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Historically Significant Disasters of Wrestling #93: The 2019 World title reigns of Seth Rollins, Pt 1

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When The Shield broke up in 2014, nobody expected Seth Rollins to be the instigator. This was because that for all the heel work The Shield did, they could see a wonderful babyface star in him that sold like a demon and had a myriad of moves to boot.

When Seth was injured as champion the next year, people knew that it would only be a matter of time before he came back and climb his way back to the top, whilst relinquishing the Faustian pact of the Authority.

That journey would take Seth another 3.5 years, but finally at WrestleMania 35 he was crowned WWE Champion by defeating Brock Lesnar.

So why did it turn into a damp squib?

Well, let's start with a gentleman that would come to haunt much of Seth's 2019 in various ways.

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At the time of the Rumble Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were in a feud which most would have predicted to be bloody and compelling. Unfortunately, it was neither and instead (which we will discuss further in a later article) Ambrose seemed to be checked out and Rollins...seemed to struggle character-wise (and we'll get back to this). Then, after the Rumble, the WWE Universe got the news that Dean was not going to re-sign with WWE and so all of a sudden the WWE panicked and tried to milk the last drops out of The Shield cash cow. Indeed, the next Network special after 'Mania was the final match of The Shield.

Sooo...essentially the new WWE Universal Champion, in his first Network special was booked as part of a nostalgia act. And that would have been fine if Dean had been treated anywhere near decent for the two months prior to this, but instead he had been essentially kicked from pillar to post in a way that looked more vindictive than constructive. So this whole reunion all-in malarkey felt a bit...forced.

But we'll continue with Mr Ambrose (aka Mr Moxley) later. The next issue was this guy:

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One of the things about having Brock lose the title...is that you could have a title picture without Brock for a little while so you could allow the novelty of Brock to return and, oh I don't know, look at a full time champion. And this is not to say that I don't like the idea of Brock being Mr Money in the Bank (as I will elaborate on...soon), but I do think that if you have Brock hanging around like a bad smell than a) you are saying to the crowd that the title will go back on Brock soon enough and, by implication b) Seth is not enough to lead your brand.

And yes, their rematch at SummerSlam was good, but to get there Brock had to get the championship back, essentially cutting Seth's first reign off at 3 months. Why not give Seth a chance to breathe as champion so that when Brock eventually came back, it felt like the landscape had changed a little? Because this leads me to my main issue with (at least the first part) of Seth's reign.

Every world champion has an asset or two. That's how they got there and how you can get the best out of their reign. John Cena was a good looking guy who appealed to the kids and wrestled a safe meat-and-potatoes style. Daniel Bryan was a great wrestler who had a groundswell of support accumulated over years of work.

Seth Rollins on the other hand? Put it this way- I don't think the WWE has a better all-round in ring worker in the main roster in terms of physical in-ring skills than Seth. JBL may believe that Randy Orton was the perfect prototype of a pro wrestler ten years ago, but in today's more kinetic ring craft, you can't go past the Architect. Sure, he isn't CM Punk on the stick, but if you want someone to go 30 minutes on full bore, there are few better. It shouldn't be that hard to trust the guy to steal the freakin' show with the roster you have.

So naturally, WWE tried to turn them into Steve Austin with this guy as his Mr McMahon:

Baron Corbin is your 2019 King of the Ring winner - Cageside Seats

Look, it's not that I don't like Corbin. The guy is a great mid-card heel. But he's not the greatest in-ring worker that the WWE have. I mean he's not bad, it's just that he has a definite ceiling that doesn't scream PPV Main Event- particularly when the other dude is Seth Freakin' Rollins. And rather than make this feud a oncer where they can just do a 10min match in Saudi Arabia and then just move on to something else, they decided to over-egg the whole Attitude idea with Corbin then trying to rig the game by getting someone who was feuding with Becky Lynch at Stomping Grounds.

And with two other workers at another time, it could have worked. But the issue is that it didn't play to Rollins strengths as a performer. Austin vs Dude Love at Over the Edge worked despite the screwy booking because there was always something going on- whether it be some good wrestling, Undertaker prowled on the outside like a freakin' avatar of vengeance, Mr McMahon being the guest referee, and even the chaotic ending where Patterson and Briscoe went through tables, Foley hit Mr McMahon and somehow Austin won. This?...This was just two guys essentially having 3 matches with dwindling dividends waiting for Becky to come out.

And while we're on that subject...

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You know what I hate about WWE booking? When they have an organically explosive babyface who GOT OVER through their work and connection to the audience and rather than book their own path, they somehow decide that the best thing to do is get their top guy to team with them, as if cool can be transferred via osmosis. Dean Ambrose was in this position with Roman Reigns, and after having the biggest win of her career, Becky soon found herself being the support for Seth.

