WWE

Seth Rollins’ Quest for Greatness

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With the Royal Rumble Pay-Per-View coming up this Sunday, which can be seen live around the world on the WWE Network starting at 7pm ET, I had the chance to chat with Seth Rollins to discuss his return to the ring, how his knee is holding up, if he’s putting extra pressure on himself because he missed the “Road to WrestleMania” last year, and the moment when he realized the members of The Shield were destined to become stars.

Me: It’s been eight months since you’ve returned from your serious knee injury. How would you describe the last eight months of your career?

Seth: Umm … Difficult. It’s been a struggle for me just to find my footing again. I was in such a good position when I got hurt. I was really comfortable where I was at. I thought I was just getting into my groove as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The character and everything with J&J [Security] were going well.

The last eight months, after the surgery and the rehab and everything have been very tumultuous. Obviously we had the brand split, which has thrown everything up in the air. You got guys like Goldberg coming back. The Undertaker is making himself more prominent.

You’re fighting tooth and nail. You have a new title, the Universal Championship, which is still very young. There’s just so much in flux; so much up in the air all of the time. I feel like there’s more on my plate now and just trying to manage all of that is crazy. It’s been a difficult time.

As we sink in deeper to this Raw only type thing, I think my feet will start to find themselves. This is a big, BIG three-to-four months we’re coming into right now, so I have to find that footing. I gotta be strong.

Now that you’ve declared your intentions to face HHH, the crowd seems to be responding to you a bit better than it was during the final months of 2016. Do you feel like you’re starting to hit that stride again?

I certainly hope so. Like I said, as we’ve gone along I’ve gotten more comfortable with the situation. I think the crowd has to forgive me. Our audience remembers. It’s been a struggle to see if they’re going to put their support behind me or not. It’s a fun game to play, but I think over time I need to win people over again.

If you look at where I was before I got hurt, [I was] consistently putting in high level performances. Even in my role then, people were starting to get behind me, so I think it’s a matter of reminding people what I’m capable of, in a good way. Hopefully we’ll start to gather that momentum again and right now is as good of time as any.

How’s your body feeling?

Pretty good overall to be honest with you. That’s one of the nice things about the brand split that people don’t understand. We get an extra day off of work because we only have to do one television taping in a week.

To have one extra day at home, one extra day not on the road, one extra day not in the ring, I think that’s really helped to keep me healthy. I’ve been able to get more sleep and rest more, instead of having an extra 12-hour day of work, which can be very taxing on the body.

Has there been a moment in the ring that has given you a pause about your knee since you’ve come back?

Not at all actually. I had great surgeons and put in a lot of work with my guys who helped me through rehab in Birmingham, Orlando and Davenport. Everybody was fantastic.

The knee has been holding up really well in the gym and in the ring. It’s been 100 percent awesome.

Do you feel like because you missed the Road to WrestleMania last year due to your knee injury that you’re putting extra pressure on yourself this year?

Yeah definitely. I always put extra pressure on myself in big situations. Whether it be the main event of Raw or a huge match at a Pay-Per-View. It seems to be how I bring the best out of myself. I’m definitely doing it this year on purpose.

I don’t think it will backfire. I think it will help me push my limits and push myself to the next level in terms of what I’m capable of from a week-to-week standpoint going into Rumble and Mania.

Hopefully I’ll make this year one as unforgettable as I had two years ago.

Let’s circle back for a second on the crowd forgetting about the heel version of your character. When you came back from your injury it seemed like a perfect opportunity to have you return as a white hot babyface. Now obviously that didn’t happen and you ended up turning face a few months later. Would you want to go back and change any aspect of your return or are you fine with how everything has worked out?

You know … umm … obviously those decisions aren’t up to me. So even if I could go back, I couldn’t change a dang thing.

There are people who have been doing this for a lot longer than me, who are a lot smarter than me. They do things for a certain reason, so I’m not one to try and say that I know better than somebody else. That’s not how I operate. I’m always one to roll with the punches and at the end of the day this just presents another type of challenge for me and us as a company.

I like doing things organically. I like when things make sense. I don’t like having to force things. I don’t … I think it’s fine the way it is and I think we’re going to make the best out of it.

But again, it’s not my company. I don’t do that sort of thing. I’m just here to wrestle, have a good time and entertain the fans. So whatever is asked of me, that is what I will do.

Ever since you, Reigns, and Dean Ambrose debuted on the main roster, you’ve been featured at or towards the top of the card. Was there a moment, it could have happened in NXT, when you guys realized that you were destined for great things with the company?

Umm … you know Roman was a really late addition [to the Shield]. Ambrose and I were close in developmental just because we knew each other from the independents. We had similar backgrounds that drew us together. Roman was a separate entity.

