WWE: Coping With The Conundrum Of The Rollins Loss by Marc Madison

Direction is so important when it comes to professional wrestling. It is important to know why something is going in a particular direction. But in the WWE, direction as it applies to the WWE World Heavyweight championship is very protected. Much like their main event, it is something that the promotion takes very seriously.

Seth Rollins’ recent knee injury, sudden as it was, left the company unprepared for what to do next. Rollins’ value as not only the champion, but as the face of the main event picture is immeasurable. He is also the top heel in the company, and thusWWE has a number of things they need to consider. Who takes his place as the top heel? Who captures the WWE title? Who will be able to sustain the workload that Rollins brought to the table? Where exactly does the company go from here and who takes on that responsibility? It is unquestionably a major loss for the promotion, which is now scrambling to find answers to all these questions.

If there was one thing that stood out about Rollins, it was his durability and his ability to make those around him look better than they did before they stepped into the ring with him. For all the fear that this has brought, and the need to rethink the direction, it should be noted that this isn’t the end, but rather a change in plans. Sure, there are a number of plans that are going to be changed, but it doesn’t mean that the company folds up, closes down and concedes their place as the largest promotion in the world.

The direction of the company as it pertains to the WWE World Heavyweight championship along with whom will be the top heel of the company remains a very hot topic. It’s a topic that has brought out a number of different theories about who takes that spot. Whether it has been theories about Roman Reigns capturing the title, to Sheamus cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase and winning the title, speculation is hot and heavy. So when we speculate about whom will walk away with the title, we should make sure to consider who makes sense for the promotion to put in that position. Whoever it is, WWE would have to have complete faith that the person, and in particular their health.

When Daniel Bryan captured the title at Wrestlemania XXX, the story made sense and all involved fully supported the direction of that title. But after holding the title a couple of months he had to relinquish it because he was injured, and once again a change in title plans occurred, and they looked to put it on someone reliable and health. So once again, John Cena was called upon to capture the title and become the WWE World Heavyweight champion. Was it a popular move? To those that enjoy John Cena it certainly was. To the marketing and promotions department it unquestionably had to be as well. But did it offer something new and fresh? That’s a different story altogether. But as was mentioned earlier, the WWE wants as sure a thing as possible. They later took a chance with Rollins, but he’s continued to work at being the top heel and the champion. There has to be some skepticism on the company’s part about starting over with a major event approaching.

At SummerSlam 2014, Brock Lesnar defeated John Cena for the title in what was basically, a squash match. The title was thus on someone who, as Paul Heyman put it, was like Santa Claus: he wasn’t around too much, but when he was it was a major occasion. Lesnar held the title while competing on a limited basis until Wrestlemania XXXI, where Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract. He capitalized on the opportunity by defeating Roman Reigns during the match between Lesnar and Reigns.

Many fans weren’t warm to the idea of having Cena hold the title again, and are likely even less convinced that it is a good idea now. Lesnar wasn’t injured and he was convincing as champion, but Rollins had something that Lesnar didn’t have, a full-time contract. And, he was easy to dislike as the smarmy heel and is a great worker in the ring making those around him better. As big, intimidating and fierce as Brock is, his ability to sell convincingly and work a feud where he isn’t the most dominant person in either the match or the program is rare. Rollins slipped in, took advantage of a chance where both Reigns and Lesnar were worn down and he could easily capitalize on his chance to capture the title.

Now, much like the Bryan injury last year, the company is forced to have to change direction. The forced change could lead to a temporary fix for a long-term situation. Whoever they put in that place to rule the roost and lead the company forward is someone they need to be forward thinking about. The problem after the Bryan injury was that they settled with what they knew in John Cena. Rollins’ recovery is listed as being 6-9 months away. As someone that has suffered a torn ACL and meniscus, the recovery is tedious and painful, but not insurmountable. The problem with a torn ACL is that while the ligament does get stronger, the chances of it being re-torn are always there. It’s a risk much like anything else.

While I don’t intend to diminish Rollins’ value or importance, he, like anyone else is replaceable. To sustain an injury of this magnitude and be able to compete at his previous level once he returns is unlikely. When we consider the several knee injuries ReyMysterio sustained, it is clear to see that a number of things change, and most notably is your ring style. The unfortunate part about Rollins is his being replaced as the champion wasn’t a decision he made, but much like Daniel Bryan, was made for him.

Despite a sense of disappointment, the company will go on. Will it be less entertaining? Maybe. I say maybe because if there is something the company has always managed to do is they continue to try to develop talent. So there is always the opportunity to move someone from mid-card status to main event status. It also puts a lower ranked heel into a higher rank as well. It doesn’t need to be seen as all doom and gloom. As it stands, Rollins was the top heel in the company, with the likes of Bray Wyatt, Kevin Owens and Sheamus among the other notable challengers. Will that change now?

While fans of Rollins are disappointed by these events, there are always options available. The question is, are fans content enough with those options or are they less likely to accept any of the other options available? To quote a phrase from Seth Rollins, will fans ‘buy in?’ Will they buy in to Roman Reigns or Sheamus holding the title? Within the last couple of years, fans have proven to be more vocal about not wanting Roman Reigns win. The problem is, options are thin and a great deal has to happen in the short-term to determine who would be a prime face for the title. Whoever it is, maybe they need something as drastic a change of character to convince fans to buy in. Would a Roman Reigns heel turn manage to draw fans in? More than likely. The idea of the anti-hero being the face of the company would be certainly a way to direct Reigns’ character. Triple H teasing a Roman Reigns heel turn on a recent episode of Raw also leads fans to believe that it is a plausible option. Fans in attendance appeared warm to the idea that a Reigns heel turn would be the best idea possible. This is what the company faces now. They are torn between building stars and taking risks, both of which are a necessity. A multi-million dollar company has enough resources to do both. They have the chance to make stars from this situation.

They have the opportunity to build characters and elevate a number of guys simultaneously too, which isn’t usually the case. Dean Ambrose, Reigns, Alberto Del Rio, and Owens are among the names of performers that can work a program, a crowd and get fans to either resent them or love them. It really is that simple. The company, faced with adversity and challenges, needs to roll with them. I don’t want to diminish the importance of this loss, but a sense of panic doesn’t do them much good either. There will have to be an adjustment period. A time where ratings for pay per views may be down because fans will be less convinced in who, is the champion.

Were fans compelled to see Rollins get what he deserved? No question. That is a mark of a character that is effective in his role. We are compelled to want to see him beaten to a pulp because he is such a slime ball. Is there someone that fits that role or could? Is there someone that could do that without having to turn? Kevin Owens has been that guy because he fights for himself and himself alone. The transition to be Triple H’s guy for Kevin Owens isn’t much of a stretch. On social media, Triple H has been very high on Owens, and it would be somewhat fitting if it is Owens that takes Rollins place. Fans may recall that, in an ironic twist of fate, it was Owens that said to Rollins ‘You owe me one’ on the last Raw before Rollins’ injury. This may in fact be the ‘one’ that Owens gets.

Whoever the choice is to take that spot, rest assured there are plenty of options and developing top stars is exactly what the company will do. They will just have to roll with the punches and make a change.

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