Seth Rollins narrowly escaped Brock Lesnar at Battleground on Sunday, July 19. Had The Beast not been attacked by The Undertaker, he could have walked out with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. But Rollins lived to fight another day.
If Rollins faces John Cena at SummerSlam, however, there will be no escape. Whether he wins or loses, Rollins is trapped in a no-win situation if this match takes place.
Many Rollins fans were likely holding their breath when Cena interrupted Rollins in the middle of the ring during Monday Night Raw. This was the first real confrontation between the two since Rollins won the belt back at WrestleMania 31. And considering Cena's track record, those fans probably didn't want the moment to happen at all.
Cena is a winner. It's what he does. Of all the talent in the WWE locker room, Cena is the one to bet on because he is the standard-bearer, the man who has had his hand raised so many times in so many matches. As the company's top guy, Cena comes through in the clutch and can be depended upon to pull out the win more often than not.
When it comes to the championship, fans know Cena is practically automatic. Combine this with the fact that Rollins was believed to be keeping the belt warm since WrestleMania, and suddenly the environment could be right for a title change.
But if it happens, Rollins could take a huge step back.
From the moment he won the belt at Mania, Rollins has been on point. He went from being the cowardly turncoat who betrayed The Shield to being the smarmy scoundrel, the top heel of WWE. He hid behind The Authority and taunted his opponents. He bragged and boasted about his superiority, and he won match after match with help. And as he did all that, his character thrived.
Fans hated him for what he did and what he stood for. They continued to chant, "You sold out," though he ended The Shield well over a year ago. Rollins evolved, taking his place at the top as the company's primary antagonist, and he did that with the whole world watching.
He overcame Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton. He may not have beaten Lesnar, but he managed to get past him. All of this has strengthened him as a worker and as a champion. Rollins is in a great spot. To take all of that away would be doing a disservice to him.
But if the match between the two does happen and Cena does not go over, Rollins may not gain much at all. Fans likely believe Cena doing the job to Rollins would elevate the champ even further and make his star shine even brighter than it is now.
That may not be the case, as only a pin could accomplish this. And the notion of Cena going out that way does not seem credible. He has a loss to Kevin Owens under his belt, and while their series looked good, Owens did not have a chance to win the feud.
That feud is over, and now Cena is back in the driver's seat. He's confident, he's primed, and he has a win over Rollins by tapout from the July 27 edition of Raw. He has all the momentum in the world. That means the chances of his dropping the pin to Rollins surely decreased by a wide margin.
But running from Cena or beating him by count-out or disqualification may not be enough. Rollins must be all in and go all out, or it will not be what he needs to get over.
Cena must look good. That means he must win. But Rollins has come too far to lose it all now. The logistics of this potential feud are staggering, and now fans are left wondering what will happen if the match is booked for SummerSlam.
Rollins has perhaps run out of top contenders. SummerSlam promises to be huge, and part of that means the title must be defended in a marquee match. No one is bigger in WWE right now than Lesnar, Undertaker and Cena; Cena is the only one of the three without a dance partner for that night.
Rollins is in a tough spot, and it's only getting tougher. As a top-level talent, Rollins surely wants to defend the belt in great matches against great opponents who can challenge him. But the math against Cena does not add up, and the more it becomes apparent that's the way WWE is heading, the more it becomes apparent that it may not be the right move for Rollins.
However, Rollins will make the best of it and will shine despite the outcome. But the long-term impact on his character is in question. Cena is the top guy in WWE, and SummerSlam could see him ascend back to the throne as the champion.