Seth Rollins hit a wall.
WWE’s top babyface on the RAW brand stopped feeling like the top babyface. Bray Wyatt was stealing most of his cheers when they feuded last month, and other wrestlers like Kevin Owens were more over with the fanbase than Rollins.
Rollins was set up to be WWE’s next megastar. He wasn’t Roman Reigns, who was almost universally rejected as the top babyface in the company after being shoved down the throats of fans for more than four year. Rollins was the wrestler that most fans adored, a veteran of the “indie scene” who made his way to the top through his own hard work and dedication.
So what happened? Twitter happened.
Rollins has been surprisingly annoying on social media, and I don’t think that behavior endeared him to fans who cheered him at first. He became the ultimate “company guy” on Twitter, criticizing AEW and CM Punk while sticking up for what he deemed to be the best wrestling company on the planet.
WWE spent the better part of a decade programming its fans to hate the company. “The corporation” was a heel stable under Vince McMahon and Triple H and Stephanie McMahon offered a reincarnation of that storyline about five years ago. Hardcore wrestling fans, who became fans in the late-90’s and are now in their late-20’s and 30’s, have been conditioned to go against what corporate WWE wants. That’s why Steve Austin and CM Punk were megastars on television. So when you have Roman Reigns getting pushed as the hand-picked guy of corporate WWE, the fans rejected him. That shouldn’t come as a shock.
Now, you have Rollins acting like a corporate shill on social media, and slowly but surely, fans began to turn against him. This shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Down the street, you have a rebel organization in AEW that’s breaking some rules and trying to compete against WWE’s monopoly. Fans are seeing AEW as a true alternative to WWE, and fans are buying in. It’s the new fresh coat of paint on pro wrestling that they’ve been seeking since WCW and ECW went out of business in 2001.
Rollins, a guy who would have embraced that shakeup when he was breaking through as Tyler Black in Ring of Honor, has instead been the poster boy for the guy pushing back against it. That’s why fans rejected him as a top babyface, and that’s why WWE turned him heel on last night’s edition of RAW. They didn’t have a choice.