Incarnate’s rumored Royal Rumble return was scrapped, along with any potential feuds to be set up in the 30-man battle royale. The Intercontinental Champion will now defend against Sami Zayn in Philadelphia, which is another huge bout.

#3. Charlotte Flair’s and #2. CM Punk’s injuries threw a huge spanner in WWE’s plans for WrestleMania XL

December 2023 was a simpler time. CM Punk had just made an unforgettable return to WWE at Survivor Series in his home town, and Charlotte Flair had tasted a WarGames victory at the same event. The Second City Saint seemed set to dominate The Road to WrestleMania with his purported explosive feud against Seth Rollins, while The Queen was heavily rumored to be facing a dream rival in Bianca Belair.

Within six weeks, both of those huge potential dream matches were no more. While Flair suffered a torn ACL mid-December during a routine WWE SmackDown match with in-ring soulmate Asuka, Punk went on to tear his triceps at the 2024 Royal Rumble. The duo were ruled out of action for nine and six months respectively, thus ending their ‘Mania hopes even before their storylines had started.

Just over a week to the Philadelphia show, The World Heavyweight Champion will now pull double duty at the show after overcoming an injury of his own. While his affairs with Drew McIntyre and The Bloodline are set in stone, The EST’s status is uncertain, although she’s expected to compete for the women’s tag team titles, teamig with Naomi. What if The Queen and Voice of The Voiceless had never got hurt, though?

#1. The #WeWantCody movement dramatically altered WWE’s main event plans for WrestleMania XL

Barely a week after Cody Rhodes won a second consecutive Royal Rumble to earn the right to a rematch with Roman Reigns, The Rock returned to WWE. The Great One confronted The Tribal Chief on WWE SmackDown after seemingly convincing The American Nightmare to give up his title shot. For a moment, it seemed like Rhodes would change course and challenge Seth Rollins in Philadelphia.

However, the massive fan backlash that followed with the #WeWantCody movement changed everything. The Brahma Bull turned heel, kicking off a very personal rivalry with the Rumble winner. This led to some of the best heel work of The Final Boss’s career and allowed Drew McIntyre to challenge for the World Heavyweight Title, among other things.

What if #WeWantRocky had won and The Rock had never turned? What would Rollins, Rhodes and McIntyre be doing at The Show of Shows? Would Bayley and IYO KSY have main evented Night One? We shall never know!