Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, who just so happen to possess the two biggest egos on SmackDown, are as much alike as they are different.
On one hand, there is the Tribal Chief, who has made the blue brand his personal stomping grounds ever since he returned to WWE in August 2020 at Payback. Roman Reigns won the Universal Championship on his first night back and has held it ever since. As the Head of the Table, Reigns has dominated the SmackDown landscape unopposed, imposing his will on the locker room and anyone who dares stand in his way. With Paul Heyman and Jey Uso by his side, Reigns has established himself as not a good guy, not a bad guy, but THEE guy on the blue brand. And there can only be one top dog. While there are seats at the table for those who acknowledge him, Reigns sits alone at the head, a spot he is in no way ready to relinquish. But Reigns’ hold on SmackDown is about to face its biggest obstacle yet, and it comes in the form of a man who isn’t even formally positioning himself as an opponent or ally. Not yet at least. That man of course is SmackDown’s self-proclaimed savior, the Messiah, Seth Rollins. Upon his own return to the blue brand a few weeks ago, Rollins directly placed a target on his back. His actions may not have done so, but Rollins’ words essentially fired the first shot in what should be a future title feud with Reigns. With the locker room ringside, Rollins asked his colleagues to embrace the vision and to follow him as the great leader who would make SmackDown even better than it already is. His speech was less than well received and now, Rollins seems likely to be tied up with some old friends on the Road to WrestleMania as Reigns deals with Edge in a battle of the spears.
Their WrestleMania roads aren’t likely to cross, but Reigns and Rollins’ paths are absolutely headed for a collision course, probably sooner rather than later. See, Reigns, who was conspicuous by his absence in the locker room moment despite all of SmackDown’s other champions being ringside, may be content to let Rollins espouse his false prophecies for the time being. In the Christian tradition, chiefs before him did the same thing. But as Christ the Messiah gained followers and threatened the hierarchy the chief priests had established, they took it upon themselves to remove the prophet permanently. Perhaps not a perfect comparison of the Bible to the current landscape on SmackDown, it is hard to believe that Reigns would allow anyone to go around calling themselves a leader on his brand, thus threatening the position he spent years aspiring to, without there needing to be consequences. Reigns feels entitled to his spot and as has been seen in recent months, he’ll do anything to keep it. This has included stacking the deck in his Elimination Chamber title defense against Daniel Bryan, assaulting and humiliating Adam Pearce and Kevin Owens, and prior to all that, beating down his own cousin and effectively forcing him into serving at the feet of the chief. If Reigns could do that to his own blood, there’s nothing stopping him from doing it to his so-called brother. Especially if Rollins’ messianic mission stands in opposition to Reigns’ own mission of blue brand dominance. And make no mistake, it will eventually do exactly that.
The outcome is inevitable. This is a matter of when not if. The rubber will meet the road and Rollins and Reigns, the Messiah and the Chief, will find themselves directly in each other’s line of fire. The two can only avoid each other for so long as co-existing as top heels, both of the same arrogance and self-importance, won’t last forever. In fact, it likely won’t last until SummerSlam, which is the perfect setting for these two former friends turned rivals, to see their first official feud kick off in high gear. Because while Rollins and Reigns have wrestled each other in the past including on opposing teams in the Team Reigns vs Team Rollins Survivor Series showdown in 2015, they’ve never had a proper, months-long rivalry that is fitting of their stature as faces of the WWE. In fact, since the break-up of the SHIELD in 2014, these two have only wrestled nine singles matches on TV or PPV. They’ve faced each other just twice in the last four years. For WWE to have had so much restraint in keeping these two apart is as much impressive as it has been influenced by life circumstances. Whether it was injuries, suspensions, being on separate brands, etc, Reigns and Rollins just haven’t had the occasion to cross paths as enemies as much as one may have expected given how their tag team partnership ended. But that is all about to change and when it does, that’s when the magic that has been building up over the last seven years, will truly be unleashed.
The Reigns/Rollins feud almost writes itself and it makes sense that WWE put these two on the same brand so they could finally make it happen. That being said, however, the company has already been forced to wait seven years, so what’s a few more months? There is a real opportunity here to do something special if WWE can just be a little patient and let this develop with a slow burn as opposed to a rushed outcome. The marquee showdown is on the way, but in the meantime, WWE will have to be creative in keeping these two apart so that when they do finally come head-to-head, the maximum payoff will be worth every penny.
So far, things have looked promising toward that outcome. One of the biggest things WWE needs to do is keep Reigns and Rollins’ feuds as separate as possible. There should be no overlap, no mention of the other in promos, no six-man tags with them on the same or opposing sides, no interaction whatsoever really. At least not yet. As the groundwork for the feud is being laid, Reigns and Rollins should act as if the other doesn’t even exist on the same brand. Much like the intentional choice that WWE made to not have Reigns be ringside for Rollins’ homecoming, making him the brand’s only high-profile star of either gender to miss the big event. Thus far, it seems Reigns and Rollins are occupying two opposite sides of the same main event scene in SmackDown as Rollins looks primed to feud with Cesaro and Daniel Bryan, and Reigns heads toward a showdown with Edge, with Kevin Owens potentially still lurking in the title picture. Now, SmackDown is somewhat devoid of main event faces, which may mean Cesaro or Bryan especially, given his recent chamber win, could end up being title contenders as well as opponents of Rollins. As long as the two don’t intersect, however, ie with six-man tags, WWE can keep Rollins/Reigns’ stories separate until the timing is right to draw them together.
Another key to letting this feud build is doing so with both men as heels. It is easy to keep Rollins and Reigns apart as opponents on SmackDown if both are within the same alignment. They won’t directly be enemies or allies, but as the feud builds, their differing visions on how to lead SmackDown will be what drives them to the breaking point. Then, perhaps after a tag team match gone wrong, the tension between the two philosophies and two men could simmer over. This would also allow WWE to turn Rollins back to the babyface role, having been denied his seat at the table for refusing to acknowledge Reigns and bend the knee to his tribal chief. Reigns will make Rollins understand that when it comes to SmackDown, the greater good lies with the Head of the Table. And that’s when the build to this long-overdue and much-anticipated feud, can begin in earnest.
Five years ago, shortly after Money in the Bank, remarkably the only PPV Reigns and Rollins have wrestled each other in singles action, the former Architect made a statement. “Three things are certain in life: death, taxes and Seth Rollins beats Roman Reigns every time!” While Rollins hasn’t actually beaten Reigns every time they’ve faced, he’s won when it’s counted, when the title has been on the line. But that was a long time ago and that was before Reigns found his calling as the Tribal Chief. The outcome could well be different this time around. But no matter who wins, WWE can and should strike gold with a Rollins/Reigns feud. The circumstances are finally right and there is no better time for these former brothers and tag team champions to become enemies yet again. The pieces are all falling into place. The Messiah wasted no time staking his claim to the blue brand, a brand that the Tribal Chief has called his island and his yard, for quite some time. Rollins wants to lead the blue brand, but it already has a leader in Reigns and as the saying goes, SmackDown simply won’t be big enough for the both of them.
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