Before I begin this article, I’d like to state that I like Seth Rollins.
Rollins is an immensely talented in-ring performer, who has been involved in plenty of brilliant matches throughout his career. Whether in Ring of Honor, WWE or the independent scene, Rollins has proven that he can deliver in the ring as an in-ring competitor. Many of his peers think quite highly of him too. For example, Hall of Famer Kurt Angle believes Rollins is so talented, he is as good as Shawn Michaels:
Without question, Seth Rollins is pretty talented in the ring, but in my eyes, Rollins has fallen short of what I expect a true top-tier “sports entertainer” should be.
Rollins ticks the wrestling box and he has a decent look, but the piece he has always missed has been the character. He has always missed the boat for me in terms of how he is presented or the persona he uses to get to the top of the mountain.
In his first attempt in 2015, he was getting over and seemed ready to evolve into the top heel of WWE. But could he evolve his persona into a main event caliber character?
Don’t get me wrong, I was a big fan of his Shield and I quite enjoyed his run as an upper mid-card heel after he turned on his Shield buddies. His character work was as good as WWE could produce at the time, a low bar I know, but his chicken-sh*t heel persona was well suited to the upper mid-card tier of WWE. In between the ropes, his match with Daniel Bryan on June 10, 2013 edition of Raw, his bout with the former Dean Ambrose on August 18 2014 edition of Raw and his MVP performance in the triple threat with Brock Lesnar and John Cena at Royal Rumble 2015 are memorable standouts in my mind. He had it all going for him and he seemed like a decent shout to be the next top-level player in Vince’s company.
But as much as I enjoyed his cowardly heel schtick, it’s not a main event persona. Sure, look at Chris Jericho’s failed first WWE championship run. When any wrestler has been successful in WWE’s main event sphere, they have always had to evolve successfully as a character. When a talent gets the big push, whether they are, Jericho, CM Punk or Randy Orton, they have always needed evolution to their character to get them to the top. I chose these three names as their first runs didn’t go far enough to make them top-of-the-line superstars initially but did much better 2nd time around. These guys needed to evolve and grow to achieve being considered a top-level talent.
Seth, like the names above, didn’t make it as an over main event guy on his first attempt. Yes, he won the big one at WrestleMania 31 and it was a great memorable moment. But from that point onwards, what should have been his launching pad to becoming the next big thing in WWE, Seth’s main event career failed to take flight. From his big WrestleMania cash-in win, he just didn’t seem to click anymore, something was missing…character progression.
Seth continued his cowardly bad guy routine from the past year, but it simply didn’t work as a main event gimmick. It was clear to me that his character badly needed to shed its chicken-sh*t heel skin and evolve. From a storyline point of view, Seth Rollins needed to step up yet no real change occurred. Instead of any real metamorphism of his persona, his character stagnated. An overreliance on go-away heat merchants such as Kane and Big Show, as well as cowardly disqualification wins and count-out finishes did his presentation no favors in his goal to solidify himself as a top heel. He just wasn’t cutting it as the supposed biggest bad guy in the company and as a result, he floundered.
But WWE being WWE, they didn’t bother addressing this issue and the stale stench grew on Seth as the weeks and months passed He wasn’t over as a top heel and it showed. Poor Seth was made to look weak as he lost probably more than half of his matches and when he did win, he never really looked strong in victory. During the reign of heel Rollins, I couldn’t care less and became disinterested, as were many other fans. Ratings declined, going from a 2.8 to a 2.3 for the period between April and October 2015 and it wasn’t long before it was clear that Seth’s run as WWE’s World Heavyweight Champion was anything but successful from a business, financial or creative aspect.
A snapshot of how bad his reign was is summed up in this 2015 article.
But redemption in wrestling is always just around the corner, don’t believe me believe the best man, Miro, in AEW.
Seth would get injured at the tail end of 2015 and would be on the shelf for the best part of a year. Injuries are no fun, but they can be silver linings in disguise. I saw his injury as an opportunity for Seth to go away and not only rehab his injury, but to rehab his character. I was sick of him just before he tore his ACL, so the time away would give a much-needed rest and hopefully a retooling of his character.
To my dissatisfaction, Seth returned with the same lame crap he was doing prior to his injury, something Seth himself was unhappy with:
Thankfully, hope was right around the corner once more when he was discarded by the abysmal faction known as the Authority and turned face to seek vengeance against Triple H. This simple yet high-profile feud could be the making of him I thought. Right? Early days of his turn, Rollins showed glimpses of a main eventer face but as time progressed is was apparent to me that he just wasn’t suited to being a top face. Similar to Edge, his fiery good guy persona comes off as bland, disingenuous and unnatural, causing a disconnect with the audience.
