On July 26th, 2012, a young man named Seth Rollins defeated Jinder Mahal to become the first ever NXT Champion. With tears in his eyes, he had both hands raised by a couple of legends. On his right, the legendary Dusty Rhodes, a man that had helped him adjust to the WWE. On his left, stood Triple H. From day one, Triple H had an eye on Seth Rollins. On April 2nd, 2017, Rollins and Triple H will meet at WrestleMania. This is the story of the architect and the cerebral assassin.
The Architect and the Cerebral Assassin: A Kayfable
It’s no secret that NXT is Triple H’s baby. He told Vince McMahon that he didn’t like the company’s developmental system, and that he wanted to completely rebuild it. McMahon put Triple H in charge, and thus NXT went from campy game show to developmental promotion. Triple H wanted to build NXT into it’s own brand, and he needed a face to run the place.
That face was Seth Rollins. Rollins had made a name for himself in Ring of Honor as Tyler Black, and he was considered by many to be one of the best independent wrestlers in the world. Unfortunately, this opinion was shared by Rollins.
Tyler Black vs. The Red Rooster
Terry Taylor was running developmental at the time, and he constantly butted heads with the former Ring of Honor World Champion. Rollins believed that he was the best wrestler in developmental and that he didn’t need to change anything about his style, but Taylor disagreed. Taylor, who once served as a mentor for Triple H, was just about done with him, but Triple H kept him around.
Eventually it came to the point where Taylor was about to give up on Rollins, and Triple H had to tell him that if he didn’t straighten up, it would mean his WWE career ended before it even began. This was enough to get through to Rollins, and he got himself together.
Fast forward to 2012, and Triple H proudly stood next to Rollins as he celebrated becoming the first NXT Champion. And while it may have seemed like little more than a booking decision at the time, it was the beginning of a relationship that would change the face of the WWE forever.
Seth Rollins would make his first main roster appearance at Survivor Series 2012, when he, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose interfered in the main event. CM Punk was defending his WWE Championship against Ryback and John Cena, and it seemed certain that Punk’s title reign was over when Rollins, Reigns, and Ambrose stormed the ring and assaulted The Big Guy.
They were the Shield, and they had come to WWE to restore justice. Ambrose and Rollins believed that they had been stuck in developmental for too long, and Roman Reigns had been told over and over that he wasn’t ready, and that he couldn’t make it in WWE. The three men had a chip on their shoulder, and they were ready to bring the pain to Monday Night Raw.
Originally, the three men were a security force for Punk, but before long, they branched out on their own. They went on tear, destroying everyone from John Cena to the Undertaker. The trio wouldn’t lose a match until May 13th, six months after they debuted.
They didn’t stay down long however, as six days later, Dean Ambrose defeated Kofi Kingston to become United States Champion, and Rollins and Reigns defeated Team Hell No to become Tag Team Champions.
The main event of SummerSlam was Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship, with Triple H as the special guest referee. Triple H called the match right down the middle, and at the end, Daniel Bryan defeated Cena with his running knee. Bryan was celebrating when Randy Orton, who was Mr. Money in the Bank at the time, approached the ring. He stared Daniel down, but it looked like he was going to back away.
That’s when Triple H, who had been a face since returning to TV as the COO, turned heel by hitting Bryan with the Pedigree, allowing Orton to cash in and become WWE Champion. This was the beginning of an authority angle that is still going strong four years later.
The following night, Bryan went to confront Triple H, and he was ambushed by the Shield, who had joined the Authority. Rollins, Reigns, and Ambrose would act as Triple H’s muscle for the better part of the next year. This marked the first time that Seth Rollins found himself working for Triple H, but it wouldn’t be the last. However, as time went on, there was a serious threat to the Shield. Themselves.
Cracks in the Shield
The three men had been dominating the WWE for over a year when they began to have problems. There was no question that they were dominant as a unit, but which man made the group elite? Ambrose had been acting as the leader, doing most of the talking, but Roman Reigns had been the muscle, and usually got the pinfall.
