WWE News WWE REPORT: Seth Rollins talks WWE Title run at five-month mark - addresses criticism, getting heel heat, irrelevant opinions, more, plus what do the numbers say?
Aug 21, 2015 - 2:57:59 PM
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By James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor
WWE World Hvt. champion Seth Rollins is nearly five months into his WWE World Title run heading into Summerslam. And, Rollins believes that after every near-escape, skin-of-his-teeth title retention since WrestleMania, heat has built to the point where he's overcoming the "joke champion" label.
"I've had the title for 100-and-whatever days, and every single day of that reign, people have wanted me to lose that title more and more; so in my estimation, I'm doing a bang-up job as WWE World Heavyweight Champion," Rollins told James Montgomery for Rolling Stone's website.
"People have lost sight of what heat is. They don't understand it, in the era of reality in wrestling, and how smart they are and all this, they've lost sight of what actual heat is. So the idea of booking a champion too weak doesn't exist in my opinion. It's about the heat."
The question is whether Rollins has real heat or go-away heat as champion. Rollins talked about the art form of being a heel champion, while also railing against critics of his title reign who do not see him advancing the heel champion position forward.
"I'm going to find that little thing that irks people just enough; right when they think they might like me just a little bit, I'll get them all the way there, and then I'll do the one thing that pisses them off. That, for me, is a trick of the trade, always thinking that way: 'What's the crappiest way I can do this?'"
The execution of the art form is subjective until numbers are introduced to make an assessment. Since WrestleMania, Raw has been in historically-low TV ratings territory. WWE even brought back Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker on the same show this Monday on Raw for the final Summerslam hype, but the rating barely moved.
Is Rollins or the way he has been booked to blame for Raw's historically-low TV ratings and stagnant audience? Not necessarily. Looking at the three-year period since WWE moved to three hours, Raw has steadily declined each year. This year's drop-off has been more pronounced since Raw has not averaged a 2.7 rating over a five-month stretch since the mid-1990s.
Smackdown, which Rollins has regularly appeared on during his title reign, has also declined. The show is down one-tenth of a rating so far this year in the more favorable Thursday night timeslot compared to undesirable Friday nights, but Smackdown has decayed in recent years, especially with the extra hour of Raw turning Smackdown into a left-overs show.
There's also The Authority's role in the ratings decline. Viewers sat through Randy Orton playing a lap dog heel champion at the start of The Authority era two years ago, then Brock Lesnar was a part-time heel champion off TV for stretches of time, and now WWE is back to another lap dog-type heel champion under The Authority umbrella.
The combination of the fourth or fifth version of a McMahon-driven heel authority group and another champion catering to Triple H has placed Rollins in a tough spot. He's trying to be the weasely heel champion building anticipation to see someone beat him for the title while also not being a joke champion who turns viewers off.
But, things like losing to his personal security guards who are presented like two scrubs found at central casting and not having strong, non-castrated babyfaces to work with has created an uphill battle for Rollins. The three-year tail on Raw moving to three hours and Authority-driven TV seasons has not helped, either.
When WWE personalities came on TV in recent years regularly and openly telling the audience "it's all about you" and "we cater to you," it set up the audience deciding to tune out or pick & choose what they want edto watch when they did not like what they saw.
Now, Rollins comes across like a bitter star who feels like he has not received recognition for the work he has tried to put in as a heel champion. Although, the bitterness also comes across as part of the fiction - or art - getting over his heel persona, even in a mainstream interview.
"I know that I'm the one who worked for 12 years to get to this point, I'm the one who spent my whole life putting this before my family and friends, I'm the one who sacrificed every relationship I've ever had to get to this point, and if that guy sitting on his couch, who never did a thing, wants to point fingers at me and talk to me about my championship reign - even if it's a good thing - he can suck it. His opinion is irrelevant to me," Rollins said.
Rollins, who was Tyler Black before reaching WWE, also handed out slight jabs toward former associates on the independents, which could be justified as actually helping his former colleagues by mentioning them in a major mainstream interview.
Rollins dogged the Curb Stomp finisher, which has long been associated with PWG co-owner Super Dragon. Rollins said, "I want to make it clear that it wasn't banned because of a risk of injury - I've never hurt anybody with the move ever. We mislabeled the move to begin with - we gave it a lousy name - and then once I got to this level, we started to notice that I was going to be making a lot of media appearances, and moms were going to be seeing the representative of WWE doing this kind of maneuver, and kids were going to try it and it could go wrong very easily."
Later, Rollins mentioned PWG by name, along with New Japan Pro Wrestling, and made it sound like he is annoyed by wrestlers outside of WWE thinking they are better than what he is doing in WWE.
"I look at myself, and I look at the journey that I've taken, and there's a lot of guys out there who work for different promotions and they're going to call themselves the best wrestler in the world. They say New Japan is the best wrestling in the world. The PWG guys think they're the best entertainers in the world, yadda yadda yadda. The bottom line is WWE is where everybody wants to be, and if they're telling you they don't, they're liars. And my championship is the championship, so at the end of the day, I am the end-all, be-all of champions in this industry, and if anybody tells you any different, they're straight-up liars," Rollins said.
[ LINK: The Full Interview with Rollins can be read HERE at RollingStone.com ]
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