Everyone kind of looked at Roman and pegged him as a future star. I mean obviously the wave of independent stars hadn’t really happened yet when Ambrose and I had gotten to developmental.

Someone like CM Punk, had made a name for himself and Daniel Bryan was doing well, but other than that a lot of other guys had not panned out. There wasn’t a whole lot of faith in the independent scene as far as building money drawing stars.

I knew I was different and I knew Ambrose was different when we started working together with each other in the ring when he arrived [in developmental]. It just felt like there was a confidence that we had and obviously like I said Roman had with just the way he carried himself. The company put a lot of faith in him from the very beginning.

[Roman] was always pegged as…just look at him, I mean he’s 6 feet 4 inches, 274 pounds, he’s going to be a star. A great looking guy. He’s got everything going for him in the world. Ambrose and I are two unlikely guys [to make it]. But we just knew.

We wanted to come in and make and impact. All three of us. We were really unhappy with the way we saw guys who had gotten called up and were floundering. They’d make an impact and then go settle back down. That really wasn’t what we were interested in. We wanted to come in, make a statement, change the business and show the entire company and the wrestling world that we’re not just going to settle for mediocrity.

We’re going to come in and push the envelope every single night to make sure more people like us get the opportunity that we didn’t get when it comes to WWE or developmental. We went out and just tried to outwork everybody every single night to put our stamp for ourselves and for our generation on the map.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs leads Republican Primary for mayor of Knox County by 17 votes

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MY GAWD IS THAT THE FUTURE MAYOR OF KNOX COUNTY, TENNESSEE?

After 100 percent of the precincts reported their data, Glenn Jacobs, known to wrestling fans as “The Big Red Machine” Kane, is leading the Republican nomination for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee by just 17 votes.

The race isn’t over just yet though. According to the ABC affiliate in Knoxville, there are still provisional ballots that need to be factored in, so an official winner won’t be announced until next week.

Jacobs has worked under the umbrella of World Wrestling Entertainment since 1995. After announcing his candidacy last April, he’s been seen very sporadically on television. The last time he worked a match on TV was the main event of the March 26th edition of Raw against John Cena.

Adam Cole: I want to have the biggest personality in the room and not just on the microphone

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Before Adam Cole heads to the Smoothie King Center for NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, this Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on WWE Network, I chatted with him about how much he’s learned during his time in NXT, what makes the NXT crowds special and what it was like to meet Shawn Michaels. 

About a year ago you said that if you made the jump to WWE that you would want to start off in NXT as opposed to going right to the main roster, flash forward to now and you’re an established star in NXT. Is this part of your journey everything you thought it would be?

“Yeah for sure. When I come into a situation, especially like this one in NXT, my goal is to get to perform in front of these fans, to get to wrestle with these guys, who are in my opinion, some of the best wrestlers in the entire world. I felt like I could fit really well in this environment and I think I have. To get the chance to do what I’ve done here so far has been a total blast and so much fun.

But at the same time it’s exceeded my expectations in many ways. I’ve gotten to do things in NXT, and even WWE, that I didn’t imagine I would get the chance to do. Very happy with the journey so far.”

In what ways have you grown as a performer since coming to WWE?

“There’s just such a better understanding of who I am actually as a performer. You fall kind of into … I don’t want to say a routine because you’re always trying to improve and get better, but when you wrestle for certain organizations time-and-time again, you kind of fall into this routine of performing a certain way and having matches a certain way. Also, after a while you’ve wrestled everyone over-and-over again.

Getting to come here and getting to wrestle a bunch of new talent, some guys I’ve met before and some guys that I’ve never met before. It puts you in a situation where you learn to adapt and change, whether it be character wise, things that you do in the ring. It just gives you new challenges.

I’m teaming a lot more with Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, so that throws me into a different situation as far as learning to wrestle as part of a team as opposed to working solo most of the time.

Also the fans, I’ve noticed in each and every promotion, even though there are a lot of similarities in many different ways, NXT is a totally different animal.

Overall, adapting has been the biggest growing point for me.”

Interesting, in what ways are the NXT crowds different from the other promotions you’ve worked for.

“The NXT fans to me are in love and so infatuated with the characters. So to me when you see a guy like Velveteen Dream or No Way Jose and the way that they’re so invested in them as performers, not even necessarily with what they’re doing between the ropes, but in their entrances.

I feel the connection with the audience is just so much greater than anything I’ve felt before. It’s pretty incredible, especially when you’re at TakeOver events.”

When I watch the backstage segments with you, Kyle, and Bobby, they come off like old school nWo style promos. Obviously the music playing in the background, which sounds like a new age nWo theme, and the camera angles help, but it’s the natural chemistry you guys have on camera because it seems like you’re just having fun and being yourselves on camera. I would imagine it has to be awesome to just bounce off of each other while filming those.