Tension started to build between the two, and it would always be Rollins that tried to put them back together. Tensions hit their boiling point on March 3rd, 2014, when Rollins was so fed up that he actually walked away from the match, leaving Reigns and Ambrose to the Wyatt Family.
On SmackDown that week, the Shield had a summit. Rollins explained that he needed to walk away to get the Shield back on the same page. Tensions boiled over when Ambrose shoved Rollins, and then Reigns shoved Ambrose.
Rollins stood up and slapped Ambrose, and then he invited the Lunatic to do the same. Ambrose punched Rollins, and then it seemed like the trio was back on the same page. With the Shield reformed, they’d team up to take on their biggest opponent yet, setting up the next chapter in this story.
Hounds of Justice
After being put in tough spot after tough spot by the Authority, the Shield had had enough. They believed the Authority had sent the Wyatt Family after them, and all three men had lost their titles. On March 17th, in 2014, Kane summoned the Shield to the ring to punish Jerry “The King” Lawler for playing his part in the YES Movemenet taking over Monday Night Raw. However, instead of attacking Lawler, they turned face, attacking Kane.
This would lead to a WrestleMania match where the Shield easily disposed of the team of Kane and the New Age Outlaws. Later that night, Daniel Bryan would defeat Randy Orton and Batista to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
The next night, Triple H booked Bryan in a Championship match against himself. Before the match even started, Orton and Batista came out and decimated Bryan. Then Kane came out and hit a chokeslam on Bryan before Triple H himself came out.
He forced the ref to ring the bell, while Bryan lay prone in the middle of the ring, and that’s when the Shield’s music hit. They came down to the ring. The Shield stared down the trio of Kane, Orton, and Batista as Triple H attempted to diffuse the situation. Instead, Triple H ate a spear and both teams brawled until the Authority was cleared of the ring with the exception of Triple H. He ate a running knee and the show ended with the Shield and Bryan standing tall.
In what would end up being the swan song for the Shield, they feuded with the reformed Evolution faction. Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista reformed with the sole purpose of bringing the Shield down. At the Extreme Rules pay per view, the two factions went to battle, and the Shield came away victorious.
The teams had one more match, this time at Payback. This time, it was an elimination match, so whichever team had the last man standing would win. That team was the Shield, and they won in a clean sweep, eliminating Batista, Orton, and Triple H without losing a single member. They didn’t know it at the time, but this was the last night of the Shield.
Broken Shields and Mr. Money in the Bank
The next night, Randy Orton and Roman Reigns were supposed to face off in the main event. However, earlier in the evening, Batista, frustrated that he didn’t get the one on one championship match he was promised, quit WWE.
So when Triple H and Randy Orton went to the ring for the main event, they were outnumbered… or so they thought.
With a cocky grin, Triple H announced that he had a plan B. as it turns out, that plan B was Seth Rollins. The architect of The Shield stepped back and began to destroy his Shieldmates with a steel chair. As thousands stood shocked, Triple H put an arm over Rollins’ shoulders… just like at NXT way back when.
The next week, Rollins said that he only saw the Shield as business partners, and that he was doing what was best for business. He wasn’t selling out, he was buying in, and through the Authority, he could get everything he ever wanted.
With the help of the Authority, Seth Rollins became Mr. Money in the Bank. Over the next few months, Rollins would act as the sword of the King, even captaining Triple H’s Survivor Series team. And when Sting cost Team Authority the match, it was Rollins that manipulated John Cena into giving them their power back. But it wasn’t until WrestleMania that he would finally see the rewards of his work.
WWE World Heavyweight Champion
When Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar were both down in the main event of WrestleMania, Seth Rollins’ music hit. The architect ran down to the ring, and finally cashed in his briefcase, making the match a triple threat. After Reigns speared Lesnar, Rollins hit a curbstomp before winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Seth Rollins was the champion, but he wasn’t an honest one. He leaned on Triple H and the Authority, even employing the services of J & J Security to keep his title. But as his reign grew longer, he grew more cocky, soon claiming that he no longer needed the Authority. As the months went on, Triple H grew less and less patient with Rollins, and it looked like the architect might be in trouble.
