It’s WrestleMania week, with the ‘Show of Shows’ set to take place on Sunday night. Every day between now and the big event, Tom Beasley takes a look at a different element of the build-up. Today, it’s time to look at whether Seth Rollins might be defeated, not by Brock Lesnar, but by circumstance…
When Seth Rollins won the eponymous match at Royal Rumble in January, his path to victory at WrestleMania seemed clear. Against either the Universal Champion or the WWE Champion, he’d certainly be considered the favourite to finally taste major gold as a babyface, which has always seemed like his most natural alignment. Certainly, the current incarnation of Rollins – complete with deafening chants of “burn it down” – is the most over he has been since he was the lead heel in the company back in 2015. But suddenly, his feel-good victory over Brock Lesnar on Sunday seems anything but a foregone conclusion.
It’s a simple matter of mathematics. The three main event championship matches set for WrestleMania all seemed prime for babyface victories. Anything other than a Becky Lynch win in the main event will cause a riot in the MetLife Stadium and Kofi Kingston has been forced to wade through so much Shawshank-like effluent en route to his title opportunity that it feels as if he has to emerge with the weird vegan title belt currently festooning Daniel Bryan’s waist. Where does that leave Seth Rollins?
Oddly, the Rollins storyline might end up short-changed entirely because it’s the most conventional bit of narrative at the top of this year’s card. It’s easy to imagine that this match has been at least pencilled in for six months or so, with The Architect winning the belt as a cathartic moment of happiness after his friend Roman Reigns had to relinquish it in the wake of his leukemia diagnosis. Reigns has since returned earlier than anyone could possibly have imagined, but WWE has wisely opted not to muddy the waters by inserting him into the championship picture.
A Rollins win would also serve to put a pin in a story that started way back at Battleground in 2015 when a then-heel Rollins was squashed by Lesnar and was set to lose his title before the Undertaker inexplicably popped up and the champion became an afterthought. But that’s not a story WWE has had time to tell, with its focus almost always elsewhere.
There has been no fan outrage or groundswell of grassroots support causing this storyline to twist and change on the road to WrestleMania. It has simply played out exactly as planned, but that might put in prime position for a last minute turn.
WrestleMania is not just about one night’s worth of booking, but about laying the groundwork for the months to come. If three of the four main champions coming out of the Show of Shows are underdog babyfaces – at the time of writing, it’s not clear how the SmackDown Women’s Championship will be involved in the main event – then the storytelling options for the months to come are pretty limited. In the difficult few months of post-Mania cooldown, it makes sense to have at least one chase still in play, or at least one storyline that feels ongoing rather than wrapped up with a bow.
By virtue of it being set in stone for longer, the Rollins vs. Lesnar match is arguably the coldest of the three main event bouts. The other two have morphed and developed before the audience’s eyes, whereas the Rollins feud hasn’t really gone anywhere since the RAW after the Royal Rumble, during which the WrestleMania match was set. Rollins went off to enjoy a wildly entertaining reunion of The Shield, while Lesnar presumably went to sit around on his farm lifting weights the size of water buffalo and shooting at stuff. They have come together on occasion in the last few weeks, but it’s a very simple story that hasn’t been given a great deal of TV time.
It’s a shame that Rollins seems set to get a little lost in the shuffle. In any other year, his attempts to slay the Beast on the grandest stage of them all would feel like the biggest storyline going into WrestleMania. This year, though, he’s playing at least third or fourth fiddle to stories that are closer to the forefront of the WWE Universe’s affections. On that basis, he might find himself eating the pin on Sunday in service to a pay-off further down the line, which would allow him the spotlight he deserves.
Unless, of course, the delay means he gets bumped for Reigns. Never rule that one out.
Tomorrow: For the second year in a row, WWE has a Braun Strowman problem going into WrestleMania…
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.