”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.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: In how high a regard do you hold Seth Rollins historically? Is he in the Guerrero realm? Orton?
Seth Rollins is currently barreling toward Summerslam with the most momentum that he has had since a 200-plus day WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign was cut short due to a knee injury in 2015. Now the better part of a half-decade removed from the destruction of the Shield, his career on top has already been longer than CM Punk’s and contextualizing his career as “great with the potential to be all-time great” is starting to become an interesting exercise. One of the driving forces behind the argument that he is already the best of his generation and perhaps in the discussion for being among the best ever is his work during these past four years from June to August, confidently the second most important stretch of the WWE calendar.
As “The Showcase of the Immortals” has largely become dedicated to part-timers reliving past glory under the guise of providing fans with “WrestleMania Moments,” Summerslam Season has emerged as the defacto biggest opportunity for the current roster members to shine. The Architect has owned the Money in the Bank to ‘Slam period, if not the definitive best thing going on WWE TV every summer along the way then certainly the modern wrestler with the top overall resume. And, truthfully, nobody else even comes close to what he has achieved across those months since 2014; Rollins has been The King of the Summer in WWE, the Summer-Slayer, if you will.
There have not been five more engaging moments on WWE television this decade than Rollins buying into his future and turning on his brothers in June 2014. The ensuing splash he made as the centerpiece of the week-to-week product was one of the biggest and most impressive yours truly has seen in a long time, perhaps not on the level of CM Punk in 2011 because of how much the Second City Saint’s rise meant to an increasingly disenfranchised part of the audience, but comparable in the quality of the television, I would argue against anyone. The Money in the Bank Contract Ladder Match in 2014 was comfortably the second greatest in gimmick lore behind the original and the Summerslam bout with Dean Ambrose was easily the best “human cage” (Lumberjack) match in WWE history.
A year later, after Rollins had cashed in the contract won at Money in the Bank ’14, The Architect was “The Man,” not just the most engaging act on WWE TV each week, but with “The Heist of the Century” boosting an already substantial profile, there was nobody more important to the product or more visible in the lead role at that point. A pair of awesome title defenses against Ambrose, the latter of which at Money in the Bank ’15 is the Ladder Match equivalent to the Bret-Owen Cage Match at Summerslam ’94 (a peak inside the gimmick, conceptually) segued into a “Winner Take All” scenario opposite United States Champion John Cena. John Stewart’s celebrity involvement in the finish of Seth’s defeat of the Golden Boy was derided by some, but it unquestionably gave Rollins a larger slice of the mainstream pie accordingly. Rollins and Cena produced really good “epic” style matches, it should not be forgotten.
2016 was the weakest link of the four summers being spotlighted, but he still managed a classic against Roman Reigns that I still contend was the best match that year (horrifyingly underrated, in fact), won the WWE Championship again (albeit for a matter of minutes), excelled in the generationally-hyped Shield Triple Threat, and combined with Finn Balor for one of Summerslam’s finest top title bouts that nobody yet talks about. Do not let the creative fart that were the weeks following Triple H turning on him fool you – arguably only AJ Styles had a better summer that year than The Architect.
Finally, last year was absolutely tremendous storytelling unmatched during the stretch on TV when it happened and, frankly, was one of the best storylines of the era to date. The profile of the Rollins and Ambrose reunion was not as high when considered that it led to the them winning the Tag Team Titles at Summerslam, but it was easily the top reason to watch Summerslam to anyone who appreciates good writing leading up to a logical payoff (and an awesome tag team match against The Bar to boot). It turned the tide for Rollins as a protagonist, the so-termed failures of his early transition pretty well eliminated by the time they bumped fists on the go-home Raw before the Summer Classic; the King Slayer we see today would not be who he is if it were not for the saga of forgiveness last year.
Rollins is this decade’s Mr. Money in the Bank and its Mr. Summerslam (the latter title extending to this century), and it shapes a significant portion of his legacy. The only historical run of a comparable quality across four consecutive summers was that of Bret “Hitman” Hart from 1991-1994, during which time The Excellence of Execution classically won the Intercontinental Title from Mr. Perfect, epically dropped the IC Championship to British Bulldog, expertly wrestled the greatest treble of matches in one night ever to win the King of the Ring tournament, and capped off one of the best storylines of all-time in arguably the superlative Cage Match in WWE lore. As the evolution of the industry quite obviously demands that the superstars of today do more and achieve greater heights than their peers from yesteryear, it would be fair to state that Rollins is perhaps a 2018 summer of expected mastery away from at least sharing Bret’s ownership of the third calendar quarter in the WrestleMania Era; and that is a significant feather in Seth’s cap when it comes to conversations about greatness in a broader context.
As discussed on The Doc Says podcast this week, would it not be glorious if the recent loss of the Intercontinental Title segued to Rollins becoming #1 contender to the Universal Championship for Summerslam and adding The Beast to the entities of nearly unrivaled power and influence that he has slayed? The concept of WWE pulling the proverbial trigger on a talent that a majority of the audience could get behind as the one to end the nauseatingly boring strangehold that Lesnar has maintained over the Raw main-event scene for over a year seems oddly out of sync with its poor creative standard from the last 14 months, but surely the Chairman would at least consider it given that Rollins is finally red hot as a heroic figure and that he is one of the generally accepted chosen few who has broken through the new part-timer-reinforced glass ceiling installed earlier in the decade. Otherwise, the next chapter in the Ambrose saga, with a freshly heel-turned Lunatic giving their saga yet another engaging direction in its fifth straight summer installment, could certainly (maybe even better) fit the bill.
Even if The Architect’s summer streak gets unceremoniously cut short this year, the fact that he has had such an incredible run of summers these past four years begs the question as to how high in regard we should hold him already in the “all-time” sense.