Being on a team of blue-chippers may have Seth Rollins working in a shadow at the moment, but soon enough he'll be flapping his wings alone, the audience following his flight intently.
He and the rest of The Shield have gone from mercenaries working for Paul Heyman to so-called deliverers of justice and now the weapons that Triple H fires at the WWE roster.
Serving as one of Triple H's attack dogs puts him in a prominent position, even if it's not as an individual yet. He is often involved in main event matches on Raw and SmackDown against some combination of fan favorites that includes Daniel Bryan.
He has been a part of the collective that has continually brought Bryan to his knees, looking to prevent the popular Superstar from becoming WWE champ again.
That's not as lofty a spot as being Bryan himself or the one Randy Orton occupies, but for a wrestler who has been on the main roster for just under a year, it's a great place to be for now.
The Shield will split at some point. The company has three major singles stars in waiting once that happens.
Like Evolution did for Batista and the Hart Foundation did for Bret Hart, The Shield will provide a place for Rollins to grow into himself. When his star is burning hot enough, WWE will notice.
Then the daredevil will fly solo.
A Long List of Compliments
Road Dogg tossed around the word "great" when discussing Rollins.
Alex Shelley, of Motor City Machine Guns fame, called Rollins one of his favorites.
It's Jim Ross' comments on Rollins that stand out the most, though. The Hall of Famer raved about Rollins' skills in a blog post early during The Shield's run.
Rollins reminds me of @CMPunk in some areas of Rollins' game or at least the formative CM Punk of a few years ago. I perceive that as a good thing. Rollins is an Iowa kid who has a sound, skill set, confidence, toughness and is the current NXT Champion. He has a natural swagger and wrestles with a chip on his shoulder which I embrace.
There is a ton to take away from this.
Ross writes later in this entry that he sees all three members as potential main eventers. He compared Rollins to one of the company's top stars as well. While Ross will usually point out a key trait for most wrestlers, he points to a number of them here.
Rollins' most noticeable asset is his agility, but he's certainly no one-trick pony in the ring.
Showman, Seller, Acrobat
Eyes lock onto Rollins as he leaps from the top turnbuckle and drives his knee into his opponent's temple.
His fast-paced, frenzied approach to wrestling is a joy to watch. That will definitely gain him a fanbase, but his in-ring ability is far more than that.
To start with, Rollins is among the best sellers in WWE today.
When his foes hit him with their best shots, his body contorts dramatically, and he often appears legitimately hurt. He takes a move like the RKO and makes artistry out of suffering.
This is a skill that helped Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair carve out their legacy. When you make your opponent look as good as those two men did, the match is elevated, the show improves. That's what will help Rollins reach his full upside.
He's been a part of a number of thrilling bouts as part of The Shield, including instant classics against Team Hell No and Ryback at TLC 2012 and against John Cena, Sheamus and Ryback at Elimination Chamber 2013. It's the few chances at solo action that speak most to his future, though.
His work against Bryan, for example, has been stellar.
In this match on Raw, both men's energy is on display. Rollins appears confident, natural and times his offense and his selling to maximize the drama. This is a future rivalry over the WWE Championship; this is a future pay-per-view headliner.
Seizing Attention Outside of the Ring
Rollins has the charisma and mic ability to make the most of a main event feud as well.
His size and wiry build don't make him the kind of larger-than-life character that thrives in WWE, but he has an edge to him, a striking darkness that will keep the audience's attention.
In a promo where The Shield called out Cena, Dean Ambrose was the clear leader in terms of mic skills, but Rollins excelled as well.
He appeared confident and comfortable on the microphone. Rollins emitted passion in his performance, though he could work to vary his intensity more to better control the audience's attention. His is a single note at the moment; the best mic workers have a wider range of volume and energy.
That's a nuance that should come with added experience, though.
He's plenty compelling enough to be a prominent player in a narrative, to have the spotlight sit squarely on him and his opponent in preparation for a pay-per-view bout. When WWE is ready for him, he will shine.
As an added bonus, that will affect merchandise sales and crowd reactions, the female portion of the crowd appears to adore him.
Tweets like this one are commonplace.
Sex appeal is a component of being a WWE Superstar that isn't addressed enough. Cena has done well to parlay female adoration into devoted fandom. It didn't hurt Chris Jericho or Ricky Steamboat's career in the least to be heartthrobs.
However, It may be Jeff Hardy's career that Rollins' most mirrors.
Hardy, like Rollins, was a risk-taker who endeared himself to the crowd by going full throttle in his matches and taking breathtaking bumps.
Hardy won the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship and was involved in the Feud of the Year against Punk in 2009. Rollins can match all of those accomplishments.
He is just as fun to watch as Hardy and is already a better talker than him.
WWE appears to fully believe in him, having him and his partners face off against the company's best and be a vital part of two main storylines in the group's first year. Should he make use of all of his talents and should WWE allow him to showcase them, Rollins can be a top babyface.
When Rollins soars to the horizon, he's going to have to take into account the weight of the gold hanging around his waist.
Be sure to check out previous installments in this ongoing series: