Architects can't keep up Houses of Cards...
The date was June 2nd 2014 on what seemed like a pretty exciting night of Raw. Batista had walked from his Evolution brothers after they had their arses handed to them on 2 consecutive PPVs by the Shield- the hottest act in WWE who had turned face only three months before. What would Hunter and Randy do? I mean, it's two against thr-
YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE SETH!!! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BRING BALANCE TO THE FORCE, NOT LEAVE IT IN DARKNESS!!!
Anyway, while most of us had fingered Ambrose for the turn, WWE had swerved us all. They didn't select Ambrose with his twisted mentality, or Reigns with his silent bad-assitude. They selected Seth Rollins- the guy who the whole crowd could see was the best wrestler and often did the lion's share of the bumping.
It was genius. Ambrose was too twisted as a character to do something like this. And Reigns couldn't be the guy yet- he was a hot tag. In hindsight, Rollins was the obvious choice to go join a heel known as the Cerebral Assassin.
Rollins subsequently won the Money in the Bank briefcase and began feuding in some really high profile matches, including with Dean Ambrose, John Cena and Brock Lesnar. Unlike other Money in the Bank winners (*cough* Ziggler *cough*) Seth was treated like a big deal. Sure he was a cowardly heel, but as soon as he stepped between those ropes you believed that this guy was main event material.
All of this is important because it then laid the groundwork for what happened next. In the 2015 Royal Rumble Roman Reigns got the right to challenge Brock Lesnar in a move which displeased the WWE Universe. At Fastlane the WWE had the epiphany of lining up Reigns against Daniel Bryan in order to attempt and show the crowd that "No, that D-Bry is yesterday's news, what you want is a big, brooding, flak-jacket-wearing slab of meat!"
But that darn WWE Universe just wouldn't listen.
Soooo on the face of it, Lesnar could have won the match and taken the belt away again for another god knows how many months, or Reigns could have won and been the most hated babyface ever to win a WWE title at Wrestlemania.
And then someone from creative piped up, "Hey, what about this guy?"
And all of a sudden Roman being booed out of the building was replaced with fans cheering the ascension of Seth Rollins, the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
And from there it went downhill...
For a start, almost immediately after Wrestlemania Rollins' finisher was changed from the vicious looking Curb Stomp to the Pedigree, a Triple H hand-me-down. And I understand that WWE is a family orientated product that doesn't want connotations with vicious real-life assaults. But did he have to take the friggin' Pedigree?! Rollins has more moves than John Travolta in the 1970s, there was a myriad of moves he could have chosen to be his new finisher. And I know that they were trying to tell a story about being Triple H's protoge and all that, but on the flip side it made it bloody obvious that Seth Rollins wasn't going to be his own type of champion.
He was going to be a heel Triple H type of champion, with everything that implied.
If you look at Rollins' heel promos before he becomes champion he comes off a smug jerk who knows with the damn briefcase that he only has to pick his spot and he'll be top dog. It's insufferable but great to watch because...he's right. After his victory however there are so many damn 10+ minute promos where he goes on and on and on while the crowd is sitting on its hands. And I know that people think that long heel promos before a babyface interrupts are a great way to gain heat for the heel as well as a pop for the babyface, but there are limits.
It didn't help that Rollins is a much improved talker, but he's still not a captivating talker the way Dean Ambrose is; or is in sync with his persona the way Bray Wyatt is; or is adaptable to the pulse of a situation as Chris Jericho is; or is able to bring the fire the way John Cena can.
Too many times during Seth's title run did he seem to filling time on the mic, and that's dangerous for a guy who is already linked to Mr Reign of Terror.
And while we're on the subject of the authority, can someone tell me if they were on Seth's side or not?! Because it sure bugged me sometimes.
Soooo, they were willing to get Kane to interfere to help Rollins against Orton. And they were ok about using somewhat shady rules to ensure that Ambrose didn't get the title. But then they turned to Rollins and said, "hey if you're that good, why not face Brock Lesnar for the title? Because we want to see how you handle pressure".
And then the next week, the whole authority was apparently ganging up on Brock Lesnar to teach him a thing or two. The same Authority that authorised the fucking match in the first place!!!
What shits me about all of this is the fact that Rollins' championship reign would have been the perfect opportunity for the Authority to take a marked step backwards. Their guy had the title, you could have still given him J&J Security if you wanted (I would have liked to see him start a new version of the Shield with two lower card guys or two guys from NXT, but anyway) and Hunter and Stephanie would no longer have to troll us every single fucking week. But instead, the Authority seemed to come forward into the limelight. Stephanie, who was heel, decided that she needed to introduce the Divas Revolution rather than...Trish Stratus maybe? Lita? With all this cognitive dissonance and limelight hogging, how is Rollins supposed to stand out as his own man? How are we supposed to count him different than other Authority champions (see Orton, Randy)? And more importantly, how can he mark out a consistent character when the people supporting him can't even seem to do the same?
And while we're on the subject of congitive dissonance.
It would be safe to say that in the first half of 2015 John Cena was the life support machine that Raw was hooked up to. Despite the fact that week after week Raw seemed to struggle with three hours of content, Cena would put his US Title on the line almost every week in a match of the show performance against the likes of Dean Ambrose, Neville, Cesaro and Sami Zayn. And with this in mind a program between Rollins and Cena must have seemed like a slam dunk.
