Seth Rollins on SummerSlam, The Shield, Improving WWE and More in B/R Exclusive
The Monday Night Messiah made an enemy out of Dominik after a series of assaults on his father, Rey Mysterio, which culminated in going so far as to attempt to blind him at Extreme Rules last month.
Although Mysterio Jr. has shown he'll be able to hold his own in the ring at The Biggest Party of the Summer, Rollins doesn't plan on taking it easy against the son of the legendary luchador.
Their feud has presented the former universal champion with yet another opportunity to advance his Monday Night Messiah persona and further prove why he's one of WWE's best bad guys at the moment. He's had an exceptional 2020 up to this point and has zero intentions of slowing down any time soon.
He also recently received a ringing endorsement from John Cena, who he faced and defeated in a high-profile encounter at SummerSlam five years ago. If that isn't confirmation of the excellent work he's been doing both in the ring and on the mic this year, it's hard to imagine what else would be.
Rollins took the time last Thursday to chat over the phone with Bleacher Report about his upcoming Street Fight with Dominik at SummerSlam, his Shield roots, adapting to the empty arena environment, how fiancee Becky Lynch has been holding up doing pregnancy, and much more.
Working with Rey and Dominik Mysterio
It's no secret that Rollins has wanted to work with Rey Mysterio for some time now. The two had only faced off in tag team matches and Royal Rumbles until recently, but the seeds were planted for their feud when The Monday Night Messiah called him out on Raw one night removed from Survivor Series 2019.
They then met in one of the final Raw main events of the year for the United States Championship before Rollins went berserk on The Master of the 619 in May. Their Eye for an Eye encounter was widely panned by fans due to the silly stipulation, but the former universal champ has bounced back in a big way with his recent rivalry with Rey's son, Dominik.
The Messiah has had nothing short of an incredible experience wrestling Rey this year and has all the respect in the world for the legendary luchador despite their checkered past.
"Rey has been a legend in the industry and has been a major part of it for 30 years," Rollins said. "We talk about how essentially he's the greatest luchador in history and you can argue and debate if you want on that, but at the end of the day, my opinion is that he's the most influential, the most far-reaching Mexican wrestling Superstar that's ever been."
Rollins took his hatred for Dominik one step farther on last week's Raw when he and protege Murphy took turns battering him with a kendo stick. Now that the match has officially been deemed a Street Fight, he hopes Mysterio Jr. won't back down and instead gives him every ounce of fight he has in him.
"You're always going to see an aggressive side of me," Rollins said. "Whenever it comes to stuff I do in the ring, I don't take it easy. I don't take a night off.
"That was an initiation of sorts for Dominik. He signed a WWE contract and he wanted to fight the best at SummerSlam so he's going to get that. I'm not going to hold back just back it's his first match in WWE or because he's Rey Mysterio's son. I'm going to expect him to step up to my level."
His Streak of Barn Burners at SummerSlam
Rollins' resume at the August extravaganza is full of instant classics. In fact, since making his SummerSlam debut in 2014, he's gone 5-1 at the event and holds wins over the likes of Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Dean Ambrose.
Whether his Street Fight with Dominik will live up to those unforgettable gems remains to be seen, but his history at the pay-per-view speaks for itself and all but ensures he has something special up his sleeve for Sunday.
When asked about where his slew of stellar matches at The Biggest Party of the Summer puts him in the running for the title of Mr. SummerSlam, Rollins said: "Oh, man, I think Undertaker's got something like 26 wins or something at SummerSlam, so I don't know. He's like Mr. Every Big Pay-Per-View at this point."
He added that he's proud of what he's been able to accomplish at the event over the years and aims for similar success at Sunday's installment.
"I will say my track record at SummerSlam with bangers at SummerSlam has been pretty good," Rollins said. "I kind of look back at my history there over the past six, seven years and I've had some pretty good moments and matches there. I'm hoping this match with Dominik is going to be another one we can add to the list."
Becoming The Monday Night Messiah
Almost every incarnation of Rollins dating back to his NXT days has offered something fans could latch onto. Whether he's been a beloved babyface or a hated heel, he's played both roles remarkably well and has typically been whatever the fans have wanted him to be.
Of all the characters he's portrayed up to this point, though, The Monday Night Messiah just might be his best.
Rollins believes it's much easier in today's wrestling climate to be a bad guy and few faces such as Becky Lynch and Drew McIntyre have managed to make it work long-term. As far as where this heel run ranks among others in his career, it's difficult for him to say while The Messiah persona is still in its infancy.
"It's only really been in earnest for six months, seven months or so now, and so I'm just starting to dig my fingers into it and mold it into what I want it to be," he said. "It's been a blast. It's been different for me, a different role for me than I've played in the past as well. Not just in the ring, but behind the scenes. Time will tell where it ranks, but I'm having a lot of fun with it."
