Dolph Ziggler's position as WWE's top-seller is tenuous; Seth Rollins is charging right behind him.
There are few things in WWE right now more stunning than watching Rollins take a beating.
Dishing out punishment and performing spectacular moves are both important parts of being a WWE Superstar, but so is selling. To make one's opponent’s offense look devastating is an art.
Rollins' ring work shows a clear commitment to that craft.
Good selling is theater—a blend of believability and showmanship. The recipient of a punch or a slam writhes in enough pain to make the audience concerned, to have them forget for a moment that the action is scripted.
Since debuting in late 2012, Rollins has proven to be one of the company's best at this aspect of the business.
Pain pulsates from his face; his body bends in disturbing fashion. His matches are bettered by this skill as are his foes. Anyone who steps in the ring with Rollins has their offensive moves appear far more powerful.
When Rollins suffered an RKO from Randy Orton leading up to WrestleMania 29, the move seemed to incapacitate him.
Rollins bounced once he hit the mat, and then he appeared to be lifeless. His body language speaks to the power of Orton's finisher.
Take special note of how Rollins' right arm curled unnaturally behind him.
This is a subtle detail that adds to the realism of the moment. It makes him look unconscious, or at least unaware, of the awkward position the blow has left his body.
When facing Ziggler in a six-man tag match on Sept. 30, Rollins showed off his elite-level selling skills against the current king of selling.
Ziggler nailed him with a mid-air dropkick, and Rollins made the most of the moment. He grabbed his gut dramatically and showed the pain of the move on his face. Rollins looked to be legitimately suffering as he rolled out of the ring.
That dropkick was the kind of impressive move that stirs up an audience, but Rollins' great sell of it added to its impact.
When moves are sold like this, they seem like destructive weapons as opposed to exhibitions of athleticism. Moments like this, stacked onto each other over time, serve to build up a Superstar as a whole. Compiling these kinds of images for fans to savor help construct a Superstar's aura of might.
Much of Daniel Bryan's recent rise has seen him wreck havoc on The Shield.
Having Rollins at the receiving end of his attacks helped make Bryan look more like a dangerous, crazed opponent. Rollins so often thrashed in pain or looked to be concussed after Bryan's moves.
Take Bryan's corner dropkicks, for example.
Rollins bent forward after each impact, looking as if he was about to black out. Bryan's leaping ability and skill are only part of why those dropkicks looked so impressive; credit Rollins for finishing the moment in dramatic fashion.
Bryan's new finisher has been a fun addition to his repertoire. No one has taken it as spectacularly as Rollins.
Here, the Busaiku Knee Kick flipped Rollins over. He landed with his neck bent and his body contorted. Rollins' selling emphasized the power of the move, making it feel like an explosion rather than a strike.
This is one of countless examples of Rollins displaying his selling acumen.
He's mastered the combination of acting and abandon that it takes to be elite at this aspect of pro wrestling. That is evident when he takes a kick to the back.
It's clear when he lies ready to be pinned, his arms outstretched, his body unmoving.
If Ziggler's career path is any indication, it may end up being a curse to be such a great seller. Ziggler is so adept at making his foes look good that WWE has asked him to do so at a historic pace.
He is the first wrestler to reach 100 televised losses since 2006, according to North American Wrestling Rankings.
Rollins could easily fall into the same trap, asked to be the victim due to his excellence at playing that role. WWE has far more than a talented seller in Rollins; it has a dazzling athlete capable of being a top star.
The battles he will fight to get to that spot will be filled with astounding moments of kayfabe suffering. Rollins has mastered the art of being assaulted, leaving the audience feverish to see him be at the receiving end of others' best shots.
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