Over the past eight years, Seth Rollins has built himself into a cornerstone of WWE programming.
Rollins is a WWE Grand Slam Champion and starred in one of the most compelling heel turns of the past decade when he joined The Authority in 2014, announcing his departure from The Shield with a chair shot to the back of Roman Reigns. Fast forward six years and Rollins remains an integral part of Raw every Monday night.
Recently, Rollins’s life has been extremely active. He and fiancé Becky Lynch are expecting their first child, which was just made public two weeks ago on Raw. He is continuing to add new layers to his “Monday Night Messiah” character, and now plays an important role in WWE’s crossover into The King of Fighters AllStar mobile game.
Hours before Raw, Rollins spoke with Sports Illustrated, where he took time to recognize those who died in service in honor of Memorial Day.
“Memorial Day is a special day,” said Rollins. “It’s really a celebration of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It means something extra special for us to come to work today. I just finished doing ‘The Murph,’ which is a CrossFit workout dedicated to [Navy SEAL] Lt. Michael Murphy, who served and sacrificed his life in Afghanistan. It’s a special holiday, remembering those we’ve lost.”
Rollins discussed a variety of topics with Sports Illustrated, including Lynch’s pregnancy announcement, his connection with the new King of Fighters game, and a potential upcoming program with Edge.
Sports Illustrated: Becky Lynch’s announcement two weeks ago on Raw was such a perfect moment. What was the experience like for you, especially since you knew what was coming?
Seth Rollins: I thought it was perfect. We hadn’t told that many people about it, aside from close family and friends, and I thought it was perfect to watch her go out and tell the world in exactly the way she wanted.
I was backstage right behind the curtain watching on the monitor, and it really hit home. That was the first time it really felt super real that we’re going to be parents. Life is about to change for the rest of our lives.
SI: You will always be associated with The Shield. The news of Becky’s pregnancy is very exciting, and Roman Reigns and his wife just added twins to their family. Have you had a chance to congratulate him?
SR: Oh yeah. They’re just turning out twins, man. This is their second set of twins now, which is crazy to me. I’ve never met anyone that had two sets of twins back-to-back.
I was fortunate to get the news a while back, and it was nice to see him come out and explain why he’s been taking time off. He’s got five kids running around at home, and he’s trying to help the wife out and make sure everybody’s safe. It’s awesome. It seems like everybody is getting in on the new kid thing these days (laughs).
SI: Looking at the new collaboration between WWE and The King of Fighters, it’s an interesting chance to look at the scope and breadth of your career. You’ve closed out a WrestleMania, headlined pay per views, and traveled across the globe. By this point in your career, you must occasionally be immune to fame. But does it ever get old seeing yourself in a video game, especially alongside the likes of The Rock, John Cena, The Undertaker, Kofi Kingston, and Becky in The King of Fighters AllStar?
SR: When I was a kid, I used to create myself in the WWE video games, and that was awesome. I’ve been fortunate enough to be included in the last seven or eight iterations of the video game that we’ve put out, which is pretty gnarly.
Now to be featured in a completely different video game franchise, one that has had so many different versions over the years and been so successful, and one that I grew up playing back in the day, it’s really awesome. I was really surprised because I didn’t know I was going to be included. To be included in that group of legends, that’s definitely good company.
SI: What’s your pitch for WWE fans to add you to their rosters before June 4?
SR: I’m the ‘Monday Night Messiah,’ so people have to get out there and get me. And I really want to know how good I am in the game. I haven’t had a chance to play as myself yet, so I need to know how I match up against everyone.
SI: King of Fighters features so many WWE legends, and you have a plethora of experience working with legendary talent, including an opportunity a couple weeks ago to further your story with Rey Mysterio.
Another memorable moment with a WWE great was your interaction with Edge on Raw in late December of 2014. He was a pawn in your plan to reinstate The Authority. Now that Edge is back, are there plans for the two of you to eventually work together?
SR: I can only assume that our paths will cross. I don’t know what Edge’s contract looks like, and I don’t know where his story with Randy Orton is going next, but I enjoyed their match at WrestleMania and I look forward to their match at Backlash.
If I were to guess, putting myself in Edge’s shoes, I would think he has some unfinished business with Seth Rollins. I can only assume, at some point in time, he’s going to come calling–and I would be happy to answer that call.
Edge is someone I’ve admired for a long time, and he’s someone I’ve been compared to a lot of times in my career. It’s something I never thought was possible, but I think it would be a cool callback to the story you mentioned from all those years ago. Now that it’s on the table, I don’t see why we wouldn’t address it.
