There have been times this fall when Seth Rollins has seemed like such a sniveling whiner that it becomes hard to like him. Imagine that, in the year 2014, a highly-entertaining wrestler has found a way to actually get over as a heel. Jim Ross often talks about how the watering down of the rules makes it hard to get heat as a heel. Additionally, the proliferation of merchandise, catch phrases, and 24/7 coverage makes it very tempting for heels to gravitate toward what is cool about their characters. Rollins has gone a step behind his betrayal of Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns to break up The Shield. He has become so thoroughly unlikable in everything he does that he has rapidly become the most hated heel wrestler in WWE.
Although there has been some debate about which Hell in a Cell main event will go on last, Rollins was clearly the centerpiece of both Smackdown and Raw. He was all over Smackdown, first in a very good match with Dolph Ziggler, later in a talking segment with Ambrose, and finally at ringside for Director of Operation Corporate Kane’s match with Ambrose. The match against Ziggler was the best part of the night for Rollins. He showed speed, power, wrestling ability, and intelligence that help define his character as a believable “future of WWE.” I also liked how he embraced the crowd’s “you sold out” chants and embraced the insult. It is sometimes easy to forget how talented he is in the ring because he has simplified his wrestling style to get away from the big spots that get positive reactions from the fans. Even with a more straightforward style, he is such a complete wrestler that he is able to put together a wide variety of compelling matches.
Rollins built off of his major role on Smackdown with a similarly central role on Raw. The storyline revolved around him because he set in motion a plan to make the Randy Orton-John Cena HIAC Match a #1 Contender Match to give himself a better chance at the title if one of them could beat Brock Lesnar. It was such a cocky, selfish move that it clearly situated him as a heel even next to his Authority teammate Orton. On top of that, Rollins showed an impressive range of emotions in a three-way talking segment in which he shared the ring with Ambrose and Mick Foley. The seeds were planted a few weeks ago for an eventual Rollins-Orton program, and they started to sprout in the main event. As the three members of The Authority teamed up against Cena and Ambrose in a street fight, the cell lowered and confined them in the ring together. An RKO OUTTA NOWHERE felled Ambrose to end the match, but Rollins surprised everyone with a Curb Stomp to his own teammate. He climbed the cell and stood above the other wrestlers as the show went off the air- a clear statement that he is the center of attention going into the PPV.
I have long believed that Rollins was the best equipped of The Shield members to step into the main event. I was surprised when WWE committed to him and built The Authority around his abandonment of Ambrose and Reigns. With the Money in the Bank Briefcase in his possession, it sometimes feels like Rollins is merely waiting for something to happen in the storyline. As such, the ascendance of Ambrose might signal to some that he has been the true breakout star from The Shield. I agree that Ambrose has broken out in a big way, but I think Rollins has had a lot to do with that. They are excellent foils for one another and have mutually benefited from the commitment to their program over many months. Ambrose works because he has a true heel with substantial heat who the fans want to see him vanquish. They are at their best as a pair, and this week, Rollins was the highlight of that pair.