And that would be fine, except what it meant was Becky's story was essentially stuck in a holding pattern. And I know they are a couple in real life, but...when the person who won the first women's main event in WrestleMania history, who like Daniel Bryan before her essentially gate-crashed the main event of not-really-as-well received-outsider vs full-timer-we-are-sick-to-the-back-teeth-to, surely you'd be cashing in all of your chips on them and making sure their character isn't tainted by any rough storylines. Basically, not only did Creative scupper Rollins' first couple of months, they also scuppered Becky's trying to fix it.

Then Brock, of course, cashed in his MITB. So we were essentially back to square one.

And what was really crappy about all this? Nothing had changed. Sure, Brock was a bit...looser when he had the briefcase (I wonder if that was his idea and nobody in Creative had the balls to tell him 'no'...), but between Extreme Rules and SummerSlam we had the same tired routine of Seth coming out and being beaten to a pulp every week on Raw...And yes, the total murder of Rollins two weeks out was brutal, but then he came out the next week on the go home show...to be beaten up less brutally so he could cut a generic babyface promo.

And when you watch these again, you begin to realise that for all of Seth's unique talents and potential as a character...WWE could never get past "Burn it down". After all, how does one burn down the establishment when they're the main man? So instead, they reverted and essentially made Seth more bland than a WWE2k20 create-a-character in Universe Mode. This was Tyler Black for f*&k's sake!

And this is where we have to talk about a little birdy.

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So here's the thing: I genuinely believe that Seth is not a bad person, nor an arrogant person. But I do think that 2019 probably was a time where he felt under pressure. Confined in a company that had no earthly idea how to book him or portray him, he could only look on one of his stablemates who left was now being booked really well in a company that seemed to realise that (shock horror) not all babyfaces have to act the same way, while probably knowing deep down that at some point, he was going to be one out and back from his other stablemate again. And it also has to be acknowledged that no WWE Champion for almost two decades had really thought that they had to represent the product against rising competition (and, no TNA does not count).

So I don't think that it's a massive leap to think that Colby Lopez probably felt like he should take the mantle of the spokesman of WWE and to 'stand up' for it. To show that there was plenty of life in the ol' WWE yet.

And oh dear...

And to be clear, this is on WWE as well. As soon as Moxley shot on the creative process in WWE, immediately they should have told Seth not to return fire cause it would make him look like an entitled ingrate. And when you try to end an argument with another well regarded wrestler with how much you earn, it also makes you look like same. But worst of all, it was almost as if Seth was denying his indy cred. It was like Mr Burn it Down was replaced with Rupert Murdoch.

Oh, well maybe if they give Seth time he could re-build his character so long as they don't get him to face anyone too compelling and-

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Bollocks.

You had a champion that had been tweeting like he thought the WWE product was the best thing since sliced bread, who had any edge or uniqueness to his character essentially sandblasted away by a creative process that wanted Generic Babyface Champion #001 against someone who had taken the worst booking of his career...and transformed into an incredible multilayered gimmick which dealt with trauma, failure and rage.

In all seriousness, Wyatt should not have been allowed near Rollins. But because the WWE had done f*(k all in booking anyone plausible after Lesnar and Strowman, Vince and co. probably thought they needed a big match for Hell in a Cell. And then, for some reason of lunacy, booked the match with Vince wanting Seth to keep the freakin' title.

See, I am willing to bet that Vince has a hand in booking matches. But I bet he cares f&*k all about the finishes of said matches so long as the result stands. And what that means is that some poor road agent has to somehow, along with the workers, polish the substantial turd that Vince often leaves on their doorstep. And this is a perfect case in point.

I don't want to harp too much on their Hell in a Cell match only to say it was exactly the wrong call. If you were going to do it, then give the Fiend the title and see what happens. Better yet, have the Fiend murder Seth, but not care about the title, cause it's the freakin' Fiend. You know what you shouldn't do? Have Seth win in a totally idiotic way, and then set up a rematch in Saudi Arabia. No wonder people booed the hell out of it. 15 curb stomps get monotonous, after all and make the other dude look like a noob.

The Hell in a Cell match was really the straw that broke the camel's back as far as Seth Rollins, babyface champion was concerned. But it was only after that a really summation of the whole schmozzle could be seen. A couple of weeks after their match in the Cell, Wyatt was hosting a Firefly Fun House when Seth attacked and started wrecking stuff in a frenetic but kinda silly way. Wyatt, got up slowly and screamed "SETH!" before selling the hurt and betrayal of Firefly Bray as this man came and wrecked his home. It was wonderful acting and so clever. So what did Seth do after he got the better of Wyatt? He held a match up, lit the place on fire and said "Burn it down".

In the face of all that had happened over eight months of being champion, Seth Rollins never progressed, only regressed and when faced with the chance to work with one of the most creative minds in the business (honestly, look what he did with Cena and Bryan as a contrast), all Creative could do was clutch his catchphrase like it was a freakin' life raft through a sea of blah.

And that's article 93! Or Part One of it at least. Because I wonder...can this championship be salvaged? Well tune in next time as I put my re-booking hat on to do just that!

See you soon!

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The InVasion Saga

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

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