Typically, people lauded for breakout performances in wrestling are those who are relatively new to the craft, unknown almost, and just getting their feet wet. It’s not a compliment you tend to give to a multi-time champion and PWI Wrestler of the Year, nearly 13 years after his career debut and six years after his WWE debut. It’s definitely not one you give to someone who was anointed the face of the WWE and someone who has the longest reign with the WWE World Championship, in the past three years. Then again, it’s not every day that someone does what Seth Rollins did on this week’s Monday Night Raw.
Redesigned. Rebuilt. Reclaimed.
When it comes to the status of who Raw’s best performer is, look no further than Seth Rollins. Always considered to be among the top, if there was any doubt of his place as #1 on that list, it was likely quelled as he took part in one of Raw’s best matches perhaps ever, a seven-man gauntlet comprised of the members of Sunday’s Elimination Chamber PPV.
Rollins opened the match against Shield brethren and favorite to win the chamber, Roman Reigns. The two put on a great opener, one that lasted just about half an hour and really allowed both men to showcase their abilities. Both Reigns and Rollins performed well but at the end of the match, thanks to a roll-up of all moves, Rollins’ words from August of 2016 continued to hold true, “There are only three things certain in life: death, taxes and Seth Rollins beats Roman Reigns every time.”
Technically speaking, Seth Rollins hasn’t beaten Reigns every time, but in the big matches, the Architect does have an enviable win-loss record against his faction mate and former rival. With the title on the line, Rollins has had Reigns’ number but he’s also had that of the man he faced next, John Cena. Rollins was one of just a handful of people to defeat Cena in 2015, managing to win the United States Title from him in the process.
Going from Reigns to Cena is just about the hardest thing a wrestler could do, not even so much in terms of match difficulty but in terms of competing against the bookers. The odds of Reigns AND Cena losing in separate one-on-ones on the same night seemed all but impossible to even imagine. But Seth Rollins did it. Following his grueling encounter with Reigns, Cena seemed to put on the brakes at times, even pitying Rollins for the toll his body had gone through. Perhaps most shocking of all was Rollins, toward the finish of the match, not only kicked out of the Double AA, but followed it up with his curbstomp, a move that since its reintroduction has yet to be kicked out of. Typically in those situations, Cena is the guy making history, but a three-count later and Rollins was still alive, making believers out of the people who doubted he could return to being the top guy.
Seth Rollins: "For me I'm just sick of it. I'm tired of it. I was saddled with Jason Jordan for so long. I just wanted branch out on my own and do my own thing…I know my value, I know where I stand, and I'm tired of being under-appreciated."
— Daily DDT (@FanSidedDDT) February 19, 2018
To this point, no wrestler had ever beaten Reigns and Cena in one night, let alone one match, and it’s unlikely anyone ever will again. But that wasn’t the only history Seth Rollins made as his time in the gauntlet, which ultimately ended during his third match of the night against Elias, saw the man record 65 minutes of ring-time. Rollins was impressive, he was dominant, and his star has perhaps never shined better.
This isn’t the first time he’s worked double duty, in fact, Rollins had most recently been the iron man of the night at the Royal Rumble, working over 19 minutes in the match itself (ninth longest) and then adding another 13 in what essentially amounted to a 2-on-1 handicap match right afterward. Rollins also notably worked double duty at WWE’s Night of Champions in 2015, where he worked over 30 minutes across back-to-back championship matches, both of which he won.
"THANK YOU SETH! THANK YOU SETH! THANK YOU SETH!"
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) February 20, 2018
But on Raw, Seth Rollins did something no one else in the show’s 25-year history has done. By wrestling a match for 65 minutes, Rollins surpassed what had been the longest individual performance in a Raw match previously, belonging to Chris Benoit and Triple H from a championship 60-minute iron man match back in 2004. Rollins’ time also surpasses the longest Smackdown TV match, again a 60-minute iron man, this time between Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle from 2003. Monday’s gauntlet match itself is the longest WWE televised match in history, lasting almost two full hours.
When Rollins was rehabbing his knee injury, his message was simple. He wanted to redesign and rebuild Seth Rollins in order to reclaim the championship he never truly lost. He accomplished all that, but was never fully able to get back to the top of the mountain. Monday night changed all of that.
Seth Rollins just went an hour and pinned Roman Reigns and John Cena.
That's as impressive to me as Chris Jericho beating The Rock and Steve Austin in the same night.
Don't @ me. #RAW
— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) February 20, 2018
Considering Rollins had been languishing in no man’s land for some time, the booking of the gauntlet match couldn’t have come at a better time. Rollins didn’t win but he ended Raw with the crowd firmly behind him and with a reminder that he is still and will always be “The Man.” A star may not have been born tonight, but one that had flickered and faded is now shining as bright as ever. And yes, for a guy who has been a multi-champion, Money in the Bank winner, WrestleMania main-eventer, Raw’s gauntlet match was indeed a break-out performance.
He’s back. Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins is finally back.