What made his transition into The Monday Night Messiah especially great was that it was completely organic. The WWE Universe was already beginning to turn on him for a variety of reasons, and Rollins simply ran with it by embracing the boos.
He doesn't feel the fans souring on him when they did was a blessing in disguise whatsoever as all roads would have led to him going heel again eventually anyway.
"You can go back and talk about, 'We should have done this, we should have done that,' but at the end of the day, it's going to happen the way it happened," Rollins said.
"There was a ton of extenuating circumstances for why I think I was so hot a year before as a babyface and it kind of slowly fizzled out and turned out the way it did. It made for a great character arc and my entire career has been one giant character arc. I'm looking forward to what the next phase is and where this one takes us."
Cutting Promos in Front of No Fans and Getting Endorsed by Sting
Interestingly enough, it wasn't until Rollins turned heel on his own for the first time in 2014 that he started to develop strong mic skills after not cutting too many promos earlier on in his WWE career.
He's evolved into one of the company's better talkers these past few years, which has been especially true during his recent stint as The Monday Night Messiah. That's despite there being no fans in attendance for him to play off of.
Then again, it was that energy from the audience that Rollins used to cut some of his best promos in the past, so not having a formal crowd at ringside has forced him to switch it up and get creative with his material.
"It's just different when you're accustomed to cutting your promos in front of a live crowd and interacting with them and expect them to play a role because the audience is essentially a character on a television show," he said.
"You expect them to have feedback or to play off that or change the course of things, so you have a different mindset going in whereas if you're doing it in front of no crowd or a limited crowd, it's very much more of a television show. It's very much more of a movie. It's different in the way you approach the context of the promo and the delivery especially."
"I don't know if it's better or worse," he continued. "I think it's better in that you get to fully engage the audience in a story at home because they have no choice but to hear the words you're saying. You don't drift. You don't have to play with a live crowd, so it's different in that regard in getting to more details with the story. But it's certainly not as fun. The live crowd, they're the best."
Although John Cena has been very complimentary of his recent work, the greatest endorsement Rollins has ever received is still from Sting following their Night of Champions clash in 2015. The former WCW world champion went on record in calling him one of the best opponents he's stepped in the ring with.
"He said some very nice things about me after our match at Night of Champions back in 2015 and obviously that didn't end the way either of us wanted it to, but the fact that he came out and said some really nice things about how I was in the ring and stuff like that was pretty outstanding given his lengthy career," he said. "I love John, that's not a knock on John. I really appreciate John's opinion, especially now that he's on the outside looking in. He has fresh eyes. But yeah, Sting saying I was one of the best guys he's ever been in the ring with is pretty astounding to me."
The Shield's Success and Keeping in Contact with Jon Moxley and Roman Reigns
You could call The Shield one of the greatest factions in WWE history and you wouldn't be wrong. As successful as Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose were together, they've done just as well for themselves as singles stars since splitting up six years ago.
The Shield last ran roughshod in WWE in April 2019 right before Ambrose exited the company. He popped up in All Elite Wrestling soon after and has been doing terrific work there under the moniker of Jon Moxley ever since.
Rollins' comments last year regarding Moxley's departure didn't sit well with fans and played a role in them turning against him that same summer. Although it looked like there was tension between the two on the surface, The Architect has ensured they're not only still on speaking terms but also remain good friends with occasional communication.
"We still talk from time to time," he said. "I would love to see what he's doing or how he's doing or whatever. When his wife [Renee Young] got sick, obviously I checked in on him to make sure he was doing OK and the dogs were good and all that good stuff."
Reigns has been no exception, even though he's been off WWE TV quarantining since right before WrestleMania 36. There's no timetable on his return, but that hasn't stopped Rollins from reaching out to him whenever he can.
"He's got five kids now. He's a busy dude," he said. "It's not that he's sitting at home taking his time off. He's working in a different way. As expected-father-to-be later this year, I can't imagine having five little crazies running around at once, so kudos to him and his wife for what they're doing. But he's doing good and he's healthy. You see him on social media. He's working out, he looks like he's in the best shape he's ever been."
As for The Shield on the whole, Rollins couldn't be happier that they did what they set out to do as a unit. Their presence is constantly felt on Raw, SmackDown and AEW Dynamite with where they all are at the moment.
"That was the main goal when we left Florida Championship Wrestling back in 2012, just to take over the business," he said. "Obviously, we could not foresee what it would become or what it is now, but it's exactly what we planned in the sense that we're all kind of running the show in our own respective places."
His Fatherhood Journey So Far Alongside Becky Lynch
Despite doing his best to get fans to hate him every Monday night on Raw, Rollins is still a good guy at heart and has every intention of being the best father he can be to his unborn child with Becky Lynch.
