Seth Rollins, the number one contender for the WWE Universal Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania this year, was a guest on this week's edition of Edge & Christian's Pods Of Awesomeness. During the interview, Rollins went in depth about a number of subjects, including the exact moment he finally got a contract offer from WWE.
Rollins career in pro wrestling began to really gain some momentum when he signed with Ring of Honor in Fall 2007. Daniel Bryan and Austin Aries were among the exceptional talents that Rollins was excited to learn from during his time in ROH.
"I don't know if WWE ever was interested in me. Yeah, I never heard anything," Rollins admitted. "I contacted them, I reached out to them so when I first signed with Ring of Honor, I signed a three-year contract. I signed with them and I was really excited to work there. That was a place that was, at the time, very renown for some of the best workers in the world and guys that I had been watching tape of now for 5 - 6 years. You're looking at Daniel Bryan, you're looking at Nigel McGuinness, Austin Aries, Claudio was there, Chris Hero/Kassius Ohno was there and they were just the top indie at the time. So I was pretty stoked to be in there and try to learn from these guys."
Rollins went in to detail about the chaotic events that lead up to finally receiving that fateful call from WWE's John Laurinaitis. As he was finishing up with ROH, Rollins had a serious offer from TNA/Impact Wrestling that he had verbally agreed to sign. Laurinaitis would call Rollins just before he officially signed the deal and he would offer him a spot in WWE's FCW territory, a lifelong dream come true for Rollins.
"While this is going on, I also get a call from, I wanna say it was D-Lo [Brown] was the first guy from TNA, he was producing TNA at the time and he knew my [ROH] contract was coming up" Rollins explained. "I think he was the first one to reach out to me and ask me if I'd be interested in going to TNA. And I was like, 'Well yeah, I'm interested in making more money and moving up, so, absolutely.' He's like, 'Alright, well if you don't mind, I'll put you in touch with Terry Taylor, who was doing all the hiring and the firing in TNA at the time. And so Terry calls me, and basically tells me he wants to offer me a three year deal to come to TNA for substantially more money, and far less dates than what I was having to do in Ring of Honor, and a much easier style. And so I was like, 'Oh, this sounds fantastic. This is great.' Mind you, I hadn't heard back from Johnny Ace yet. He hadn't called me, I couldn't get a hold of him, nothing.
"I get this contract from TNA and I basically agree to it verbally with Terry Taylor on the phone," Rollins stated. "I say, 'Oh yeah, it all looks great.' They fax over the contract. Before I sign the contract, I call Ring of Honor and let them know what I'm interested in doing with TNA. At the time, ROH is being booked by Jim Cornette. I don't know if you guys have any experience with 'ol Jimmy Cornette, but he's quite the trip and he lost his mind when I told him I was going to sign with TNA! There are so many expletives in the conversation that followed that I can't even repeat half of it. He was so irate...[Cornette] says, 'You know what? Just let me make sure they're doing you right. Send that contract over to me, send it to me before you sign it and send it back.
"I'm like, 'Sh-- Jim, alright, I'm just trying to make a buck, dawg. Sorry,' ya know?" Rollins said with a chuckle. "So I send him my contract, meanwhile, he's looking it over, and I'm like, you know what? I'm gonna call Johnny Ace one last time just to let him know, don't worry about it. So I call him up, doesn't answer. I leave him one more voice mail and I tell him, 'Look, I got this contract with TNA and if I don't hear from ya, I'm probably gonna sign it and end up going there.' No joke, ten minutes later he calls me back. First time he calls me back in months. And he goes, 'Hi kid, uh, I just got your messages, sorry I've been so busy.' And he makes up all these excuses and stuff like that. Then he's like, 'Ah, you know what, I gotta talk to some people tomorrow but I'll give you a call. If you don't mind, I'll give you a call probably around lunch time tomorrow if that's okay.' And I'm like, 'Ah crap.' So I hang up with him, Cornette gives the contract back to me, he changed a couple little things in it.
"So then in the morning, I'm trying to get the new contract back to Terry Taylor so they can re-write it and send it back to me, so they do all of that," Rollins continued. "And now I'm waiting on this call from John Laurinaitis at lunch, and Laurinaitis finally calls me back. Meanwhile, Terry's trying to force me to sign this contract and I'm no-selling him on the back end of this, like, not trying to answer his calls. Finally, Laurinaitis calls me back and he gives me the old, 'Ah, kid, you know we don't give out jobs, we give out opportunities. So we got an opportunity for you down in Florida, if you're interested, it's just a developmental deal. There's no guarantees. We'll talk about pay and stuff like that.' And I'm like, immediately, I mean, it's where I always wanted to be. I didn't give a damn - I didn't if it was a job opportunity, I didn't care what it was, I just did not care. I'm in! I'm done."
With FCW and his time in The Shield behind him, Rollins recounted the struggles that came with the early days of his heel turn in WWE. In one instance in particular, Rollins was directed to go out and have a "squash" match against Kofi, where he was essentially supposed to destroy him and win without letting Kofi mount any offense. Rollins took matters in to his own hands out of respect for Kofi and allowed for a back and forth match. Vince McMahon was furious with the result, and he would force Rollins and Kingston to redo the match.
"One time on SmackDown, I had this match with Kofi. It was when they were still taping SmackDown, I had this match with Kofi," Rollins said. "And it was meant to be a get over match for me. Now, Kofi's someone that I have a lot of respect for and someone I would never - even in a match that is meant for me to look good in - I would not want to just squash Kofi. I just wouldn't want to do it. I would want to give him something and that's just my nature. So we went out and had this - it was literally three minutes long probably, start to finish, bell to bell - three minutes long and I give Kofi a little bit, and made him look good, and then beat him. And I remember coming to the back thinking, oh, okay, that was alright.
"And Vince was furious about it! Like, furious! Just, 'Get over here!' And he's yelling at me, and he's just like, 'If you're gonna be my guy, you're gonna be my guy, that's not what I want!'" Rollins imitated. "And he shooed me out of the gorilla. I didn't understand, I didn't get it and Michael was trying to explain to me what Vince wanted out of the situation, and they ended up making me and Kofi have to go out and redo the match. And I remember the feeling when they told me that. I was so angry and embarrassed, and just ready to just walk out and not do it, cause I was like, never in my life! Never should this happen to me! But it was such a learning experience in retrospect that it's okay to screw up sometimes. That it's okay to try things and fail and learn from your mistakes, and as long as you improve your second time around, and don't make the same mistake twice, you're gonna be alright."
You can listen to the full interview below. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit E&C's Pods Of Awesomeness with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.