By Glenn Schouw
Johannesburg — Vince McMahon will be sleeping with one eye open ahead of WrestleMania 38 Backlash at Providence, Rhode Island this Sunday, May 8.
He will not have been influenced by Metallica. This rock band has this famous line in their Enter Sandman hit.
Nor would the CEO and successful owner of WWE be on the lookout for the Sandman gaining access to his mansion.
McMahon’s attention would be on someone within his WWE empire gaining access to the exceptionally crafted storylines for Backlash stashed in his safe. The nearby vault with some of his billions, and enhanced with a WWE logo, might not be enough of a decoy.
However, storylines discovered or not, nothing will influence the resounding success Backlash will be.
Stunning sports entertainment awaits worldwide audiences of millions; again record viewership and continuing great commercial success of the WWE brand can be taken as gimmes. This happened at the greatest stage of them all – WrestleMania 38.
Backlash also provides opportunities for some of the superstars who were not at their best at WrestleMania 38 to redeem themselves. This event, under the watchful eye of McMahon, will indicate future plans for the stars participating in events later in the year.
The focus at Backlash will be on two rematches from WrestleMania 38. This follows the 11th hour decision to shelve the Universal Champion Roman Reigns’ defence of his title against Drew McIntyre for now.
However, their paths will cross in a six-man tag match. Reigns links up with the Usos while McIntyre joins forces with RK-Bro.
One rematch sees WWE queen Charlotte Flair defending her Smackdown Women’s Championship against Ronda Rousey in an “I Quit” match and the other has Cody Rhodes up against Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins.
There is plenty at stake in these rematches. Rousey’s attempt to take Flair’s crown will determine if her comeback has any meaningful future in the WWE. A second win in row for Rhodes against Rollins ensures his momentum for a title shot sooner than later.
Rousey showed at WrestleMania she has the ability to take down Flair. This outcome will be welcomed by fans as this guarantees the feud between them will continue.
This scenario also buys Rousey time to finally decide on her ring personality – will it be a heel or a babyface? Unfortunately, she is not coming over as she should with the fans.
Win or lose Rousey needs to ensure she is able to convincingly engage with her fans and create an emotional link.
Many WWE wrestlers in the past have had the skills but their inability to get the fans to engage with them led to their careers with the organisation being terminated.
The WWE hierarchy are aware that a Rousey victory opens up promotional opportunities and grabs the full attention of the media. However, this all turns to ash if Flair gets the better of the former MMA star.
Two loses in a row will hurt Rousey and damage her reputation as The Baddest Woman on the Planet.
The opposite holds true for Rollins. A second consecutive loss to Rhodes will not reduce his status in the WWE.
He only has McIntyre ahead of him in the queue for a crack at champion Reigns.
Recently Rollins achieved a first when he jumped onto the 77-year-old McMahon’s desk after being informed he would be on the bill at WrestleMania 38. McMahon’s calm manner of handling this disrespect by Rollins gave notice that the latter will still have the talented script writers planning his future bouts for many years.
Rhodes, a former rebel, who left the WWE six years ago, returned to the fold at WrestleMania 38.
It came as a surprise as only a handful of backstage workers were aware he would be taking part. Rollins was equally surprised.
They delivered a memorable performance considered by many the best of the two-day WrestleMania 38 event.
The charismatic Rhodes is already in the betting for a shot at the champion at WrestleMania 39, be it Reigns or the Scottish warrior McIntyre who will enter the ring armed with his 2m sword Angela, named after his late mother.
The combatants in two other bouts, all repeat ones from WrestleMania 38, need to redeem themselves with convincing performances.
They are Edge vs AJ Styles and Bobby Lashley vs Omos.
The confirmed bill
Roman Reigns and Bloodline vs Drew McIntyre and RK-Bro
SmackDown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair vs Ronda Rousey (I Quit Match)
Cody Rhodes vs Seth Rollins
AJ Styles vs Edge
Bobby Lashley vs Omos
Happy Corbin vs Madcap Moss
WrestleMania Backlash streams live, Sunday, May 8 and will be shown live on DStv (SA time) in the early hours of Monday, May 9
Pre Show | 1.30am
WrestleMania Backlash | 2am
SS Variety, WWE Channel
Monday, May 9
WWE Channel | 2pm
Maximo 2, 4.40pm
SS Variety 3, 7pm