The February 19th, 2018 edition of Monday Night Raw will go down in WWE History for two reasons. First, they did a near 2-hour match, the longest in history, and broke out a risk-taking format that was well received. Second and more importantly, Seth Rollins had a 1 night performance that returned him to the upper echelon of stars of this generation, and rivals many great 1 night performances of the past like Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 10, Daniel Bryan’s Gauntlet against Ryback & The Real Americans in 2013 and Seth Rollins own exploits against John Cena and Brock Lesnar at the 2015 Royal Rumble. For a while, Rollins had lingered around Monday nights as a lost cause while the landscape morphed around him into something he didn’t have a role in.
2017 on Raw was defined by the above 260 lb. heavyweights. Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe turned Monday’s into the land where the big boys play, and Seth Rollins found himself losing matches to Bray Wyatt and lingering around the Intercontinental Championship before finding a home in a tag team division he was way too qualified for. Dean Ambrose and Jason Jordan’s consecutive injuries shined an uncomfortable light on Seth Rollins, as the whispers became open topics of conversation within my circle of friends. “Is Seth Rollins still a superstar anymore?” “Was 2015 actually his peak?” “Did that Triple H match do ANYTHING for him at all?” “Will he ever be who he was before the knee injuries?” For most of the past year, I referred to him as an MLB pitcher who used to throw a 100 MPH Fastball, who now struggles to get to 95 MPH but is working on his off-speed stuff.
Suddenly one of the best wrestlers we’ve ever seen looked to be headed in an aimless direction as Wrestlemania got closer. No disrespect to Jason Jordan, but had he not gotten injured, Seth Rollins getting linked with him at Wrestlemania would have been a major letdown because Rollins was always so much more of a bigger star than that. Pitting him against Jordan would have just given more ammunition to the argument that WWE doesn’t see Rollins as a top guy anymore.
His performance Monday erased all doubt, as his hour in the ring became the prime story within the story of the build for the Elimination Chamber. This isn’t the first time Rollins has been leaned on for back to back matches. He proved his worth as a champion despite atrocious booking in September of 2015 when he went back to back with John Cena & Sting for the United States and WWE Championships respectively.
Seth Rollins took on Roman Reigns and John Cena (Elias was there too I guess) and rebuilt, redesigned, and reclaimed his entire superstar aura in a bigger way than anything he’s done since he returned to action following the conclusion of Roman Reigns vs AJ Styles at Extreme Rules 2016. His (21:07) battle with Roman Reigns seemed like it was going to be an easy way to have Reigns start running through everyone on his road to Brock Lesnar, but we were treated to one of the great Raw matches of the decade, as Rollins was able to dispatch Reigns with a Bret Hart’esque performance where an O’Connor Roll determined the surprise victor of a closer than close contest. (****1/4) Rollins vs Reigns was another chapter in a generational rivalry that still has so much that can be modified to make it even better than it is. They are just scratching the surface of their rivalry.
Following his match with Reigns, Rollins either matched or exceeded it immediately in a (28:25) (****1/2) instant classic with John Cena where both men emptied their tanks and hit each other with everything. As John Cena self-destructed, Seth Rollins battled not only fatigue but expectations. It wasn’t a goofy promo, it wasn’t bad acting backstage, it was WRESTLING on global television for over an hour straight that fixed Seth Rollins, and re-established him as one of the best wrestlers and top acts in the entire world.
I’m not sure whether this translates into a more prominent position immediately, (I.E Wrestlemania 34) however, it has created something that will stay with him for the long term. We won’t ever forget Rollins brilliance across 1 hour and 5 minutes. He actually became someone people wanted to root for, and anytime you can get an organic chant to break out as “BURN IT DOWN” did, you’ve excelled. Even if they did end it with him losing to The Drifter, the story was already was already told. Seth Rollins has gotten his swagger back like Jay-Z on “All I Need” on The Blueprint 1. He’s Russell Westbrook hopping off the operating table after meniscus surgery and unleashing hell on the league. He’s graduated from The Architect to the man that is coming to burn every building down.
With this special occasion, I summoned some special takes on Rollins’ performance on Monday. They are as follows.
Brian Kinsella For me this isn’t an impulse reaction, but this was the performance of a lifetime.
Tom Gambardella – Best single performance he’s had since the 2015 Royal Rumble.
Robert A Ferdinand – Rollins, after months of being roadblocked with questionable booking and nefarious injuries, turned in the best performance in his career and the best showing in modern RAW history outside Punk/Cena. Cementing a magnum opus in a history-making match, if this doesn’t ensure Iowa’s Own a title reign by the end of 2018, consider it to be a huge misfire.
Jarard Nathaniel – It means he has 0% chance to win this weekend but it’s a great sign he’s due for a push in the near future.
Kyle Moores – I’ve NEVER been a fan of Seth Rollins, but I was a fan of his performance last night. It was the first time I ever felt the urge to cheer for him.
Aamir Kauterman – If you don’t think he has the potential to be one of the GOATS he just went out there and proved you wrong. That guy will be in the HOF and known as one of the best to do it. He still has so much untapped potential with this company.
David Michael Landrau – My favorite wrestler got to once again showcase his vast arsenal and perseverance by beating the 2 golden boys of this generation, all while telling a story for a whole hour. I’ve never been so pleased and happy with an episode of Monday Night Raw.
Rich Latta is a writer for LordsofPain.net & host of the One Nation Radio Podcast on www.SocialSuplex.com He appears monthly on Chad Matthews’ podcast The Doc Says after PPVs. GFX by @SirMikeFergus Give him a follow on Twitter, @RichLatta32 or drop him a comment below. If you like hip-hop, check out his music here. www.Soundcloud.com/RichLatta Look Him Up On Youtube As Well.
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