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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: August 8-11, 2017 - What Do You Have Against Seth Rollins?, Raw & Smackdown Pros And Cons, The Best Thing on WWE TV Right Now
By The Doc
Aug 11, 2017 - 12:58:51 PM

”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE's top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a worldwide 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.

So, What Do You Have Against Seth Rollins?

Raw and Smackdown Pros and Cons

The Best Thing on WWE TV Right Now

So, What Do You Have Against Seth Rollins?

QUESTION OF THE DAY: If you are not on-board with Seth Rollins right now, where did it all go wrong and what will it take to get you on board?

Last weekend, I took to Twitter to point out how thoroughly I enjoyed a pair of matches from the past year that I felt were not getting enough “all-time” caliber hype in critical circles. The response to my comments was what I have come to expect whenever said matches are brought back to the forefront of modern discussion; just as I struggle to see why the majority has not come around to the brilliance in both performances, the majority apparently struggles to see why I find the performances to be so brilliant. The common denominator? One Seth Friekin’ Rollins…

When former Shield members collided at Money in the Bank 2016 last June, I claimed it an instant classic. The majority found it good but not great. I later heralded it upon several replays, in comparison to rewatches for other great contenders, the 2016 Match of the Year; that decision was met with confusion as fans continued to deride the first time-ever meeting between two of the primary leaders of this generation as confusingly lacking inspiration, perhaps due to the impending suspension of Roman Reigns or what has been described by some as “odd character dynamics.” I remain steadfast in my assertion that Rollins vs. Reigns told the best story, featured the most engrossing character portrayals, and aesthetically flowed in such a manner that it will be destined to stand the test of time far better than, say, a false finish-fest.

Earlier this year, when Rollins finally got his hands on Triple H at WrestleMania 33 and defeated him clean in the middle of the ring, I once again shouted from the figurative rooftops of each platform at my disposal about its “classic” status. However, the general consensus was that it too was good but not great. I have continued to champion it as the “other leading candidate” (alongside Styles vs. Cena III) for 2017 Match of the Year (to date) but, while it seems that such a statement is going over better this year than the similar sentiment for Rollins vs. Reigns did last year, there has still been a lot of push-back. My stance? It had everything that you could want from an epic wrestling encounter except a wild and crazy crowd, though the audience certainly came alive for the finishing sequence that saw Stephanie McMahon go through a table and The Game get pinned within the span of about 15 seconds.

After having a lot of conversations about these matches and, more specifically The Architect in general, with a wide variety of different fans and pundits, the conclusion drawn as to the reason behind the rather lukewarm reception to the above matches – at least by comparison to my own glowing praise – is that diehard fans no longer care all that much for Seth Rollins.

Far be it for me to deny the obvious: that Rollins is just simply not very over and has not been very over for nearly a year. That said, I remain curious to know why. Did he somehow lose his indy credibility because he got to WWE before others with greater indy clout like AJ Styles? Sure, he has been a victim of lousy booking, but every single WWE Superstar on the roster has been a victim of lousy booking. Are we really going to hold against Rollins that WWE made an asinine decision to bring him back from injury last May as a heel when they knew that they wanted to turn him babyface for the Triple H program no more than six-to-eight months later anyway? And, if you believe that he came back as a heel just because WWE did not want anyone having stronger heroic vibes than Roman Reigns last summer, should that not have gotten you behind Rollins that much more? Or are you still hung up on the fact that creative’s hand was forced due to Balor’s injury, prompting WWE to dust off the dimwitted “heel turns on a heel so now the wronged party becomes a face” booking philosophy last August?

