Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar are no strangers. Back at WrestleMania 31, Rollins crashed the main event between then-WWE champion Lesnar and Roman Reigns by cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase and winning the title in what has become one of the most memorable moments in the history of WrestleMania.
Rollins reached the peak of his career as the heel champion and was riding high with 2015 becoming the best year of his career. It was everything that he had ever dreamed of. And then it came crashing down after he injured his knee at a show in Dublin, Ireland.
Rollins would have to relinquish the WWE championship and was out of action for more than six months. Since then, he has been working to get back to that point.
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The “Architect” has rehabilitated his knee along and now, with the fans behind him, is ready to take another big step in his journey back to the top.
That will come at WrestleMania 35 when Rollins challenges Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship. The show takes place on Sunday, April 7 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ and streaming live around the world on the WWE Network.
Sporting News recently spoke with Rollins about his upcoming match with Lesnar, what exactly is at stake, and his road back to the top.
What will happen when #TheArchitect @WWERollins attempts to slay the BEAST @BrockLesnar for the #UniversalChampionship at #WrestleMania? #RAW pic.twitter.com/nwCPjWMDIP
SPORTING NEWS: This will be your sixth WrestleMania. How does this one feel compared to previous ones you’ve been a part of?
SETH ROLLINS: This one is huge for me. It’s a cool and interesting WrestleMania. It’s also back at MetLife Stadium, which is the site of my first WrestleMania. So, there’s a lot of history there and going into the match with Brock Lesnar and the Universal Championship. It’s pretty much the biggest match of my career, coming full circle from having to relinquish the title after my knee injury. This is, I feel, my real opportunity to get that thing back and there’s a lot at stake too. I really feel like the future of the business is on the line. It’s a huge build up and I can’t believe it’s already here. It feels good and I’m ready and healthy to take on ‘The Beast.’
SN: You mentioned your health. There has been some talk about you dealing with a back injury. What was the injury and how are you feeling now?
SR: Yeah, I did have a lingering back issue that I was dealing with. At the end of the day, I’m able to compete. I’ve been cleared by our doctors. I had to take a few weeks to rest but it looks like I’ll be fine moving forward. I feel good. I’ve ramped up training in the gym and at my school (Black and Brave Wrestling Academy). I feel really good. I feel healthy and, hopefully, I’ll be able to pick that guy up and throw him around a little bit so I’m not the only one getting tossed around.
SN: You talked about coming back from the knee injury that you suffered in late 2015. When you came back, how long did it take before you felt like you were back to that level you were at previously at because, at that moment, you were at a high point in your career?
SR: You know, it’s tough. It almost felt like a full reset. It almost felt like I was starting over, almost completely. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. But from a mental standpoint, it felt like I couldn’t get my footing. Physically, I felt like I was there. I felt comfortable moving around in the ring. I was never overly concerned with my knee or re-injuring it or anything like that. My style is kind of all-out all the time so I was never worried about that but mentally, I just felt like I had some catching up to do. It probably took like the better part of a year, maybe a little more than a year to really get myself acclimated to the mental game and to feel comfortable.
I had a lot to go through with the audience as well. We had to learn to like each other which wasn’t easy. It definitely took some time and some missteps as well to get back to where I wanted to be.
One step at a time. #slaythebeast pic.twitter.com/1nusXYn0mZ
SN: When it comes to this match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, you said that it feels like the future of the business is at stake. That angle has been played up in the storylines leading up to this match with fans behind you. There has also been a lot of talk about Brock as Universal Champion, which he’s been for the better part of the past two years, and how he is randomly on the show considering his deal with the WWE. Does it irritate you that the title has rarely been featured on the brand and its role on “Raw” right now?
SR: I’m old-school, man. I want my champion to be there headlining all of the events. We go to these live events and Brock Lesnar is not there and we go to “Raw” or pay-per-views and Brock Lesnar’s not there. Somebody has to pick up the slack and carry that mantle. I was able to try and do that for a while with the Intercontinental Championship. I took that to the main event of a pay-per-view with Dolph Ziggler (WWE TLC in December 2018). You can do what you want but there’s still so much prestige over the Universal Championship. Everybody feels that the champion is the champion.
When you’ve got somebody like Lesnar who doesn’t really care about inspiring other people, you start to lose a generation. You lose people who are motivated. If I didn’t have champions who inspired me when I was younger, I may not have wanted to be a professional wrestler. I may not have wanted to get into this business. There are guys like Shawn Michaels and Triple H and John Cena and Edge and Eddie Guerrero and these guys became champions. They inspire people to want to get into this industry and to push it forward and Brock Lesnar just doesn’t do that. He doesn’t inspire people. He’s in it for himself and he’ll tell you that. He’s in it for the money and he’ll tell you that. It’s just frustrating for me as a fan of our industry to see it kind of be held hostage by someone who only cares about themselves and making their own money.
SN: I know you and Brock have been in the ring on a couple of occasions. You have the Triple Threat match with John Cena at the Royal Rumble in 2015 and then you had a match later that year at Battleground. It feels like this upcoming match is a long time in the making and something we should have had between now and then. But various things seem to have gotten in the way.
SR: Yeah. You mentioned the Battleground singles match but I was a different person. I was a different performer. You had that match being marred by The Undertaker coming back to seek some revenge from the streak ending so we never really, Brock and I, got to get back in the ring after I cashed in the Money in the Bank and took the title from him at WrestleMania. That was four years ago. We haven’t really had any interaction since then and this is the moment for me that everything has been building to. The whole “Redesign, Rebuild, Reclaim,” this is the moment. This is what I’m talking about. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to get back to this level. A lot of things happened this year that put me in this position. I had an incredible 2018; 2019 started off awesome. It feels like this is destiny, in a way.
SN: It’s always a goal to be in a featured match at WrestleMania. It’s been one for you growing up as a wrestling fan. Now that you have this big match coming up at WrestleMania, do you think about the journey that has taken you to this point?
SR: It feels a lot like destiny and it feels like every single piece of my career — every single step in a way — has been leading to this moment. If I lose the match, then maybe I won’t say that in retrospect. I’ve got all the confidence in the world going in that I’m going to win this thing. It feels like everything is aligning and everything has come together to get me ready for this moment and this night, WrestleMania, coming up. It’s definitely a special feeling to be a part of something like this, a match of this magnitude that means so much not just to me but to so many other people. It’s very humbling and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.
SN: There’s always talk about creating a WrestleMania moment. You already had an incredible WrestleMania moment at WrestleMania 31 when you cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase to win the WWE Championship to close the show. How do you compare a moment like that going into a match like this that’s once again on that stage of WrestleMania?
SR: That moment is going to live forever. it’s a one-of-a-kind moment. I’ll never say never, but I highly doubt it will be replicated. Not anytime in the near future, anyway. You have to separate the two. They’re two different moments. One is me cashing in and taking advantage of a situation and this one is years and years of hard work building to have a match against one of the greatest champions from an in-ring perspective; the biggest, strongest, fastest, human being that ever walked the face of the earth. That challenge, trying to climb that mountain, they’re two different moments and, for me, you have to put the one in the past and you always have to be looking forward to the next one. I’m very proud of the cash in and everything it took for me to get to that point in my career but this one is different. This one feels real.
SN: WWE made the big announcement this week that WrestleMania will be headlined for the first time by a women’s match with Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair facing off in a Triple Threat match. How much do you care where your match is on the card? Is that something you think about a lot whether it’s another show or even at WrestleMania?
SR: You’d be lying if you said that you didn’t care about wanting to headline WrestleMania. That’s the pinnacle. Guys have lost their minds about being in that spot over the years. This is all you’ve ever dreamed of in your entire life and everything you ever wanted to do and you’ve dedicated yourself to it. All you want is to headline WrestleMania and to be the main event. Those women are no different. Charlotte, obviously, has the history. Becky has been at it for 15 years now.
There is so much passion and hard work and love for the industry in that Triple Threat match. Those girls are in that spot not just by themselves, but years and years of women being marginalized in our industry and having to push through and fight through things. I’ll never know what that experience is like. They’re getting to represent future generations and past generations of females who are capable, amazing and talented. They finally get to showcase that to the entire world. I’m super proud of all three of those girls and I’m really looking forward to sitting back with the Universal title on my shoulder and watching the main event.
SN: We saw Roman Reigns come back recently — which is fantastic news — and then The Shield reunite. Plus, there is the talk of Dean Ambrose leaving the company when his contract ends in April. What was it like getting back together again and do you think we’ll ever see The Shield together again?
SR: Never say never. When you’re in The Shield, you never leave The Shield. I think that’s a quote Ambrose had and it’s very appropriate. We are always going to be brothers. We’re always going to have love for each other. There’s always going to be a possibility that we end up on the same side in the squared circle one more time. it was really a poetic moment, one of the most emotional nights I’ve ever had in a wrestling ring, I would say, to be out there with my brothers and share Roman’s comeback. And with Ambrose, this may be his last match as a member of The Shield in the WWE. It was really a special, special thing and I was really happy we had the opportunity to do it right one last time.
WrestleMania 35 will air live on Sunday, April 7, on the WWE Network and on pay-per-view, with the kickoff show starting at 5 p.m. ET and the main card at 7 p.m. ET. The event is part of a weeklong celebration taking place in the New York area that includes WrestleMania Axxess — a fan festival — the 2019 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony, NXT TakeOver, “Monday Night Raw” and “SmackDown Live.”
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