The current WWE roster is filled with great performers sitting there waiting for the right opportunity to come their way. Some of them have never been given a fair shot while others have had a chance, but may not be in that top spot anymore. One of those guys who was at the very top for a while, but hasn’t been in that position for way too long and hopefully will become “the man” again soonis Seth Rollins.
During last week’s Raw, after general manager Kurt Angle announced Ronda Rousey signing her Raw contract at Elimination Chamber on Feb. 25, Seth Rollins went into the ring to tell his boss that he wanted to get back to what he used to be. Here’s what Rollins had to say:
“WrestleMania is right around the corner. I don’t have a title, I don’t have a Money in the Bank contract to cash in this time, hell, I don’t even have a match at Elimination Chamber. When you came to Monday Night Raw as the General Manager, you told me you wanted me to be a mainstay of this place and to be a big piece of Monday Night Raw. I gotta be honest with you, right now I don’t want to be a part of Monday Night Raw.”
“I don’t want to be a part of Monday Night Raw, I want to BE Monday Night Raw. I want to turn this place back into Monday Night Rollins! I want to be the man one more time! I want Brock Lesnar, I want the Universal Championship and I want it at WrestleMania. The only way I can do that is if I win the Elimination Chamber match. Let’s take this second chance Fatal 4-Way match, let’s turn it into a Fatal 5-Way and put me in the match.”
Later in the night, Rollins participated in the 5-Way main event that ended when Rollins and Finn Balor pinned Bray Wyatt at the same time. After Raw was over, it was announced that Rollins and Balor would join Roman Reigns, John Cena, Elias, The Miz and Braun Strowman in the first ever 7-man Elimination Chamber match. The winner of that gets to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania.
This isn’t about Rollins winning the Elimination Chamber match and going on to WrestleMania to beat Brock Lesnar. That’s probably not going to happen. The plan has been and likely will continue to be for Roman Reigns to win that match and that title. It’s not what I want, but it’s what will happen. I’d rather focus on Seth’s past, what he’s been doing for the past year and where he really should be in the grand scheme of things.
From Blue-Chip Prospect to WWE Champion
When Seth Rollins signed in 2010, I remember thinking this guy is going to dominate WWE in the 2010s, and probably the 2020s too, because of his age. He was only 24 years old when he signed his developmental. I had watched him a bit in Ring of Honor as Tyler Black. I don’t watch ROH as much as I do WWE obviously, but I knew enough and saw enough to see that this could be the Shawn Michaels or Kurt Angle (the best overall performers of the previous generation) of the next era.
Believe me, I wasn’t the only one either. There was a lot of buzz about Rollins with people watching his FCW matches (Florida Championship Wrestling was pre-NXT) and then when developmental became NXT, Rollins was their first champion on July 26, 2012.
At Survivor Series 2012, Rollins debuted with his Shield allies Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose as they attacked Ryback to help CM Punk retain the WWE Title when Punk pinned John Cena. I’m not going to go over the entire Shield run over the next year and a half, but if you were watching you knew the group was pushed as hard as any entity in WWE. They were heels who dominated everybody. Then in early 2014, they turned face and during their entire run, it was obvious that they would all become breakout stars. What I didn’t expect was that Rollins would be the one who turned on the other two guys.
Rollins turned heel on June 2, 2014 with chair shots for his buddies Reigns and Ambrose. I covered that in an in-depth article about The Shield a few months ago. Long story short, Rollins won Money in the Bank, won the WWE Title at WrestleMania 31 (the greatest Money in the Bank cash-in ever) and was on top of the wrestling world.
I’ll never forget seeing the news of Rollins tearing his ACL during a match against Kane in Dublin, Ireland on November 4, 2015. I didn’t even have to look up the date because it’s my birthday. I was so sad about it because Rollins was my WWE Wrestler of the Year in 2014 and 2015. I figured he was good enough to win that award for a few years in a row (this was before AJ Styles was signed by WWE), but the injury kept him out of action for about seven months.
When Rollins returned to WWE at Extreme Rules in May of 2016, I thought for sure he would be brought back as a face. Fans missed him while he was injured, so making him a face would have made sense. Instead, WWE booked him as a heel for a few months until Finn Balor tore his labrum at SummerSlam 2016 in a match against Rollins, so that ended up turning Rollins into a good guy.
Last year’s WrestleMania saw Rollins in one of the bigger matches on the show against his former mentor Triple H. I don’t know what it was exactly, but the feud just didn’t click. Rollins missed a couple of months of action due to a minor knee injury, yet was able to wrestle 26 minutes (the longest match of the show) and get the win over Triple H.
The feud with Triple H didn’t really elevate Rollins. I know Rollins won’t complain about it publicly, and he did get to be on the cover of the WWE 2K18 video game, but he should have been doing more. He spent the last four months of 2017 in a tag team with Dean Ambrose (along with Roman Reigns during the brief Shield reunion) and when Ambrose got hurt, he teamed with Jason Jordan. It appeared Rollins would face Jordan at WrestleMania this year, but now that Jordan is out with a neck injury, there’s a question of what Rollins might do.
To me, Rollins is one of the best all-around talents in the entire company and I’d go so far as to say that only AJ Styles is ahead of him on the list of the best wrestlers in WWE. Rollins as a regular PPV main eventer needs to be a priority in 2018. If Rollins isn’t in one of the top three matches at WrestleMania this year, then they are doing something wrong. At 31 years of age, Rollins is in his prime, he’s already a two-time WWE Champion and if he can stay healthy, he has a decade ahead of him as a top guy too.
Three Ways To Help Rollins Become “The Man” Again
It’s easy to just say “push this guy” or that guy because we all say that about so many people in WWE. I’m a huge fan of Rollins and I want to see him as a top guy for the majority of his career. Instead of simply saying WWE needs to push him, here are three things that I would do to help Rollins get back to being a top guy.
1. Develop a catchphrase
This may seem like a minor thing or even a stupid thing to some people, but it’s actually pretty important. If you think back over the last 30 years and even beyond that, top wrestlers always have had catchphrases. Whether it was Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, The Undertaker, Steve Austin, The Rock or Chris Jericho (he may have more than anybody), fans can recite their famous lines because they were said all the time. A lot of the time, those wrestlers didn’t even have to say it because the fans would do it.
— WWE (@WWE) February 19, 2018
If you want a more recent example, look at Daniel Bryan. I liked the guy as much as anybody, but if he was just a 5-foot-8, 180-pound wrestler, he may never have become a top guy. Adding the “Yes!” chant, which was originally done as a heel taunt in 2011 that he used with permission from UFC’s Diego Sanchez, helped Bryan get to that next level because when he entered with 15,000 people chanting “Yes!” it made him stand out. I was at WrestleMania 30 and those “Yes!” chants were as loud as anything I’ve ever been in attendance for in my life. It really carries when you are there with 70,000 people as well.
When Rollins speaks, he shows a lot of genuine emotion. The fans are behind him, but there has to come a time when he delivers a line he can use in every promo. I’m not sure what the phrase should be. If I was WWE’s creative team, I’d have everybody spend a week trying to think of something for Rollins, have Seth go in the room with all of them and try to hammer something out that he can use. Put that phrase on a t-shirt, have Rollins tweet it and shove it down everybody’s throats.
Rollins calling himself the “Kingslayer” isn’t a catchphrase, by the way. It’s a nickname that isn’t working very well, quite frankly. It’s not exactly up there with Stone Cold, The Hitman or the Heartbreak Kid as one of the better nicknames in WWE history.
Some guys in WWE have catchphrases right now, but it’s not like it used to be. I don’t get it either because they should be a signature thing. Having a catchphrase is part of character development just like a wrestler’s look, their theme music, their entrance and so on. It’s all part of the package to try to make the wrestlers look appealing to the fans.
A big part of the reason why WWE isn’t that interesting right now is the lack of character development. Giving wrestlers cooler entrances, catchphrases, nicknames and so on would help a lot. That’s a whole other column for another day.
