The WWE has received its fair share of criticism over the last few years for their inability to elevate young stars to the main event. The average age of a WrestleMania main eventer over the last five years is 35 years old, and 46 year old Triple H will be defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the final match of WrestleMania 32.
Entering last year’s WrestleMania, Rusev was an undefeated United States champion and a monster heel. Now he’s lost fourteen of his last fifteen matches, and is the odd man out in a faction that has done nothing but lose. When Wade Barrett broke onto the scene as part of the Nexus, it seemed like the NXT winner was destined to be a main event heel. Three factions and four gimmicks later, Barrett has won the Intercontinental Championship five times, but he’s never sniffed a world title. Last year, before WrestleMania, Bray Wyatt carried a feud with The Undertaker all by himself. Two years ago, Wyatt faced John Cena. Last year, the Eater of Worlds faced The Dead Man, and this year, it looks like he’s set to face off against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32. While these are all marquee opponents, Wyatt hasn’t won since a squash match against Kane at WrestleMania 29, and he has yet to carry a singles title in WWE. Even his sidekick, Luke Harper, had a brief run with the Intercontinental Championship. The WWE have had their struggles with young talent, but one ball they didn’t drop was Seth Rollins.
When Seth Rollins split from the Shield in the summer of 2014, they strapped him to a rocket and he flew straight to the top. He won the Money in the Bank briefcase at the next pay per view, and became one of the biggest heels in the company. At WrestleMania 30, Rollins put on a wrestling clinic, working double duty by having an entertaining match with Randy Orton, as well as cashing in on Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns in the main event to capture his first world championship. While many argue that Rollins was booked to look weak, and that his title reign wasn’t exceptional, there’s no question that Rollins looked at home in the main event.
When he wrestled against John Cena and Brock Lesnar at the 2015 Royal Rumble, not only did Rollins look like he belonged, but he stole the show. He had exceptional matches against the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, and even Sting during his title reign, and solidified his status as one of the biggest names in the company.
Unfortunately, on November 4th last year, Rollins awkwardly landed on a sunset-flip power-bomb against Kane at a house show, and tore multiple ligaments in his knee, ending his championship reign and sidelining him for 6-9 months. As everyone knows, the show must go on, and on it went.
Since Rollins was injured, the WWE World Heavyweight Championships has gone from Roman Reigns to Sheamus to Roman Reigns to Triple H and it will likely be back to Roman Reigns before too long.
Whenever Rollins returns, it only makes sense that he’s thrust back into the main event in one way or another. More importantly, he has to return as a face.
Despite the fact that Rollins was one of the biggest heels in the company before he was injured, he was beginning to show signs of a character change. It started at Night of Champions, when he defended the United States Championship and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship back to back. Typically, this kind of booking is saved for babyfaces, or “good guys”, so that they may overcome adversity, not heels. Despite dropping the United States Championship back to John Cena, Rollins would go on to have a pretty good match against Sting, even “The Icon” would hurt his neck halfway through the match. Then, at Hell in a Cell, he would defeat Kane to retain his championship without any cheating or outside interference, even if the match was underwhelming.
As great at Seth Rollins was as a heel, his highflying style and freak athleticism will make him an even better baby-face, and when Rollins returns, he must return as a face. Whenever and wherever Rollins finally makes his return, he’s going to get a massive reaction, and the WWE need to use that momentum to launch him to the top of the card.
Fortunately, this is very easy to do. After Rollins tore his ACL and MCL, the WWE wasted no time vacating his title. He was stripped immediately, and it didn’t even happen on television. Triple H and the Authority immediately moved onto trying to seduce Roman Reigns and aligning with Sheamus. They didn’t mourn Rollins or his championship loss for five seconds.
It would be great if Rollins could return, in some capacity, before WrestleMania. He could ask Triple H for his title back, since he never actually lost it and The Game is so busy running the company anyway, and Triple H could greedily deny him, saying he’d get his rematch eventually. Triple H could say that he “fears Rollins isn’t healthy enough yet” and doesn’t want to rush him back from injury. A popular theory on the internet is that Rollins will be placed in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match as the “special guest referee”, and if this is the case, then it would be the perfect spot to have Rollins turn on Triple H.
At a time when WWE superstars are dropping like flies from injuries, Rollins could return as a hero and be a real shot in the arm for the company. Heel Rollins was enjoyable while it lasted, but now it’s time for the phoenix to rise from the ashes and make a splash.