Quick Takes on Cody Rhodes' WWE Return, MJF vs. Wardlow, WrestleMania 38, More

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2022

Quick Takes on Cody Rhodes' WWE Return, MJF vs. Wardlow, WrestleMania 38, More

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    Now that his WWE return is all but official, where and when will Cody Rhodes show up next?
    Now that his WWE return is all but official, where and when will Cody Rhodes show up next?Credit: All Elite Wrestling

    After weeks of speculation, Cody Rhodes is WWE-bound, per Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com.

    News broke Friday night that The American Nightmare has signed his WWE contract. The timing couldn't be better with WrestleMania 38 fast approaching. Now it becomes a question of whether his return goes down on The Grandest Stage of Them All or if it is saved for the next night's Raw.

    It's been an interesting, albeit uninspiring, road to WrestleMania this year for a variety of reasons. Despite the dull buildup, however, the two-night card still has the potential to exceed expectations.

    All Elite Wrestling continues to further several of its own promising storylines, most notably MJF and Wardlow. The two came face-to-face on Wednesday's Dynamite for the first time since the latter seemingly severed ties with his employer, kicking off what should be a fun feud in the months to come.

    This installment of Quick Takes will tackle the endgame of the MJF vs. Wardlow rivalry, how The Hardy Boyz' chase for the AEW World Tag Team Championship should be handled, the pros and cons of Raw Superstars crossing over on to NXT and more.

Cody Rhodes' Return Should Be Saved for Post-WrestleMania Raw

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    Cody Rhodes' return to WWE has been one of wrestling's worst kept secrets since he left AEW in February, but that won't make the moment any less special when he does resurface on WWE TV.

    The popular belief among fans has been that he will be Seth Rollins' opponent for WrestleMania 38. Rollins is the biggest WWE star without a match on the 'Mania card, but if Johnson's report is accurate and Rhodes has been signed for at least a week or two, then WWE has had chances to bring him back and intentionally went in a different direction.

    Raw in AEW's home of Jacksonville, Florida, on Monday would have been terrific timing, but it might be better to hold off on him coming in until WrestleMania weekend so that the build to a bout with Rollins isn't rushed or overshadowed by anything else.

    A return at The Show of Shows would without a doubt be spectacular, but the reaction on Raw might be louder because of it being in a smaller building a la Brock Lesnar's grand comeback in 2012. That would also restore some of the magic that's been lost from the post-WrestleMania Raw in recent years.

    WrestleMania would also be an acceptable option given the grandeur surrounding the event, but for Rhodes to return any earlier than that would be a mistake.

AEW Must Take Its Time with the Hardys' Pursuit of Tag Team Titles

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    AEW wasted no time in signing Jeff Hardy following the expiration of his 90-day non-compete clause with WWE and reuniting him with his brother, Matt.

    His recent arrival on Dynamite was perfectly executed and already the iconic tag team is off to a strong start. They won their debut match as a tandem against Private Party on Wednesday's Dynamite and proved they still have a lot left in the tank.

    It was later announced that they would be teaming up with Darby Allin and Sting on the next episode of Dynamite to take on Private Party, The Butcher and The Blade in eight-man tag team action. Beyond that, AEW should be building to The Hardys vs. Allin and Sting at Double or Nothing.

    That would be a mega attraction for the event, and a victory for The Hardys would get them one step closer to the AEW World Tag Team Championship, the only gold the legendary duo has never held.

    As The Hardys enter the twilight of their careers, AEW should be taking full advantage of this run by putting them in the ring with every team the company has to offer. A tag title run is inevitable, but in order for it to mean as much as possible, it needs to be a story that gradually plays out over the course of several months, if not a full year.

MJF vs. Wardlow: Who Needs the Win More?

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    AEW has shown on several occasions that it is capable of telling tremendous long-term stories, with MJF vs. Wardlow being one of the best examples of that.

    For two-and-a-half years, Wardlow served as MJF's insurance policy before parting ways with him at Revolution by costing him his match against CM Punk. It was obvious that MJF wouldn't rest until Wardlow paid for his actions, and what went down Wednesday was a small taste of what this feud will have in store.

    The AEW audience is invested in this rivalry based on reactions to all of their recent interactions. That makes this a must-see, marquee match for Double or Nothing, and the most intriguing part is that it's unpredictable who will win their first one-on-one encounter.

    MJF is coming off a high-profile loss to Punk at Revolution. Although he beat Darby Allin at Full Gear, he hadn't won a pay-per-view match prior to that since the Full Gear in 2020.

    As much as The Salt of The Earth could use a pay-per-view victory, he can easily bounce back from a loss. This program should be about establishing Wardlow as a singles star, and the only way to do that would be to have him go over in the end.

Analyzing the Pros and Cons of NXT's Recent Reliance on Main-Roster Crossovers

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    Six months removed from the relaunch of NXT, the brand is struggling to find its identity. There are more than a handful of fresh faces with potential, but the product is a far cry from what it once was.

    That said, the recent influx of Raw Superstars on the show has helped inject some much-needed excitement into proceedings.

    Mandy Rose made the move to the former black-and-gold brand last summer and has been thriving as the leader of Toxic Attraction and the NXT women's champion. Dolph Ziggler has also been making appearances alongside Robert Roode and shocked the world when he won the NXT Championship earlier in March.

    NXT has benefited from having both notable names around, especially if the idea is to use them to elevate younger talent in the long run. The Miz and The Mysterios also made appearances on the most recent edition, with The Awesome One hosting Miz TV while Dominik Mysterio took on Raul Mendoza.

    Stars of their caliber showing up at random gives NXT the sense of unpredictability that it's been missing for a while, but the brand needs to be careful not to become the Tuesday night version of Raw (assuming it hasn't already).

    Bron Breakker and Tommaso Ciampa appearing on Raw as members of NXT has given them more exposure as well, so hopefully WWE can continue the crossovers without going overboard and taking away from the roster NXT already has.

WrestleMania 38 Can Still Exceed Expectations Despite Lackluster Build

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    The Road to WrestleMania has left a lot to be desired, to say the least.

    From certain storylines coming together on a whim to others not being as compelling as they should be, the two-night card has been met with criticism from fans—and understandably so. The stunning amount of talent departures in the past year have left the company with a limited pool of Superstars to choose from.

    Raw has largely been better than SmackDown in 2022, but all in all, WWE programming hasn't been overly exciting heading into WWE's biggest show of the year. That doesn't necessarily mean it can't be a strong show, though.

    WWE has had poor WrestleMania buildups in the past and the events themselves have turned out to be excellent. It's all about the execution and making the most of the matches on tap, which could be the case with WrestleMania 38 if everything aligns just right.

    For as overdone as Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar is, their latest rivalry has been near perfect. Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair could be great from an in-ring standpoint, Edge vs. AJ Styles is enticing, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin appearances are always a blast and the celebrity matches could be better than we're all anticipating.

    There's no excuse for this year's Road to WrestleMania being as bland as it has been, but it's entirely possible WWE knocks another one out of the park when it matters most.

                     

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.

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