It sure has been a rough few months for Seth Rollins since he won the Universal Title at WrestleMania, as pretty much everything he’s been involved in has come under a lot of scrutiny in the Twitter-sphere. Whether it’s complaints about him from people who’ve never been that warm towards him, complaints about his booking from some of his biggest supporters, or criticism of some of things he’s said in some interviews from people who aren’t fans of his or who have gone all in on ‘WWE is TERRIBLE NOW!!!’, it’s open season on Mr. Rollins right now as everyone who has waiting for a chance to unload on him is taking it, and even some people who were on the fence have hopped off on the side opposite him. How much of that’s fair and how much isn’t? (Hint: there’s a good bit of both) What’s true and what isn’t? (A little bit of both there, too) And what do the events of the past year or so say about him as a whole and his place in the pecking order of the WWE? It’s a bit more complicated than a lot of people on both sides are saying.
So let’s dig in here and get this party started! First thing up….
Open Mouth, Insert Foot
Seth has had a few quotes over the last month that have raised more than a few eyebrows, and boy did the hot takes come through. Calling the company he works for the best one is something that shouldn’t bring an iota of scrutiny given that people in every wrestling all say the same thing about where they are. I mean seriously there are guys who work local indies who will tell you that their place is the best, it’s really dumb to get all bent out of shape over Seth doing it. I don’t care how many times you tweet about how WWE SUCKS the people who work there are not going to say that in an interview, ok? But that wasn’t the most provocative thing by far. No that would either be the back and forth he got into with Will Ospreay or the words he had about Jon Moxley/Dean Ambrose, who himself has been making the rounds saying a lot of not so kind things about the place he used to work. Seth using the words ‘took his ball and went home/away’ to describe Jon leaving did not go over well with a lot of people for sure. I think it was definitely a bad choice of words, but at the same time Jon can’t seem to stop talking about where he used to work so at some point somebody was going to say something not so gracious towards him. This is one of those ‘two things can be true’ situations in that I don’t think Seth was wrong for saying something but he shouldn’t have said that.
He’s going to have to get used to the fact that when he speaks, be it in interviews or on twitter that it’s going to get put under a microscope and interpreted whatever way the people who read or hear it want to. Even though I don’t think any of the stuff he said warrants any high level of outrage he needs to be more careful if he can’t take the heat that comes with making any kind of pointed statements. For example, take this:
which got turned into this:
Now which one do you think got the most attention and reaction? Personally I don’t mind a few sharp elbows being thrown so long as you’re willing to take what comes with it. He’s gonna get slammed because so much of the internet thinks everything WWE is doing is terrible now, so he better be ready for that, but if he’s willing to own what he says then hey man, speak your mind. But so far he hasn’t shown a great ability to catch the heat without getting a bit unnerved and that’s going to have to change.
But wait, there’s more! There’s an elephant in the room that’s been sitting there for a while now, and it’s about time it’s been addressed. In case you are among the uninitiated there’s been a bit of a, shall we say, disagreement between some members of two particular fanbases:
Seth Fans vs Roman Fans
This may not be a thing outside of Wrestling Twitter but is definitely is on the inside. There are plenty of people who like them both just fine, but you best believe that there are some entrenched camps who either don’t like Seth and think he just isn’t top guy material or who think Roman has gotten enough chances and Seth should be the guy instead.
From what I’ve gathered over the years, the hardcore Rollins fans’ argument can be boiled down to Rollins being the best wrestler on the roster (in their opinion of course), and that he’s always gotten the desired reaction whether working heel or face. The evidence to back this up is mostly made up of Rollins heel championship reign in 2015, his work challenging for and defending the Intercontinental Title in 2018, and all the stuff he did on the indies and in Ring of Honor before coming to WWE. So given all of that, and that Roman Reigns was constantly getting booed on TV and at pay per views despite working as a face, Rollins should have been the one to get the top spot instead of spending more time trying to get people to cheer Roman. Every day spent on that effort to get Reigns cheered by the whole building when a camera was rolling was a day lost to running with the guy who didn’t need all that work to get everyone behind him.
And continuing in this vein 2017 was somewhat of a wasted year with Rollins relegated to midcard matches even though he’d finally gotten his legs back under him after his 2016 knee injury, and then the Shield reunion that summer and fall which was seen by a lot of dirtsheets, podcasters, and so called smart fans as another attempt to get Reigns cheered and then 2018 was another year of misuse with Rollins fighting over the Intercontinental Title while Reigns got to keep getting Unviersal Title matches with Brock Lesnar. The best guy in the company was being relegated to midcard status while the perpetual experiment kept getting chances to prove the old man right. Why keep trying to fit a square peg into a round hole when you had somebody right there who was capable of doing the job that your fanbase (at least the ones who came to televised events) would not boo when they were supposed to be cheering?
That of course was not the view of the Roman Empire. Boos on camera aside, Roman consistently outsold nearly everyone else on the roster. His video clips on YouTube routinely get significantly more views than anyone else. When you go to house shows he gets the exact reaction that Vince wanted from day one. And contrary to whatever anyone thinks about who’s the best as far as in ring ability there’s plenty of tape of him having great matches with every kind of performer on the roster. Social media engagement, Google searches, you name it, he’s on top of things pretty consistently. And that’s not even mentioning the number of podcasters, YouTubers, bloggers (including me!), etc whose numbers shoot up with any mention of the man. Since 2015 he’s generated so many downloads and hits for these folks, way more than anyone else on the roster. At the end of the day business is what’s matters most and he’s done way more than Seth on a pretty consistent basis so whatever debate there is to be had starts and ends there.
There’s a whole lot of personal animosity on this side, too. Rollins has often been the sole or biggest beneficiary of all the internet generated controversy about Reigns time at the top, from getting to cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 31 on what was had been assumed would be Reigns night to be victorious, to getting a clean win over Reigns for the World Title in his first match back from injury in 2016 to being the perennial ‘guy who should be on top instead of Roman’ in the eyes and takes of a lot of people on the internet. It sure does seem that whenever something goes wrong for Roman, be it Vince getting skittish about going all in on him or something sad and unfortunate like his leukemia returning Rollins sure does seem to get something out of it. Now is that by itself grounds to dump on Rollins? No, but when a lot of his biggest supporters go in the internet to say he’s been mistreated and not given all that he deserves, well that can be more than a little bit infuriating and makes it really easy to fire shots at him, and that’s only grown after Seth starting getting himself in hot water with his tweets and interview statements. After all if he’s constantly outsold by Roman and clearly doesn’t handle media as well then what are we even arguing about here?
OK, so what’s this all mean? Is there some new conclusion to be drawn over the past month? Is there an old conclusion that’s been verified? Or is this just a bunch of overheated internet chatter? I mean, we all know that social media isn’t exactly the place to go for measured, nuanced takes about much of anything. I talked about some of this in my weekly spot on the Chairshot, but I got some more to add here. This is probably the all time low point for public perception of Seth Rollins in some circles and he’s definitely verified that Roman and not he was the right choice to be face of the company. Beyond what a lot of people have pointed out as far as the gap in star power between the two, Roman has proven to be clearly better at all the off the field (for lack of a better term) stuff, too. From where I’m sitting the only reasons to think Seth is the better option is because you prefer Seth’s indie style of in ring work to Reigns mix of WWE style and old school style of working. But even if you do, you still have to explain the times crowds checked out of some of Seth’s big matches so good luck there. After further review it’s perfectly fine to prefer Seth’s ring work but if you’re still saying he should be top guy and face of the company…….you gonna need to take that somewhere else because it ain’t flying here.
So what’s the final verdict, you ask? Here’s what I think. I think he’s a capable main event level performer but he’s not someone who can just make anything work, and that’s what the top guy needs to be. Roman has kept people’s attention even in complete throwaway programs. Daniel Bryan was able to rebound from an 18 second loss at WrestleMania 28 and a comedy act stint with Kane to main eventing WrestleMania 30. I haven’t seen any reason to believe Seth can navigate those kind of things or that he can handle the river of stupid takes and stupid crowd responses that Roman and John Cena have dealt with all these years. He has a spot near the top but that’s about as far as he should go. But while it sounds like I’m piling on him here in the grand scheme of things that’s a spot that 99.9 percent of the people in his profession would be glad to have. And if he truly believes he is the best, well now is the time to prove it.