One of the most interesting storylines on SmackDown Live right now is the implied departure of Dolph Ziggler. For a while now, Ziggler has been the Hirooki Goto of WWE. He’s someone you can always count on for a great match or an entertaining program, but when it comes time to pull the trigger on a serious main event push, the company gets cold feet. It’s true that Ziggler is a two-time World Heavyweight Champion, but neither reign was given a real chance, and now, it feels like the WWE have missed their window, even if they turn this quitting angle into something down the road. It looks like the ship has sailed with Ziggler, and if the WWE aren’t careful, history may repeat itself with another talented superstar.
Seth Rollins: The Next Dolph Ziggler?
On paper, Seth Rollins is the quintessential WWE main eventer. Rollins is the rare example of a wrestler that possesses the “look” that Vince McMahon and the WWE love, while still having the in-ring ability and independent equity that the hardcore crowd demands. He’s good on the microphone, good in the ring, and good on a t-shirt. When Rollins is motivated and booked properly, he’s a guy that is fringe top-ten in the world.
However, he’s hardly been either in recent memory. 2017 was a largely forgettable year for Rollins, highlighted by a limp Shield reunion and a disappointing feud with Triple H. That’s not to say that it’s entirely Seth’s fault. Just about everything that could go wrong for the Rollins/Triple H feud did.
Worst. Booked. Feud. Ever.
Firstly, after they finally pulled the trigger on Triple H turning on his protege, they failed to strike while the iron was hot. Triple H hit Rollins with the Pedigree in August and disappeared until January, forcing Rollins into a wildly convoluted one-sided feud. In order to get back at Triple H, Rollins needed the win the Universal Championship. Kevin Owens, the man Triple H picked over Seth, was the Universal Champion, so Rollins started a feud with him. However, every time Rollins got close to beating Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho interfered, so Rollins started a feud with Jericho.
So Rollins was feuding with Jericho so he could get to Kevin Owens so he could get the Universal Championship so he could get to Triple H. If the WWE had made this a slow-build, with Rollins succeeding in his mission, it might’ve been okay, but that’s so far from what they did. Rollins lost good-not-great match after good-not-great match until Roman Reigns got involved, and Seth basically became his sidekick.
Eventually, Triple H did show up, and when he did, Samoa Joe debuted as his bodyguard. This might’ve been an interesting addition, but that night, Joe aggravated Rollins’ knee, and he wasn’t able to wrestle again until WrestleMania. Rollins and Triple H had a couple of decent promos, but it was hard to get emotionally invested because nobody knew if Rollins would be back or not.
As if it wasn’t bad enough, Rollins got the flu the week of the match, so by the time the bout rolled around, he was hardly ready. They did the best they could, building a match around Triple H targeting the knee, but at the end of the day, it was a miserably bad payoff for a match five years in the making.
A Forgettable Year
After WrestleMania, Rollins floundered. 50/50 booking with the likes of Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt did him no favors, and even being announced as the cover athlete for the newest WWE game didn’t help his position in the company. Eventually, he had the reunion with Dean Ambrose, which was fun, until you realized that he’d be wrestling Cesaro and Sheamus for the rest of the year. Yeah, that started last August, and they still wrestle every week. The Shield reunion was fun for a minute, but then Reigns got sick, Ambrose got hurt, and you almost feel like they’d have been better off without it.
We were probably going to get Rollins vs. Ambrose at Mania, and that would’ve worked wonders for both men. Ambrose has been stale for a while, and the heel turn could’ve given him some much needed change, but the injury seems to have ruled that out. Now, there’s still a very good chance that he comes back early, turning on Rollins, and we still get that match, but the recent booking of Jason Jordan worries me.
To me, it seems like all of Jordan’s booking is leading to a heel turn at some point, and with Kurt Angle likely locking horns with Triple H, Jordan and Rollins are without Mania matches. If we get heel Jason Jordan vs. Seth Rollins at Mania, I just feel like they’re going to put Jordan over.
What Once Was
Once upon a time, Seth Rollins was a bonafide main event talent. Despite dreadful booking, his run as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion was fantastic. He got good matches out of less than stellar opponents, and managed to remain entertaining despite losing basically every match where the title wasn’t on the line. When he came back from injury and attacked Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules, it felt like a big moment. But the way he’s been treated since then makes me feel like he’s damaged goods.
He’s had some quality matches, but when’s the last time you felt like WWE was giving Rollins something meaningful? It’s almost like WWE thinks that because Rollins is talented and relatively over with the crowd, they can just plug him in where they need a good worker… just like they’ve done with Dolph Ziggler.
Just think about the last time Rollins won a meaningful feud. Was it when he beat Kane in 2015? He came back, and ended up losing the Shield feud, repeatedly, to Dean Ambrose. He lost the first ever Universal Championship title match to Finn Balor. He spent several months losing to Owens and Jericho, and then he literally limped to a win over Triple H. Nobody looked good coming out of the feuds against Joe and Wyatt, and even against The Bar, he’s lost more than he’s won.
Over Til It’s Over
Seth Rollins is still over. He’s still a great worker, and fans still love the guy. But you almost wonder if his popularity is a bad thing. He’s not “Daniel Bryan” over, to where they have no choice but to push him, he’s just over enough that he doesn’t necessarily need to win to maintain his popularity. He’s in that Chris Jericho/CM Punk/Dolph Ziggler purgatory where the WWE can just throw him wherever they need a good worker and it’ll always be quality.
Maybe this is all recency bias. Maybe there’s a huge main event push in Seth Rollins’ future. There’s a good chance that he’s just my favorite worker in WWE, and I’d like to see him used better. But it just feels like he’s damaged goods. Roman Reigns has also been the victim of horrible booking, but because of consistent improvement, crowds are starting to come around. With Rollins, I don’t know if the injuries have prevented him from being the worker he once was or if the office just isn’t behind him, but the man who burns it down (usually against Cesaro or Sheamus) every Monday night is not the man who tore it up three years ago.