In the span of less than a year, Seth Rollins went from being one of WWE’s most beloved stars to one of its most disliked, but despite a large portion of fans recently turning on “The Architect,” WWE doesn’t plan on changing course.
According to the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer (h/t Wrestle Talk), WWE remains committed to pushing Rollins as a babyface:
“According to the latest report from Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio, WWE has absolutely no plans to turn Rollins heel, despite all the obvious opportunities to do so.”
When Rollins won the Royal Rumble in January 2019 and then defeated Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 35 in April, he was firmly entrenched as the most popular male superstar in all of WWE (he was even battling Roman Reigns for the spot as WWE’s No. 1 merchandise mover), and it would have been virtually impossible to even imagine fans ever turning on him. Then, things changed in an instant. After Mania, WWE made the ill-advised decision to focus on Rollins’ real-life relationship with Becky Lynch on-screen, and though Lynch’s undeniable popularity seemingly would have made that a very successful booking decision, it backfired. The portrayal of Rollins and Lynch’s relationship was almost cringeworthy at times, and Rollins didn’t exactly endear himself to WWE fans when he said they were “jealous” of his relationship with Lynch.
That was one of many questionable things Rollins said or did either in interviews or on social media to strain his relationship with WWE fans. Over the past six months or so, he’s done the following: Gotten into a highly publicized Twitter beef with Will Ospreay, claimed WWE has the “best wrestling in the world,” taken a shot at The New Day and the amount of TV time the trio receives, defended the awful finish of his Hell in a Cell match with Bray Wyatt, taken aim at Jon Moxley and AEW and bashed Brock Lesnar, just to name a few. Now more than perhaps at any point in pro wrestling history, the line between the scripted world of sports entertainment and real life is a total gray area, which means that many fans who’ve spent years liking Rollins can’t separate Rollins’ social media persona from his TV character. As Rollins has developed into a champion of WWE’s brand and one of its locker room leaders, the way he’s gone about it has transformed him from universally liked to widely disliked.
And WWE’s booking isn’t doing him any favors, either.
The controversial finish to his Hell in a Cell match resulted in chants of “AEW!” and “Refunds!,” and even though that had a lot to do with the fact that he was facing Bray Wyatt, it is also a sign of how far he’s fallen out of fans’ good graces. Rollins followed that up by–both literally and figuratively–”burning down” the Firefly Fun House on Raw in what surely looked like a heel move given how popular Wyatt has become this year. If you had never watched WWE prior to April and then tuned into an episode of Raw, you would swear that Rollins is one of the biggest heels in the business, as WWE’s bizarre booking of his character has made him almost impossible to like. The cheesy promos, the false bravado, the disappointing matches, the underwhelming Universal title reigns, the terrible portrayal of his character and his relationship with Lynch–it’s all done Rollins absolutely no favors as WWE’s plan to make Rollins look “cool” has backfired horribly.
If this were all being done to turn Rollins heel, it would make a whole lot of sense, but there are no real indications that WWE has any sort of plan to move Rollins to the dark side. With Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan and Braun Strowman now on SmackDown, Rollins is easily the No. 1 babyface in Raw’s men’s division. Well, at least he’s supposed to be. With each week that passes by, however, Rollins’ character becomes less and less likable, and while some of the blame should be put on lackluster booking by the creative team, a lot of it belongs on the shoulders of Rollins himself. Now, if WWE doesn’t turn him heel, the company risks Rollins turning into the next Reigns, who spent years being pushed so strongly that fans grew to despise him even though he was technically a babyface.
Although WWE officials will say that “any reaction is a good reaction,” Reigns’ mixed reaction never resulted in him becoming a big John Cena-level draw while Rollins’ mixed reaction resulted in him being one of the worst drawing world champions in WWE history. But the question remains: Does WWE even care?
While the company finally learned its lesson with Reigns and scaled back on his push, it appears history will repeat itself again with an overbearing babyface push for Rollins that is detrimental to the WWE product as a whole.