“Oh man yeah, it’s so much fun. I think that’s exactly why it comes off that way. Me, Bobby, and Kyle are as close as it gets. That’s not just a performance. I’ve known Kyle O’Reilly since 2009 and I was in his wedding. I’ve known Bobby Fish for years and years, we used to travel together all of the time. We talk every single day.

So when we’re there and we’re talking in front of the camera, that’s just us having a good time and I think that’s a big reason why the group works so well. It’s very natural because it’s very real. So I think in turn how we project ourselves comes off as fun because we are genuinely having a great time together.”

Speaking of coming off natural, you come off so natural on the microphone. I talked with Ronda [Rousey] this week about where she’s at in terms of speed while talking in front of the live audience and then I asked Roman [Reigns] about it and he talked about how he was able to process the idea of taking his time to make sure he stopped rushing through his material.

Is the speaking part of the business something that you were able to gravitate towards and get comfortable with quickly?

“I think so. There is a constant growth process. I think that’s why I love this job so much. There’s no such thing as completely perfecting every area of it, you’re always trying to get better at it.

For me, I picked up the promo aspect of pro wrestling much faster than the actual wrestling part of it. I was always fairly athletic and I could do things even from the beginning of my career, when I was 18 and 19 years old. I was always the guy who could always string words together and found what I was saying to be actually believable however I was trying to come across, whether that be somewhat likeable or somewhat of a jerk.

I don’t know why that is, but I remember as a kid just being so fascinated by guys who were good talkers. Even in movies. I used to love the way James Bond villains would act and how cool they came across and how awful they seemed, but what they were saying was so believable.

I’ve always been fascinated by guys, especially bad guys, who were able to talk a certain way, tell stories with their words and just paint this beautiful picture for that you just completely rode along with. I’ve focused a fair amount of time on making sure that promos were something I really focused on.”

Your in-ring style is very interesting to me. You’re a smaller guy, but you work a style that is similar to a lot of bigger guys and it’s because of this slower pace that the spots actually mean something, especially when you build up to the climax of a match. Is that a pace that you’ve always had, or was there a certain point where you were like, OK I need to slow down now and figure out what works for me?

“That was something I developed over time. When I first started, I was definitely a guy that was doing every move under the sun and I was going a million miles an hour and just trying to wow the fans as much as I could. I thought that was the way to get them invested in me. Don’t get me wrong, that style is very impressive, but I on purpose work a certain style. It’s very important for me to do that.

It’s obvious that I’m not the biggest guy in the world, but I want to have the biggest personality in the room and part of that personality isn’t just on the microphone. That’s the way I have to project myself in the ring as well.

All of my favorites in this business really took their time. They made everything they did mean something. Every movement they made had a purpose and that’s the type of performer I’m most comfortable being and that’s the type of performer I want to be too.”

There are so many performers doing unbelievable things we’ve never seen before on what feels like a weekly basis now, but after 20, 30 minutes go by and the match ends, I’ve seen so many big spots that it just feels like a blur, where as your matches build up to a few big spots that are easy to remember.

For instance, I watched your match with AJ [Styles] in Ring of Honor recently and you guys worked such a slower pace, but it built up to a huge finishing spot that is going to stick with the viewer. When I come across a match like that one it just feels so different in comparison to a lot of the matches we’re seeing nowadays.

“Sure, sure. You bring up AJ and he’s the king of that. AJ is a guy that can do anything under the sun. He’s one of the most athletically gifted guys there is, but AJ is able to place his stuff and put it in situations where he has the fans completely in the palm of his hand.

He knows he can do anything, but he knows that the biggest reaction he’s going to get from the audience is working a certain style and taking them on this ride by building a story within the match.

Doing a million things is very impressive, but if you forget 90 percent of it, it’s kind of a shame.”

How many times has someone come up to you at the Performance Center and said you look like Shawn Michaels?

“(Laughs) More times than I can count. Whether that be at the Performance Center, whether that be fans. I think I get at least five or six tweets a week about how I look like Shawn Michaels. To me it’s just a giant compliment.”

Has he said that to you?

“Yeah! When we first met he said, ‘A lot of people tell me that you and I look alike and now that I met ya I see what they mean.”

Who is somebody in NXT that you haven’t had the opportunity to work with yet that you’re looking forward to getting in the ring with?

“I’ll tell you what, I would love the chance to have any sort of a program with Velveteen Dream. I think that guy has so much potential. He’s so good now. His understanding of the industry for his age is unbelievable. His natural talent is the same. I watch him, I’m captivated by what he does, so to get the chance to be in there with him in some capacity would be great.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis