Best WWE Intercontinental Champions of the 2010’s: Seth Rollins by Jake Thomas

As I continue through this ongoing series, eventually it gets to the point where it becomes harder to pick out notable IC Champions. The Miz and Cody Rhodes are easy picks, but the IC Championship hasn’t had the best run in the last decade, making it tougher for me. So eventually it’s going to get to the point where we have just good Intercontinental Champions. Seth Rollins and his run with the IC Title is probably bordering closer to the good champions rather than great. However, I think it was definitely interesting enough to warrant some analysis.

Rollins won the championship at Wrestlemania 34, when he beat then-champion The Miz and Finn Balor in the opening match of the show. At the time, there was speculation as to whether or not Balor would wear his paint (Spoiler alert: He didn’t). But it also wasn’t the easiest match to predict, with a strong mix of Balor and Rollins predictions whilst a splattering of picks for The Miz. It ended up being arguably the match of the night (either that or Rousey/Angle v Triple H/Steph) and there couldn’t have a better start to a title reign.

There were two things that really helped with the build-up to Rollins’s reign with the IC Title. One would be how over he is was in the lead up to Wrestlemania. Even though many fans (Rollins included), strongly despised the “Burn it down” part of his theme song, it quickly became over with fans. Secondly, a star-making performance on the RAW before Elimination Chamber, where he lasted 60 minutes in the match, led to many fans wanting to see Rollins be elevated to the Universal title picture. With Rollins putting in so many quality performances in the lead up to Mania, he was continuing to gain support. This gave the title reign an immediate boost, as it was a champion that all fans were happy to see, not just one group, like hardcore or casual fans.

Seth’s ability to have incredible matches allowed for the fans to become invested in the IC Title and its matches. When the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar wasn’t at RAW, it gave the IC Title the spotlight, meaning Rollins many weeks was the top guy in the opening and closing segments. He also brought back the concept of the open challenge for a midcard belt that John Cena made popular when he held the US Title. When you have a wrestler like Seth Rollins who can get a good match out of any wrestler, providing quality matches with Miz, Elias and Bobby Lashley, you can’t get someone better to hold the “workhorse” title.

Although his rivalry with Dolph Ziggler featured A LOT of matches that started to annoy some fans, that was no fault of the two in the ring, as Ziggler and Rollins crafted a compelling rivalry that provided so many good matches. When Ziggler beat Rollins for the belt on the night after Money in the Bank 2018, many fans were shocked they ended Rollins’s reign so early. But the rivalry led them to the main event of Extreme Rules and another good match at Summerslam when Rollins was managed by the returning Dean Ambrose, who neutralized Ziggler’s ally Drew McIntyre to allow him to win the title back.

My biggest complaint with the Rollins title reign wasn’t the storylines necessarily, more that the IC Title took a backseat to other things. That isn’t a bad thing all the time, as I think stories can still be good featuring a champion not defending the title. But after Summerslam, Rollins didn’t really have a proper IC Title feud until his feud with Dean Ambrose that climaxed at TLC, leading up to him losing the championship. The Ambrose feud was probably the most disappointing feud of 2018. With such a hot start, it was disappointing to see Ambrose wear a gas mask to the ring and talk about how “disgusting” the WWE fans were. After Ambrose turned on him the night Reigns announced he had leukemia, many people wanted to see a blood feud for the title. Instead, that wasn’t at all what we got, which left myself and many fans feeling underwhelmed.

Again, it’s hard to knock Seth Rollins run with the IC Title, as he and title felt important when he held it. At the end of the day, isn’t that what you want from a champion? Yes, I think his second reign with the title probably could’ve been a little better. But you can’t knock the match quality he had. Even in his second reign, tag team matches with McIntyre & Ziggler, a six-man at Super Show-Down in Melbourne (I was there!) plus a solid match with Nakamura at Survivor Series in a Champion v Champion match. These are just notable examples of good matches and there were plenty more.

Whilst Rollins may not have done as much as The Miz or Cody Rhodes did for the title, in a decade where the title suffered for most of it, it’s hard not to look at someone like Seth Rollins who was booked strongly as the champion and also provided quality matches. Hopefully, when looking back at Seth Rollins and the IC Title in the 2020’s, there will be even more to write about.