Ever since the days of his reign as the first-ever WWE NXT champion, it’s clear that WWE sees Seth Rollins as a uniquely talented individual. It’s something that wrestling fans knew years earlier, when Rollins wrestled under his Tyler Black moniker in Ring of Honor, earning championship gold by sharing the company’s tag straps as well as landing its top title.
Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who complain that WWE doesn’t push its young talent, Seth Rollins has emerged as a main event stalwart on Monday Night RAW and pay-per-view events. Most recently, he has also become a standard bearer of sorts for WWE, representing the sports entertainment monolith in high profile crossover endeavors. The path to his current role in WWE includes a number of milestones that served as a test for Seth’s mettle and marketability, and through each of these watershed moments, Rollins emerged as a stronger performer and personality.
5. Debut With The Shield (2012)
Alongside Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins made his WWE debut as part of a group of a vigilante collective known as The Shield. They established themselves as a formidable force by beating down Ryback, who had been cast as one of the roster’s most dominating singles competitors up to that point. With Roman Reigns, Rollins captured the WWE tag titles, but as a trio, The Shield proved integral to key WWE storylines for the better part of two years, menacing some of the promotion’s top talents, including John Cena. They ultimately joined forces with Triple H and the Authority, ushering in one of the most pivotal developments in the career of Seth Rollins.
4. Split From The Shield (2014)
When Batista left WWE for the greener pastures of Hollywood (although in WWE continuity, he jumped ship because was torqued at Triple H for not getting a crack at the WWE title), The Authority needed some muscle to round out their rogues gallery. Just when it seemed that the members of The Shield might be positioning themselves to deal a death blow to Triple H’s uber-heel faction, Seth Rollins turned on Dean Ambrose in epic fashion. Seth’s in-ring ambush of his Shield brethren drew comparisons to Shawn Michaels laying waste to fellow Rocker Marty Jannetty many years prior, creating one of the most memorable character turns in WWE’s recent past. With the support of his newfound cronies in The Authority, Seth Rollins won the Money In The Bank briefcase, setting up a historic scenario at WrestleMania 31.
3. Feud With Jon Stewart (2015)
Although Seth Rollins had promoted WWE in selected media appearances prior to 2015, his crossover feud with Jon Stewart—which included a surprise appearance on The Daily Show—was his biggest chance to represent WWE before viewers who mostly fell outside of the company’s typical target audience. For his part, Jon Stewart played it up well, even showing up on Monday Night RAW to deliver a well-timed low blow to Seth Rollins, once the two finally came face to face. Stewart had such a great time at that dust-up that he returned to WWE later in the year, this time helping Rollins to keep the WWE title in his SummerSlam match against John Cena. Rollins left that event as a double champion, also winning Cena’s United States championship.
2. WrestleMania 31
Rollins made one of the most dramatic and decisive run-ins at all times at WrestleMania 31, cashing in his Money In The Bank contact during the main event contest between Roman Reigns and WWE champion Brock Lesnar. After the bout was declared a triple threat match, Rollins dealt out curbstomps to both of his opponents, ultimately covering his one-time Shield pal, Roman Reigns, for the three-count and the win. The victory was the first of its kind in WWE history, elevating Rollins to the top of the card for the foreseeable future. Despite a dismal win/loss ratio even after the big title win, Rollins attained the top spot in the 2015 Pro Wrestling Illustrated 500 rankings.
1. Appearance on ESPN SportsCenter (2015)
As previously reported by Inquisitr, Seth Rollins appeared on the inaugural installment of ESPN’s new weekly WWE recap segment. While it’s worth noting that Rollins is the current WWE champion and ostensibly the face of that company, it is somewhat telling that the ‘E tapped Rollins for the important gig rather than a crowd pleasing megastar like John Cena or the business-minded personalities of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Rollins’ spot with ESPN anchor Jonathan Coachman, himself a WWE alumnus, was a blend of kayfabe and shoot-style commentary, with a bit of sports chat mixed in for good measure.
It is difficult to overstate the odds against a grappler making it to the top of the heap in the ultra-competitive environment of WWE. While his former Shield teammates have made progress in their own careers since the demise of their trio, neither Roman Reigns nor Dean Ambrose has experienced the kind of main event status enjoyed by Rollins throughout 2015. To be sure, Seth Rollins faltered a bit during some messy controversies surrounding his girlfriend, Zahra Schreiber. But Rollins appeared to get a pass from WWE’s front office, who appear to appreciate that life behind the curtain isn’t always predictable as what goes on in the ring.
Indeed, where other rising stars have lost momentum due to backstage politics, legal issues, and wellness policy violations, Rollins has flourished and appears more comfortable than ever in representing Vince McMahon and company to the world at large. Of course, the real test of his staying power will occur when Seth Rollins inevitably drops the WWE title for the sake of the next big plot device or story angle. But with WWE having invested so much in helping the uncommonly talented wrestler to succeed thus far, it’s a safe bet that there are still great things in store for Seth Rollins.
[Images via WWE; ESPN; and WWE, respectively]