Seth Rollins held the WWE World Title for 220 days before having to relinquish the title due to his devastating knee injury. There was no way the company could plan for such an event, given the fact Rollins, who was clearly the company’s top performer in 2016, was set to drop the belt to fellow former Shield member Roman Reigns before the end of 2015.
Rollins place in WWE history hasn’t been cemented yet, but his time carrying the strap is the 22nd longest in company history, which by today’s standard of trading the championship like hot potato is as impressive a feat since CM Punk’s 435-day reign. His ability to draw heat from the fans, his improved ring work and his feuds with the biggest stars on the roster make him the future of this business. At 29 years old, the former Indy success story should have plenty more title opportunities once he returns to action at the end of the summer.
Still, the loss of Rollins in the ring might be greater to WWE than Daniel Bryan’s continuing injury history or Randy Orton’s shoulder issues or Cesaro on the mend after surgery. For everything the three other superstars bring to the table, Rollins was a rising star and with the exception of Cesaro on this list, he got better day by day, winning the fans over in the ring with his smarmy character.
His return to the ring, coupled with Reigns run as WWE World Champion, could be the highlights of 2016. But the company needs to strengthen its booking with more dominant feuds if it wants to bring back a fan base that has long since walked away from the mediocrity that has become professional wrestling – not just in WWE, but across the board. The niche guilty pleasure we all know about has become so stale, and when someone like Rollins is used in three or four segments in a three-hour program and then is used in the main event with the likes of John Cena, Dean Ambrose and Reigns, that is overload if there was ever a term used so definitively.
Can WWE maintain a modicum of momentum heading into 2016 with Reigns as its ring leader and Rollins on the mend, only to have the two lock horns again in the ring after SummerSlam? If there is to be a true success story of 2016, that has to be the goal of Vince McMahon and his cohorts. It may also be that Reigns and Rollins have the double turn McMahon nixed before the two were to battle for the title.
Rollins is every bit a poor man’s Shawn Michaels with a bit of Chris Benoit mixed in for good measure. In an era that is looking for the “next” great former WWE performer, Rollins is as close as it gets. You don’t see Reigns being compared to anyone on former rosters other than becoming a Rock-like character to the new John Cena in terms of the babyface of the company. With Rollins, you see the comparisons and the draw is real.
Rollins must return to the ring and continue to impress us all. Wrestling fans have a short memory and we tend to become engaged in other feuds, root for other wrestlers and balk at having the same shtick thrown in our faces once a wrestler returns. It works with Cena and worked with the likes of Rey Mysterio, but in most cases, it falls flat in its delivery. Reigns was white hot before a hernia sidelined him at the close of 2014. Had he won the title then, he would have been the “new” leader of a very weak band. Rollins heel turn was the best thing to happen to WWE in 2015, not the crowning of the lukewarm former Shield member.
A healthy Rollins, coupled with an anticipated return to the ring, one where WWE can build him up again, maybe in a Six Million Dollar Man type of return would be beneficial to both Rollins and the company. Cena, Cesaro, Bryan and Orton should all return to the ring at some point in 2016. Cena is already back for more punishment. But until Rollins gets back into a ring and spews venom like he had been doing, and then takes a babyface turn, WWE is still void of its one true superstar.