Before last night’s seven-man gauntlet match took place, Seth Rollins conducted an online exclusive interview, and one thing that he made sure to mention was that he was tired of being underappreciated. He knew both his value and worth to the WWE, and he didn’t want to be taken for granted anymore. It would end up being a clever act of foreshadowing.
Last night, Seth Rollins delivered an incredible individual performance, one that is sure to be talked about ad nauseum in the immediate future. In the longest recorded match in WWE history spanning 110 minutes, Rollins was the clear MVP of the outing, as he himself lasted over an hour in the match and proceeded to pin Roman Reigns and John Cena clean as a whistle in two consecutive matches, which is an incredible feat in any context. Now, I understand that the slow, mundane pacing of the match sort of hurt the flow, and the crowd couldn’t get into the majority of each match, but there was a great deal of surprise once they got to the near-fall portions, and especially the finishes. Of course, Seth lasting this long isn’t exactly something unheard of, as I’m sure you can find a plethora of matches spanning beyond WWE parameters that show wrestlers lasting that long, but there’s something special to be said about Rollins’ performance. Not only is it a rarity that Cena and Reigns lose cleanly straight up, but he did so while enduring a series of high-flying maneuvers and finishers. It also shows me the confidence that Vince and the brass have about Rollins to allow him to go out and do what he did.
But why is this performance exactly what he needed? Simple. Becuase, Seth Rollins, the first person to hold the NXT Title, the first and only person to hold the WWE Title and US Title at the same time, and the first and only person to cash in Money In The Bank at WrestleMania, was simply another ordinary character. He was just a talented high-flyer with a generic look and generic music you could find for a WWE 2K-create-a-wrestler. He wasn’t anything special. Think about what he’s done since WrestleMania 33. He was being placed in aimless feuds with the likes of Bray Wyatt, thrust in numerous multi-man matches, and went back to his roots in WWE in tag team wrestling with Dean Ambrose and Jason Jordan. He also feuded with the RAW Tag Team Champions, Cesaro and Sheamus, for what appeared to be an eternity. Seriously, I could not even begin to count how many singles matches with Cesaro and Sheamus or variations of matches Seth has had with those two in the past 8 months. Seth was basically a hamster on a wheel with no direction in sight. I remember when Seth first split from The Shield, people couldn’t wait until Seth became a face because many said he had the ultimate characteristics of a face. He had an exciting move set, the look, everything. People complained that he was too cowardly as a heel and his style didn’t correlate to the character he was portraying on television.
His face turn really didn’t amount to much, as he lost his feud with Kevin Owens, was saddled to work with Chris Jericho for seemingly months on end and another injury put his WrestleMania 33 status into jeopardy. WWE continued to try experimenting with him. From new T-shirts to a guy screaming “Burn It Down” for some reason at the top of his lungs before the drop in his theme music hit, it seemed like WWE was looking for something or anything to make Seth Rollins the top guy everyone saw the potential in him to be. Unfortunately, it never reached fruition. However, fast forward to last night.
Seth Rollins exhibited everything that WWE likes to see in a top-tier babyface. Rollins showed resiliency, urgency and a desire to never give up. All of those attributes are cliche indeed, but it certainly get the job done when it’s done right. Look at his match with Cena. After lasting 20 minutes with Roman Reigns, Rollins had to go around another half an hour to put away Cena. John kept telling Seth to give up. He kept knocking Seth down but Rollins kept getting up. Cena put the STF on Rollins three times, including reversing his body on the floor, but Rollins still managed to find whatever strength he had to reach the ropes. At one point I said that it was past the point of ridiculous.
Not because I hated the match, but because I couldn’t believe how long they were dragging it out. Rollins had never been booked this strong. Hell, for all of Roman and Cena’s superhuman feats, I can’t recall a time they were able to do what Rollins was doing. It didn’t look believable. I was sure that Cena was going to end it simply after one AA, but Seth somehow remained standing and pouting. Instead of choosing to be angry that WWE was doing the unbelievable, suspension of disbelief took control, and I was rooting for Rollins to finish off Cena, just because of the gravity of what it would mean. And dammit, he did it.
There is no way Rollins’ performance goes unnoticed or that it won’t go somewhere special. If you ask me, what Rollins did last night could facilitate his ascension back to the top of the card as one of WWE’s elites instead of being saddled in tag-team or mid-card purgatory. He’s been rumored to face Finn Balor at WrestleMania after Jason Jordan went down, and fans are already calling for a Summerslam-headlining match with AJ Styles. After last night’s performance, everyone should want that match. He looked like somebody you wanted to win. WWE likes a great underdog story, and that’s exactly the story Rollins was telling last night.
I’m not saying that Rollins’ performance is going to go down as one of the greatest matches ever (because despite all of this, Rollins still lost the match) and it won’t go down as one of the more memorable feats ever, save for the die-hard wrestling fanbase of WWE. However, it holds great gravity for Rollins, and he’s a guy that WWE needs to carry them into the future. The issue was before was that Rollins wasn’t nearly believable enough. I could be making too much out of one performance, but if WWE’s higher-ups have the confidence to defeat two superstars known for being far too overpowering in WWE reality, then I have no reason to believe this isn’t the start of something special for The Architect. Let’s see where it goes.