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Cody Rhodes Calls Backlash France Match Against AJ Styles a "Must-Win"

Cody Rhodes is full of confidence ahead of his Undisputed WWE Title defense against AJ Styles at Backlash France.

By Chris Phelan
Cody Rhodes during a match

Saturday's Backlash France event is headlined by Cody Rhodes' first Undisputed WWE Title defense against AJ Styles – and it's clear to the WWE Universe that Cody can't rest on his WrestleMania 40 victory. He needs to follow up with a performance for the ages in France.

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That may be easier said than done, though. AJ Styles has emerged as the number one contender to Cody's championship, and given that AJ is no stranger to being the top dog in WWE, it's not a foregone conclusion that The American Nightmare walks out of France as champion.

Regardless of the outcome, Backlash France's main event is almost certain to be an instant classic. In fact, some are calling the matchup – the first-ever meeting of Cody Rhodes and AJ Styles in a wrestling ring, ever – a certifiable dream match.

Cody Rhodes Says He "Must Dominate" His Match Against AJ Styles

AJ Styles poses outside of the ring

In a recent interview with the Cheap Heat podcast, Cody went on the record by saying that he considers his match against AJ a must-win – at the very least.

"I told AJ Styles, this is a dream match for some people, sure," he explained. "To me, it's a legit must-win. Not just must-win, but must-dominate. Must show something." 

Cody acknowledged Roman Reigns' influence over the Undisputed WWE Championship over the past three years and called on the WWE Universe to give him the chance to show them what The American Nightmare is capable of. He promised the fans that there's more to Cody Rhodes than just one unforgettable WrestleMania championship victory.

"Whether you loved Roman or didn't like Roman, Roman has been your champ for three years," Cody said. "Now we're looking like, here is the guy closing the shows. How is he going to close the shows? What is he going to be like? Was it just for that moment or is there more?"

Unfortunately for Cody, AJ Styles isn't taking this match lightly either, and he is undoubtedly in the best physical shape of his career leading into Backlash France:

The amazing body transformation that AJ Styles has undergone since returning from injury has been nothing less than awe-inspiring. The Phenomenal One has easily packed on 10-15 pounds of muscle and clearly – as shown by his sauna and ice bath treatments – is prioritizing his health. AJ is no stranger to iconic moments from when he debuted in WWE with an iconic entrance in the 2016 Royal Rumble. However, will that be enough to dethrone Cody at Backlash France?

We'll be honest: we don't see The American Nightmare's title reign ending so soon after Cody's grueling two-year journey to the top. It can't end like this, can it? Nevertheless, AJ Styles is the consummate underdog in the title match – making him a very dangerous opponent. Ultimately, it's Cody's title to lose, and he's made it clear that he wants nothing more than to validate his status as Undisputed WWE Champion.

"I'd like to let people know there is so much more meat on the bone," he told Cheap Heat. "There is so much more to me and this run is the chance to validate it. It's the mindset of 'You're never doing enough. Have to keep going.' Everyone I know who is successful has that mindset and that's where I'm at."

It seems like Cody is laser-focused on ensuring his title reign doesn't meet a premature end at Backlash France – but as we all know, that will be easier said than done.

Cody Rhodes Predicts Which WWE Superstar He is Destined to Face

Cody Rhodes poses on the red carpet for the premiere of "American Nightmare: Becoming Cody Rhodes"

Arguably, the WWE Superstar who seems the most directionless coming out of WrestleMania is the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time, Gunther – a man who could easily place Cody Rhodes and the Undisputed WWE Title in his crosshairs at a moment's notice.

By all accounts, Gunther intends to win the upcoming WWE King of the Ring tournament and hasn't been shy about wanting to challenge Cody Rhodes if he gets the opportunity. As it turns out, Cody is well aware of Gunther's intentions, and in a recent audio call on X Spaces, Cody Rhodes spoke openly about how a showdown with Gunther is inevitable.

"So I'll go ahead and say that Gunther is just out in the ether, and I do think that he and I are probably destined to clash at some point," Cody declared. "That's something I really look forward to because here's why, and this is maybe a little inside baseball, but Gunther is somebody that is really popular with the most hardcore wrestling fan."

Cody's not wrong. Gunther is a superb in-ring technician, and wrestling nerds love nothing more than workrate – the undefinable quality of a WWE Superstar that shadows the likes of, say, Bret "Hitman" Hart more than someone like The Miz. Wrestling fans exist in all shapes and sizes, from casual supporters who tune in out of habit to lifelong fans who have had the pleasure of writing about the sport on a professional level for nearly two years for a national audience. No matter where you define your wrestling fanhood, you can't help but love who you love – and Gunther has been a begrudgingly-supported fan favorite despite his villainous actions in WWE for the past several years. He's that darn good.

Still, Cody was quick to remind the fans that not only is he a student of the game with plenty of respect for the pro wrestling industry, but he isn't afraid of getting down and dirty in his own right.

"I don't want [the fans] to forget that I love actually wrestling," he confessed. "I love slugging it out; I really do. And he's somebody, just in the brief time we touched in the Royal Rumble, that I got a sense that he could be a major opponent for me at some point down the road."

If Cody can make it past AJ Styles at Backlash France, another dream match could be presented to the WWE Universe in the form of Cody Rhodes vs. Gunther. When you think about it, it's not out of the realm of possibility.

First things first, though: Cody has to survive his first-ever Undisputed WWE Title defense. We know who we'll be rooting for.

You can tune in to Peacock to watch Backlash France on May 4. In the meantime, catch up on all things WWE Universe on Peacock.

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