World Wrestling Entertainment is Roman Reigns’ playground and it will be for the foreseeable future. He is the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion and he will be tasked with leading the company into it’s next era. While Roman will assume the mantle that’s been on John Cena’s shoulders for the past decade, Seth Rollins will fill a different but just as important role. He will be the next great ambassador not just for WWE, but for all of pro wrestling. That may be a bold claim, but I just don’t see anyone else who fits that bill.
For the past ten years, John Cena has been both the face of WWE and the best ambassador the industry has had. He sells a ton of merchandise, he has a kid friendly face and presence and he draw the most universally passionate responses from the fanbase. Some people love him and some love to hate him, but there isn’t much middle ground. That is why he has been the face of the company. What’s made him a great ambassador is his dedication, his love for the business and the respect he’s earned for his ability to overcome real life odds. As superhuman as he seems, both shoot and work, he will eventually ride off into the sunset. No man lasts forever, especially not on top.
Roman Reigns has some of the qualities that John Cena possesses, but not all of them. He does look the part and is being built as the next Superman, complete with his signature punch. He’s worked hard and despite the hatred he’s receiving from live crowds and in comment sections across the internet, he’s been getting better. His matches have been great and he is at the forefront of the minds of fans. It’s not usually positive, but he is usually very high on the list of things the wrestling community is talking about. He can be the poster boy for the company and he has an incredibly rich family lineage. But I don’t think he shares the qualities of John Cena that makes him a great ambassador for the business. Seth Rollins does.
What Seth Rollins shares with John Cena isn’t the body builder’s physique that Vince McMahon and Triple H love so much. He shares a lifelong love and passion for the business of pro wrestling. I’ve read and heard different voices say that having marks in the business is killing it. That the performers need to be above the show and not in it so much. I couldn’t disagree with that more. Part of why I respect John Cena so much, despite not being a huge fan, is that his love for WWE is so well documented. It’s a big part of what makes his character so believable, if not always likable.
Seth Rollins has shown that same love and same passion. He showed it with his stellar indy career, including a run as Ring Of Honor World Champion. He showed it with his transition from the silent Brother In Arms of The Shield into the company’s top heel. He showed it with his consistently great matches as champion, most impressive of which was his double performance at Night Of Champions. With Seth Rollins, his work in the ring has always been great and his work as a character grew and improved over his entire singles run. He’s showing it in a slightly different way now.
In the recent WWE Network “24” special “Redesign. Rebuild. Reclaim.” we saw the journey he took to get back in the ring. We saw the video of him pretending to be a wrestler as a child. We saw how much he’s always loved wrestling and how his love grew when he was forced to sit out. We got to see a man who learned a valuable lesson and grow from it. We got to see a man who appreciated his art more than ever before who couldn’t wait for the opportunity to get back.
When Seth Rollins became WWE World Heavyweight Champion, it was arguably the greatest singular moment in the last two years. He was a new champion then, a champion that had to learn what it mean to be the champion. Now he is back, and to steal a line from Jim Ross, he’s better than ever. He is hungrier than ever and now he is a man armed with a little more wisdom, knowledge and confidence.
Anyone that watched his most recent appearance on SportsCenter should have seen the difference in Seth. He was the first guest Coach ever had back in October. In that segment he was just playing a subdued version of his character on Raw. When he appeared again last week, he was himself, a man that was much more ready to carry himself in the spotlight. During his interview on Talk Is Jericho he also came across as someone who had grown.
One of the things that led me to the conclusion of Rollins being an ambassador for the industry was the appreciation he showed for the work of others. He routinely praised his fellow WWE Superstars. He gave credit to Ricochet and Will Ospreay for putting on a great match that created a lot of buzz. He stood up to Vader and older former wrestlers who constantly criticize today’s product. He stood up to Bret Hart who said by getting injured Rollins let the whole company down. He even discussed some arguments he’s had with Triple H and even Vince McMahon over creative issues.
Rollins speaks openly and honestly about his career and what is happening in it and it seems like he has the backbone to actually campaign for himself with the real authority. He made a point of telling Jericho that he views Cena’s position as the top guy very seriously. He wants that spot and has used Cena as a template for how he wants to be and an example of how to navigate through his own career. Sometimes knowing who to follow early is a great way to learn how to lead when the time comes. Seth Rollins seems to be doing that based on his Cena-like recovery time from such a catastrophic knee injury.
One of the most interesting aspects of the “24” special was hearing what other members of the roster had to say about him. Everyone who spoke on his behalf had glowing things to say about his ability, his work ethic and his character. He was the first NXT Champion and while he may not get lumped in with the “New Era” he may just be the one who actually started it.
Redesign. Rebuild. Reclaim. Seth Rollins has already redesigned who he is within the confines of WWE. He has rebuilt the knee that kept him out of action for almost seven months and caused him to miss the biggest WrestleMania ever. Reclaim. The way I see it, Seth doesn’t have anything to reclaim. I know it is in reference to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship that he never lost, but there could be something much bigger than that in his future. Seth Rollins is on the verge of claiming leadership of the WWE’s New Era.
WWE tells us often that wins and losses don’t matter, that titles don’t matter. Roman Reigns will win more matches than Seth Rollins. Roman Reigns will have more title reigns than Seth Rollins. But Seth Rollins will have the hearts and minds of wrestling fans until the day he hangs up his kick pads. Seth Rollins was billed as The Future when he split from The Shield, and The Future is now.