Each time Seth Rollins is asked to walk on center stage, he reminds us that he belongs there, that he's a talent worthy of the main event.
Roman Reigns has garnered more attention lately. Dean Ambrose is talked about more often, but Rollins' ring work is so rich with drama, fluidity and skill that there's little doubt that Rollins will join his stablemates atop WWE in due time. In his latest singles matches, he's provided a look into the future, one where The Shield's high-flyer is one of the company's marquee attractions.
Rollins closed 2013 with two standout performances.
On the Dec. 27 edition of SmackDown, all three members of The Shield had to face a tough challenge. Ambrose met Big E Langston, and Reigns clashed with Mark Henry. Rollins found himself trading blows with John Cena.
Against WWE's top star, Rollins led the audience on an engaging journey. Quick, smooth action powered a match that increased in excitement as it went on.
Every clothesline, every kick to the gut, seemed to possess a crackling energy.
Imagining a match of this quality in the heart of a title feud or as a pay-per-view main event is easy. WWE didn't have to rely on the promise of potential that night; Rollins delivered in the present.
He did so again on the last Raw of 2013.
His match against CM Punk wasn't as seamless as the one with Cena, but it boasted a big-fight feel and drew the audience in. His second straight bout against a current main eventer proved that Rollins is ready to enter a higher tier.
Rollins' ability to make his pain believable was on full display here.
The match's drama level stayed high throughout because of that. Punk's offense had Rollins writhing. Every blow felt significant.
So often classified as a high-flyer, Rollins is so much more than that. His bout with Punk showed off his versatile, exciting move set, one that includes a reverse STO into the turnbuckle and a standing shiranui.
Beyond exciting moves and creativity, Rollins is thriving with every opportunity. He goes up against the best and provides a performance that screams that he's in the same league as the biggest stars in the business.
In an interview with Vaughn Johnson on Philly.com, he said of facing men like Cena, Punk and The Undertaker, "I don't feel out of place. There are no nerves. I feel at home."
That's clear each time he steps between the ropes.
His confidence is having him act, talk and wrestle like a veteran, like someone who belongs in discussions of future championship chances. Though Dean Ambrose is the more lauded mic worker, Rollins has shown himself capable of succeeding in that department as well.
Roddy Piper hosted The Shield on a Piper's Pit segment on the Jan. 6 Raw. Ambrose had the most interaction with Piper, and Reigns got the last word; however, Rollins' brief interjection buzzed with the same confidence he's been showing in the ring.
Rollins did well to portray an intimidating, irksome young buck opposite a legend.
It's hard to know what would happen if he were asked to carry the entire moment without Ambrose and Reigns, but there appears to be enough talent and charisma for Rollins to be one half of a marquee feud. He's expressive, but doesn't overact. Most importantly, he makes one want to keep watching, sucking fans into the story.
As WWE looks to the future, deciding on how to arrange its stars, the company would be wise to rewatch the clips of Rollins battling Cena, Punk or any of his work against Daniel Bryan. There is more than one future megastar on The Shield.
Rollins will be just as valuable as his black-clad brethren as a WWE attraction.