It’s been nine years since “WWE Monday Night RAW,” the sports entertainment company’s most popular televised showcase, has transformed Rupp Arena into one of professional wrestling’s biggest weekly spectacles. It also turns out that during that time, one of the show’s current cornerstones finally got his shot to become a WWE superstar.
Back in 2010, after years of slugging it out for various independent wrestling promotions, Seth Rollins landed his first WWE contract. He eventually became the star and first champion of NXT, WWE’s developmental brand.
He’s held a lot more titles since then. United States Champion. WWE Champion (he actually held both of those belts at the same time). And now, he is the WWE Universal Champion after somehow surviving and prevailing against behemoth Brock Lesnar at this year’s “Wrestlemania 35.”
The man known as The Architect of the popular trio The Shield, along with fellow WWE superstars Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, said even when he got his shot at the WWE down in Tampa, with what he describes as “no guarantees of success or even further opportunities,” he had plans on building a legacy instead of just settling for second.
“In every walk of life and every job, there are just people who are happy to be there, and I was never that person,” Rollins said. “I just have so much passion for what we do that I always wanted to be the best.”
Rollins has quickly ascended in the WWE ranks to becoming a fixture on “RAW,” which will broadcast live from Rupp Arena on Monday, April 29. In addition to his high-flying and risky wrestling style, Rollins said he believes fans, who are very good at spotting a fake, have been drawn to his genuine persona, whether he is in the ring, cutting a promo or interacting with his followers on social media.
“I just think what’s really resounded with audiences over the years is my ability to be authentic,” he said. “I think people have always seen that about me. It doesn’t feel put on, because it isn’t.”
Rollins has also become a hit with fans as a signature star on one of cable TV’s biggest shows. What makes “RAW” the champ of Monday night cable ratings? Fans are looking for escapism, Rollins said.
“It’s something that really brings people together and I think in 2019, where there seems to be so much animosity in our society, wrestling is so simple,” he said. “I think it’s so easy to follow, no matter who you are.”
Rollins will join some of the WWE’s most popular athletes and personalities for Monday night’s main event.
There’s a triple tag team match, with one of WWE’s literal biggest superstars Braun Strowman (“It’s always fun to have a giant on your side,” Rollins joked) and AJ Styles. The three of them will battle Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley with Lio Rush. Other superstars featured on the card include The Miz, Rey Mysterio, “RAW” and “SmackDown Live” Women’s Champion Becky Lynch, “The Lady of WWE” Lacey Evans and “RAW” Tag Team Champions Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins, among others.
Rollins said his individual accomplishments pale in comparison to what he hopes his contributions are to the popularity of sports entertainment.
“Even now, at the top of the mountain, I’m never one of those guys who is going to be complacent,” he said. “For me, it’s about growing this industry and growing the business and making it the best it possibly can.”
If you go: WWE Monday Night Raw featuring Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley, Rey Mysterio, The Miz, Becky Lynch, Lacey Evans and more (talent subject to change)
When: Monday, April 29, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15.50 to $105.50
Where: Rupp Arena, 430 W. Vine St.