The Best and Worst Moments of Seth Rollins' 2019 in WWE

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2019

The Best and Worst Moments of Seth Rollins' 2019 in WWE

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    Seth Rollins' 2019 arguably peaked with his win over Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 35.
    Seth Rollins' 2019 arguably peaked with his win over Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 35.Credit: WWE.com

    It's safe to say Seth Rollins had one of the most interesting years of anyone in WWE in 2019.

    The Architect was riding high going into 2019 following a career year that featured two intercontinental titles and a newly established revered hero status. Both of his title reigns were remarkable and saw him elevate the belt to heights it hadn't reached in many years.

    There was also a ton of talk throughout the year of Rollins potentially unseating Brock Lesnar as universal champion at SummerSlam 2018, and although it took a little longer than expected, the moment finally came at WrestleMania 35.

    Despite that, Rollins slowly but surely started to see his supporters turn against him for a variety of reasons. Whether it was his poor portrayal on television or comments he made to the media about All Elite Wrestling and Jon Moxley, he went from being a fan favorite to the most despised man on the Raw roster.

    Regardless of his falling-out with the fans, he had his fair share of highlights throughout 2019, including two reigns with the Universal Championship and multiple pay-per-view main events. With a shot at the United States Championship coming up on Monday, he's on track to close out the year as hot as he started it.

    All in all, these are the moments that defined Rollins' 2019—for better or for worse.

Best: Winning the Men's Royal Rumble Match

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    Rollins was heavily favored by fans to win the men's 2019 Royal Rumble match, and rightfully so. No one made more sense to come out on top and punch their ticket to the main event of WrestleMania 35.

    It had been years since he last featured in the Universal Championship picture and had to scratch and claw throughout 2018 to get back to that top spot on the Raw roster. He went so far as to call out Brock Lesnar for being an absentee champion, leading viewers to speculate about him scoring that Rumble victory long before he did.

    The Architect had momentum on his side and entered the annual Battle Royal at No. 10. Although he didn't score many eliminations, he showed incredible resilience by lasting a whopping 43 minutes.

    The crowd in Chase Field was buzzing with excitement when the match came down to Rollins and Braun Strowman. Both men had legitimate claims to challenging Lesnar, but it was The Architect who won out.

    His outstanding performance that night set the tone for the rest of his Road to WrestleMania and cemented him as the underdog in his feud with Lesnar. Not even his one-sided beatdown at the hands of The Beast Incarnate the next night was enough to ruin his hot streak.

Best: Beating Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship in Under 3 Minutes

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    Rollins' rivalry with Brock Lesnar heading into WrestleMania 35 could (and should) have been better booked, but a legitimate back injury prevented the challenger from getting physical until right before The Show of Shows.

    As a result, the two men didn't have a ton to go off of except their history from four years earlier, when Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase in the main event of WrestleMania 31 to take the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from Lesnar.

    Despite that, fans were hyped for their encounter and excited to see who would emerge victorious. Rollins was in the right place at the right time to slay The Beast Incarnate, but there was also a sliver of doubt in the minds of fans as to whether he could get the job done now that it mattered most.

    A full-length competitive contest between Rollins and Lesnar would have been nice, but what we ended up with instead was just as satisfying.

    They were shockingly slotted in the opening match at 'Mania, and before the bell rang, Lesnar unleashed an aggressive assault on Rollins by battering him all around ringside. As the matchup got underway, Rollins retaliated and hit three Curb Stomps in under three minutes to clinch the Universal Championship for the first time in his career.

    In that moment, Rollins came across like the biggest babyface in the world. Aside from Goldberg in 2016, no one had beaten Brock so quickly and so decisively before. It was easily the biggest win of Rollins' career and should have solidified him as the face of the company. But it didn't.

Worst: Forgettable Feuds with AJ Styles and Baron Corbin

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    Seth Rollins had a rough time maintaining momentum coming out of WrestleMania 35. Perhaps it was because Brock Lesnar went away for a while and he no longer had a strong heel counterpart. Whatever the reason was, it wasn't panning out well for the supposed face of the flagship show.

    Now that his chase for the championship was over, fans seemed to be less compelled to cheer for him. He was infinitely less interesting than he was before and let his as the man on Monday nights go to his head.

    It didn't help that his subsequent feuds with AJ Styles and Baron Corbin didn't light the world on fire.

    The one with Styles, in particular, was especially disappointing because of how amazing it had the potential to be. After all, they are two of WWE's top talents, yet their rivalry over the Universal Championship was painfully basic.

    Their match at Money in the Bank was a barn-burner, but before a rematch could take place, Styles suffered an injury and was replaced in the title picture by Corbin. The Lone Wolf was fresh off his historic win over Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 35 but was not a compelling challenger in the slightest.

    The string of matches Rollins and Corbin had on pay-per-view were lackluster, to say the least. Every one of them resulted in a win for Rollins, making it all the more apparent that the feud was designed to be filler before the belt went back to Lesnar.

