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Seth Rollins: The way AEW wrestlers reference WWE ‘reeks of desperation’

Seth Rollins has caught a lot of flak over the years for his comments comparing WWE to other wrestling companies. He’s probably going to catch more for his remarks on the latest Sports Illustrated Media Podcast. But what Rollins said to Jimmy Traina is a more nuanced take than most of what he’s offered up in the past — and it’s not impossible it could be part of his WrestleMania program.

Traina asked Rollins if anyone backstage spoke to him after he name-dropped AEW’s Jon Moxley on the Jan. 21 episode of SmackDown (something Seth’s explained his rationale for in past interviews):

“Not one thing. Not one single thing. Nobody said anything to me about it. Everyone knows he’s a part of our history. You can’t do Seth and Roman without Dean or Mox, whatever you want to call him, you can’t do it. To ignore that part of our history and to just try and put him aside and focus on Roman and Seth, the focus was Roman and Seth, that was the story but he’s a part of that. So, to just ignore that and completely pretend he didn’t exist is just silly. I referred to him by the name that he prefers to go by and so that’s where we’re at with that. I heard nothing in response to it backstage at all.”

As a comparison, the references to WWE from CM Punk & MJF’s recent feud were brought up. Rollins was asked about talking about the competition in that way, and responded:

“To me, it’s one of those things where, if it’s very useful, it’s fine. The references you spoke of are two kind of different things.

“I didn’t use the reference to Mox to talk down to somebody. I wasn’t trying to diminish anybody’s accomplishments, it wasn’t like that. He’s part of our story. Roman wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for him and I.

“The other side of that coin is the way that it can be used by those guys. They can do whatever they want, I find it very tacky and very low-brow, personally. I think it looks and reeks of desperation and I just don’t think it’s anything on our television show that we need to go there and talk down about those guys.

“They’re doing their thing, they’re doing it very well, we’re very happy for them, I am, at least, personally. Are they on our level? No, they’ve got a long way to go to catch up to us and that’s fine and they know that. They do things differently but for me, my perspective, it’s just a little step down for us to kind of use it as an insult. That’s my perspective on it but people may not share but people may not share that opinion.”

Tacky, low-bow, and reeks of desperation are the headline-grabbing* soundbites, but overall, Seth’s perspective here is fair (promotional hyperbole aside, as impressive as AEW’s rise has been, they haven’t surpassed WWE in most meaningful metrics) and even complimentary. Recognizing the difference between mentioning the competition for storyline purposes and taking jabs for cheap pop is valid.

Where Rollins & Traina’s conversation misses a bit is in not discussing how AEW does both. Much of the WWE talk in Punk & MJF’s program was storyline-driven, and justified in much the same way Seth justified mentioning fka Dean Ambrose on SmackDown. But there are other times AEW wrestlers bring up WWE just to dunk on them, and a lot of fans agree with Rollins that those aren’t always a great look.

It’s there that my “kayfabe sense” went off a bit, because one of the people who could shoehorn a WWE jab into AEW programming is also the person Seth is expected to be wrestling this weekend at WrestleMania. Will throne-breaking entrances be a storyline way Rollins mentions AEW in a feud with Cody Rhodes over the next few months?

Lots to chew on here, Cagesiders. Get to it. You can also listed to Rollins and Traina’s entire conversation here.

* Guilty as charged, your honor.

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