On Monday night, WWE tried something different: one match took up nearly two thirds of Raw‘s runtime. Okay, so it wasn’t quite as crazy as that sounds — it was a gauntlet match, featuring all seven members of Sunday’s Elimination Chamber match. And unlike most gauntlet matches, each component of it was essentially a full-length match.
Undoubtedly, the iron man of the match was Seth Rollins, who not only started the match, but also lasted an hour and five minutes, good for the longest performance in Raw history. Oh, and he beat Roman Reigns and John Cena back to back, clean as a whistle. Braun Strowman may have ultimately won the match, long after Rollins had been eliminated by Elias, but the real story, as it has been quite often recently, was Seth Freakin’ Rollins.
After all that’s happened over the past few months, it’s almost unbelievable that Rollins is in as good a position as he is. The long-awaited Shield reunion ended up being a bust, thanks to a poorly timed illness on Reigns’ part followed by Dean Ambrose being put on the shelf with an arm injury. Rollins was instead thrust into a program with Jason Jordan, who against all odds — and thanks in no small part to his tag partner — became one of the more entertaining characters on the show. So when he went down with an injury, requiring surgery that’ll put him on the shelf until after WrestleMania, it seemed like a nail in the coffin for anyone hoping Rollins would do anything meaningful at this year’s WrestleMania.
There were some bright spots amidst all the setbacks, though — chief among them being the return of the Curb Stomp (or Blackout, or just "the stomp"). It may seem like extreme hyperbole to cite the reappearance of one move as a righting of the ship for a Superstar, but ever since losing the iconic finisher shortly after winning the WWE Championship in 2015, Rollins’ arsenal had felt somewhat aimless. Adopting the Pedigree from Triple H was okay, and worked fine for a little while, but as soon as it no longer made storyline sense for him to use it, the finishes to his matches were even more underwhelming. A couple of modified DDTs gave way to a ripcord knee that just lacked the impact and panache of a bona fide main eventer. When the stomp returned in January of this year, the internet exploded in excitement, and as crazy as it sounds, instantly made The Architect more credible.
Other surface-level changes include the addition of a single line in his theme song: "Burn it down!" Again, it seems like a completely unimportant detail, but it’s helping. The best theme songs in history have that "glass shatter" opening note or sound ala Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Rollins interrupting a promo with the wailing scream gets the crowd far more excited than the muted power chords and double bass drums that once signaled his arrival. Plus, it’s seriously getting over — the crowd has started screaming along with his theme song, and hell, multiple "burn it down" chants permeated Phoenix on Raw this week, a trend that will almost undoubtedly continue.
It felt like all of this came to a head Monday night, as Seth Rollins showed why he is without question one of the best wrestlers in the world with a masterful 65 minute performance against some of the biggest names in all of WWE (and Elias). The Kingslayer may not have won the match, but as Coach said on commentary, it was about as big a moral victory as one could achieve.
Rollins almost assuredly won’t win the Elimination Chamber match this Sunday, though. As much as I and other Rollins fans would love to see him thrown back into the world title picture, the heavily rumored, all-but-announced main event for this year’s WrestleMania — as it seems to be most years — is set to be Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar. Obviously, Rollins wasn’t meant to be in this Chamber match. The fact that it’s the first-ever seven man Elimination Chamber match is evidence of that. He was probably set on a collision course with Jason Jordan at the grandest stage of them all, but that’s out out the window now.
There have been rampant rumors that he’ll wrestle Jordan’s father Kurt Angle instead — not the dream match it would have been a few years ago given Angle’s physical condition, but still a high enough profile match to continue building on this momentum. That Rollins is actually gaining such momentum despite everyone around him suddenly going down with injury or illness is a testament to both his skill and his connection with the fans. It may not be his time just quite yet, but don’t get it twisted — Seth Rollins is every bit The Man as he was when he carried Raw throughout 2015. Sooner or later, the red brand will indeed once again be christened Monday Night Rollins.