WWE WrestleMania Backlash is basically a rerun. For those of you born in the age of streaming, a rerun is when networks aired past showings of television shows to fill out their broadcast schedule. Sometimes this was due to very understandable reasons, like shows on summer hiatus because actors, directors, writers, and crews need breaks too. But on occasion, we got reruns while a show was in the middle of production and networks needed something to placate the masses while the creatives figured out the next step.
WrestleMania Backlash is obviously in the latter category. Leave it to Edge and AJ Styles to find an interesting wrinkle for part two of a match we just saw one month ago. In fact, Edge’s character work is the only reason I’m looking forward to this rematch. This new version of the Rated R Superstar is one of WWE’s best characters in years. Everyone, including Styles, is benefitting from Edge’s desire to make everyone scale his Mountain of Omnipotence.
According to Edge, Judgement Day is the cure for the common wrestler. Picking a “priest” as his first disciple is poetic, but also helps focus Edge’s story. Edge was softened up when he came back to WWE. The crowd was so happy to see him and he was thrilled by the mere fact he can still do what a doctor told him years ago was impossible; why wouldn’t he celebrate? Why wouldn’t he hit the stage as soon as his music hit and preen to a crowd who showered him with nothing but love? I get it. Wanting adoration is universal, which is one reason Edge’s motivation for becoming a bad guy, again, is understandable.
He grew tired of letting his desire for cheers interfere with his need for championships. Edge remembered his best days came when he gave little to no sh*ts about how anyone felt with regards to his conduct in or outside of the ring. More importantly, he took stock of everything he suffered since coming back, like, ya know, Seth Rollins waltzing into his home, and remembered those fateful words from the late Owen Hart: Enough is enough and it’s time for a change.
AJ Styles just so happened to be in the way while said change happened, but he can tell a similar story. The AJ Styles before us isn’t the same guy who ran SmackDown Live many moons ago. There’s no way that AJ Styles loses to Omos, or takes his eye off of the WWE championship for the sake of tag team glory. The Champ that Runs the Camp focused on being the best at all costs. According to Edge, AJ should blame the fans for that.
Edge’s transformation incorporates every aspect of his WWE career. His spookiness with The Brood and The Ministry of Darkness? Check. The arrogance and conceitedness from his tag team of awesomeness days with Christian? Check. His unrepentant villainy from those Rated R glory days? Also check. Who he is today makes complete sense when looking back on his career.
When WWE engages with longterm storytelling like this, it’s a thing of beauty. Especially when it conveyed from someone like Edge. If there’s one criticism for this feud, it’s that AJ isn’t truly engaging with the material. Edge is hitting psychological beats while AJ seems stuck in 1980s babyface mode. On the other hand, I don’t believe for even a second this feud ends with this match.
In truth, the story just started. I’m less interested in the match than I am the aftermath. Judgment Day—terrible name aside—can soar if given the right set of wings. AJ and Edge, if given less time than their WrestleMania match, will produce dopeness. We know they can wrestle better than most, but less is more. Hopefully, with this story more in focus now than it was a month ago, they heed that edict. Plus, with Damian Priest banned from ringside, maybe Edge adds another member to his stable. One can dream.
Even in a rerun, we find jewels we missed the first time.
What say you, Cagesiders? Am I crazy or crazy like a fox?
Who will win?
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