The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wrestling Inc. or its staff.
In a column published right before the Royal Rumble, I speculated on how Seth Rollins would do as the number one contender for the Universal Championship and as Brock Lesnar's opponent at WrestleMania. While I respected the effort Rollins had put into WWE over the last year, I was hesitant to name him as the ideal opponent for Lesnar at WrestleMania, because I wasn't sure he had the character to be an engaging figure heading into WrestleMania. I wrote:
As much as I like Rollins, I don't think he is the perfect choice. WWE has really struggled with his character in recent months and he struggles to deliver some of the crappy WWE dialogue. His promo on Monday about just being a "regular guy" was awkward and felt forced, and his rivalry with Dean Ambrose was disappointing. I think he lacks the character that he possessed back in 2015 when he was the Crown Prince of WWE. None of that is really his fault, but I'm not sure this current incarnation of Seth Rollins would be a great champion.
Now, one week away from WrestleMania, I think that prognostication has become the truth. Through no real fault of his own, I don't think Rollins has emerged as an outstanding part of RAW, the kind of guy you want to see beat Brock and hold the championship. He's a very good wrestler that always works really hard in the ring, but it doesn't feel like his character is peaking for WrestleMania, if anything it feels like he is getting weaker.
A huge problem for Rollins is that his opponent, Brock Lesnar, has been largely absent from RAW during the build-up. When Lesnar has been around it hasn't been really benefited Rollins; on one episode Lesnar gave him six F5s, and on another Lesnar bailed when Rollins tried to confront him. Even when Lesnar hasn't been there Rollins has looked weak; on Monday Rollins was insulted by Heyman and when Rollins went after Heyman, and Heyman begged off and Rollins...did nothing. Do you think Stone Cold Steve Austin would have just done nothing if he got his hands on Heyman?
Things haven't been perfect, but major matches for WrestleMania such as Becky vs Charlotte vs Ronda, Batista vs Triple H, or even Kofi Kingston vs Daniel Bryan, have an obvious creative direction. I'm not sure what the driving force behind the Lesnar vs Rollins match is. In all of his promos Rollins just mentions that he works really hard and Lesnar doesn't show up on RAW, and Heyman mentions that Rollins can't be the beast. Isn't that how EVERY Brock angle has been done for the last five years?
I have some advice for WWE: In 2019 a babyface that just talks about working hard and blabs about doing it for the fans is boring as dry toast and isn't someone fans are going to support. Fans today are more motivated by interest and action than the moral actions of the wrestlers. Becky Lynch got over not because what she did was morally correct, or because she talked about how great the fans were; she got over because she took action and talked about herself, and how she deserves everything. That is the kind of attitude that fans want to support in their wrestling characters; it's why fans end up often cheering for the heels because they are typically the only characters who are taking matters into their own hands.
Rollins did gain a lot of momentum throughout 2018 as the hard-working babyface champion who put on the best performance each night. I felt like heading into WrestleMania he needed to sustain that momentum but also add in an extra layer of aggression to really put over that he has a killer instinct and can defeat Lesnar. Instead he is almost trending backwards; while he waits around for Lesnar to show up he isn't having matches each week. When Lesnar is there, Rollins has been booked to be inferior. When Rollins wrestled Drew McIntyre two weeks ago, he freakin' LOST to McIntyre when he was distracted by Lesnar's music.
I don't really blame any of this on Rollins, he is told what to say during his promos and he doesn't control how he is booked during these confrontations with Lesnar. This isn't a Rollins problem; this is a problem with how WWE books almost all of their top babyfaces. Rollins unfortunately been put into a very difficult position and despite getting a world title shot at WrestleMania, has been booked in a way to make him feel like a failure and a small-time player.
When Rollins first won the Royal Rumble, I was sure that he would defeat Brock at WrestleMania. Today I'm not so sure. Rollins hasn't built a lot of momentum over the last two months and with Reigns back and healthy, I can see Vince McMahon electing once again to have Brock retain at WrestleMania and keep the title change for a later date.
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