WWE is pulling the plug on Seth Rollins’ babyface run at the perfect time. He and the product will benefit, but that doesn’t absolve WWE from blame for needing to make the switch.
The Rollins we saw the last two weeks on “Monday Night Raw” is working his way back into the mold of the one that broke up The Shield. He’s arrogant, manipulative and out for himself — even it it’s not perfectly clear yet.
Since the Hell in a Cell debacle with “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt and calling CM Punk out for no reason on Twitter, Rollins went ice cold as a babyface. It culminated in “Seth’s not cool” chants from the NXT crowd before Survivor Series.
We criticize WWE for often not listening to its fans when it comes to characters’ directions. They clearly have here.
They are gradually flipping Rollins heel, sort of like they did with Bayley. Rollins “apologizing” on Monday night’s Raw for his comments “from the heart” that insulted Kevin Owens and the show’s roster (though notice he didn’t criticize fiancée Becky Lynch) feels like Bayley saying she is a role model and just wants what’s best for the SmackDown women’s division before her complete character change.
There are signs of an alliance with the Authors of Pain, though Rollins (dressed in all black for the second straight week) denied it to Owens. Rollins ended up bailing after Owens hesitated to team with him for a tag team match against AOP. Akam and Rezar, who didn’t attack Rollins when he walked between them, ended up beating up Owens during his match with Bobby Lashley and dragged him up the stage. Rollins can only deny it for so long. A feud with Owens is a great vehicle for turning Rollins heel. It will create a clear good guy and bad guy dynamic and be a viable story for WWE away from its championship scene.
Owens comes off as the voice of the fans — him killing Lana and her tiresome storyline this week on Raw is an example. Lana even called him “basic” at one point. Rollins can give off the corporate-mouthpiece vibe, though his heel promos come off more believable and biting. That could make for some really fun verbal sparring and — putting Brock Lesnar aside — gives Rollins his best regular in-ring dance partner since his Intercontinental championship matches with Finn Balor in April 2018.
(Rollins’ turn was part of a busy few weeks of WWE shuffling its talent: Daniel Bryan is again doing the “Yes” chant, Lacey Evans is a babyface “locker room leader” and Elias is now a friendly songwriter coming to save Dana Brooke from Drake Maverick’s advances and the former 205 Live commissioner from Dave Bautista’s Twitter wrath.)
Remember how we got here with Rollins. He became WWE’s top babyface after Roman Reigns announced in October 2018 he was leaving to battle leukemia and Lesnar needed a believable challenger. Rollins served that role well. To the fans, he was a much better option as champion than Lesnar. Then he started to sound like almost every other top WWE babyface — talking about being a fighting champion and how much he loves the company. It was one of the things that kept Rollins from building momentum.
His first major feud after winning the Universal championship at WrestleMania 35 was with Baron Corbin, who was more of an annoyance than a credible title contender. Rollins, who can still tear a house down with the right opponent, failed to have great matches with him.
When fans were ready to move on, the feud kept going and included Lynch, his real-life girlfriend at the time. Their opponents, Corbin and Evans, were thrown together and were not compelling opponents.
Rollins made his own mistakes, such as a Twitter feud with New Japan’s Will Ospreay and shots at AEW’s Kenny Omega. While everyone respects Rollins trying to be a locker room leader and sticking up for WWE, him bringing up his paycheck and how many dates WWE works in the process of calling himself the best wrestler in the world to Ospreay could have come off as out of touch to the hardcore wrestling fans. Many of them prefer the work rate and harder-hitting style of a New Japan, AEW and even NXT compared to WWE. Again, Rollins’ passion can come off as the arrogance that makes him a great heel and an unnatural babyface.
His feud with the uber-over Fiend ended any chance of him surviving as a good guy. Fans wanted him to lose. It was one of the reasons they were incensed by the referee stoppage that allowed him to keep the Universal championship at Hell in a Cell. Rollins was then left to defend WWE’s illogical finish that ruined him as a babyface.
It was the final piece of WWE’s Seth Rollins mess. Thankfully, they didn’t choose to dig in anymore and try to salvage it. Instead, Rollins is on the road to becoming a full-blown heel again, and everybody wins.