Most of the aforementioned talks I had revealed a recurring theme: that the Rollins character is not that interesting. Well, for the love of God, folks, whose character in WWE <>is that interesting, for starters; and furthermore, how is the one guy best representative since 2014 of the modern opportunity on WWE TV to slowly, surely, and steadily widen his personic scope now being lambasted as being uninteresting? For eighteen months, Rollins was the best booked character in WWE; then he got injured, came back, Triple H turned on him, and – without question – for about five months floundered while meandering through an exceptionally weak transition out of his antagonistic role until he showed up at NXT Takeover: San Antonio and reinjured his knee two nights later…BUT, Rumble weekend and the Raw that followed were so obviously the turning points for Rollins as a protagonist and, since then, he has been right back at it among the most consistently developed personas in the game. He is indeed a babyface in an inorganic, overly-scripted era and there are natural limitations that come with that, but those same limitations have had lesser effects on the audience’s relationships with Seth’s peers.

So, what gives? Why is Rollins being treated by the diehard fanbase as being more like Reigns and less like Styles? AJ’s persona, by the way, has never experienced in WWE the kind of growth that has The Architect’s, yet he gets a pass and the buildings keep on booming for him while Rollins walks out to tepid reactions every week? Explain that to me.

In the ring, Rollins is the second best worker in WWE behind Styles and, when you consider that Rollins has been around for about three years longer than The Phenomenal One, it would seem to hold water if you were to call Rollins the best worker in WWE, overall, since mid-2014. Nobody has a body of work since The Shield split that stands on an equal playing field to that of Seth Friekin’ Rollins. He is a decade younger than Styles, he is athletically an evolutionary Shawn Michaels, and he has spent at least half of the last six months displaying the kind of range as a character that we clamor for, on top of the stellar, untouchable three year track record of in-ring performances in WWE that would have made several of his peers revered legends already had they equaled his resume. What is holding this guy back from the admiration, respect, and monster momentum that he has arguably earned already and at the very least seems well on his way toward earning?

My personal views on professional wrestling are very analytical, my assessments and reviews based on how well performers and performances hold up to scrutiny on a variety of different scales. When someone like Rollins is not that over, then, I have a need to understand why that transcends a lot of the basic arguments already referenced because it stands in such direct contrast to my own evaluation. In my opinion, there is no obvious reason anymore as to why Seth Rollins should not be challenging on a nightly basis for the biggest pops and getting damn close to that level of reverence that very few ever reach.

Raw and Smackdown Pros and Cons

Monday Night Raw (Three Pros)

WWE has sold this year's Summerslam main-event, thus far, on the physicality that we can expect from it come bell time on August 20th. The Last Man Standing Match between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman in combination with Brock Lesnar mauling The Miztourage were the latest examples and it continues to be an effective hype method. All four characters have been established this summer as the most dominant forces on Raw and using the idea of a brutally titanic clash in compliment has resulted in an aura of culmination for Lesnar vs. Joe vs. Reigns vs. Strowman not typically found in multi-man matches, particularly when the number of participants extends beyond three. By themselves, the Miz TV segment turned triple beat-down and the escalation of the Strowman-Roman rivalry were both good but riveting parts of the broadcast, but put together within the context of the over-arching saga, they did their jobs well.

Speaking of a job well done, what else can be said about the Ambrose and Rollins story that was not already pointed out in the previous column? On social media, someone referred to The Shield as the most over-hyped stable of the decade, but when you see the amazingly enthusiastic reaction to what nearly took place on Monday – the mere tease of a fist-bump – it is hard not to, pardon the pun, “Believe in The Shield.” That gave me goosebumps and further invested me in what hopefully will be the realization of the fist-bump, and the obvious trend toward letting bygones be bygones, at Summerslam; it is liable to elicit one of the biggest pops of the night. Kudos to Ambrose and Cesaro, by the way, for having the rare TV match without clearly defined stakes that was attention-grabbing enough to watch for its entire duration; more where that came from at some point, please.

Beyond the above referenced storylines, Raw has been rather lackluster in putting together its half of the Summerslam card this year. It is tough to fully commit to saying that Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt falls into the same sort of category as the Big Cass vs. Big Show feud and the regression to the 2017 norm for the Women's Championship scene – arcs in which something is clearly missing that is needed to make them more engaging. Call it a “marginal Pro” then for The Eater of Worlds likely setting up the return of The Demon King a week from Sunday. Balor has been defined down as more of a second-tier star since returning from the shoulder surgery that ended the first Universal Title reign at one day, so while you might rather see him in a prime spot, when you consider his post-return position, a feud with Wyatt that leads him to the paint and the aesthetic wow-factor of the Demon-entrance is really nothing to scoff at; it promises to provide some flair to the mid-card at Summerslam.