The Man announced the shocking news that she was pregnant a day removed from Money in the Bank in May and immediately relinquished the Raw Women's Championship. She's been away from WWE TV ever since while her partner has remained a fixture on the show.
Rollins confirmed that she's been intentionally laying low due to the current climate but has been happy and healthy otherwise.
"Obviously with COVID and the pandemic, there's a lot of concern going around," he said. "She wants to travel a lot less and understandably so. I'm coming down here every couple of weeks for tapings and stuff like that and the company's done a really good job lately of putting precautions in place to make sure everyone's as healthy as possible.
"There's less concern there, but overall, aside from that being in the back of her mind all the time, she's doing great. We're a little over halfway there and we got a baby room coming and we got everyone set up. I think we're doing it right. It's our first time, so I'm sure we're making tons of mistakes along the way, but we don't know because it's the first time. We're doing good, she's doing great, and everything's healthy.
As for whether he and Lynch have discussed the prospect of their unborn child following in their footsteps some day, he said: "Oh God bless, man, only in jest. We've always made jokes about how we're going to keep them away from the business, away from the industry, away from social media and hope they pick a different path. But who knows, it will be in their blood, so we'll see what happens."
His Goals Going Forward
From becoming the inaugural NXT champion to winning every major singles title on the main roster, Rollins has virtually done it all since joining WWE almost exactly a decade ago. That includes winning a Royal Rumble match, becoming Mr. Money in the Bank and successfully cashing-in in the main event of WrestleMania 31.
He's also faced every notable name to come through the company's ranks over the years and has turned heel and babyface a few times over. Of course, that begs the question of what there is left for him to accomplish in WWE and if he's hit the peak of his popularity.
Having a formal WrestleMania main event match (one he was announced as being a part of from the get-go) comes close to leading his list of current goals, but at this stage of his career, he's more focused on helping build the next generation of Superstars.
"I think, for me, the next step is just to help out younger guys and younger talent and get the company in a really good place so if I do decide to step away at some point in the future, there will be people there to handle it and take over and make sure things go well and so they can pass on that information to the next group as well," he said.
"It's just helping out younger guys. With my wrestling school, I try to do the same thing. At the end of the day, I want wrestling to be awesome. I want to take this show through the roof."
Rollins has taken great pride in being a flag-bearer for WWE in the last year or so and is adamant about getting the company back into the public eye.
"I would love for Raw to be at the top of the cable rankings every single week and be the most talked about thing around the water cooler and all that stuff," he said.
"I love this industry more than anything. I've dedicated my whole life to it, so I basically just want to do anything I can to make it the best it possibly can be."
What Would He Improve in WWE?
Even Rollins, who has vehemently defended the product against critics at every turn over the past year, is aware that no wrestling company is perfect, including WWE.
He recently told The Gorilla Position (h/t ComicBook.com) that long-term storytelling is something he feels WWE has excelled at this year. In regards to his rivalry with Rey Mysterio and some other stories on the show (Bayley vs. Sasha Banks comes to mind as well), he is absolutely correct.
Creatively, though, there's plenty of room for improvement on both Raw and SmackDown. The current circumstances of WWE having to tape television at the Performance Center for all these months has certainly been a factor, but creating compelling programming should also be key.
"There's always stuff to work on and, gosh, I think it's so hard to pinpoint one thing or two things really," Rollins said. "I think things are tough creatively right now in the sense that we don't know where this whole thing is going to fall and we're in the Performance Center, so we're doing the best we can as far as what the aesthetic looks like, trying to get a crowd in there to make noise.
"Things from a viewers' perspective aren't quite the same. If we could somehow, if we're going under the pretense we don't know when live events are coming back and when a live audience is going to be in something the size of a sold-out Boston Garden or whatever, I think making it more fan-friendly, making it more aesthetically pleasing to an audience of a television show might go a long way."
Rollins reiterated that change is a constant process and he's looking to improve the product any way he can. That may well start at SummerSlam, not only because he'll be facing Dominik in a Street Fight but also because the Amway Center in Orlando (reportedly WWE's new base for TV tapings) will provide the shows with a much-needed fresh coat of paint.
"That's just pulling a rabbit out of a hat because there's so many things we all need to work on every day," he said. "Not just the company, but myself, the talent around me, everyone in the back, the writers, the consistency, the conversations, the communication, everything could be better.
"It's so hard to pick just one thing and say, 'Ah, that's going to be the ticket, that's going to do it.' It's a work in progress, and I think going out there and consistently doing your job the best you can and helping other people out would be the best way to move this thing forward."
The more positive change Rollins continues to implement into the product, the better off it will be.
Catch Seth Rollins every Monday night on Raw at 8/7c on USA Network as well as at SummerSlam this Sunday, August 23 at 7/6c on WWE Network.