I’ve not been a big fan of Seth Rollins for a few years now so I wasn’t expecting to love this match. I still can’t quite make the leap to call it great but it did surprise me in very positive ways. The most significant thing about this is that it’s by far the most entertaining Seth Rollins performance I’ve seen in a really long time. When Rollins came out to The Shield’s old music, dressed up in their old gear, I couldn’t help but respect it. It was good piece of storytelling, and just clever enough to fit the narrative they were going with.
Maybe something about seeing Rollins dressed in what I associate with the prime of his career flipped a switch in my brain, but the rest of the match was really damn good too. They kept a hot pace in this with Roman playing the de facto babyface against the annoying Rollins, which meant that we got to skip some of Roman’s slower and more methodical control beats. Instead, Rollins just threw himself into a bunch of really entertaining offense, allowing Roman to bump around for him. Most impressively was the powerbomb through the announce table about halfway through the match. The quick pace (along with rumors that Rollins was meant to win the WWE Title at Day 1) also meant that every Rollins finisher came off strongly as a false finish. I fully bit on his first Curb Stomp and was prepared to see the best Universal Title reign ever get flushed down the drain.
Unfortunately, Rollins really just can’t help himself sometimes. His sillier character work comes to the fore in the finishing stretch with him cackling at Roman and goading him on. On top of that, there’s some piece of his offense that just annoy me to know end. His ripcord elbow to the back of the head especially always comes off weak and weightless, especially since I associate that move with Chris Hero. There’s just enough of Rollins’ bad habits in there to keep this from greatness.
The good news, of course, is that Roman retains the title and murders Rollins in the finish. Swings and roundabouts, we take the good with the bad. A really strong opener for the Rumble, just knocking on the door of greatness.