WarGames: Has Seth Rollins Fired Shots to AEW and NJPW?

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Seth Rollins

One of the hottest days of wrestling Social Media occurred on Tuesday afternoon when Sports Illustrated released an interview with WWE Universal Champion Seth Rollins. The hotly debated segment of the interview revolved around statements made by Rollins in regards to his former Shield running mate Dean Ambrose, now enjoying a personal renaissance in All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) under his original indie moniker, Jon Moxley.

Photo: WWE

“Ambrose can do what he wants,” Rollins told SI. “He’s a big boy. He’s got his big boy pants on, he can go out there and say whatever he wants, but the bottom line is not everyone is equipped to handle the riggers of the WWE and the schedule and how it affects you mentally and emotionally. Ambrose gave everything he had to the company for the entire time he was here. He put his heart and soul into the travel and the schedule and the injuries and the work in the ring and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, he took his ball and he went home…or he went elsewhere, at least.

Photo: WWE

“I think it’s a little presumptuous of him to get on a podcast and talk down about the company that gave him such opportunities,” Rollins continued, “and he referenced some of those, he did talk about how he was thankful for the time he spent here and the fact that he was able to learn, meet his wife and all that good stuff. Like I said, I love the guy. I love him, I’ll always love him, but at the end of the day, we share differing perspectives about what we want out of life and where we’re at in our own lives. I hope he does well, I’ve kept enough tabs on him to know he’s doing super well for himself right now and I’m happy for that, but I don’t think there’s any reason to hop on a soapbox and complain after the fact. You need to take the first step and that’s looking in the mirror and asking yourself, did you do every single thing you possibly could to make yourself and your situation what you want it to be. If the answer is yes you did, then you can go elsewhere and complain, and if you feel good about it if that’s where he’s at mentally, then go right ahead, but if he hasn’t done that and looked in the mirror and made that decision, maybe he should look think about that and that goes for any other disgruntled talent, past or present.”

It’s strange that on the day he seemingly took shots at arguably AEW’s most exciting star so far, that it came as Seth Rollins was in the midst of a Twitter feud with probably New Japan’s hottest star right now, in UK star Will Ospreay. Seth Rollins is fighting back to anti-WWE naysayers and disgruntled former stars with an aggressive pro-WWE stance in a time when defending WWE isn’t all that “cool”. In many ways, he’s coming across like a more timid version of his “real life” girlfriend, Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch‘s “The Man” character on Social Media. But with the face of the current WWE landscape actively engaging and discussing on major media platforms – in Sports Illustrated and on Twitter – with and about stars of widely considered main competition, it almost seems like that Vince McMahon has pulled the trigger on firing the first shots in the impending Great War, and in doing so, unleashed his Universal Champion on both AEW and NJPW at the same time.

Make no mistake, this will not be a conventional war. But there’s a very good chance that WWE-only or casual fans are now shifting their heads towards NJPW and/or AEW, now searching to see what Ambrose is “doing super well” or who this “little guy” from New Japan is all about that Seth would even talk to him. It’s almost like Vince is prodding both companies, saying “Okay, if you want to dance, let’s dance.” They’ve shed some light on both promotions in 24 hours through the pro-WWE stance of its champion Seth Rollins. Staunchly defending WWE as the “best pro wrestling on the planet”, while others are trying to “change the world.”

Seth Rollins
Photo: WWE

Part of the symbiotic explosion of pro wrestling in the 1990s was just this very tactic. In many instances throughout the war, the writing was terrible at various points of all three promotions, but the very public animosity between WWF, ECW, and WCW kept the thought of war an engaging thought in the collective zeitgeist of the pro wrestling fan. When stories got dull, there was at least the excitement of wondering when someone would jump ship, and why, and where, and when. And in the limited media we had during the late 1990s, each promotion – and many of their top stars – would relish at the chance of smearing their competitor’s name. The more kayfabe the smear was entrenched the better. You can slander legally if you transmit those thoughts through fictional characters than you can in the mainstream press or a stockholders meeting.

When there’s a public animosity between the major promotions – whether those animosities are real or perceived – the interest groundswells. It happened throughout the territory days when people would bounce between the NWA, AWA, and WWA, in the 1980s between Mid Atlantic and New York (WWF), in the 1990s between WWF, WCW and ECW, and in the 2000s between TNA and WWE (although not between WWE and TNA). There are clear alliances formed in global wrestling. WWE is in league with EVOLVE, PROGRESS, ICW and Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw); NJPW is in alliance with Ring of Honor, Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), and Revolution Pro (RevPro); IMPACT Wrestling is in alliance with Major League Wrestling (MLW) and AAA Lucha Libre; All Elite Wrestling is in alliance with AAA Lucha Libre and Oriental Wrestling Entertainment (OWE). Various other smaller indies work in limited alliances with multiple.

Vince McMahon is always at his best when he feels there’s someone challenging him. During the mid-1980s when he was fighting to transcend the NWA and in the late-1990s when he was fighting to defeat a rebuilt NWA as WCW, he was forced to push boundaries. But he’s grown lazy since the fall of WCW and ECW. Complacent. But with AEW bringing pro wrestling back to TNT this fall, it could show Vince that a storm could be brewing. And since the last war nearly bankrupt Vince in its early stages, he would be more inclined to bring the fight earlier this time.

Photo: Muscle & Fitness

Regardless of the reason, we are in a new age of pro wrestling. The monopoly of pro wrestling in the mainstream is about to be challenged in the form of AEW this coming fall. While no rational person believes AEW will challenge WWE’s global presence as a brand, there are few that argue that AEW is the first alternative to WWE to hit the airwaves since the collapse of WCW. AEW isn’t delusional. Tony Khan has repeatedly said they do not intend to “compete” with the WWE. They are simply an alternative.

Seth Rollins
Photo: WWE

But with Seth Rollins engaging Will Ospreay and bringing Jon Moxley’s name – and reports of his current success elsewhere – in front of millions of WWE fans, it’s alerted the WWE Universe that their champion had just walked into the Twitter fields of enemy territory and was planting the WWE flag as the “best pro wrestling on the planet”. It’s time to see what McMahondalf the Grey has left in his spellbook, as an invading horde and new age of man seeks to rise in the battle for pro wrestling. But in the end, there will only truly be one winner.

The fans.

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