Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns, The Architect vs The Juggernaut, The Mind vs The Body, former tag team champions, former brothers… This should have been a feud fuelled by raw emotion. It should have been a story of betrayal and retribution. The story of Roman Reigns – a warrior who got stabbed in the back by the one he would have sacrificed all for…The story of Seth Rollins- a man, who killed all that he was and all that he loved, for the vision of a brighter future for himself… It should have been a war for justice between those, who were once standing on the same side of the ring. Instead, we get to experience a relatively dry feud, which feels like a filler to pass the time until the return of the Lunatic Fringe – Dean Ambrose. Why? How did the WWE and their booking manage to drain the life out of a story that was based on such deep-seated conflicts? What made the Ambrose/Rollins feud so much more compelling?
When the Shield finally fell apart, it was Seth who stabbed Roman in the back. Despite all expectations, not Dean but Seth was the one who swung a chair at his closest. It was Reigns who took the first blow. So it was only natural that Reigns would be the one looking for answers. However, Ambrose became the one to pursuit Rollins. And the WWE fans all loved it because of the unpredictable nature of the Lunatic Fringe. The Rollins/ Ambrose feud existed much before the Shield though. Back in FCW the two competitors faced off in amazing matches. But it wasn’t only the in-ring chemistry that they have that kept the audience on the edge of their seats in the weeks to follow the breakup of the Shield. What was really captivating in this feud was the fact that both of them were fully emotionally invested. It was all in the details. Ambrose would yell at Rollins that he loved him, kiss him on the head and would then proceed to Curb Stomp him, while instantly swearing for having done that. Rollins on the other hand, would put all his hatred into trying to dispose of Ambrose because he wouldn’t allow him to move on. If you ever believed in the Shield you would find every bit of emotion in that feud justified.
It is exactly this over-the-top passion that the Reigns/Rollins feud lacks. And it shouldn’t. It has all the premises to be even more engaging than Rollins/Ambrose one. If we look back at the Shield, it was always Seth and Roman together and Dean – slightly unstable in the wing. Reigns and Rollins held together the WWE Tag Team titles for 148 days. The chemistry between the two was undeniable. Rollins was the fast, agile one. With his unique style and high flying manoeuvres, he was taking insane risks for his team. However, every time Seth got taken down, Roman was there to save him. Reigns always felt as the strong and quiet member of the Shield, who would crush anyone who attempted to hurt his brothers in arms. One could argue that because of their tag team partnership, Rollins and Reigns were closer than Ambrose and either of the other two.
However, after they got separated in such a merciless way, Reigns barely mentions the Shield. His persona centres around “One versus All”. He distances himself from others and their issues. Reigns never demonstrated any emotion towards Seth’s betrayal. In the first ever promo he made after the breakup of the Shield he called Rollins a pawn and directed his anger towards the Authority. He didn’t really tap into the personal issues that he and Ambrose had with Rollins. With one or two exceptions, Reigns seemed to completely ignore the fact that he had been stabbed in the back, that Ambrose, who never turned on him, was getting ambushed week after week by Rollins and the Authority . Then he swiftly moved onto inserting himself into a title feud.
The way Reigns was booked gave the impression that he cared about the Shield even less than Seth Rollins, who effectively destroyed it. The reason why I’m saying this is that at first Rollins tried too hard to present his betrayal as a business decision. But as his feud with Ambrose progressed it became personal. Now, facing Reigns, he is looking to destroy the last part of his past, of the Shield. Rollins moved from employing a “Oh that? You still haven’t forgotten about that?” attitude to taking responsibility: “I am the one who created the Shield and I am the one who destroyed it”. He’s hell bent on personally disposing of his former brothers.
Reigns, however, seems to care more about his pride and the rise of the Roman Empire rather than his relationships with anybody. He’s mainly upset with Seth for claiming to have created him, rather than for having betrayed him or for having cold-bloodedly demolished their former brother and Reigns’ supposed best friend – Dean Ambrose. Even in the midst of his feud with Rollins, Roman barely mentions Seth’s attitude towards him and Ambrose. The commentators are trying really hard to build Reigns as an avenger of his fallen brother but the way his character is being developed doesn’t help the cause at all.
It’s such terrible booking that will bring Reigns down. The stand-alone warrior gimmick is undoubtedly a compelling one. However, someone who cares for no one and nothing and most importantly -has no weaknesses will never get over. Reigns is good in the ring and the dignified presence that he carries himself with could easily make him a fan favourite. But he needs to show emotion. He needs to react as a human who suffers like anyone else. The audience can relate to a powerful guardian who silently takes all blows, directed to those, who he protects, but they can never believe in a overpowered character that shrugs off personal dramas with ease and is practically unbeatable. This is why Reigns in the Shield was loved but is now starting to slowly become hated.
In his win on Raw, Reigns loses more than anything else, as his character just sails trough trouble unharmed and keeps losing fan support. Rollins can afford a loss there because he’s the type to always come back with a new plan. Well, obviously, the MITB briefcase helps his credibility too. Their collision at Night of Champions lacks a sense of anticipation. It’s a shame, knowing that the two of them will make each other shine in the ring.
The Rollins/ Reigns feud could have been a masterpiece. Bad storytelling turned it into a series of technically sound matches with no tangible emotion to back them up.