SI: You had the opportunity to showcase your versatility and range during your run in The Authority. What have you enjoyed most so far about becoming “The Monday Night Messiah?” And is there room for continued growth with the character?
SR: I think there is a lot of room for growth. The thing that I’ve enjoyed the most is being on the other end of the leadership totem pole. In The Authority, I was essentially learning from Triple H, Kane, Randy Orton, and Stephanie, and to an extent, J&J, who both had more experience than I did.
Now, in my current role, I’ve got Murphy and Austin Theory under my tutelage. So to be able to take the knowledge I’ve learned over the past eight years and help them move their careers forward, that’s very exciting. It’s a different role than I’ve ever taken on, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them blossom and becoming even bigger superstars.
SI: Your world title match against Drew McIntyre at Money in the Bank was outstanding. Picturing that match in front of a packed arena, I can only imagine the crowd exploding during those near-falls. In a period where long, empty arena matches have struggled to resonate with viewers, how did you and Drew execute such an effective story over 19 minutes?
SR: The thing about wrestling in front of a live audience is that our audience is really a member of the cast. They’re a part of what goes on when you watch. They’ve got a part to play, they’ve got a role, they have lines, they have timing, and they dictate some of what happens. They can change the ebb and flow of a match.
When you don’t have a live crowd, you lose that. So I’m focusing on the exact details I want to get across. Drew’s really at the top of his game right now. He is a big boy and I was in a lot of pain throughout the duration of that match, but I was proud of the performance we put forward.
We’ve always had great chemistry together in the ring, so to finally have a match on a major platform for the WWE Championship, we both had a chip on our shoulder and wanted to take it to the next level. We were able to do that, and I was really happy with the finished product.
SI: You’ve mentioned this before, but not everyone may know you co-own a coffee shop (392 Caffe) in Davenport, Iowa.
Does owning your own shop make it even more challenging for you to find a good cup of coffee on the road? And, if you’re a Curb Your Enthusiasm fan, is your shop more Mocha Joe’s or Latte Larry’s?
SR: I only know that joke because people have referenced it before in the coffee shop, but I’ve never watched Curb. The coffee shop was inspired by the wrestling world from all the great coffee shops that we found on the road. I’d come home every week and I wouldn’t have the coffee I wanted, which was very frustrating.
I was on the hunt for my own coffee and I was just going to do it myself, but I was fortunate to run into a young couple about my age that had a similar passion for a good cup of jo. We put our work ethic together, and now we’ve got a nice, successful little coffee shop right next to my wrestling school in downtown Davenport. It’s thankfully been kind of a haven during this quarantine with people still flocking for carryout and delivery. We’ve stayed afloat over the past two months, and now the state of Iowa is starting to reopen, so hopefully we can get some people in there soon.
SI: We are always searching to find the next big thing in wrestling. Is there a better prospect Austin Theory? What makes him so special?
SR: A little backstory to Austin Theory—he was a guy recently signed to NXT and kind of just fell into my lap. When WrestleMania was moved to Orlando and we had to make roster changes, Austin kind of slipped in there, and he made his WrestleMania debut at 22 years old.
I had heard his name, but I’d never actually seen him perform. I watched him for the first time leading into WrestleMania, and I was so impressed by his poise, his work ethic, his style, and his presence. Then I found out how old he is, and I was even more in shock. I felt so disappointed in myself for thinking about how terrible I was at his age (laughs). I’ve kept an eye on him since, and I put the feelers out there that, if he was available, I’d certainly take him. One thing led to another, now here we are.
We’re just getting started. Tonight is really going to be the first time we’ll see him side-by-side with me, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish.
SI: Thinking back to when I was 22, it seems so young, especially to have a prominent role on Raw. But Theory is a special talent.
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SR: Twenty-two seems like a whole different lifetime ago. Who knows how good this kid can be in 10 or 15 years? It’s wild.
SI: We are in the middle of a pandemic, yet people are still watching WWE. How grateful are you for the nonstop support from your fan base?
SR: It’s been incredible. Look, who knows how this thing should have gone, but the fact is we chose to put on shows when it wasn’t necessarily looked at as the thing to do. We took all the precautions necessary to give the people a product they could watch and enjoy while they were stuck at home. The fact that we’ve had so much support from our fan base, it means a lot.
They’ve stuck with us, and that says a lot about our relationship with our fan base and how much they care about us as performers and people. Now that we’re getting back into things, and you’re seeing UFC and NASCAR start to resume, it’s nice to remember we pushed through and did the best we could. The fact that people stood by us and supported us means the world to me.