Monday Night Raw (One Con)

Injuries can be a blessing in disguise and here's hoping that proves to be the case for Bayley after a shoulder separation ruled her out for Summerslam. Sasha Banks was the right opponent for Summerslam anyway, as her angle with Alexa Bliss felt like the kind of rivalry between top females that could have steered the inconsistent Raw women's division back to less rocky seas. However, if the silver lining to Bayley going down was Banks rising back up, then WWE's choice to run a mini-tournament involving the entire roster wipes out two very valuable weeks that could have been used to properly, albeit briefly, hype the Banks vs. Bliss rematch from Great Balls of Fire. Late June to Summerslam and beyond once appeared destined to be all about The Boss and The Champ, which would have been greatly beneficial to the evolving women's game. Instead, the ball was most definitely dropped. Disappointing...

Smackdown Live (Two Pros)

If there is one particular criticism that can be levied on Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles for the United States Championship these past few months, it would have to be the general lack of reason that we have been given to care about it. Perhaps the writers thought that the reputations of Owens and Styles, plus the driving narrative of the title itself would be enough, but it simply was not enough. It was strangely refreshing, then, to see Shane McMahon inserted into what presumably will be their final rematch – and final opportunity to have the kind of match that everyone has been expecting – as the special referee. The segment at the mid-way point of Tuesday's Smackdown did as much as if not more to build some added intrigue than the last three months of creative combined. Owens has a budding conflict with Shane, who had a major conflict at WrestleMania with Styles; the duo of Styles and Owens may not have had much to sink its teeth into since May, but the trio of Owens, Styles, and Shane O'Mac surely do.

Say what you will about in-ring promos, but CM Punk said it best: the microphone is power; and that is not limited to individual superstars getting themselves over – it is also arguably the very best way to create drama between superstars. John Cena and Baron Corbin provided marginal proof of that last night, adding more substance to their impending Summerslam bout than the obligatory, “The Lone Wolf will get out of it the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with one of the greatest of all-time.” Corbin may not have lit the world on fire in response to the verbal tongue-lashing he received from Cena, but he was not a “dumpster fire” either. Mr. Money in the Bank is not ready to cash-in, that much is pretty obvious and hopefully WWE realizes that, but he held his own in that segment and his match with The Golden Boy next weekend may well benefit from it.

Smackdown Live (One Con)

Not to pick on the women's evolution or anything, but the booking for Charlotte Flair continues to be one of the most baffling things in WWE today. Rewind the clock a year and she was the face of the “Revolution,” and her rivalry with Sasha Banks took women's wrestling to unprecedented heights many never thought would be possible in WWE. Yet, look at her now, a rebel without a cause meandering about a crowded scene as if she were an also-ran; nobody would have batted an eyelash at it if this were 2014, even though she is Ric Flair's daughter, but it is not 2014 anymore. Some have said that the revolution ended because it accomplished its goal of giving women in WWE a chance, but the counter to that idea is that the revolution did not last long enough to make long-lasting change that would consistently put women in the position to succeed. Charlotte is “The Woman” - and it is ridiculous that she has gone four months without being booked like it.

Rollins And Ambrose Are The Best Thing on WWE TV Right Now

Five episodes of Monday Night Raw ago, Seth Rollins subtly made clear what his Summerslam 2017 plan would be: he was going to win over Dean Ambrose, the characterization of the remaining detractors still struggling to get on board with the concept of The Architect as a protagonist after ending the classic run of arguably the decade’s best stable, The Shield, going on a two-year tear as the most hated man in the game, and then assuming his more heroic role last autumn in rather mundane fashion.

To anyone who appreciates more affecting stories in professional wrestling, the saga that has ensued in the weeks since Rollins first came to The Lunatic Fringe’s aid has been a breath of fresh air, renewing for Seth the successful efforts from earlier in the year to make him as viable a top babyface as he was a top heel.

