Return of the Rattlesnake: Stone Cold Leads WrestleMania Saturday

Everything you need to know about night one of WrestleMania
07:00, 02 Apr 2022

WrestleMania 38 is almost here, as WWE prepares to stage its biggest shows of the year. Nowadays, the annual showpiece is a two-day extravaganza of sports entertainment. To help you navigate this mountain of matches, The Sportsman will be bringing you previews of nights one and two, to help get you in the mood for the 38th edition of this annual favourite. 

Reportedly, WWE will take the unusual step of headlining WrestleMania Saturday with ‘The KO Show’ segment featuring Kevin Owens and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The company has never before allowed anything other than a match to main event ‘Mania, but there is every reason to believe this will be more than just a talk show angle. 

Rumours have abounded for months that Austin was on the verge of an in-ring comeback, and while WWE have been careful to label the Owens segment as an “altercation”, more is expected. Stone Cold accepted Owens’ invitation in a video shot on his Broken Skull Ranch, in which he invoked his last match 19 years ago at WrestleMania, and talked about wanting to fight Owens. WWE might be tempering expectations by easing the ring-rusty Austin back in with a talk show-turned-brawl rather than a billed wrestling match, but it does feel like this will be the most we have seen from Austin in quite some time.

The main event from an officially-sanctioned wrestling point of view is Charlotte Flair’s defence of the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship against the returning Ronda Rousey. The UFC legend came back to WWE at the Royal Rumble after a three-year absence and many were hoping she would finally face WWE’s top women’s star, Becky Lynch. Instead she will meet the 13-time women’s champion, Charlotte Flair. The pair, along with Lynch, previously met in the triple threat main event of WrestleMania 35.

WWE Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch will be in action on the Saturday card, facing Bianca Belair. The feud kicked into high-gear when stomach injuries from a Belair hair-whip left Lynch scarred and furious. ‘The Irish Lass Kicker’ tried to cut Belair’s signature ponytail off on this week’s Raw, but her assault was telegraphed and ‘The EST’ ended up snipping Lynch’s red locks. The pair have history dating back to Summerslam, when Becky beat Bianca in 26 seconds to win the title.

Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins heads into WrestleMania without an announced opponent. For a time, it has looked like Rollins would not feature on the card at all. Of course this was never likely given the former WWE Champion’s standing within the company, and in fact he looks set to participate in one of the most anticipated moments of the weekend. In storyline terms, Rollins has asked WWE Chairman Vince McMahon for an opportunity at the event, and his opponent will be announced by McMahon live in the ring.

That opponent is likely to be the returning Cody Rhodes. Such a move seemed unthinkable just a few months ago. The son of the great ‘American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes had requested his release from WWE in 2016, and since leaving had go on to co-found their biggest competitor, All Elite Wrestling. AEW’s anti-WWE stance, and status as a market competitor seemed to preclude Cody from ever returning. Rhodes often mocked WWE in in-ring promos, and even parodied Triple H during some of his ring entrances. Vince McMahon has often welcomed wrestlers back into the fold when it makes financial sense though, despite previous indiscretions. There is no doubt Rhodes falls into this category, having become a huge star in his time away from the company. If, as expected, he is Rollins’ opponent, this could be the highlight of the entire weekend.

Logan Paul, usually on these pages for pretending to be a boxer, will make his professional wrestling debut at ‘The Show of Shows’. WWE feels like an environment more suited to his histrionics than pugilism, and his non-wrestling appearance on last year’s show was fun. This time he’ll be teaming with The Miz to take on Dominick and Rey Mysterio. The veteran luchadore and elder Mysterio should have no trouble guiding Paul through his first wrestling outing in the first of the weekend’s three celebrity outings. 

The undercard will feature tag team action, as The New Day duo of Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods take on Sheamus and Ridge Holland. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rick Boogs will vie for the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship against Jimmy and Jey Uso. There will also be the latest instalment of the lengthy grudge between Drew McIntyre and Happy Corbin. 

If that wasn’t enough wrestling action, log on to The Sportsman tomorrow to read everything you need to know about WrestleMania Sunday.

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