Worst: Losing the Belt Back to Brock Lesnar

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    A little more than a month removed from his loss at WrestleMania 35, Brock Lesnar resurfaced at Money in the Bank and shockingly captured the briefcase.

    Basically, he haunted Seth Rollins for his entire first reign as universal champion by teasing cashing in his contract every chance he had. It was unknown whether he would cash in successfully or not, but it was difficult to imagine a scenario wherein he failed.

    Sure enough, Lesnar waited until an opportune moment to strike arose at Extreme Rules and get his rematch with Rollins for the strap. Less than a minute later, The Beast Incarnate was the champ.

    Worse yet, fans didn't hate this turn of events. Rollins had become so unlikable as a character that it was refreshing to see him get what was coming to him.

    The purpose of Rollins losing the championship in the fashion he did was so that fans would rally behind him going into SummerSlam. That wasn't the case at all, however, and WWE was left with a main event no one asked for at the Biggest Party of the Summer.

    Rollins was viciously attacked by Lesnar every week leading up to the pay-per-view, but instead of fans feeling sympathetic toward him, they just stopped caring and reacted to every segment involving the two with silence.

Best: Regaining the Gold from The Beast Incarnate in an Instant Classic

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    Similar to their encounter at WrestleMania 35, the buildup to Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins at SummerSlam left a lot to be desired. Fans feared it would close out the event on a sour note, when in reality it ended up being the exact opposite.

    The 'Mania match between the two was so short that it was hard to get a grasp on how well they worked together. As it turned out, their chemistry was way better than expected, and the match was an absolute blast.

    At 13 minutes in length, it was easily Lesnar's longest match since Survivor Series the year prior and the most vulnerable he had looked in some time. Rollins entered the matchup with myriad injuries, but that didn't stop him from going all out against The Beast Incarnate and putting in the performance of a lifetime.

    It was a tremendous sprint from start to finish that concluded with Rollins scoring a second singles victory over Lesnar, joining Kurt Angle and Goldberg as the only men to ever do so. The crowd in Toronto that night reluctantly cheered Rollins, and after everything he had done to unwillingly turn them against him, this should have been a turning point for him.

    He wasn't universally loved again after SummerSlam, but the backlash wasn't quite as bad as it had been. He then had a short feud with Braun Strowman wherein the audience favored him over the former Wyatt Family member, but it wasn't until "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt set his sights on him that his popularity started to take another turn for the worse.

Worst: 2nd Universal Title Reign Falls Flat in Feud with The Fiend

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    In his defense, Seth Rollins didn't do anything offensively wrong during his feud with "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt. Rather, Wyatt was so beloved by the fall that a majority of the audience preferred to see him with the Universal Championship as opposed to Rollins.

    The two went one-on-one at Hell in a Cell in what was one of the most egregious pay-per-view main events in recent WWE history. The layout was poor, it was terribly one-sided, there was zero drama, the red lighting looked ridiculous and the crowd desperately wanted it to end.

    Wyatt spent the better part of the match enduring countless Curb Stomps and kicking out of everything Rollins dished out. It reached a point that the referee decided he had seen enough and called for the bell, officially ruling it a no-contest.

    The intent was for Wyatt to be protected in defeat, but all it did was anger the audience and cause them to direct their hatred toward Rollins. The Architect deserved part of the blame for defending the atrocious finish after the fact, but it wasn't his fault that the bout was booked so horribly.

    A Falls Count Anywhere rematch was set for the Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia three weeks later, and the gold would once again be up for grabs. It wasn't a vast improvement over their Hell in a Cell clash, but at least Wyatt walked out as the champion.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a pair of worse high-profile matches from WWE in 2019.

Best: Descent into Darkness

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    Losing the Universal Championship was one of the best things that could have happened to Seth Rollins, as that was kicked off his gradual descent into darkness.

    It continued in the weeks following Crown Jewel, when the rest of the Raw roster expressed doubt over his ability to lead the team to victory at Survivor Series. He had trouble fending off Undisputed Era on multiple occasions and was eliminated by Tommaso Ciampa at the event.

    His pent-up frustrations culminated the next night on Raw when he went off on the Raw locker room for failing to reign supreme at Survivor Series. Although he attempted to come across as genuine with his words of "encouragement," it was clear his intentions were misguided.

    This led to speculation that he had formed an alliance with AOP, and on the December 9 edition of Raw, he revealed that was the case. Following a heinous backstage assault on Kevin Owens, Rollins cut a scathing promo on the audience, accusing them of giving up on him when he did nothing to warrant their waning support.

    Rollins is and always has been more comfortable in the role of whiny narcissist and has quickly proved that is where he does his best work. With 2020 fast approaching, the turn couldn't have come at a better time, and alongside AOP, he's primed to have another incredible year for himself as a heel.

                   

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.

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