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.