— I Thurman Mcmahon (@Thurmans_Power) October 14, 2015
I don’t want to give credit or publicity to the person who authored the terrible tweet above me, but it wouldn’t be fair — his terrible tweet is what spawned me to write the following article, so thank you terrible tweet author!
His point is that WWE’s plummeting ratings (they set a new non-holiday record low this past week) are a result of WWE pushing “indy darlings” including, of course, WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins.
Our terrible tweet author isn’t totally wrong, since Rollins became champion after cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 31, ratings have not been good. They’ve been so bad that 2015 seems almost certain to be the lowest rated year of WWE Raw since 1998. That’s nothing new for WWE though, they’ve set record lows each year since 2011.
More specifically, WWE Raw ratings have plummeted since Labor Day and have been hit hard by the return of the NFL and their flagship Monday Night Football broadcast:
If we’re being fair, some of that blame has to go to WWE World Heavyweight Champion and the presumed focal point of the company as a result of owning the hardware, Seth Rollins, right?
You could make a case that he’s been an unsuccessful champion. The proof is in the ratings, the live event attendance and the general malaise currently surrounding the products. However, blaming Rollins without taking a bigger look at his positioning and how he’s been portrayed as that presumed focal point of the company.
Whether Nikki Bella wants to admit it or not, wins and losses DO matter.
Do they matter to WWE? Maybe not. It seems more and more over the last few years that WWE simply believes that a wrestler can be rehabbed or plucked from nowhere, given the rocket ship and be ready for takeover. Rarely does this work. Wins and losses may not matter in the overarching, multiple-year story of a performer but they matter a lot in how fans perceived said performer. WWE loves to name drop UFC fighter Ronda Rousey and for good reason, she’s a fantastic symbol of building a star organically. Rousey became who she was not just because she’s an attractive woman who fights in their company. She became a star because she won. She won a lot. She won convincingly. Fans naturally rally behind winners. On the flip side, performers/fighters/sports team they don’t like that win a lot — also become hated heels. The New England Patriots would not be the heels of the NFL if they deflated footballs, filming practices en route to their 4th 8-8 season in a row. That they are so successful while seemingly circumventing the antiquated rules of the National Football League is what makes them hated heels. Them routinely being in the title picture makes them hated. Nobody cares if you cheat and still suck — why would they?
This brings us back to Seth Rollins’, WWE’s World Heavyweight Champion, we mentioned how his run has been anything but successful from a business, financial or creative aspect. The time will certainly come soon when we’ll have the full title reign in front of us and can break it down in greater detail, rank it among all-time bad title reigns (unless it takes an immediate turn for the better), discuss the limitations of using a heel World Champion as a proxy for your heel authority figure, how Rollins’ petulant child act wore thin quickly, how Seth’s naivety to The Authority’s evil plans was both cute and counterproductive.
That piece will come eventually but today I simply wanted to look at the Win/Loss record for Rollins, brought on by a historically awful September that saw him go 2-8 in televised matches. Rollins’ October hasn’t been much kinder to Rollins’ as he’s already 0-3 putting his two-month. Yes in his last 13 matches, Rollins has only won twice. That’s a 15% Win Percentage for your World Champion — why aren’t people tuning into this?! Overall, the W/L column has not been kind to Rollins who owns a 36.88% average since winning the title at WrestleMania 32. It hasn’t been all bad, in both April (5-2) and August (3-1), Rollins’ had respectable Win Percentages. The rest, an absolute dumpster fire. Rollins was 2-5 in May, 2-4 in July and of course, his prolific September and October where he went a combined 2-13.
This graph shows exactly the reason so many think Rollins’ is failing as a World Champion. It has nothing to do with the man’s performance because throughout this dataset, he’s put together great matches. He’s been a constant on our Match of the Month polls and his two-match performance at WWE SummerSlam 2015 was all-time good. The problem doesn’t lie with Rollins whatsoever but rather the uninspired, uninteresting and frankly destructive way he’s been booked.
Even in wins Rollins’ rarely looks like the better of the two men, rarely does he look like a champion who rose to power by anything more than a friendship with those pulling the string (kayfabe). That story worked wonders when Daniel Bryan (the legitimate under pushed performer) attempted to dethrone Randy Orton and Batista (legitimate favorites of those in power). However like most WWE storylines, once they work, they are beaten into absolute submission (hey, kind of like Rollins) until they no longer register on anything more than a tertiary level with even the most ardent fan. Daniel Bryan worked because there was a legit cry from the fans that someone they wanted to be pushed, wasn’t. Instead, guys who have been rammed down their throats like Orton were getting that spot…again. It worked because it had truth embedded into it. Nobody believes Rollins’ is legitimately a favorite of The Authority. Even if they do, who has been the hero? Who’s been the one to try and unseat Rollins, The Authority and be the rallying hero for the fans? Good question. Much of Rollins’ time as champion has been spent in-fighting with fellow Authority stablemate Corporate Kane.
