At WrestleMania 31, John Cena defeated Rusev for the United States Championship. Later that evening, Seth Rollins became the WWE World Heavyweight Champion in epic fashion to close the show. I remember vividly, the last thing we saw was “The Architect” standing triumphant on professional wrestling’s grandest stage.
For Seth, that moment was the culmination of a very impressive 10-month run. His story was slightly re-told to deem him the mastermind behind The Shield, but it fit nicely. That story was parlayed into his “buying in” to The Authority. It led to his winning the Money in the Bank contract as well as his show-stealing performance in the Triple Threat match at the Royal Rumble. Rollins had climbed the ladder by any means necessary and it paid off with one of the all-time great WrestleMania moments.
John Cena’s subsequent reign as the U.S. Champion has arguably been his most entertaining stretch. While I find the John Cena character incredibly boring and annoying, I don’t hate the guy. I think he is passionate about his profession and he shows it with the fact that he is actually still improving, even as he approaches 40 years of age. His U.S. Open Challenge was a weekly highlight of Raw.
While some complained that it was a weekly Cena burying ritual, he truly did put on consistently great matches with the best new faces in the industry. While he obviously won every week, he allowed younger performers like Neville and Sami Zayn to shine. He even dropped a match to Kevin Owens to a clean 3-count. I personally believe this was the best place for Cena. By removing him from the World Title picture it allowed him to improve the mid-card and I think it helped him earn some respect from some of his detractors.
While Cena was nobly defending his newfound title at every opportunity, Seth Rollins turned more dastardly than ever. He consistently retained his title through disqualifications, outside interference, technicalities and sometimes simply weaseling out of even defending it in the first place. While he wasn’t always booked as strong as he could have been, it was an enjoyable title reign.
Seth Rollins and John Cena were two men at different points in their careers forging two separate but entertaining paths. At Battleground Cena successfully retained by submitting Kevin Owens. Rollins successfully retained against Brock Lesnar via The Undertaker showing up and obliterating Brock. This was the start of what seems to have become a new trope for Seth. He became a complete afterthought. I didn’t hate the finish so much as the fact that the lights came on to reveal The Undertaker and Rollins wasn’t even in the ring anymore. And no mention was made of the match until the following night on Raw.
As if Seth’s disappearing act at Battleground wasn’t enough, the following night on Raw, out of thin air, here comes Cena to start a new feud with the champion. This led to a U.S. Title match between the two on Raw the following week, which ended with Rollins cleanly tapping out. This despite the fact that Cena’s nose had been accidentally splattered across his face during the match. This match was the catalyst for the Title vs. Title match at SummerSlam, which saw Seth win, albeit with help from Jon Stewart.
That match led, of course, to Night of Champions which saw Cena beat Rollins clean with an AA. Rollins did salvage his night by retaining his belt against Sting, but that ended with Kane coming out and destroying him. Once again, Seth Rollins was an afterthought but this time the star was Kane. To make matters worse, there was a U.S. Championship rematch on Raw the following night which ended the same way.
Now excuse me for being confused here but didn’t they make a relatively big deal about Seth Rollins being the first man to hold both the World Heavyweight Championship and the U.S. Championship simultaneously? If that was the story you were going with, then why did the story end with Seth looking worse after the story ended than before it started?
It’s one thing that we basically all have to accept that no one is going to come out on top against Cena. We know better by now, but it’s more the way he is losing to Cena. During all those U.S. Open Challenge matches, how many lesser talents were seen kicking out of the AA and taking Cena to the brink? Seth wasn’t able to survive one in either match last week. So not only is Cena owning him, but he’s being made to look weaker than the likes of Neville and Sami Zayn. In an era where almost every match takes multiple finishers, your champion is the one guy that’s actually finished with one.
Offensively, a big deal was made about Rollins’ Curb Stomp being banned. It was a cool move and I liked it, but he has the Phoenix Splash which is a beautiful finisher and he never gets to use it. Much like the attempted Frog Splash at Night of Champions, it’s relegated to a spot that’s always easily evaded by his opponent. So it takes multiple finishers to close most matches, but your champion is finished by one and rarely, if ever, gets to actually use his own.
There is just no consistency with the telling of his story. As a fan it’s getting harder to watch. He is billed as the future. He is the best performer in the company. He’s given the title, but he isn’t allowed to be the man. He gets run over by Cena at every opportunity and then he gets to clean up the likes of Sting and Kane. Are these really the guys to build a legacy on in 2015?
TJR’s Matthew J. Douglas beautifully touched on the nuances of the Seth Rollins character and the many inconsistencies that are presented. I am 100% with him that Rollins should be portrayed as a clever villain more so than the buffoon that falls unwittingly into success. In fact, he actually was portrayed that way prior to becoming the champion.
I don’t have quite as much of a problem with the character inconsistencies because I actually find Seth entertaining as a whining, entitled, crybaby. I enjoy watching him run away and cower to his opponents. I loved him complaining about his statue. His actual acting ability has become a real strength. To me the real crime is that there is absolutely no plan or seemingly not even any thought put into any of this.
Rollins’ feud with Sting, aside from the fact that it played second fiddle to the Cena feud, was almost as much about Triple H as it was about Rollins himself. Then Kane comes out to attack Seth for revenge, but in the process he actually saves Seth from losing his title to Sheamus. None of it adds up.
I’ve heard friends and seen a few commenters pose the idea that Rollins will keep the title long enough to eclipse the 434-day reign of CM Punk. If WWE is going to do that they better at least make it mean something. After a hollow United States Championship run I have no interest in seeing WWE run out the clock on Punk’s feat just because they want to erase him from their history.
Instead of just doing things for the sake of doing them, how about taking the time to actually build the guy up to be a legitimate adversary for John Cena?
Seth Rollins is the best in-ring performer in the business today and he’s grown by leaps and bounds as an overall entertainer over the past year. There is no reason he shouldn’t be the company’s next big star. The only thing that can prevent him from reaching his true potential is WWE itself.