You see, WWE has a long-running babyface problem, as demonstrated by its continual attempts to force reasonably likeable personalities into mostly over-scripted, sometimes silly-joke-telling, generally unrelatable white-meat characters. When Triple H turned on Rollins last August and then disappeared until after Royal Rumble, it laid a lousy foundation for Seth to transition out of his top heel role; one bad guy turning on another does not a new good guy make, a fact only compounded by WWE’s insistence on making Rollins a high-fiving, happy-go-lucky persona. Who since 1989 has not been rejected when trying to be that bland sort of protagonist?

WrestleMania Season was incredibly productive for Rollins, as from the injury (a blessing in disguise) through the Orlando-based Show of Shows, he was genuinely sympathetic. How could you not feel bad for someone who had worked that hard to get back in a position to be one of the headlining attractions at The Showcase of the Immortals, only for another knee surgery that just so happened to be brought on via actions directed by the dastardly King of Kings, Triple H, to threaten his WrestleMania status for a second straight year? It was the perfect mix of TV and reality, and it led to a Match of the Year front-runner that was a non-worn-out crowd away from instant, all-time classic discussion. Since Mania 33, however, WWE fell largely out of focus with the over-arching goal of giving the audience more reasons to champion Rollins as “their guy.”

Mid-April to early July was not completely lacking in character development for The Architect, as some (yours truly included) were able to see substance in his “thanks for giving me a second chance” speeches right around the time that he became the first superstar who made his debut in this decade to grace the cover of WWE’s 2K video game series, but it is rather undeniable that a sizeable portion of the diehard fanbase, especially, was not connecting with him. Last night on Raw, the Toronto crowd perfectly exemplified the reception to Rollins across the globe; everyone can see his potential to consistently “Wow” an audience with his matches, only the lack of genuine audience investment puts a ceiling on what he can achieve.

Enter the next reason for fans to care about Rollins: the man who took most personally the betrayal that destroyed The Shield, Dean Ambrose, deciding that Seth has repented enough to be forgiven and ultimately embraced. The manner in which they have been telling that story over the past month has been nothing short of awesome, with several noteworthy moments - the poignant suggestion from Seth that Dean hit him in the back with a steel chair being my personal favorite - indicative of how both parties are so dialed into the fiction that we as viewers cannot help but go along for the ride. Every segment and match has been in and of itself a microcosm of the problem that people have had and may still for the foreseeable future have with Rollins; the animosity held toward Rollins by Ambrose is reminiscent of Mankind and The Rock or Jannetty and Michaels in that there would naturally have to be a lot of right done by Rollins to make up for all of his past wrongdoing.

One can only hope that WWE takes its time with this story because there are a series of payoffs that could eventually lead to Rollins, or Ambrose for that matter, claiming the open spot on Raw for the hero that transcends fan-type and is near-universally accepted (call it the Punk or Bryan spot in compliment to Reigns in the Cena-esque role). The initial payoff – the Shield fist-bump – should happen at Summerslam and, given the thunderous reaction that the tease of it received from an otherwise uncharacteristically blasé Toronto crowd, it could be the most memorable thing that happens on what is shaping up to be a good but creatively bland card for the 2017 Summer Classic. A Tag Team Championship reign would make a lot of sense too, serving the story, the overall Raw roster, and tag team wrestling simultaneously…and then who knows? There is all sorts of storyline potential.

Not long ago, concerns were expressed about the direction for both Rollins and Ambrose, but this Summerslam arc has proven WWE’s short and long-term investment in keeping the other two-thirds of the former Hounds of Justice prominently featured, even if their roster positioning finds them vying for the Tag Team Titles. Frankly, they could be racing a sprint to the nearest Brooklyn ice cream parlor in 12 days and, so long as they bump fists in a show of solidarity that culminates the creative stylings of the previous 6 weeks, it will have been the climax of the best story on WWE TV during Summerslam Season.

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