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A Matter of Character – Seth Rollins Revisited by Matthew J. Douglas

TJR Wrestling

Happy Monday TJR Faithful! I hope that everybody had a superb weekend (sorry to the people of Atlanta, that must’ve been heartbreaking). As you all know, I brought back A Matter of Character just before the Royal Rumble, and in anticipation of what I thought would be his debut in the Royal Rumble, I chose to analyze Samoa Joe. As it turned out, he didn’t actually debut at the Rumble but instead made his grand entrance on Monday Night Raw the next evening.

In keeping with the tradition of expecting the unexpected, the next character I wanted to focus on was Seth Rollins. I’ve analyzed him before during his FCW/NXT days, but wanted to revisit the character, as he has changed quite a bit since those days in developmental. Surprisingly he ended up being the topic of discussion last week, as it was announced he’d suffered a knee injury during the attack he suffered at the hands of Samoa Joe on Raw. While this leaves his availability for Wrestlemania in question, it doesn’t change my plans, as getting to the heart of the Seth Rollins character is an interesting endeavor.

For the last half year, Seth has been transitioning from dastardly villain to vengeful hero. It hasn’t exactly been the smoothest transition all things considered. There are things about that character that just aren’t clicking, and I plan to get to the bottom of those aspects today. I don’t think we need to stall too much today, let’s dive right into analyzing the Seth Rollins character as presented on WWE programming, shall we?

 

PHYSICAL

The man affectionately referred to as “Crossfit Jesus” in some circles on the internet, is without question a physical specimen. Standing at 6 foot 1 inch tall, with a physique that resembles a character out of 300, the guy might be the perfect combination of physical strength, speed, and agility for professional wrestling that I have ever seen. I have witnessed him do things in the ring that seem impossible, and display an endurance that is something special to behold. His supreme athleticism is a reason many said that in the days of The Shield, that Seth had the best babyface comeback in all of pro wrestling.

Now with all that goodwill, I do have to say, his choice of ring gear leaves a lot to be desired. It isn’t bad, but it’s incredibly plain. There’s nothing special about it. It’s a lot of Black and Grey, which may work for Batman, or for his days in The Shield when they wore black tactical gear. That said, relying heavily on a muted color palette for a guy that you are trying to present as heroic is counter-intuitive, especially when you’re struggling to make him pop in your programming. I personally have only ever liked his white gear with the gold trim. It’s the only time I ever thought he looked like a star.

PERSONALITY

One of the things that the WWE wants us to think about Seth Rollins is that he is incredibly cunning. The announcers, the other superstars, the authority figures all spout the company line about him as the architect. The only problem is they’ve never really portrayed him as particularly smart in their programming. Think about it, has he ever done something on TV that made you think “Oh man, that guy’s clever.” I can certainly recall many times I’ve seen the opposite. He’s been outsmarted on many occasions, has failed to implement the simplest of schemes to force the outcome he desires, and his most cunning and ruthless plot ever, turning on The Shield, blew up in his face when Triple H dropped him, so even that choice in the long run, was fairly shortsighted.

They play up that he’s smart when in actuality he’s obsessive. He obsesses over his legacy, how people look at him, people who slight him, etc. He has almost a superhuman inability to empathize, or so it would seem. Has he ever had a moment that you can remember him legitimately caring about another person? He is the most selfish character in the WWE. At least The Miz seems to care about his wife on TV. One of the bug problems with Seth as a hero is that he doesn’t possess or display the personality of one. He comes across as selfish and disingenuous when they should aim for selfless and authentic.

WORDS AND ACTIONS

Seth is a fine promo. He has moments where he can be great, and moments where he sucks, but for the most part he rides the line of being slightly above average. If I was making a list of the top promo guys, he’d clock in around 10, probably after that if I’m being completely honest, which isn’t bad at all. The stuff he says, is often pretty whiny and sleazy, even as they try to make him seem heroic. I know we all hate the Stephanie character, but threatening to come to her house to attack her husband in front of their kids is a little beyond the bounds of reason (and another knock on his intelligence, as it has taken him almost half a year to consider that an option). The WWE really needs him to focus more on saying things that don’t make him sound like a whiny ex that’s mad their girlfriend dumped him, which is what he sounds like most often.

His actions over the last year or so also lack emotional weight. He is a phenomenal physical performer in-ring and he never needs to change that stuff (aside from maybe toning down of it a little to diminish wear and tear) but the actions he chooses often don’t match the character and miss the thematic mark so to speak. As a weaselly chicken-shit heel Champion, I often griped that his wrestling style did not line up with his character because it quite frankly never did. He was fearless in the ring and did things that were incredible, but I was supposed to buy into him being the incompetent sell out. It just didn’t compute.

