Much has been made of Roman Reigns' work, Becky Lynch's return and Bianca Belair's ascension in 2021, but flying just under the radar has been Seth Rollins' emergence as one of the most insufferable villains in quite some time.
A loud, obnoxious, over-the-top personality with a wardrobe to boot, he has also demonstrated an ability to viciously and savagely brutalize top babyfaces over the course of lengthy rivalries.
An Extraordinary Year for Rollins
Rollins has somehow managed to fly under the radar when discussing the best workers of the year. That he does not work for All Elite Wrestling or isn't the Tribal Chief certainly hurts, but one look at his resume in 2021 proves he absolutely should rank alongside the likes of Roman Reigns, Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson for recognition as the best in the world.
First, there was the program with Cesaro. While that rivalry turned out regularly strong matches, as expected given the talent involved, it was Rollins' ability to elevate The Swiss Cyborg to the main event that is the most overlooked element of his year.
The former WWE and Universal champion took a guy who has always been great between the ropes but struggled to gain any traction beyond the midcard and brought him to his level. By the time Cesaro was finished working WrestleMania with Rollins, he was ready to challenge Reigns in a pay-per-view main event as the hottest babyface in the entire company.
That is a testament to Rollins' ability to get someone over and prepare them for the biggest, most substantial run of their career. A lot of it was Cesaro, sure, but the credibility that came from working with an established performer proved invaluable.
Rollins transitioned from that feud into one with Edge that produced three genuine Match of the Year candidates, the last being the front-runner in that particular category. With Edge, Rollins turned in one of the best feuds from any promotion all year, culminating with an appropriately violent Hell in a Cell match.
Those two programs—as well as his reinvention as The King of Drip—and some of the best promo work of his career have him riding a wave of momentum into a feud with Big E that will likely make or break the WWE champion's run as the top babyface on the flagship show.
Solidifying the Champion
To this point, Big E's lone "program" as champion has been a brief run with Bobby Lashley, which was overshadowed by his own cashing in of the Money in the Bank contract and The All Mighty's ongoing rivalry with Goldberg. He has wandered aimlessly, working a one-off with Drew McIntyre at Crown Jewel, and is badly in need of a sustained feud that allows him to showcase his traits and abilities in the most prominent role of his career.
Enter Rollins, who has already established that he can elevate another talent this year and is coming off one of the best matches of his entire career in Saudi Arabia.
A detestable heel who has zero problem chasing boos, he will help strengthen the audience's connection with Big E, all while returning to a position on the card he probably never should have left.
When you add the rich history between the competitors—which includes Big E defeating Rollins for the NXT Championship, then outlasting him to win Money in the Bank just this past July—you have a scenario in which all of the proverbial stars have aligned for a feud that should help re-energize the Raw brand and provide two of its top stars the opportunity to thrive in the main event scene for the next couple of months.
It will, as usual, be up to those in creative power to ensure opportunities are not missed out of laziness or overbooking because Rollins is in the midst of one of his best years, and Big E can absolutely benefit from it.