As previously noted, WWE's Seth Rollins took the time for an in-depth discussion with Christian and WWE Hall of Famer, Edge, on E&C's Pods of Awesomeness. Rollins reflected on the twists and turns that have happened on the way to his many successes, including his upcoming WWE Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 35.
Rollins remembers a time before the WWE Performance Center and NXT brand we know today existed. Back then, Joey Mercury was just starting to get WWE to focus more on talented indie wrestlers, like Dean Ambrose, instead of their common choice of ex athlete or bodybuilder. Rollins saw this transition as an opportunity to secure the top spot in NXT, and he went to Triple H to directly ask him to become the first NXT World Champion.
"I remember we were in developmental, and it was kind of an interesting situation," Rollins explained. "When we got down there, they weren't really hiring guys from the indies that much. They were hiring ex football players, or ex athletes, or Gerry Brisco recruits, ya know, bodybuilders. Just these big guys that weren't necessarily athletic, and didn't really understand or appreciate what we do. And so, I was one of the first guys - not first, but I was one of the first guys to come after that phase. I was there and I felt alone, and then after the first year, they actually hired Joey Mercury on as a producer, and Joey was like, 'We got to switch this, man. We got to change this. This culture down here sucks and we got to try and bring in guys that are passionate about this business. That's how we get better.'
"And so, one of the first people he reached out to me about to ask if I had any opinion on him was Ambrose," Rollins continued. "He had seen his promos on YouTube, and Ambrose, if you go back and watch some of Ambrose's promos as John Moxley on YouTube, they're just captivating. He had kinda a Joker-esque type thing to him, like a Heath Ledger type thing to him, but they were so raw and guttural, and his voice - it was one of those where you couldn't not listen to him. I was like, 'Yeah dude, I've met him once or twice. Yeah, he's great. A full size human being, not 5'2 or whatever, so, yeah, give him a shot. Let's do it!' And when Joey brought him in, when they brought him in and he got hired, we started working together. It was like, you would think we were in the womb wrestling together. It was so easy and so perfect, it was like one of my wrestling soul mates.
"Ambrose didn't get to be a part of [the re-branding of NXT] because he was already on the road, they were hoping to get him in to a couple storylines but none of them really panned out," Rollins explained. "So I was just down there, kinda just doing what I do in NXT, and I remember going to Triple H and I remember the tournament was happening for the [NXT World] Title, and I remember having the conversation and telling him, 'This has got to be mine. I've got to have it. I've got to be the NXT Champion, like, I want the ball. Give it to me, let me run with it.'
As is well documented, Rollins eventually debuted on WWE TV alongside Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose as part of The Shield. The faction would be responsible for unforgettable moments and feuds, such as their rivalry with CM Punk, The Wyatt Family, & Evolution. Once Rollins turned on his Shield brothers and moved on to a singles career, he quickly became Mr. Money In The Bank, winning the briefcase at the 2014 PPV of the same name. Having the Money In The Bank briefcase in your possession allows the Superstar holding it to "cash in" for a WWE World Championship match of their choosing at any time for the course of a year.
Rollins did something no individual has ever done before or after him, cashing in his opportunity during the main event at WrestleMania 31, making the match a triple threat between Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and Rollins. Rollins shocking entry in the match ultimately ended with his first WWE Championship win after Rollins pinned Roman Reigns for the victory that night. Rollins revealed that the unique idea was solely his.
"I ended up winning the Money In The Bank in May, or April, or June, or whenever that was, after the [heel] turn," Rollins said. "It would have to have been May, or June, or something, and then going in to WrestleMania the next year, I had that briefcase and there were no plans for me to use it and, so, I came up with one. That was my idea. I had the idea in my head almost as a, well, I mean, why the hell not? It's never been done, and strangely, I had a little bit of foresight in the sense that I saw how the momentum with Roman [Reigns] was shifting toward going in to that WrestleMania. It's four years ago now but I remember going in to that Royal Rumble, the fans were staring to - this was the beginning of the, 'Ah, we hate Roman,' thing. And I felt the tide starting to turn, and I remember not politicking, but working my way in to this triple threat match with [Brock] Lesnar and [John] Cena at that Royal Rumble. This was in Philadelphia.
"I knew we had a decent match, there is a lot of energy in Lesnar matches and, John, obviously as well," Rollins said. "So, I just wanted to try to just hang with those guys because I thought it would just be good for me to be in their company. They were on a different echelon at that point, I just want to be in their company. If I can be seen as an equal to those two, if even for one night, that's gonna push my stock through the roof. So, we went out in the middle of the show and just killed it. The match was way better than I could have even expected. The crowd was on another level, and so, I was very satisfied coming back. And again, that was sort of the time when the crowd was starting to do what they were doing with Roman. And I just felt this thing - this energy. I saw it coming, I knew they were kinda gonna take a dump on [Reigns] when he won the Rumble, and they did. And I remember the next day, again, having the conversation with Hunter. This was for the second time because I had pitched the idea a little bit at the end of the year before, and I just wanted to remind him that I have this idea on the table. I think it's a pretty good one and even if it's not the idea, it could easily be a contingency plan if the main event at WrestleMania doesn't come together the way you see it. Just, keep it in the back of your head, ya know? Yeah, I pitched the idea and I strongly felt like it was a good one. I felt like I was the guy. Again, I went to him and said, 'I want the ball.'"
Now Rollins prepares for arguably the biggest match of his career, when he faces Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship in the top advertised men's match at WrestleMania 35. For Rollins, the insurmountable pressure is a dream come true, claiming that he's wanted a match like this his entire life. Rollins even notes that, whether it's Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey or himself vs. Lesnar as the main event at WrestleMania, this is the match he wanted when he was a teenager wanting to headline "The Grandest Stage Of Them All."
"From an emotional standpoint, I'm stoked," Rollins admitted. "I really can't wait for it. I think, last year's WrestleMania, I was excited going in to the triple threat match, but - it wasn't a low pressure situation, WrestleMania is WrestleMania - but this one's the high pressure situation. This is the one that I wanted. And whether or not we're the main event or Ronda [Rousey] and Becky [Lynch] is the main event, to me, this is the one I wanted. When I was fourteen years old and I said, 'I want to main event WrestleMania,' this is the one. To be able to, now I'm almost thirty-three, so to be able to have that, and to be able to go in to the next couple months to build to that moment, and to have the audience on my side, have them really just want me to take that title off of Lesnar, it's really an exciting time and I'm looking forward to making some magic with him. He's one of the people, love him or hate him, he's one of the best performers in the WWE."
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.