What if Kaido was betrayed by Rocks D. Xebec, but not in the typical way? Been sitting on this for a bit, but I believe Rocks died or “lost” as a coward and betrayed everything he stood for (his beliefs, his crew) in his final moments. Now, Kaido has structured his entire crew and goals after what the Rocks pirates once were: a mighty crew based on strength with a strong center (Kaido himself).

Rocks sought to be “King of the World”, a huge title that existed before the Pirate King title, and one that specifically challenged the World government. Rocks allowed that ambition to crumble beneath him when he was defeated, and a young, aspiring Kaido who looked up to his captain’s dreams was crushed when he witnessed his “betrayal” firsthand.

Now, Kaido wants to create a great army, find the One Piece, and ravage the world as his former captain sought to do, so that he can die a glorious death on top of the world. Notice he admires Roger and Whitebeard for “doing it right” with their deaths (and we’ve also seen him admire Oden for his death), but he doesn’t think of Rocks, who is dead.

Years after the God Valley incident, Kaido still thinks of Rocks as a great man alongside other legends, and upon defeating Luffy the second time and throwing him off of Onigashima, makes the following observation “Human beings can’t give up hope…that’s the problem!”.

In this panel, Kaido comments on how Luffy has inspired a lot of faith in his followers who will not believe his defeat unless shown physical proof.

I believe Kaido is reflecting on his own past hope for Rocks, where he believed his captain would conquer the entire world, never faltering in that belief. When it became apparent that Rocks and his crew would lose? It was a betrayal. A shameful end to the ambitions Rocks upheld and the hope that Kaido had placed in him. I’m sure for a time, Kaido could not accept Rock’s defeat, until he finally decided he would “go through with it” himself, one of the first lines we hear him say in the manga.

By this, Kaido means he is going to surpass Rocks and his goal to take over the world. And Kaido has done very well for himself in the power department. He’s amassed an incredible army through ability users, massive alliances, and has conquered Wano to begin his pirate empire and start “the world of violence”.

A large sub-theme for this arc has been submission, specifically how it plays into allegiances and survival. We see dozens of characters who gave up on their dreams, willingly or not, to follow Kaido due to his strength where our main characters refuse.

The cut-throat meritocratic environment of Kaido’s crew is of his own design, and was likely how Rocks structured his crew with some of the would-be strongest characters in the series. And Kaido was likely the same as his own followers back then…he dedicated himself to the glory that Rocks sought to achieve. Strength is everything, and upon defeat, you have to accept that everything you stood for is over. Perhaps Rocks wasn’t this person, and could not accept his defeat, or his crew’s defeat?

Rocks being a coward is further strengthened by his connection with Blackbeard. Blackbeard is a notorious coward that would easily beg for his life if the situation demanded it. Rocks’ last name is Xebec, which is the name of Blackbeard’s ship. Rocks was Roger’s powerful nemesis, and we know that there are a ton of parallels between Roger and Luffy. Obviously Luffy is going to be the Pirate King by the end of the story, and Blackbeard is “not the man Roger was waiting for”, according to Whitebeard.

With Rocks and Roger, we know that Rocks never went on to achieve his goals because Roger ended up becoming the Pirate King, a further parallel to the eventual Luffy/Blackbeard storyline.

Further, Rocks’ crew was made up of Big Mom, Whitebeard, and Kaido himself. Strong characters that would only submit to someone stronger than them (proven with the fact that they all went on to form their own legendary crews). This is EXACTLY like Blackbeard’s current crew make up. His crew is made up of people who follow him for glory, not because they love or respect him. Shilliew, Catarina Devon…these characters will turn on Blackbeard the minute they see he is weaker than them.

It’s a bit tenuous, but I get the sense Oda is drawing parallels between Rocks and Blackbeard for a reason. Kaido is the complete opposite of someone like Blackbeard, and allegedly Rocks in that his definition of being a pirate means putting your life on the line and accepting defeat as a warrior. For glory, he’s willing to work with rival Big Mom (knowing the obvious outcome that she will likely betray him) and specifically seeks out the strong with the promise that he will never betray them and that they will conquer the world together.

He repeats that last bit with the Supernova too. Rocks and Kaido were meant to conquer the world together, but Rocks couldn’t live up to his own ambition, betrayed that ambition, and left Kaido bitter, “Pirates will betray you”. Rocks abandoned Kaido, and we can see similar themes of his potential character in Blackbeard, who would drop his crew the minute it becomes advantageous for him to do so.

Kaido wants to be the man Rocks couldn’t, and he wants to eclipse his former captain by being better in every way and dying a glorious death, just like Whitebeard (who did it “right”) and Roger. “Doing it right” means going out like a warrior, which Whitebeard and Roger both did as they smiled and accepted their loss. Rocks’ definition of piracy puts his own life over his ambitions and dreams, a contrast to great pirates such as those mentioned (and soon Luffy), but similar to Blackbeard.

Theory by Nuneasy (https://www.reddit.com/user/Nuneasy)