The thing is, though, you have a US TItle holder and a WWE Title holder. And if the US Title holder keeps beating the WWE Title holder except for one time where a comedian intervenes...why is the former not the latter?
And the extraordinary thing is that is that it's not as if Cena was being wrapped in cotton wool in 2015. He took a clean loss to Kevin Owens and in October would lose his US Title clean to Alberto Del Rio. He also was pushed to the limit several times during his US Title challenge.
And the thing is that that when the Seth Rolliins did become United States Champion he had to pull double time on Night of Champions. Which again sounded cool except Cena won and Sting, the WWE World Heavyweight challenger lost, despite the fact that Rollins had already gone through two Attitude Adjustments (including one on the floor). If Rollins was clever and simply tapped out quickly to an STF in order to preserve himself for the WWE Championship match, that would at least protect Sting a little. As it was, it made Sting look like a bit of a noob.
And then the Stinger got injured and Rollins had to have a new opponent. Well, WWE has a bit of depth now I'm sure-
Look, as much as Vince can complain about millennials not grabbing the brass ring, etc, etc, he cannot turn around to the WWE universe and say, with the depth they now have on the roster that, in a match where they didn't even have to main event, Kane was the best option to face Seth Rollins and not any number of great young hungry wrestlers. Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler and Neville were on the fucking pre-show for God's sake! The notion that Vince didn't think that one of them could, for 15 minutes, be used against Rollins in order to make a good match and- who knows- a compelling one PPV angle where you could get some heat on Rollins because the fans could dare to dream is fucking mind-boggling.
And look, I have nothing against Kane. But he was 48 at the time of this PPV and had been involved with an Authority angle that had hamstrung Rollins more than added to his title reign. And all we want is for Rollins to keep the damn title, because as much as we respect Kane, we all know deep down that he isn't the wrestler he once was, nor would the WWE needle be shifted if Kane had the title strapped around his waist.
You may ask why am I talking about this need for Rollins to be his own man, and to gain heat and what purpose it would have served. Well, simply because hovering over his title reign like a black cloud was this guy.
Between April and November 2015, WWE embarked on a remarkable journey to rehab Roman Reigns from the scrapheap of such main event hopefuls like Hedenreich and Ryback back to the pathway of where he could main event a Wrestlemania. Between June and September he had embarked in a very good feud with Bray Wyatt which culminated in an amazing Hell in Cell match, which hadn't got the crowd thinking that Reigns was indeed the messiah...but throughout 2015 he had managed to win a grudging respect from a lot of the crowd who looked at him and thought..."yeah, the guy can actually wrestle". But if you're going to push this guy as the saviour from the evil Rollins, you really have to put Rollins over as someone whose face you'd like to see punched.
Of course all this went out the window when Rollins got injured attempting a sunset flip power bomb on Kane at a house show.
Now injuries happen in wrestling. It is a part of any contact sport (or contact sports entertainment). On the other hand...Rollins seemed to have only the one pace as champion: 100km/hr balls-to-the-wall. And the more that he had great matches, the more WWE kept using him on TV because they were afraid that Reigns would get booed out of the building. Which means as a champion he was used a hell of a lot more than a lot of WWE Champions, listed 7th for the total matches wrestled in 2015 despite his injury in early November. And when you look at the guys ahead of Rollins on that list (Reigns, Ambrose, Cesaro, Harper, Kingston and Big E)...you can't help but feel that maybe they know when to step it up a gear, and when to take it a little easier.
And this may seem like a guy who has never wrestled telling Colby Lopez how to do his job...but the injury really threw a spanner in his push. If he wasn't injured he would have lost the title at Survivor Series and then probably been lined up in a feud with Triple H at Wrestlemania where he would have been confirmed as a baby face. That all would have taken about 4 months with some exciting back and forth between the Game and the Architect. Now we've had the Game betray Rollins in August and not turn up again. While Rollins' baby face turn slowly grinds to a halt.
The 2015 title run of Seth Rollins showed to the WWE audience that the WWE were scared to let Rollins go at it at their own. And Vince and co. would point and the ratings and see "See! See how the ratings went down when Seth was champion! We had to have Stephanie and Hunter there to pop ratings". But the thing is, nobody held John Cena's hand when he first became champion. Nobody got in the Rock's way and told him how to speak when he was first WWE Champion. Heck, even when Triple H was champion Vince was mindful enough to give Hunter enough room to be a credible champion. But if you're going to keep sticking Triple H and Stephanie's mug on TV every single week then of course your champ is going to look diminished in comparison.
So many potential top level heels in that fucking company have had their pushes become a big crock of nothing because Stephanie and Triple H have to take them under their wing. You want to know one major reason why Smackdown is kicking Raw's arse at the moment? It's because its heels have room to have their own agendas. AJ, the Miz, hell even the Wyatt Family are beholden to no one. And they are compelling characters as a result.
Rollins never got that chance. And his character is still bearing the scars.
And that is article 70! Next time, in the spirit of the inauguration, we are going to look at Wrestlemania Main Event that tried to Make the WWE Title Great (and American) Again! While it succeeded at the latter, it sure failed at the former.
Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy
Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos
Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action
Article Four: "WHY AUSTIN DAMMIT?! WHY?