The past 365 days have been insane for Seth Rollins. This time last year he was beating Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship at SummerSlam and now he’s entering SummerSlam as a totally different character in a totally different world with a baby on the way.
Before Rollins steps into the ring with Dominik Mysterio in a Street Fight at this year’s SummerSlam on Aug. 23, the Monday Night Messiah talked with Sporting News about how he’s having the best time of his life in and out of the ring despite what’s going on in the world, dealing with fickle wrestling fans, why he’s up for the challenge of being the first real pro wrestling match for Rey Mysterio’s son, the origins of the character and living in the golden age of pro wrestling.
SN: In 2005 we saw Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio battle over the custody of Dominik Mysterio. Fifteen years later you will be having a street fight with him at SummerSlam. How strange is this to see him as a grown man in a match?
SR: It’s definitely strange. He’s a rookie and a veteran at the same time. He’s got this business in his blood and it shows. You can see the instincts that he has. There’s no doubt about it that he possesses the intangibles to make it. It’s crazy how much time has passed since then and Rey is still performing at a high level.
SN: He also took a lot of punishment from you on RAW last week. How was it for you to be the individual who dished out that level of brutality to Rey’s son?
SR: It was brutal and intense. Sometimes that’s the way it has to be. He took it like a man and left with some scars. He’ll be all right. It was pretty tough but he handled it the best he could.
SN: What has the atmosphere been like backstage with him getting such a prominent match at SummerSlam?
SR: It’s so crazy now because everything is so isolated. There isn’t a lot of interaction backstage because everyone is trying to stay in their own bubble. It’s a totally different atmosphere. But I feel there’s a fair amount of support for him and I don’t feel like there’s any animosity. I think people are very curious to see what this match is going to look like.
SN: What was your reaction when you found out you’d be working with Dominik for his first official singles match?
SR: When the idea was broached to me, it felt like the natural progression of our storyline and I looked at it as a challenge. Giving him his first match on this huge stage is something that I am certainly up for. It’s a challenge and I’m looking to bring the kid up to my level or something close to it while giving him a great match at SummerSlam. I’m certainly not going in there with John Cena. This is a different kind of animal and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
SN: What’s surprised you most about Dominik?
SR: I’ve been surprised by how instinctive he is when it comes to storytelling. That’s something that’s really hard to teach and as someone who owns a wrestling school, that is the hardest thing to ingrain into young men and women in this industry.
SN: Can you talk about how the past year has been for you? From beating Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam to losing to The Fiend and then becoming the Monday Night Messiah.
SR: Oh, gosh! If you told me at this time last year when I beat Lesnar in one of my favorite matches of my career that I’d be going to working with Dominik Mysterio a year later, I couldn’t have predicted all of the things that have happened between then. I have a baby on the way and there’s a pandemic with civil unrest going on in this country. It’s all been so wild. Even the character turn. Everything has been unbelievable in a year’s time. It’s been a hell of a ride.
SN: John Cena praised your work during the pandemic, especially with promos. Can you provide some insight on how you’ve managed to thrive in this moment without crowds in attendance?
SR: The promo aspect is way different. There isn’t that interaction with the audience that changes the dynamic of your promo. Nobody is stopping you from telling your stories, nobody to stop you, mid-sentence with “What?” chants. You have an open microphone for however long you need to tell your story. It provides freedom I never had as a talker. It’s different. It’s not as much of a live-action stunt show as it is a TV drama nowadays.
SN: Whose idea was the Monday Night Messiah?
SR: It’s been a work in progress that started after Survivor Series last year and the seeds were really planted after Hell in a Cell. It was an idea between myself and Paul Heyman. It went under different iterations where we had heavy religious overtones in the beginning but I didn’t really want that. It’s been a work in progress from the clothes and my purpose. It’s been fulfilling in an artistic sense.
SN: Where’s Austin Theory?
SR: He had some personal issues that came up so he took some time off to sort through them for the past month or two. It’s hard right now but we hope everything’s good for him so we hope to have him back sooner than later.
SN: Fans get so hot and cold on you at any given moment. They want you to be a babyface and then they’ll boo in hopes you become a heel. Do you think you may be one of the more misunderstood talents in recent memory?
SR: It’s funny how that works. I don’t know what the fans want. You give them what they want and they reject it. Then you give them what they want again and after two weeks and they want what they rejected. It’s such a weird roller coaster. Wrestling fandom is one of the wildest things in the world. We have to do things week to week because we really don’t have things planned and done for weeks like a TV show. Everything changes week to week. I can’t imagine being somebody who has to write a wrestling show; you have to lose your hair. I can just do my job the best I can.
SN: How is Becky Lynch doing amidst all this madness?
SR: Crazy and scary and certainly not normal for your first kid. It kind of worked out for her because she was able to take the time off. It would have been harder for her to get the time off if things were normal. She’s found some things to do career-wise that keep her busy. The baby is coming in December. We’re doing great. It’s a new experience for me to watch her make this human.
SN: The world is a crazy place right now. A global pandemic where people are fighting mental health issues and worrying about job security, civil unrest where protests are raging across the globe. But you might be doing the best work of your career with a relationship and a baby on the way. Are you happy despite all of the turmoil just outside your door?
SR: I’m definitely happy. There are some stages of my career where I was unhappy despite insane amounts of success. There is lots of love around me. I have a kid on the way that I’m going to be able to give myself to and not be selfish. A lot of times we have to be selfish in this industry sometimes. I’m the most honest with who I am than I’ve ever been with everything that I’m doing. The news tells us the world is on fire but I have to be positive, take that positivity and give it to others.
SN: The wrestling business is at a place now where it’s incredibly competitive but there are jobs for everyone. What’s your take on the industry? Can you say this is the greatest wealth of talent we’ve ever seen across all promotions?
SR: I’m looking at all these places with all of this talent in WWE, NXT, AEW, New Japan, Impact, the indie scene and everywhere. There’s so much incredible wrestling. You guys are spoiled. It’s not just all there; you can get it all the time. It’s accessible! We’re just living in the golden age of pro wrestling.
SN: Do you have a message for fans?
SR: Watch whatever you want but watch it to enjoy it. It’s just a silly wrestling show at the end of the day. It’s not all that important. There’s so much going on in the world that needs your attention. You can nitpick and dislike so many other things in the world. Watch what you like and enjoy it. It doesn’t have to be as serious as we make it out to be sometimes.
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