Unfortunately, Rollins took an awkward bump at a house show, and he blew out his knee. Rollins had to vacate his title, and he was off television for several months.
Redesign. Rebuild. Reclaim
Seth Rollins returned to the WWE at the Extreme Rules pay per view, hitting Roman Reigns with a pedigree after he retained his title against AJ Styles. Despite the fact that fans were thrilled to see him, he still came back as the same character he was before he left. He was still the sneaky scumbag he was before the injury.
Or was he? While Rollins was still being a bit of a jerk, he wasn’t cheating in his matches anymore. He was able to defeat Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship without cheating at all. In fact, with time, the only thing that was wrong with Rollins was that he was cocky.
Well that, and his relationship with Stephanie McMahon. No matter what happened, Stephanie always gave Rollins an unfair advantage. When Dean Ambrose took the WWE Championship to SmackDown Live, Stephanie decided that he didn’t have to earn a shot at the Universal Championship, but that he’d automatically be in the first match for it.
But despite getting title shot after title shot, Rollins couldn’t seem to get the job done. When the spotlight was brightest, he kept coming up short. After Finn Balor suffered an injury, vacating the Universal Championship, there was an elimination fatal fourway for the new red belt.
The match was between Rollins, Kevin Owens, Big Cass, and Roman Reigns. Cass was eliminated first, and that’s when things got crazy. Reigns and Rollins were fighting outside the ring when Triple H appeared. HHH hadn’t been on television since he lost to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. He hit a Pedigree on Reigns, feeding him to Rollins. It looked like Owens was about to get the same treatment when Triple H Pedigree’d Rollins instead!
Triple H basically handed the championship to Kevin Owens, and Seth Rollins began his long road to the good side. Seth Rollins called Triple H out week after week, but the game never answered.
Rollins realized that if he wanted Triple H, he’d have to take what meant the most to him. So he went after the Universal Championship, which Kevin Owens had. Unfortunately, every time that Rollins would try to get close to Owens, his best friend, Chris Jericho would interfere.
He finally got rid of Jericho, but he couldn’t seem to get to Owens, so he declared that he would just have to win the Royal Rumble. Stephanie McMahon wasn’t having that, however, and she said he’d have to earn a spot by defeating Sami Zayn.
He had just hit the Pedigree, and he was moments from victory when Triple H’s music hit. Rollins dropped everything and stared at the stage, but the game never came. Instead, Rollins was rolled up, and he wouldn’t have a spot in the Royal Rumble.
In order to get to the next step, he went back to where it all started. He went back to NXT, calling out Triple H on his own show. Triple H came out, but he had security escort Rollins out of the building before banning him from the building come the Royal Rumble.
An Arrow to the Knee
The next night, Triple H was on Raw and he called out Seth Rollins, telling him to come and get it. He told the story of Seth Rollins, explaining that he created Seth Rollins, and that Rollins lost his way. Seth came down the aisle, but he was attacked by Samoa Joe. During the attack, Rollins re-aggravated his knee, and he was expected to miss Mania.
However, if that was true, nobody told Rollins. Week after week, he showed up on Monday Night Raw, desperately trying to get to Triple H. Finally, the game admitted that there was a way the match could happen. He said the two could have a non-sanctioned, no rules match at Mania.
Seth Rollins and Triple H had it out in the middle of the ring. Triple H explained that Rollins was lost, and that there’s nothing wrong with doing whatever it takes to look out for number one. Rollins told Triple H that this was the same speech he got three years ago.
Rollins said that he liked who he was before he met Triple H. He said that he was proud of who he was before he met Triple H. He said the match wasn’t about the fame, the power, or the money. He explained that it was about revenge, and that’s what he’s after at WrestleMania 33.
At WrestleMania 33, it looks like we’re finally going to see the architect and the cerebral assassin face off one on one. From father figure to boss to arch-enemy, the blood feud comes to an end where it began, in Orlando. Will Seth Rollins slay the king, and come into his own as a bonafide main event superstar or will the game have a plan B?
There’s only one way to find out.
Main Photo: WWE