Even the invasion of NXT missed the mark thematically for his character. I’d pitched the idea of an NXT invasion by Seth in his search for Triple H, but it had thematic purpose beyond “this is where it all began, I know you’re here.” My pitch had an important thematic moment of the NXT locker room clearing the remove Seth from the building, and Seth screaming like a mad man that “Triple H is a phony. He can’t be trusted. Don’t make the same mistake I did. He only cares about himself.” He’s attempting to warn others about the deal they’re making with the proverbial devil. There’s selflessness in that act. There’s something heroic in that. In that sense, what was a cool segment at the end of the day lacked “character”. More than most, I don’t think Seth Rollins’ actions are always in character, which is a weakness.

MOTIVATION

What is currently motivating the Seth Rollins character is a thirst for vengeance. He feels slighted by his former mentor and benefactor Triple H. He trusted the man and was betrayed and desires revenge. Unfortunately, I believe this is the simpleton’s line of motivation. You see revenge is easy, but redemption is far more difficult. Revenge can be had on the person that betrayed you, but redeeming yourself for the betrayals that you have perpetrated, is true growth.

Yes, Seth Rollins should desire revenge, but has not one time acknowledged his contributions to his own betrayal. He got into bed with nefarious people who convinced him to sell his brothers out. What ended up happening is a reasonable expectation given the way the whole thing started. Not once has Seth admitted some fault. Not once has he said he was wrong to trust them. Not once has he said anything that resembled an apology to The Shield or the fans that rode with them. That’s the more interesting story. That’s the story that needs to be told.

CONFLICT

Seth is in conflict with those that betrayed him, but his greater conflict should be within himself. For the greater part of the last two years, he trusted in those that betrayed him, as The Shield trusted in him before he betrayed them. The guilt that one would feel, especially after experiencing the crushing betrayal themselves, would be nearly debilitating. What’s worse, is it shouldn’t only be guilt. Seth fancied himself an intelligent man, and he was wrong. He made the incorrect move in the long run and never saw his betrayal coming.

Seth should be struggling hard with inner conflict. Feelings of guilt, and doubt. He’s lost everything. The family he helped build, the family he betrayed them for, and his ability to trust in his own decision making. That’s incredible conflict to build off of and resolve.

GOING FORWARD

Now with Seth Rollins out of action for a few weeks, and his program with Triple H possibly on hold, the WWE has been given the time to reset some things. The entire program was built on petty vengeance for an unforeseen break-up. Seth Rollins shouldn’t be portrayed like a whiny ex-boyfriend that is stalking his ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page to see who she’s dating now. Seth needs to make some sweeping changes upon his character’s return to finish what he started with Triple H.

Firstly, Seth needs to take ownership of his role in his own demise. He took short term gain and sacrificed something real for something inauthentic and unstable. He can be angry with Triple H for betraying him, but he needs to resolve within himself the role he played in enabling it.

Second, Seth needs to attempt to make amends with those he wronged (namely The Shield), and it should not be an easy process. He shouldn’t do it to alleviate his own guilt for what he’s done, but because it is the right thing to do. He needs to start endeavoring to do the right thing more often, and it could start with right his own wrongs. I know in my heart that Vince McMahon hasn’t had him apologize for his nefarious actions because he likely believes that apologizing is weak. He couldn’t be further from the truth. Recognizing when you’re wrong, having the courage to admit it to yourself, and apologizing face to face is the strongest thing anybody can do. It’s that strength of character they should want top shine through with their “heroes”.

Finally, Seth needs to carry himself like a changed man. He should change the way he dresses, the way he acts, his overall demeanor, to coincide with his philosophical evolution. These more obvious physical changes will connote and coincide the personal changes he undergoes on his journey to redemption. This principle is storytelling 101 and helps to lead your audience through your character’s evolution. Seth needs to focus on redemption to evolve, otherwise, what’s the point of the story or following his character?

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There you have it, but as always I want to know what you think! Is Seth the best athlete in the WWE today? Should he change his ring gear from muted blacks to more vibrant color schemes? Do his actions match his character? Has he been portrayed as smart to you? Is he the most inconsistent character on the entire WWE roster? Comment below or send a message on Twitter @MJDP_GSE as well.

Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying congrats to the New England Patriots for solidifying yourselves as the second most respected franchise in sports today. My Spurs are still number one in case you were wondering. Have a great week everybody!