What's Next for Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins After WWE WrestleMania Backlash?

Philip LindseyContributor IIMay 9, 2022

Photo credit: WWE.com

On Sunday night, Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins faced each other in a fantastic WrestleMania rematch. The two have great chemistry together and they managed to tell an even better story this time around. It hardly seems like WWE is finished with this rivalry, so what is Backlash? 

There was a lot of pressure on Rhodes’ first feud since his return to WWE. His time with AEW was so important to the company’s early success, but The American Nightmare became so divisive among its fanbase towards the end of it. As such, he had quite a bit to prove after such a high-profile exit and murmurs that his refusal to turn heel hindered his character.

The Atlanta native had a strong showing during his re-debut at The Showcase of the Immortals but that was kind of a given. The true test would be how well could he ingratiate himself with WWE’s fanbase after the initial shock of his return and consistently play a role on WWE programming.

The Ideal First Opponent

Honestly, the change of scenery has revitalized and vindicated the second generation so far. His current character work seems more focused and his motivation to become a world champion is crystal clear. Surprisingly, he may be the hottest babyface on Raw right now.

That’s what makes Rollins such a perfect opponent. The Visionary is a truly great heel. He’s at his best when he has a stone-faced protagonist to work with because he will work twice as hard to get under their skin.

In return, the 35-year-old will force competitors to tap into the type of resolve that is hard not to root for. We saw a great example of this last Monday as he mocked Dusty Rhodes’s failure to win a WWE Championship. In the process, he got The Son of the Son of a Plumber to emote and capture the fire that made him so captivating during his early run with AEW.

With time to build to their second match, Rhodes and Rollins crafted a simple but entertaining story. The Prodigal Son is back to prove his worth to the company that initially overlooked him by accepting a challenge from one of the biggest stars of this generation. Meanwhile, The Drip God seeks to prove his loss to the returning superstar was a fluke in his ongoing pursuit of validation from an audience that rejected him.

If that’s not enough to get you excited, the video package should have. The clip ahead of the opening match of WrestleMania Backlash beautifully encapsulates the best moment of this build. These competitors went on to deliver the match of the night on an uninspiring card.

More Stories to Tell

The rematch wasn’t quite as good as their impromptu WrestleMania showdown but it did depict a convincing story. With that in mind, logic would dictate that revisiting the match a third time could lead to diminishing returns. However, the finish of their latest encounter leaves the door open for another bout and there’s still more that these two can do while WWE sorts out its world title situation.

This time around Rollins studied his foe. That played a big part in the match but The American Nightmare had also scouted his opponent. This led to a great matchup filled with reversals and attempts at one-upmanship.

In the end, the Davenport, Iowa native was hoisted with his own petard as Rhodes reversed his O'Connor roll and grabbed his tights to secure the win. Of course, The Visionary will just say he had to cheat to beat him but his adversary just outsmarted him because he tried it first.

This would be an excellent way for Rhodes to remain undefeated and leave room for contention so Rollins can demand another rematch. After all, he didn’t win fair and square but he did overcome WWE’s tendency to present its babyfaces as gullible do-gooders. Nevertheless, there is still more ground to cover with this feud and this does justify another match at the next pay-per-view, Hell in a Cell.

This will be an interesting exercise because one could argue that AEW’s program with Malakai Black lasted too long and it ultimately harmed the former TNT champion’s reputation. The company also didn’t do as many longforms feuds as its distinguished competition does regularly. As a matter of fact, WWE tends to book too many rematches sometimes.

Nonetheless, Rollins excels at this kind of storytelling as we saw last year during his ongoing rivalry with Edge. The two took part in a phenomenal trilogy of matches starting at SummerSlam and ending in the fall at Crown Jewel. Expect him to do something desperate or cross another line to raise the stakes and goad Rhodes into giving him a rematch.

A Fight to Crown the Next Contender

It’s unclear what this will mean for The Visionary or who his next target will be. However, the point of this program should be to prepare The American Nightmare for a shot at Roman Reigns. That has been his goal since he came back to WWE so he should keep picking up wins until he earns a title match.

Rollins fit a similar role last year when he gave Cesaro a big win en route to his bout against The Tribal Chief. The Swiss Cyborg was unable to unseat The Head of the Table but his work with The Drip God legitimized his ascent to become the number one contender.

The next move should be for Rhodes to win the WWE Championship. As of now, he is the most viable option to hand Reigns his first loss in over a year and bring the title back to Raw.

Conversely, Rollins still has some claim to a rematch because his former stablemate didn’t beat him at Royal Rumble. It would stand to reason that one of these men will earn a trip to The Island of Relevancy soon. Rhodes should be the one who comes out on top if this continues next month at Hell in a Cell and moves on to challenge the Samoan superstar.