At WrestleMania 35, a shocking opening match saw Seth Rollins dethroning Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship. The record books will always show that he did it in two and a half minutes, but the reality was that he took a beating much longer than that before being able to handily take advantage and slay the beast.
He’s had many different nicknames over the past few years – The Architect, The Man, The Kingslayer, Monday Night Rollins, Grand Slam Rollins and now The Beastslayer. He’s earned all of those and despite the culmination all seemingly happening in a matter of minutes, the reality is that the story took a little over three years.
For argument’s sake, we’re going to say that the arc began around WrestleMania 31.
WrestleMania 31 – The heist of the century and first title reigns
At WrestleMania 31, Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns were having a war in the main event. When both men were down, Seth Rollins did what was aptly called “The heist of the century” by Michael Cole. He stole the show that night and the crowd erupted at the cash in, in what can be considered the greatest Money in the Bank cash-in of all time.
He managed to evade Lesnar for a few months and had a great six-month-plus title reign that ended abruptly due to a devastating knee injury at a live event. The man who would portray the sneakiest villain on-screen was suddenly met with a wave of support, especially given that he was the one who carried the company in a rather dull period creatively.
The next few months until WrestleMania saw many other superstars get injured, missing out at the show of shows. Seth Rollins could not prove himself at the grandest stage of them all and it was clear that he wasn’t happy watching from the stands
2016 – Redesign, Rebuild, Reclaim
At Extreme Rules 2016, Roman Reigns defeated AJ Styles in his second successful defense of the WWE Championship. Little did he know that Rollins was waiting at the back, all recovered and ready to come back. He returned and went right after Reigns, much to the crowd’s delight.
He came back to reclaim the championship that he had never lost. The stage was set for Money In The Bank in a blockbuster main event. On the night, Rollins would shockingly provide Reigns with his first-ever clean singles loss. Despite winning the WWE Championship, he would lose it in a couple of minutes to Dean Ambrose, who cashed in his Money in the Bank contract.
What was bizarre was that WWE insisted on pushing him as a babyface, despite the fact that he was clearly over as a babyface. The WWE 24 documentary that they did on him clearly established that fact. When he turned heel on the night after his return, it was a shame, because you knew that fans wanted to cheer him and he was organically over despite everything.
The next few months would see an unsuccessful pursuit of the WWE Championship. Despite this, Rollins would become the first choice draft pick for RAW when the brand split was reintroduced. Following that, his focus would be on the Universal Championship, which he continued to find a lack of success in pursuing.
First, he lost to Finn Balor in the match to crown the inaugural champion. 8 days later, he was in a Fatal-4-way elimination match to crown a new champion (after it was vacated due to Balor’s injury), but once again, it was an unsuccessful attempt yet again,
Only this time, it was different. He was one of the two final participants and Triple H had returned and eliminated Roman Reigns. While it seemed like Triple H would help Rollins win, what actually happened was a big swerve. Triple H would pedigree Rollins and help Kevin Owens win the title.
It would officially cement Seth Rollins as a babyface. From there on, he spent months trying to pursue Kevin Owens and the Universal Championship, but come the end of the year, his lack of success continued and Owens found all sorts of notorious ways to win. It was clear that his destiny was to face Triple H at WrestleMania 33, but he spent the next few months biding his time, not really able to find his footing as a babyface.
Around the time WrestleMania season began, Triple H did return and their intense feud kickstarted but was almost in danger when Rollins suffered a legitimate knee injury. He managed to make it through on time and the mentor vs student feud had resumed. While their WrestleMania match was far from a classic, it was an extremely important match from a storyline perspective and the Seth Rollins character. It had been almost three years since Rollins had joined the authority and slowly but surely, he was building his path to redemption.
He was clearly nowhere close, but being able to put away his mentor was a big deal. And at WrestleMania 33 in an unsanctioned match, he managed to put The Game away decisively, ending their rivalry and concluding that aspect of their storyline.
2017 – The Kingslayer’s road to redemption
While Rollins didn’t have much going on for him in the following few months, the period in time would see him slowly mend his broken relationship with Dean Ambrose.
That too, was a pivotal character moment, because fans were behind him, but Ambrose understandably refused to trust him. Rollins even turned around, handed Ambrose a steel chair and allowed him to smash his back, just to get a slight measure of revenge. Ambrose didn’t do it, but he was still skeptical.
It was only when Rollins saved Ambrose from Cesaro & Sheamus’ onslaught that they finally managed to see eye-to-eye again. At SummerSlam that year, the duo reunited to win the RAW tag team championships. It was an incredible moment and probably the best one in SummerSlam that year.
The following period of time would see not just a reunion with Ambrose, but a reunion with The Shield. They were supposed to reunite at TLC that year, but a case of measles took out Roman Reigns, and Rollins and Ambrose replaced him with a returning Kurt Angle, who helped them win a 5-on-3 handicap match.
After that, Roman Reigns came back and an interbrand feud saw The Shield reunite for a dream match against SmackDown’s faction The New Day, who they handily defeated in a great Survivor Series contest. However, Dean Ambrose would soon suffer a long-term injury that kept him out for over half a year. The Shield reunion had to take an abrupt halt. Despite this, he would win the RAW Tag Team Championship again, this time with the young upstart Jason Jordan. Their reign was naturally a temporary one, but it was made worse when fans learned that Jordan suffered a potentially career-ending injury (one that he still hasn’t recovered from).
2018 – Grand slam Rollins and another breakout year
Seth Rollins’ 2018 really began at February during a Gauntlet match. It was an 8-man match between all the contestants of the upcoming Elimination Chamber match. Rollins started off the show strong and had to get past both Roman Reigns and John Cena in an incredible performance that lasted over an hour. There was clearly something different about this Seth Rollins. He was more motivated than ever.
Despite not winning the match, his record certainly won a lot of fans over, and he walked into WrestleMania as an Intercontinental title challenger and he walked out as champion and a Grand Slam one at that. Things would start to change for him and he was involved most notably in a feud against Dolph Ziggler, who he exchanged the Intercontinental title with a couple of times. Dean Ambrose’s timely return before SummerSlam helped him win the title back and sooner than later, The Shield would reunite again, with Roman Reigns as Universal Champion and Seth Rollins as IC champion.
2018-19 – Downfall and rise to the top
However, Roman Reigns’ tragic leukemia announcement came as a major blow, as did Dean Ambrose turning on him the very same night that also saw them win the RAW Tag Team Championships. It all seemingly went downhill from there, with Rollins losing the Intercontinental title to Ambrose in a rather dull rivalry. He would only gain his momentum back in January’ when he won the Royal Rumble match for the first time in his career.
By this point, a date was set with Lesnar for the show of shows, and things began to look up. Roman Reigns announced his remission and Ambrose turned back babyface, allowing The Shield to reunite one last time (Ambrose’s departure was public knowledge at this point).
Ultimately, the incredible journey with twists and turns led to that 2 and a half minutes at WrestleMania, where he not only took the beating of a lifetime prior, but he overcame it and climbed the top of the mountain again.
Many people criticize WWE for the way they portray characters and the way that storylines are written, but if you really look into it, Seth Rollins has lowkey had the best character development on the main roster. From his days of being the authority’s goldenchild to making it all on his own, there’s a reason why Rollins remains one of WWE’s most popular stars. Fans who have watched his journey have seen what his character went through and the changes that have gradually happened.
The best part of it all? This is just the beginning. Rollins has many more years to give and rest assured, there are going to be a whole lot more twists and turns!