Slaying the COO was seemingly the first step in launching Seth as the next top face, but vanilla face Seth just bounced around in meaningless stories with Jason Jordan, poorly executed Shield reunions and a god-awful feud with the newly turned Dean Ambrose. While he was still performing to a good level as a performer in between the ropes, and while he was doing his best to be the valiant hero WWE needed, Seth was sadly lacking.
Whether he was ready or not, WWE pushed forward by attempting to strap the rocket to his back and aimed for the moon by having Seth win the 2019 Royal Rumble and slay Brock Lesnar. Like I said, he wasn’t ready, but 2019 was such a horrible year creatively for WWE that he was arguably the best of an unready bunch. Needless to say, he simply didn’t have him the juice he needed to be a convincing top babyface and it wasn’t long before WWE gave him the big WrestleMania win anyway, putting him over Lesnar in the hopes of solidifying his status as top guy.
Alas, it didn’t work.
WWE’s creatively bankrupt writing crew just couldn’t launch Seth as a main eventer yet again.
As his reign progressed, Seth grew more and more unlikable as his cardboard hero routine whimpered on throughout 2019. Again, to Seth’s credit, he really tried. As an in-ring talent, he tried his best to provide the audience with the top face WWE sorely needed in terms of an in-ring performer and as a persona, he gave it his all to be the clean-cut hero. Unfortunately, his run mirrored more HBK 96… he just couldn’t connect as a top good guy.
Maybe this is what Kurt Angle meant?
Frustration began to show as his championship face run continued, with Seth voicing his is displeasure at the criticism leveled his way. Recently, Seth looked back at his time by saying :
“When you’re a babyface in this era, it is hard to keep people liking you. It is difficult because I think people’s natural reaction is, for whatever reason, to dislike almost everything, and I don’t know why that is.”
Whether right or wrong, the fans rejection of babyface Rollins continued, and Rollins, as the seemingly top company man was happy to push WWE’s narrative that the company is the best in the world in response to this criticism. Rollins would get into spats with fans, wrestlers of other companies and wrestling news sites and thus making himself utterly unlikable to the majority of wrestling fans. It was at this time that Rollins would state that he was happy with how WWE’s creative process worked:
“Absolutely I’m satisfied with it because I make a point to be satisfied with it. I make a point to contribute my ideas and my thoughts, and if I feel strongly about something the way it should be or the way it should be portrayed, then I will make my voice heard.”
If Seth was happy, he certainly didn’t appear to be. Rollins seemed to be very thin-skinned when it came to criticism and after his outbursts, his face run was at the point of no recovery as there was be widespread condemnation of his narcissism. The fans rejection of Rollins culminated when he faced off against the push-killing Fiend for the title. The fans wanted anyone else but Rollins at the top of the card and they even preferred the hokey antics of the sometimes invincible Bray Wyatt over Seth. The Fiend would defeat Rollins and once again Rollins was in no man’s land as a character. Seth’s character was obliterated.
But again, when one door opens, another has the potential to swing open. Seth Rollins took some time away, picked up the scraps of his character and attempted to rebuild with the Monday Night Messiah (MNM), a heel character born from the frustration at being rejected by the fans. On the face of it, it had persona rehab written all over it and redemption beckoned for Rollins.
The MNM had great potential on paper. There was more than a hint of reality in the gimmick, as Seth appeared to be genuinely channeling the resentment he felt and his natural cocky personality was shining through. His promo delivery was on point, it wasn’t over the top and he seemed to be relishing his newfound persona. Add in three capable stablemates in Murphy and The Authors of Pain, the MNM was gaining momentum. Could Seth Rollins be finally finding his feet as a main event talent?
Better than average feuds with the ever-enthusiastic Kevin Owens and well-protected Aliestar Black followed and it seemed that the stars were aligning for Mr. Rollins. Even a pandemic didn’t seem to be slowing him down.
Just when WWE seems to be getting it right with Rollins, they book the “eye for an eye” match at Extreme Rules 2020 and the character would nosedive.
