Roughly a week ago, former WWE champion Seth Rollins returned to a hero’s welcome at Extreme Rules. His return was going to garner a huge pop from the crowd no matter what, yet he further ingratiated himself to fans around the world by giving Roman Reigns a pedigree after his match with AJ Styles, signifying his intentions to regain the title he never lost.
He came out on RAW the following night to equally loud cheers, and after briefly bathing in his post-return glory, Rollins immediately slid back into pre-injury heel mode as viewers around the world collectively face palmed.
The general consensus seems to be that Rollins remaining a heel after returning from injury was a huge misstep — like a sewing Deadpool’s mouth shut in the Wolverine movie sized misstep. WWE had a prepackaged, microwave dinner, top babyface ready to serve on a silver platter to the WWE Universe, but decided Seth should open RAW by mansplaining to us why we should hate him.
It was Del Rio-gate all over again.
To be quite honest, that was also my initial reaction. Why return Rollings back to the heel role so quickly? Of course, it was going to happen eventually, but he could have at least had a neat little face run first, and build to the turn when the post-return honeymoon was over, right? But WWE wants what WWE wants, even if/especially if it means going against what the people want. It’s almost as though they don’t care what we think. But that couldn’t be.
However, despite all the arguments against Rollins’ heel status, there are some pretty solid reasons as to why it was, in fact, the right call. Reasons which, in the spirit of refutation, I’d be glad to share with you, so long as you keep the hate mail clean and to a minimum. Deal?
First, Rollins’ heel turn on RAW was nowhere near as bad as Alberto Del Rio’s when he returned to the company after being fired, though there are some clear parallels. Like Del Rio, Rollins returned as a white hot babyface. When Del Rio returned, he kicked off Cena’s head and won the US Championship, while Rollins pedigreed Reigns and set his sights on the WWE Championship.
But in the case of Del Rio, this was a guy who had been fired from the company for literally slapping racism in the face. He had all the sympathy in the world and could’ve been a massively successful babyface. Then MexAmerica happened. Mexaf***ingmerica. What a confusing mess that was. Del Rio went from face to face(?) to not face (I think?) to afterthought. At least Rollins’ turn would have been swift. But most importantly, unlike Del Rio’s, Rollins’ turn would have been logical.
Do you remember the Rollins character before he was injured? He was a weasel. An Authority stooge. He was a “weak” champion, forever losing matches, and only keeping his title with help from Kane, or Jon Stewart. We didn’t “love” Rollins, we “hated” him, and couldn’t wait for someone more deserving to take his title away. But before anyone (named Roman Reigns) had the chance, Rollins was injured and had to vacate the belt. Heel or face, good guy or bad, real injuries are super sucky and we hate to see them happen. So while it’s natural to feel sympathy for Colby Lopez, are we really sorry for Seth Rollins? Does a boo-boo on his knee suddenly make him a good person?
It’s like Greg from work. You know Greg? Every workplace has a Greg. Greg is a real brown-noser, always trying to put himself over with management and burying his co-workers behind their backs. Well, one day, Greg had a nasty little accident at work. Banged himself up real good and needed some time off to recover. When Greg finally returned, do you think it was to a standing ovation? Of course not! Everyone politely welcomed him back and went along their way. Greg wasn’t a returning hero; he was a piece of garbage who hurt himself. Did he have a realisation after his accident and change his dirtbag ways? No way Jose! He was trash before the accident and he’s trash after the accident. Then, now, forever trash.
Seth Rollins the character is like Greg. Recovering from a knee injury doesn’t suddenly make Rollins a swell guy. It makes him a jerk who recovered from an injury. This is one of those rare cases where WWE’s long-term storytelling is actually logical. People don’t change. Seven months ago, Rollins the character was a sh**ty person who got injured. Absence may make the hearts of fans grow fonder, and erase all the awful things he has done in the past (like ruin the Shield), but WWE remembers, and maybe you should too.
But let’s not praise WWE’s selectively good memory too much. Ulterior motives are afoot. Rollins as a heel isn’t simply logical and in character, it’s a necessity. WWE’s roster is currently babyface heavy. Reigns, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, Bray just before he was injured, AJ Styles, Cena when he returns, Ambrose, all faces. The biggest heels right now are Kevin Owens and Rusev, who are both busy in the IC and US title pictures respectively. WWE needs a top heel in the main event scene, not another babyface. Rollins was that guy before, and he’s that guy now, whether it’s what you want, or what you expected.
All things said and done, I’m still slightly disappointed Rollins won’t get 100% of the crowd cheers when he takes on Reigns for the title. He’ll get more of a Cena-esque mixed response with the diehards cheering and the kiddies booing. But there is a silver lining. One less face on the top of the card means more opportunities for those deserving like Zayn and Styles to have their moments in the spotlight, and I’m all for that.