Looking at the constant evolution of Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins is currently the best version of himself that we’ve ever seen. Under his new gimmick as the Messiah of Monday Night Raw, he has flourished in ways that we just haven’t seen before. His match against Drew McIntyre at Money in the Bank for the WWE Championship was excellent. The build to it, especially the character work of Rollins, was also excellent. Rollins delivered his promos with a soft, menacing delivery that can only be compared to Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts. His soliloquies on the microphone showed a confidence and a masterclass in character control that gave audiences a glimpse at what Rollins can really do. His preach that he didn’t want to take the title from McIntyre, but knew that he had to for the greater good was money. The character is supposed to be a savior, whether he wants to be or not.
But Seth Rollins isn’t the Messiah; he’s Judas.
The Beginnings: ROH
This goes all the way back to a little-known indie darling named Tyler Black. Black debuted in Ring of Honor as a young lackey to Jimmy Jacobs in the group Age of the Fall, a group with very serious demonic undertones. Seriously, the debut of the group ends with the image of Jacobs wearing a white suit completely covered in blood.
Fast forward over a year and there is some dissension in the group. Jacobs is in the midst of a match with Austin Aries and Black is prevented from throwing in the towel, forcing Jacobs to verbally submit. This doesn’t sit well with Jacobs, who yells at Black immediately after the match. At Final Battle 2008, Black faced Aries in a number one contender’s match for the ROH Championship. Jacobs caused a distraction that cost Black the match. After the bell, Black attacked both Jacobs and Aries, officially breaking off from his mentor.
Black became a babyface with fire. A young, energetic and talented wrestler that shot up the ranks of ROH quickly. After beating Jacobs in a cage match at the beginning of 2009, Black would be in the main event of Final Battle in December against the then ROH Champion Aries. The match went to a 60-minute time limit. Black did have his moment a few months later, capturing the promotion’s top championship. Black was just 24 years old at the time and carried the belt with maturity. That is, until the big leagues came calling.
The Next: WWE
In August of 2010, Black signed a deal with WWE. He was still the ROH Champion and completely turned his back on everyone, threatening to take the belt with him. While he would lose the belt, the change in his attitude and the hunger to be more than just a champion stayed with Black. As he embarked to Florida Championship Wrestling, he was no longer Tyler Black. He was now Seth Rollins.
Rollins built up a lot of good will in FCW and the early stages of NXT, even becoming the inaugural NXT Champion. But that wasn’t enough for Rollins, who longed for the glory that was the main roster. Once again, Rollins turned his back on the fans when he went from beloved babyface champion on NXT to flashy brute as part of the Shield, getting his wish. As the group transitioned to the babyface side of things, Rollins stood out as the aerial sparkplug of the group. That is, until he took a chair and put it through the backs of his fellow Shield brothers. This brought out the Architect; the “future” of the WWE.
Rollins has no idea just how right about that he was.
As he grew in a role underneath the Authority, Rollins started seeing success. A Money in the Bank briefcase, a starring role in the Survivor Series 10-man tag match, a star-making performance in a triple threat match for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble and the cherry on the sundae, one of the greatest moments in WWE history: when he cashed in his briefcase to win the WWE Championship in the main event of Wrestlemania 31.
Rollins grew in his newfound spotlight. He flourished under the pressure of holding the belt while the product was in the midst of a youth movement. Rollins was the real leader of that transformation with his promos and excellent matches. The weight of carrying a company caught up to him, however, when he tore his ACL and was forced to relinquish his title and be on the shelf for the foreseeable future. He vowed to redesign and rebuild himself so that he could reclaim the title that he never lost.
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And he did just that.
Upon returning in May of the following year, Rollins immediately went after former Shield brother and WWE Champion Roman Reigns. He won his title back at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view just a month later before being completely upended by his other former Shield stablemate and longtime rival Dean Ambrose, who cashed in the briefcase that he had claimed earlier in the night and won the WWE Championship from Rollins.
The trio embarked on a feud that quickly turned into a program between Rollins and Ambrose, the two only being separated by the brand split that returned. Still in bed with the Authority, Rollins was the focus of the Raw brand. That is, until Finn Balor beat him at SummerSlam for the Universal Title, a match that was completely tarnished by the fans taking over and ruining the moment. Rollins never forgot that.
In the aftermath of the injury to Balor, Rollins was in a four-way match to determine the new champion. In the match, Triple H, Rollins’ mentor, came out and turned his back on his protege, handing the belt to Kevin Owens. From here, Rollins goes babyface and stays that way until his most recent run, where he turned heel on, you guessed it, Kevin Owens.
While the early iteration of this character was hit or miss, the potential was there. The idea of Rollins being this delusional prophet and having disciples is a slight callback to CM Punk’s character in the Straight Edge Society. The difference is that Rollins doesn’t want to help anyone, he wants to lead them. The reason he attacked McIntyre is because the WWE Championship, the top belt in the company, is his way of being the face of the company. He wants the attention, the adulation, the burden and the responsibility.
The Now: Prophet
Against McIntyre, Rollins had so many chances to put him away, but his immaturity showed up to ruin it for him. He’s so focused on himself that he wasn’t focused on his opponent. He didn’t finish the job. In fact, he almost cost himself the match on multiple occasions because of his need to be better. Whether it was getting the chair and throwing it away, pushing the limits on the count outside or just plain being careless, the guy was everything but the example that he sets himself apart as. After the match, McIntyre extended his hand to Rollins, and in disbelief and a face that screamed out “I’m so going to beat you up again,” Rollins shook it.
The next night, he came out all disheveled and when provoked by Rey Mysterio, completely snapped. Rollins forced Mysterio’s eye into the corner of a staircase. He was no longer the Messiah. Rollins officially became Judas. He completely relinquished his soft personality and is now going to unleash hell on the roster. This character is so complex and complete.
The reason Rollins has been so great in the role is because of the current state of the wrestling business. He may be the only character that has actually benefited from the empty arena. He’s a delusional “prophet” whose sermons fall on deaf ears. He is quite literally preaching to an empty crowd, so he can do and say whatever he wants without being interrupted. This has allowed Rollins to push the envelope in ways that may not have worked with a live crowd. He believes that he is the wrestling equivalent of Jesus Christ.
Except he’s the guy that would sell out to get in favor with the authority. He’s the guy that would turn his back on the fans because he signed a big contract with the top company. Rollins is the guy who turned his back on the fans because they were more interested in another wrestler. He’s the guy with the new, over the top entrance.
This new, reimagined version of the Seth Rollins character is the best one of them all. He encapsulates what made the rest of them so great, a greed and hunger for greatness that goes unmatched. This character has pieced it all together on the mic, in character development and in the ring. In due time, he’ll prove just how great he truly is. Does that make him the Messiah? No. But it does make him what he’s always set out to be: the best.