This week on The Right Side of the Pond (TRSOTP), airing in a few short hours, I re-join Mazza and Maverick as we discuss the aftermath of last Sunday’s pay-per-view extravaganza, Backlash 2018. We cover everything, from the painful Roman Reigns situation to the intrigue already beginning to develop around next month’s Money in the Bank, so do be sure to tune in and check it out – and to warm you up, I wanted to explore in just a little greater depth the one issue that has my interest piqued more than any other.
It is not unfair to say Seth Rollins and The Miz tore the house down last Sunday night, and I shared my opinions on the match in my Performance Art Review on Wednesday. Quite beside from the athletic and artistic achievements of what those two magnificent performers accomplished several nights ago though, the match represented the continuing, near exponential growth in popularity that the reigning Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins has worked hard to earn.
His journey as a hero has not been without speed bumps. Some of the arguments made about his run on the light side are hard to dispel, some of them I massively disagree with, but there is one constant between them all: following Triple H’s betrayal in the summer of 2016, the Architect has had to earn the cheers that now seem to follow him. The effort of that journey has helped endear him to large swathes of fans and allowed him to feel like the most believable hero in WWE’s fictional universe today. When he speaks, whether you agree with what he says or not, you believe he means what his passion proclaims, and that sense of legitimate believability is perhaps far too rare a thing among WWE characters these days.
What’s more, the happenstance of his journey has only fed repeatedly into his character. The Rollins character is able to lay claim to something few have been able to since, really, the final days of the Attitude Era: a character arc that makes sense; that, despite its years-long length and its twists and turns demanded by fateful coincidences along the way, feels deceptively linear, as if almost impossibly intended.
Without going into too much depth about ground I have trodden well here at Just Business, Rollins’ character is defined by two aspects: his addiction to success and the unmatchable will power that drives him toward it. Both have manifested themselves in different ways over the course of his career in WWE’s (admittedly somewhat ret-conned) fictional history. Whether it was creating The Shield or destroying it, whether it was being enabled by The Authority or freeing himself of it, Rollins’ journey has been one of self-destruction followed by self-discovery and only now are we seeing the real fruits of his labour.
It seems fitting his match last Sunday demonstrated the same indomitable will power that has come to be a key part of his journey, in fact, as he battled, even on one leg, to overcome a Miz on rare and elite form.
The question on my mind now is where this leads him. I was eager to see Rollins wrestle Reigns for the Universal Championship at this year’s WrestleMania in a culmination of their respective arcs that began the year prior, with their defeats of Triple H and The Undertaker respectively. That was not to be. In retrospect, I am thankful; Rollins’ role as Intercontinental Champion has now proven itself to be the latest in a long and ongoing line of sensible, strong decisions made on his behalf by WWE, all of which have contributed to creating the status he is currently benefitting from. Long may that continue.
Eventually, though, it remains my belief – as LOP’s resident major Rollins super-fan – that it is in the main event that the Kingslayer belongs. His run as Intercontinental Champion is already starting to mirror the workhorse run he had as WWE World Heavyweight Champion in 2015 (with Michael Cole openly recognising as much last Sunday), and a similar run as Universal Champion should, if meritocracy is truly alive and well in WWE, be within his short to medium-term future.
Defeating Brock Lesnar for that Universal Championship, to me, seems too perfect not to happen; which, sadly, probably means it won’t.
The reasons are many, but all of them simple. Firstly, unlike so many others on the Monday Night Raw (MNR) roster currently, Rollins has never been beaten by Brock Lesnar. Their one encounter, while seemingly heading Lesnar’s way, was cut short by timely interference from a vengeful Dead Man, The Undertaker. What’s more, the only other time the two faced off in the ring during the Royal Rumble 2015 WWE World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat Match, Rollins broke one of Lesnar’s ribs – a coincidence capitalised upon the following night on MNR when Rollins claimed to have discovered “Lesnar’s weakness.” That Rollins cashing in Money in the Bank at WrestleMania 31 in the ‘Heist of the Century’ came most directly at Lesnar’s expense also means the two share a silent and unresolved history together too.
Secondly, there is the real world circumstance. The longer WWE have clung to their fantasy of a fan base cheering on Reigns as he vanquishes the Beast Incarnate, the more the creative product has come to suffer. Not only has it effectively sabotaged any hope Reigns had of gaining the acceptance of the fan base, it has left a number of other characters floating like flotsam and jetsam in the wake of a shipwreck Vince McMahon is singularly responsible for, it seems to me. Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman and AJ Styles have, all of them, been denied the opportunity of defeating Brock Lesnar to benefit their own developing legacies and, while most have been just fine, the unfortunate truth is they should have been so much more than that had the company opened their eyes and ears. Well, with Rollins tearing down the house on the same night Reigns was unable to stop people from leaving it, the meritocratic path couldn’t seem clearer at this point.
Thirdly, and to me most importantly, there is the fictional aspect. Defeating Brock Lesnar in their first full match for the Universal Championship would be the perfect climax for Rollins’ arc as a developing hero in WWE, proving definitively that he can be as successful alone as he once was when addicted to his Authority enablers. Liberating WWE’s fictional universe from the grip of Lesnar and his advocate Paul Heyman – and liberating WWE’s real world product from the obstructive presence of both – would more than make up for the mistakes of the Architect’s past that made him so loathed. It would be the ultimate form of redemption.
Beyond this, nor does it seem to me that there is any one man better equipped to bring an end to the Beast’s reign. Size hasn’t worked; technique hasn’t worked; strength hasn’t worked; endurance hasn’t worked. Rollins – though deceptively as strong as he is agile – isn’t the most obvious Beastslayer in the world, but it’s not in his physical traits, impressive though they are, that he possesses the key. It is, instead, in those same two elements that have driven his character arc since his first day in WWE: an addiction to success and the indomitable will power that drives him to achieve it.
Facing Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship means success takes only one form: pinning the Beast and taking his title. Rollins has the will power to do it, and it’ll take more than two dozen suplexes to kill it. Just ask The Miz, who encountered that will power last Sunday when he was unable to defeat a one-legged Architect even after two Skull Crushing Finales. Ask Triple H, who used that will power as a weapon for two years, and ran scared from it when he became its target. Or ask Dean Ambrose, who knows that will power better than anyone, having felt its wrath and fought alongside it in equal degree. From two WWE World Heavyweight Championships to three Tag Team Championships, from Money in the Bank to the Intercontinental Championship, Rollins wasn’t lying when he proclaimed himself “the be all, end all of champions in this business!” Thanks to the iron will that has catalysed that thought into becoming a reality, right now he might just be the most deserving performer to beat Lesnar so as to add the Universal title to his collection, and is undoubtedly, in my mind, the perfect character to do so.
So long as he does it in his first attempt, that is. Otherwise…well, I dread to think.
You can hear more on all of this, and on the many other facets of the backlash to Backlash 2018 from Maverick, Mazza and I in just a couple of hours on the next instalment of The Right Side of the Pond, airing only on Lords of Pain Radio to kick your weekend off right! The Right Side of the Pond airs only on LOP Radio every Friday night, 9pm BST / 5pm EST, or can be listened to on demand at any time via BlogTalkRadio or on iTunes, so be sure to check it out!
Until then, if you have any thoughts on the notion of Rollins being the man to dethrone Brock Lesnar, or on the other after-effects of Backlash, let them be known in the comments below, over on social media or even by signing up to our own LOPForums, which has recently gone through a shiny, brilliant new reset and where TRSOTP and every other LOP Radio show has its very own discussion thread for you to throw some responses our way without the limitations of Twitter or Facebook; just click here to sign up!