Ariel Helwani sat down with Seth Rollins for an interview that, as it turns out, is one hell of a look into the mind of a man who is struggling with his place in the industry he’s given his entire life to.
When asked why he has a chip on his shoulder after seeing so much success for all these years he’s been doing it:
“I just feel like I’ve never, in some ways, I’ve never gotten my just due. There’s always like… I’ve never been the guy, you know? I’ve never been the one on the marquee at WrestleMania. It was John (Cena), it was Roman (Reigns). In some regards when I was at Ring of Honor it was Nigel (McGuinness), it was Bryan (Danielson). And I was always the guy on the come up, or underneath. I was kind of the second or the next big thing type thing, you know? That always just eats at me. It eats at me so much. I don’t know where that competitive spark comes from but it drives me insane. The thing is if I was that guy I don’t know if it would just go away. I would always find some way to put the chip there. It’s just the way I operate best. I have to have it for some reason, in everything. For better or worse sometimes.”
So why is it always the guy he describes?
“Gosh, that’s interesting because you don’t really… wrestling is so interesting because it’s like a meritocracy to a point, right? There’s a connection you can get with an audience that you can work and cultivate over years and that equity will push you to the top of a card or a promotion or whatever but being anointed as the guy is not always that simple. So, I don’t know. The biggest thing is maybe I’m wrong, you know? Maybe I’m not as good as I think I am. Maybe there are people out there that draw more money, perform better in the ring, sell more mercy, etc. than me and I’ve got this inflated idea of myself. And that’s the fear, right? That I’m just dead wrong. And so maybe that’s the truth. Maybe that’s just how it is. But I can’t operate at optimum levels accepting that, you know? I just can’t do it. I pride myself on my work ethic and my hustle. I feel like if I just settled for saying ‘ah, I’m just not good enough’ or ‘I’m just not as big of a star or I can’t be as big of a star as, say, Roman Reigns, or Hulk Hogan, or John Cena’ then I would be doing myself a disservice, I’d be doing the business a disservice, and I don’t think I could go to sleep at night accepting being second best. Why I am? I don’t know.”
He goes on to say he felt a great deal of imposter syndrome during his first run with the WWE championship, and still felt like he was the number two guy behind Roman Reigns despite pinning him to win that title in the main event of WrestleMania.
When Helwani asks if he feels like he’s getting close to getting to the top spot:
“I don’t know, man. I wonder often if because I live in the Roman Era that that’s just never going to happen. The only time I was even considered, I think, for the main event of WrestleMania was when Roman got leukemia and he was out from August until January whatever or February it was. I was kind of second behind in the little babyface column there and, you know, I got slotted in. I feel like it’s one of those things, I’m like the… the best I can hope for is to be the Edge to his Cena, or the Savage to his Hogan. Sometimes I just feel like that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think I’m better than he is, or that I can perform, or that I can draw at that level. I certainly think all those things, but it’s not my sandbox. I don’t make those decisions.”
The true competition of pro wrestling is in making yourself valuable enough to be considered the top guy of whatever promotion you’re signed to at any given time. The problem, of course, is there are a million variables at play in determining as much, not least of which is making those in charge believe in you in that way.
Reigns is unquestionably the crown jewel of the WWE roster. There is little reason to believe anything will change in that regard anytime soon, regardless of what Rollins does. To that end, he may be right.
He just might have to settle for being number two, no matter how hard he works to overcome that. It’s just the brutal reality of the business.
In the meanwhile, interviews like this are going to go a long way towards creating even more of a connection with the fan base. This is about as open and honest as Rollins has maybe ever been. Gone are the bombastic quotes from yesteryear, replaced with a more introspective struggle with his place in the world.
Everyone can relate to that.
Here’s the full interview: