2015 as a whole was a very average period of time in terms of the WWE product. While the roster in itself was good, it was clear that there was an overall lack of direction – seen in the fact that every RAW had multiple six-man tag team matches. As a whole, things were very formulaic.
However, there was one man who really saved the entire product – essentially carrying the company on his shoulders throughout – Seth Rollins. 2015 can be remembered as John Cena‘s final year as the face of WWE. It was his last year where he performed on a full-time basis before making the jump over to television and movies. He did, however, have a great year in his own right as his United States Championship run turned out to be the best one in over a decade, as he defended it week in and week out with his United States open challenge.
WWE knew that they had to make the transition soon and they tried to fight tooth and nail to put Roman Reigns in that spot – only to get rejected constantly. Fans simply didn’t buy Roman Reigns as the next big babyface and the more he was pushed, the more he was rejected. Around Royal Rumble time, Seth Rollins was competing for the WWE Title in a Triple Threat match against Cena & Brock Lesnar, while Roman Reigns would be in the Royal Rumble.
While Rollins had an absolutely jaw-dropping and show-stealing performance, the same couldn’t be said about Reigns. He won the Royal Rumble match but was heavily rejected by the crowd. The scene of The Rock‘s reaction when endorsing Reigns remains classic to this day, as you can clearly see both superstars flustered by the reaction.
Despite all the hesitation, WWE decided to go with the planned Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar main event. Nobody knew until the day of the show that there would be a Money in the Bank cash in. And for the first in WrestleMania history, the MITB briefcase was cashed in and Seth Rollins basically saved the show. It was clear that the match was intended to be Reigns’ coronation, but WWE had to change their plans while also rebuilding Reigns in hope of another coronation the following year.
As for Rollins, it meant the culmination of his journey as he stood tall at the main event of WrestleMania, hoisting the WWE Title proudly in the air. For the next six and a half months, Seth Rollins would become the top superstar in the company. He was the most heavily featured star and he went through various babyface opponents, overcoming all of them by either cheating, trickery or other methods. It certainly helped his stock grow because he was without a doubt the most entertaining character on WWE TV.
He had been a heel for over a year at that point and he really found his stride in that role. Week after week, the reactions started getting more polarizing. While he was a hated heel, there was a sentimental part in every fan that recognized his obvious talent and the obvious fact that there was no superstar in WWE that was on his level at the time.
At that time, RAW really did feel like Monday Night Rollins. It might be an interesting time to point out a fun stat – Until he got injured in November 2015, Seth Rollins had appeared on every single RAW for that stretch. Fans probably underestimated how much that run would have burned him out as a performer.
Sure, he was on the top and he appeared weekly and defended his title at every PPV, but the fact that he was the one carrying the show on his back had to have added some level of pressure. Regardless, it was a record-breaking year for Seth Rollins. He started off by proving himself in defeat, received an impromptu World title coronation at WrestleMania, became a double champion after defeating John Cena for the United States title at SummerSlam, faced Sting in his final match and through all of that – never actually lost the title.
It was truly sad that Seth Rollins’ 2015 ended with his knees buckling under pressure. It was at that very moment when he turned babyface in the eyes of fans. While it was easy to hate him for incredible character work, the year he had in 2015 was undeniable. We’ve seen certain superstars dominate specific years, but Seth Rollins’ achievements in 2015 often go overlooked. To carry a product and singlehandedly be responsible for elevating it is no easy task and that alone justifies why 2015 was the year of Seth Rollins.
2016 would be his redemption arc and another huge turning point in his career.