2. Get him away from Roman Reigns
I think there will be a Superstar Shake-up after WrestleMania this year, just like there was last year. I also assume that Roman Reigns will be holding the Universal Championship after WrestleMania. If that happens as I expect, then I really hope that Rollins gets moved to Smackdown. While I know that a lot of people consider Smackdown to be the “B” show, it wouldn’t hurt Rollins to be one of the key guys of that brand, especially since every superstar can be on any PPV from WrestleMania going forward.
If it was up to me, AJ Styles would remain on Smackdown as well, although I think it’s very possible WWE moves him to Raw because they must know he’s the best all-around talent they have, so they are going to want him on Raw after two Smackdown years. The reason I would keep Styles there is to have Rollins go back to being a heel, perhaps with allies (like Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, for example) or have him lead a four-man stable with a tag team as well as another wrestler or two.
I would pencil in Rollins vs. Styles as a six-month story on Smackdown that would dominate the show. If Rollins was moved to Smackdown and remained a face, that’s fine too because he can succeed in either role.
Let Roman Reigns be the centerpiece of Raw. That’s fine. I want Rollins to be separated from him so that Rollins can grow as a performer. If Rollins is on the same show as Reigns all the time, some people might view Rollins as being in his shadow. I’d rather see Rollins built up as “the man” on Smackdown, whether he’s the top heel or face on the show.
The important thing is that Rollins gets the spotlight on him again. He’s too good to be just a tag team wrestler against the same Sheamus and Cesaro tag team for five months. I like that team too, but it got way too repetitive. A fresh start on Smackdown would be great for Rollins.
If Rollins doesn’t wrestle Reigns for a year or two, it will mean something when they have another match. That’s why the former Shield “brothers” should be kept apart for a while.
3. Put over the Curb Stomp, aka The Blackout, as the most dangerous finishing move in wrestling
The Curb Stomp is the finishing move that Rollins used prior to WWE and then he used it during his singles run. When he won the WWE Title at WrestleMania 31, he hit a Curb Stomp on Brock Lesnar and one on Roman Reigns, leading to Rollins pinning Reigns to win the match. However, in the weeks that followed, WWE decided to ban the move because of the concussion lawsuits they have faced in the past few years. It’s a guy stomping another man in the back of his head and sending him face-first to the mat. Go watch a movie like American History X and you’ll see a much more violent version of it.
I’m glad that the move is back. I think calling it The Blackout is a better name which obviously worked better when he was Tyler Black in ROH. It just sounds better.
When Rollins used the move on Finn Balor last month, the internet wrestling community was going crazy about it because we all thought it was banned. What WWE failed to address (they fail to address things a lot) is why the move was gone in the first place. What they should have done the next week on Raw is have Rollins do a sit-down interview explaining that he was told he’s not allowed to do that move anymore due to injury concerns.
That could have led to Rollins saying that he’s going to do it now because he knows he needs it again to find what made him the best in the business. What I’m saying is he should use the story of getting his finishing move back to try to be what gets him to be a main eventer again.
Going forward, nobody should ever kick out of The Blackout/Curb Stomp. Protect it like Brock Lesnar’s F5. It makes Rollins look like a top guy if you do that and that’s exactly how Rollins should be perceived by the fans.
What did WWE do to follow up Rollins using The Blackout/Curb Stomp again? Nothing. That’s why their creative team isn’t doing good enough to get the talent over. You can’t just have a guy stop using a move for nearly three years and then barely mention it for the next month. Follow up on it. It’s lazy writing. It needs to get better.
There are plenty of tweaks any of us can make to any wrestler in WWE, but I think Rollins is one of the best guys they have. It’s just a matter of character development, giving him more of the spotlight that he had three years ago and finding some kind of hook to get the fans to rally behind him more. The good thing is that at 31 years of age, he has plenty of amazing years ahead of him. I just hope most of that time is spent in pay-per-view main events because that’s absolutely where he belongs.
Rollins will be one of seven-men in Raw’s Elimination Chamber match on February 25. Will he win? Probably not because Roman Reigns will, but at least Rollins is back in a high profile match that will probably be the main event. Here’s hoping the rest of 2018 features more of that for Rollins.