While the match itself was fairly good, everything around it, including the extremely awful Rey Mysterio’s eyeball, became slowly hammed nails in the Messiah’s coffin. The feud jumped the shark with this ending and everyone involved should have gone away for a while until it blew over. WWE followed it up with a never-ending feud with Rey, his greener than the Hulk son Dominik and an outrageously inappropriate relationship between Rey’s daughter and Rollins lackey that went nowhere. The criticism of the angle was something Seth didn’t appreciate.
“At the end of the day, was it ideal? No. Did it catch people’s attention? Sure. It ended up on TMZ. We had a really good wrestling match with a provocative finish and I was not upset about it one bit.”
To be fair with Seth, the ending most likely wasn’t his call, nor was the stipulation, but the feud was rightly panned and his defense of such a widely panned angle did him more damage than good. The MNM was put on hiatus and by Christmas 2020, Seth Rollins was nowhere to be seen.
To his credit, Seth was developing his ability to reinvent himself and he has done so again in the form of his “Drip God” character. Rollins is now louder, both vocally and visually. I must admit to enjoy his outfits, but it’s his character that grinds my gears. He’s loud and annoying, and simply unlikable to the point where I want to hit fast forward in the remote, something I sadly do often when I watch WWE. Some fans will try to tell me that this is what a heel is setting out to accomplish and that by being so unlikable, he is doing his job to perfection. I respectfully disagree.
Seth in his current form is making me switch the channel. He and others seemingly think being loud and laughing like Jeff Jarrett’s mid-nineties character turned up to 11, makes him a top heel. His promos grate on me, the angles have been soft, in particular his weak, ode to “I’m Rick James” home invasion that came off like a neutered version of Steve Austin’s visit to the Pillman residence during the late ’90s.
Maybe it’s how WWE are presenting him, but he comes off like a camp pantomime villain. You strip away the suits and the inferno-esque entrance, and there is little substance to his current “Drip God” character.
To be fair to Seth, not everything is his fault. WWE has a knack for struggling to make new stars over the past decade and Seth clearly was a victim of poor character development and lazy booking choices in many instances.
The lack of success in his first try as top heel can’t all be brought to Seth’s door. Vince and the WWE writing team have to take the brunt of the blame. With no character evolution, coupled with being saddled with WWE’s 50/50 booking and the negative rubs from Kane, Big Show and the rest of the Authority, Seth never looked like getting over in 2015 as a main event talent.
In 2019, while Seth himself wasn’t ready, no other talent was either and that’s down to WWE. Vince and the company’s inability to forward plan, along with their persistence to continue with a push that is simply not working was clearly evident here. Seth is not suited as a face, never was and probably never will be, in the same way, Sting or Rey Mysterio aren’t suited to being heels. Even if WWE had got their act together creatively in 2019, I still don’t think Rollins was a good fit for top babyface.
His MNM moniker was his best chance at reaching main event success this far but horrendous booking decisions, such as going cold on Authors of Pain, the CGI eyeball finish, the infinity feud with Rey Mysterio, the uncomfortable side story with Rey’s daughter, being saddled with an inexperienced Dominik Mysterio… all contributed to the Messiah being killed off.
I have no time for him as a personality under his current guise and as usual, WWE is pushing him hard. But for me, no matter how good he is in the ring, he’s completely unlikable currently and this persona, in tandem with WWE’s garbage writing, will not make him main event material in my eyes in the near future. I’ve no problem with him being cocky and smug, but he needs to reel in the overacting and realize less is more.
Seth, in my opinion, has never fully been embraced by the majority of fans as a top main event player. I do not think Kurt Angle is correct when he compares him to Shawn Michaels. He’s close, but still some way off. I can see similarities to HBK, sure, but maybe not the same ones as Kurt Angle. He is a great performer inside the squared circle, a hard worker and has a similar wrestling style to Michael’s. He also is tasked with the job of making sure viewers stay tuned rather than switch to the competition, just like Shawn was in 96. Also, Shawn was the only real option as top face in 96, similar to Rollins being the best option available in 2019 despite not quite being ready. He also appears to be thin-skinned and his petulant side seems to emerge when things don’t go his way. But ultimately, I don’t consider him in the same league as Michaels and others. At least not yet.
He has been given a few shots at the position of WWE main eventer and he has never fully achieved his goal despite being on the edge of glory on more than one occasion. While he has won main event titles, he has yet to convince me that he truly belongs with names such as Bret Hart, Steve Austin or John Cena. Seth is 35, which means he still has years ahead of him and I genuinely want him to succeed.
After so many failed main event pushes, you have to wonder will Seth Rollins ever truly belong in the top tier of professional wrestling?