It’s going to be the talk of the wrestling world for the next seven days, but in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, the Royal Rumble is this Sunday. As always speculation is rife as to who will walk away with a guaranteed world title shot at Wrestlemania, but I’m here to present the case for someone who hasn’t really been mentioned as a real contender: Seth Rollins.
I know Seth is already booked for another match on the show – he’s set to defend the Raw Tag Team Championships alongside Jason Jordan against The Bar. But regardless of whether Rollins wins, or even enters, the Rumble match or not, I think we’re going to see new tag champions (as I wrote last week). It’s not entirely relevant to my argument, but it would have to be the first step for him to get to the “main event” of Wrestlemania. I also don’t see his story with Jordan continuing for long past this week, if at all, which would be another necessary step.
What about his association with Roman Reigns, in what is left of The Shield? Well, Reigns is one of the favourites for the match, despite not yet being officially announced. That’s because it has been reported for months that Roman Reigns is going to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at Wrestlemania, and the Rumble match is the obvious device to get Reigns to that match. For reasons I’ll get into later in the week, I don’t think Reigns needs to nor should win on Sunday.
But Seth Rollins could use the win, especially with Reigns’ push in mind. Rollins has gained a lot of momentum in the last few months, first reuniting with Dean Ambrose and then fully reforming The Shield. But with Ambrose’s injury, and Reigns going off to do his own thing, Rollins runs the risk of getting lost in the pack as we head into Wrestlemania season. A Royal Rumble win would keep one of WWE’s top performers over the last few years in a major storyline on the biggest show of the year.
Because of the anticipated Reigns/Lesnar face off, it would mean a move to SmackDown to challenge AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. Again, I think that would be a very good thing for Rollins – as a face his spot on Raw will only ever be limited as it stands. He is going to be behind Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman, and also potentially Brock Lesnar and John Cena when they’re around, as well as Finn Balor if the Balor Club stays face. On SmackDown, he can be the star, and make Tuesday nights his own. I liken it to Edge, who was never going to be the top guy while John Cena was around on Raw in the mid-2000s, but was able to be the constant on SmackDown in amongst pushes for Rey Mysterio, Kane, Undertaker, Batista and Jeff Hardy.
And think of the potential matches for him on SmackDown. A potential Wrestlemania match with AJ Styles is a dream match, and a pairing I said a year and a half ago that I would build a brand around from the 2016 draft. Rollins has already had feuds with Randy Orton and Kevin Owens, so he should have chemistry with them, and I’d be optimistic that only good things could happen if Rollins set foot in the ring with Sami Zayn or Shinsuke Nakamura for an extended programme.
And further down the line, it could make for some excellent storytelling if Dean Ambrose is found to have moved to SmackDown during another post-Wrestlemania Superstar Shake-Up, and turns heel against Rollins on his return. Being on SmackDown, the Shield association with Reigns would be minimised, and Ambrose could talk about how it was Rollins that injured him, and Ambrose had to sit at home and watch his “brothers” win world championships at Wrestlemania. It would be a rivalry that would take top place on SmackDown between, say, Survivor Series and Wrestlemania next year, whereas it would be overshadowed by part-time returns on Raw.
And since I’m talking about The Shield, a Rollins Royal Rumble win would be another notch in their collective belts. As we saw with their unfortunately disjointed reunion last summer, WWE are trying to put over The Shield as one of the most dominant, and successful, groups in WWE history. To really back that up, they need victories in matches like this. All three Shield members have been world champions, Rollins and Ambrose have each won the Money In The Bank ladder match and Roman Reigns has won a Royal Rumble, as well as holding the single match elimination record. It’s exactly the kind of thing they would do to give The Shield another Royal Rumble win to make them all the more legendary.
Plus, let’s face it, Seth Rollins is an outside the box choice to win the 2018 Royal Rumble. If you ask someone who the favourites are to win, they’re probably going to say Roman Reigns, Shinsuke Nakamura or Finn Balor. If they’re in the match, Braun Strowman and Dolph Ziggler have been mentioned as candidates, and John Cena can never be totally ruled out. I don’t think it would be a bad thing to throw a spanner in the works. A big part of what makes the Royal Rumble so exciting is the unpredictability, the idea that anyone can show up. But – maybe last year aside – more often than not the potential winner is whittled down to one or two candidates going in. Rollins winning in 2018 might just be a way to reset that someone, and remind the fans anyone can win.
Seth proved he is capable of being a top guy in his 2015 run as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Now he is in a different role, more experienced, and arguably better placed to be the face of a show. He is someone whose position on the roster would really benefit from winning the Rumble – it wouldn’t just be used purely as a storytelling device. I’m not saying it’s likely he’s going to go from one half of the Raw Tag Team Champions to a Wrestlemania world title challenger this Sunday, but if WWE were to go down Rollins’ route he would certainly be a safe bet.