Worse of all, Rollins loses all the goddamn time. Way too much for a champion, right?
I asked our followers to identify a few of those terrible reigns so I could compare and contrast win/loss records across reigns. Again, I won’t be doing a deep dive into the booking patterns of each of these performers, what went into their title reigns, why it didn’t work, etc. I simply wanted to look at win/loss records so we can see if Rollins is being treated historically bad or if this is just par for the course of modern WWE Champions not named John Cena and Randy Orton.
Seth Rollins vs. Rey Mysterio (2006)
The famously awful Rey Mysterio reign in 2006 is the first that comes to my mind when we talk about truly destructive, regressive World Title reigns. Mysterio won the title at WrestleMania 22 and almost immediately it seemed, Vince McMahon regretted it. Famously, Vince would discuss the impending doom for Rey’s title reign at nearly every creative meeting reminding people to start thinking of the next step not if, but when he made the call.
Turns out, it wasn’t half bad.
I mean, don’t get me wrong it was really awful but if 2005 smarks were to jump ahead 10 years, we’d be ecstatic that our World Champion only lost 50% and 40% of the time. It wasn’t a good reign by any means but it certainly never reached the lows that Rollins has reached.
Seth Rollins vs. The Miz
Remember when The Miz main evented a WrestleMania and left as champion? His reign was highlighted by a multiple month feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler wherein Lawler actually looked like the bigger, stronger and tougher guy. He was in his 60s. How’d Miz fare in the W/L column?
Look at this miserable reign. At no point did Miz have a Win Percentage above 75% and in four of the six months he had a below 40% Win Percentage.
We may have found our first relevant comp to Rollins.
Seth Rollins vs. Jack Swagger (2010)
You don’t remember the famous Jack Swagger World Title reign?! Swagger won the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 26, hinted at cashing in against John Cena on the Raw after WrestleMania then actually cashed in on the March 30, 2010 episode of SmackDown. Highlights of this reign included intentionally disqualifying himself in a match against the Big Show and very other things that once again seem all too familiar in current context.
This is a really bad reign, historically bad but lacks the bad longevity we get from Rollins. Swagger started the reign with a 4-3 April but quickly followed it with a Rollins-esque 0-5 in May before going 1-2 in June as he eventually lost the title.
Seth Rollins vs. Alberto Del Rio (2013)
The 2013 World Title reign from Del Rio started off on a great foot as Alberto used heel tactics to defeat the previously concussed Dolph Ziggler. This was one of the rare instances of a double-turn working to perfection in wrestling as Del Rio went from face to heel while Ziggler assumed the face role he still largely holds today. I remember this reign having some issues but was surprised when it was recommended as one to take a look at. As I predicted, Del Rio blows Rollins out of the water.
Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler (2013)
Speaking of 2013, let’s take a look at Dolph Ziggler’s reign from that year. You’ll recall Dolph famously won the title the night after WrestleMania cashing in on Alberto Del Rio, targeting Del Rio’s injured leg to win the title. This was the motivation Del Rio used to focus on Ziggler’s head when he won the title. It was some great storytelling in a great year for WWE both in-ring and creatively. Ziggler’s success as champion, well, it wasn’t quite there.
Ziggler’s reign on it’s face looks worse than Rollins, for god’s sake the guy won under 50% of his matches the first month then didn’t win again. It was bad but what’s even more glaring is just how little Ziggler worked as champion. He was 2-3 his first month with the title then a combined 0-2 in both May and June. Of course, the reason for this was Ziggler suffering a legitimate concussion during his reign, playing into the story that was eventually told with Del Rio. With that cavet, I’m not quite sure how fair it is to compare his reign since we aren’t sure where this would’ve gone or what their plans were for him.
Regardless, this gives us a snapshot at just how terrible Rollins’ current reign compares with these others on a purely win/loss level. There’s much more to go into, but there will be a time and a place for that eventually. The only legit comparable I’ve seen is The Miz who had an equally awful reign for a near-equal amount of time.