Seth Rollins Is Back On Top After His Big Win Over Brock Lesnar
SummerSlam ended the same way that WrestleMania 35 started: With Seth Rollins defeating Brock Lesnar to win the Universal Championship.
In surprising fashion, Rollins turned in a fantastic performance against “The Beast” to reclaim the title and topple his archenemy for the second time this year. Rollins’ victory taught WWE fans a couple of things about its immediate future. One, don’t be surprised if Lesnar, as per usual, disappears for a while before showing up on SmackDown, and two, WWE may have finally solidified Rollins as the believable top babyface he should have been months ago.
Indeed, WWE seems to be giving Rollins a second go-round after his first Universal title reign was a colossal flop. A recent statistical analysis showed that Rollins was, in terms of live event attendance, one of the worst drawing world champions in WWE history—worse, in fact, even than Jinder Mahal, whose 2017 WWE title reign was universally panned by critics. Though Rollins certainly can’t take all of the blame for that, the decisions to crown Lesnar as Universal Champion at Extreme Rules undoubtedly felt like it was meant to bring Rollins’ push to a screeching halt.
Whether right or wrong, WWE has long viewed Lesnar as a massive draw, perhaps the biggest draw in the company. Maybe that explains why WWE decided to take a massive risk by putting the Universal title back around his waist at Extreme Rules and then keep it there until SummerSlam, even though that move virtually guarantees that Monday Night Raw would be right back where it was prior to WrestleMania 35, with a part-time Universal Champion who only shows up here and there. Lesnar’s previous two absentee title reigns were likely a major contributor to the downfall of Raw’s ratings, and WWE may finally be seeing the light: Rollins is champ again, and that means that Lesnar, well, isn’t.
The first Universal title reign of Rollins was a total flop, but that was largely through no fault of his own. WWE’s misguided decision to have Rollins spend his entire reign feuding with Baron Corbin, as well as its insistence on focusing on Rollins’ relationship with Becky Lynch, really did him in before he ever got the chance to get going. Now, Rollins—after slaying “The Beast” not once but twice—finally has momentum back on side. A loss to Lesnar would have equated to WWE giving up on the push of Rollins—maybe its top merchandise mover and certainly one of its most popular stars—but WWE seems committed to moving forward with Lesnar back in a barely-there part-time role and Rollins as the face of WWE, this time with a little bit more direction.
Rollins has been advertised to feud with Drew McIntyre after SummerSlam at least through Hell in a Cell in October, which tells us a few things: That Rollins’ drawn-out feud with Lesnar is likely over, that Lesnar is probably set to take another lengthy hiatus and that new stars could get a chance at the top of the card. While a Rollins vs. McIntyre feud sounds good on paper, it is truly more like a clash between two stars who have gotten no favors from the creative team in recent months. A year ago, McIntyre was well positioned as WWE’s soon-to-be next top heel, but some misguided creative decisions, including his alliances with stars like Shane McMahon as well as his losses to Roman Reigns, really did him in. Similarly, WWE has been unable to follow up the magical moment of Rollins winning the Universal title at SummerSlam as the tremendous momentum Rollins built up over the previous year gradually disappeared once he won the title.
But at SummerSlam, Rollins got right back on track with his big win, and McIntyre may stand to benefit more than anyone else from the likely absence of Lesnar.
Lesnar will probably be gone for the next few months, leaving Rollins, McIntyre and a handful of other stars to carry the load on Raw. Had Lesnar retained, the same fate that has recently befallen many of Raw’s upper midcard and borderline main event stars would have done so again: They would have had no top title to pursue. Fans saw during Lesnar’s previous two runs how “well” that worked out for WWE and for stars like Rollins, who—had he lost to Lesnar—would have found himself crashing down back to earth after he was riding high on the grandest stage of them all.
Don’t expect Lesnar to just disappear, but don’t be surprised if his loss to Rollins was really a way to get him on SmackDown in time for the show’s move to FOX in October. That’s a widely expected move that necessitated Lesnar’s loss at SummerSlam, a decision that benefited Rollins more than anyone else. Lesnar is likely to be the focal point of a new-look SmackDown (or at least as much of a focal point as a part-timer can be), and “The Beast Slayer” should get a renewed push as the face of WWE.
The company has some damage control to do after the recent bad booking that has plagued Rollins, but his impressive win over Lesnar at SummerSlam was a good start.