Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow and Brian Damage
Last Sunday at Extreme Rules 2016, Seth Rollins made his long-awaited return to our screens with the show ending with him standing over a prone Roman Reigns. In today’s Sunday Sermon, as well as a clumsy attempt at a variation of a meme, we discuss his return and his booking, so far, as a heel.
Craig: Extreme Rules 2016 was a rather strong show featuring some top class in-ring action. The undoubted highlight for many, myself included, was the return of Seth Rollins.
To see the show end with him standing in the ring over a downed Roman Reigns with the WWE title above his head was a great sight and certainly popped the crowd.
The next night on Raw he didn’t pander to the crowd like some had expected meaning we’ve not, yet anyway, had the Rollins face turn. But his comeback and subsequent appearance on Raw have been solidly, if not entirely spectacularly, booked.
So how does this feud play out? When does Seth, if he does, reclaim the gold he never really lost and where, if anywhere, does AJ Styles – who has more than competently headlined the last two shows – fit in? All that and more in today’s Sunday Sermon.
Jamie: On one hand it’s brilliant to have Rollins back – him vs. AJ Styles, anyone? – but on the other hand I can’t help but feel somewhat frustrated. I get what WWE are doing; Rollins is the best heel in the company, so they sent him right back to work. My frustration comes from wanting to cheer a guy returning from injury who never lost the title. While Rollins is the top heel, he could very easily be the top babyface purely due to this situation. Roman Reigns on the other hand can barely muster a cheer from the crowd no matter how many situations WWE manipulate in his favour. They just seem reluctant to put square pegs into square holes. Fans were cheering for Rollins and booing Reigns last year, and it’s only become more amplified now. I know, WWE like to distance themselves from the notion of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ but they need to get real; that’s how people think. Heck, that’s how WWE think too because why else would they have stacked the odds against poor Roman Reigns for the last year?
I guess I’m mainly frustrated because this is the feud I wanted and as we are now in a ‘new era’ I figured we might see the roles reversed from last time. Oh well, business as usual then i.e. fans will cheer the guy they like and boo the guy they don’t while Michael Cole and JBL make up lies as to why this does match WWE’s projected image.
Brian: I can understand Jamie’s and other fans frustrations with Seth Rollins being a heel over being a babyface. It just made perfect sense to have Seth work off of those deafening cheers the past two days. The thing is, in the grand scheme of things….does it really matter? I will continue to cheer for Rollins despite him being cast as the heel and I will continue to boo Reigns as a face because I don’t like him at all.
People will still purchase Rollins’ merchandise and people will still root against Reigns losing the title. That’s what it is really all about. Besides, the quick heel turn by Rollins on Monday night just makes perfect sense. He was and always will be that arrogant, pompous jerk that you love to hate. Do we the fans really need a reason to boo or cheer a particular wrestler just because they are labeled “good” or “evil?”
Jamie: I agree, it was completely within Rollins’ character not to pander to the crowd. On one hand it would have made perfect sense for WWE to cast him as the returning hero, but on the other hand it would not have been consistent with the Seth Rollins character. That said, when most guys turn heel or face they alter their persona to suit, which is obviously out of character in itself…
Due to how easy it would have been to turn Rollins face – technically he had to turn heel on the crowd to get any kind of heat on Raw – I really hope WWE nail this ambiguous booking they have shown hints of with Reigns and AJ. Rollins was forced to give up his title and has overcome serious adversity, so surely he cannot be painted as the villain in this story? If WWE plan to continue this approach of no good guys and no bad guys then the bias towards the likes of Reigns needs to stop. If WWE are genuinely cool with fans cheering and booing whoever they want then they need to show it and accept it a lot more than they appear to. If, on the other hand, WWE do want to play good guy vs. bad guy then they have this feud completely the wrong way around. Even if Seth Rollins is not a ‘good guy’ he is still the righteous man here.
Brian: I look at it this way and perhaps it is the old school within me, but I like it better when we have a champion that nobody likes or absolutely hates. I like the chase of a champion rather than that being the end result. You want people to pay to see a champion you hate get beat and lose. I think it is much more effective to have a heelish champion than a baby face champ.
With all that said, while Roman Reigns isn’t the traditional heel champion….it still gives fans incentive to tune and see him get beat. Especially with a guy like Seth Rollins who is coming off a serious injury.
Craig: I think the thing with Rollins is that logic – not always something that has a home in the WWE suggests that Rollins will triumph in the end. That moment alone will, after the fans’ reaction to Reigns as champion, be enough to turn him babyface. Right?
There’s a Network special on Rollins this coming week (well will be in terms of when this sermon is published) and I’m curious to see how the WWE handle that. They can’t go too far down the sympathy route. I personally thought that, if during his injury the WWE wanted to him to return as a babyface, all they needed to do was focus on his rehab and the work he is doing to get back into the ring.
They didn’t do that, however, so it does make perfect sense to have him remain as a heel for the time being at least. If he does leave Money in the Bank with the gold, does anyone really expect the fans not to be cheering for that?
Jamie: Here’s a question, if Rollins wins the title – and no doubt many fans would love that – what happens to Reigns? At the moment he’s a figure of hate for many fans who want him to lose, which, as Brian alluded to, is good business for WWE. But say he does lose. Those fans will get what they want and Reigns will no longer have the WWE Title on his shoulder to draw that heat, which at least makes him interesting as Champion. With no belt and the original bipolar babyface – John Cena – back in town then doesn’t Roman Reigns just become “a guy” instead of “the guy”?
Craig: Is it really heat? Are the fans being him because he’s a heel or are they booing him because they’ve had him rammed down their throats?
Jamie: Difficult one. Up until a few weeks ago I would have 100% said his ‘heat’ is down to rejection from fans who do not appreciate being prescribed who to like. However, in this current feud he is occupying the role normally reserved for a bad guy, despite not actually being a bad guy – I think. Meanwhile Seth Rollins is trying to play the part of heel, despite many fans being on his side.
It is hard to tell because Reigns is largely unpopular while Rollins is very popular with these vocal fans. That said, I’d still say there is a case for fans consciously picking a side here, rather than automatically picking whoever opposes Reigns… which I guess would equal genuine wrestling heat? This would normally be good, but Reigns isn’t a heel, but I guess any reaction is a good reaction? Thinking too much about this feud hurts my brain so fuck it, I’m on Rollins’ side regardless of what WWE tell me…. and not purely because I dislike Roman Reigns.
Brian: I don’t hate Roman Reigns and to be honest…the WWE really hasn’t been ramming him down our throats the last couple of weeks. He basically has a segment and that’s it. As for Seth Rollins, he is being used the same way…they used him this past week in such an odd way. Running to the ring and stopping repeatedly without uttering a word.
Odd but was it effective? Who knows, the fact is WWE fans are much smarter nowadays. They realize talent and they cheer for those who have it. Whether they are “babyfaces” or “heels.”
Craig: Brian is right on several points here. It has been interesting, and welcome, that he’s been used sparingly since his return. It kinda leaves us still hanging and a bit unsure what to really expect. It’s a different, but interesting, approach.
There’s our take. What do you think? Will Ambrose triumph at Roadblock? Leave your thoughts below.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.