Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Those Who Forget...: Seth Rollins, Overpushing, and Mattering

Rollins is the only guy that seemingly matters in WWE, and that's a huge problem
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Stop me if you've heard this one before. WWE has a prospect that it considers to be a blue-chip player in the future. The company positions him as a heel and gives him everything. He gets to open the show with promos ever week. He stands tall more in a pay-per-view cycle than most other rudos get to do in an entire year. He got his start by turning on his popular stable, and from that dissolution, he gets prominently to hold the WWE Championship. Oh, and his finish is the Pedigree. Whom am I talking about? Is it Triple H or Seth Rollins? The answer is yes.

The fact that Rollins seems to be on the same path as his mentor and biggest advocate in Creative is troubling. Yes, Triple H eventually became a star in the post-Attitude WWE, but it wasn't because he was rammed down everyone's throats between 2000 and his quad injury in June 2001 (right when he was scheduled to put over either Chris Jericho or [REDACTED]). When he finally came back, he settled into a role as part of a composite main event scene that included Brock Lesnar, Undertaker, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, and then eventually Edge, John Cena, Randy Orton, and Batista. Sure, the calling cards of his overpush were still there even up to his retirement as a full-time wrestler around 2009/2010. But they were far less annoying with other options.

While Rollins is arguably part of a patchwork scene that includes Lesnar, Cena, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and I guess Bray Wyatt, he's clearly the guy who gets pushed the most consistently and the hardest by far. And as mentioned before, he definitely gets all the same calling cards that Trips received at the beginning of his godfather push to the top. He's the guy who almost exclusively gets to open the show in some capacity. He comes out on top at the end of the show a bit too often compared to his peers, especially Ambrose, and his pay-per-view results, because of the character he plays, are more perfect than not on a consistent basis, which is more than can be said for Reigns.

The past two weeks have shone an unbearably intense light on this problem. It's one thing to have the newly-galvanized Authority come together and swarm on Lesnar in advance of his match with Rollins at Battleground. The way that Rollins and Lesnar have both been booked recently has demanded that some kind of drama that comes from something more than Rollins alone needed to be implemented. Promoting the upcoming event, especially one with as dreadful a sales history as Battleground, means that some of Lesnar's aura needed to be sacrificed (although really, three guys beating down on one dude should be believable, especially when one of them is the Champ).

But running the same formula the next week with different targets only furthers the same, tired MO that WWE has run since SummerSlam 2013. The Authority always wins, and any victory by a good guy is fleeting at best. No one learns. No gains are made. It's the status quo until Lesnar is around to grunt and roar and throw stuff. Even then, the view rarely changes. If The Authority is really needed as a monolithic, eternal heel presence, then its power should ebb and flow, and the good guys should rise up and take victories that last longer than a month the way the fallout from Survivor Series was laid out, right?

The problem is that WWE also has had a massive historical problem letting the good guys work together. The company's tradition has been that the heels gang up on iconoclastic, transcendent babyfaces with a few exceptions here or there. The babyface save is one of the most effective ways to pop a crowd and one of the least utilized things in WWE's booking catalog. Wouldn't guys like, I don't know, Ryback, Dolph Ziggler, and maybe even R-Truth just for shits and giggles, coming out to save Reigns and Ambrose from the joint attacks from the Authority and Wyatt have melted the arena?

Oh wait, that exact scenario did happen last night after RAW went off the air, and Ryback especially was over when he got out there. Of course, Ryback and Ziggler are involved in their own stories, and feud crossover entanglement is another thing WWE has rarely ever done outside the anomalous years of the Attitude Era, when Vince Russo played mad scientist with alignments, booking tropes, and WWE traditions. I'm not pining for Russo's return at all, but his only redeeming qualities was his total disrespect for tradition and his desire to make sure everyone on the card, from Steve Austin all the way down to Beaver Cleavage, mattered. RAW rarely if ever contained filler in the late '90s. Even if the stories and wrestlers were bad, they were at least portrayed as important.

If someone in the influence in WWE could distill the care that Russo had for the entire roster and transplant it into today's show with its vast improvements in talent quality and care paid to the actual wrestling part of the art, it might improve the average RAW exponentially, even if the storytelling itself remains at its current poor quality. Treating everyone like they matter would open up the show for more than just Rollins to be trusted to open and close every week. It might allow an excursion from the main path for Reigns to be welcomed rather than feared.

The worst thing in the world would be for Rollins to get ruined by overexposure. My criticisms of his current incarnation aside, he has the raw talent to be part of a fruitful, robust main event scene in WWE. The current booking does him no favors, and everyone else around him is being allowed to atrophy. Even at three hours, RAW doesn't have to be a chore, but when Rollins is given all the minutes with a small percentage of them being meaningful when other wrestlers whom the fans are aching to cheer or boo are spinning wheels, rarely if ever does a show come close to being as rewarding as the average RAW was back when the move to three hours first started.

If you remember, that period had Cena, Daniel Bryan, The Shield, Orton, Mark Henry, Lesnar, CM Punk, and later on, The Wyatt Family all being given time to wrestle and time to matter. If Rollins and to a point Lesnar are the only ones allowed to have that shine right now, it's no wonder RAW feels way slower even with the same runtime.