Gone are the days of our wrestling heroes declaring that they “do it all for the fans” (be careful, Dolph Ziggler). Only in history do they wear red, white, and blue, kiss babies and suck down vitamins like a Creotene-soaked Shop Vac. That now has all of the effectiveness of Titus O’ Neil with a live microphone.
In recent years, professional wrestling has acquiesced into an era that finds fans no longer wanting real-life superheroes to save the girl from the oncoming train. Now, the babyface needs to be one who always blurs the line between self-attained glory and soul-mutilating corruption, someone who is always looking out for number one. CM Punk is the prototype for this brand of babyface, as he was always willing to bend the rules to allow his record-breaking title reign to live on.
But alas, Punk has been gone fore over three years, leaving the position of babyface in the WWE a fuzzy one, one where only a true underdog like Daniel Bryan can enter and leave squeaky clean. One may go as far as to say that the modern-day babyface needed to be “redesigned, rebuilt, and reclaimed” (See what I did there?).
Fortunately for us, WWE has in its possession an “architect” in Seth Rollins to serve as the babyface we all need right now.
Monday Night Raw’s current heel A-Team consists of two revolutionary jackasses in Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho. Where past heels like Randy Orton and Triple H (when not with DX) had their self-advertising, humorless rhetoric provide lay-ups for vocally equipped foes, Jericho and Owens hand out tongue-lashings so superior that they regularly garner babyface reactions from the live audience. Their heelish antics are accepted at “face” value, necessitating a need for the evolution of the modern day “good guy.”
Seth Rollins has not only allowed the “good guy” to evolve, but has allowed it to be redefined.
Even prior to his knee injury, Seth Rollins was regularly receiving ovations of unanimous respect from the live WWE crowds. In an era that was (prior to the initiation of the New Era) lacking in the ring general department after the deaths of Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero, the retirement of Shawn Michaels, and the in-ring departure of Punk and Bryan, Seth Rollins valiantly filled that void and the show-stealer of The Shield, and then as the corporate champion clinging to a belt he cheated to earn in the first place.
He has picked up right where he left off upon his return. Pedigreeing Roman Reigns on his first night back was one hell of a way to remind fans just who you are, but it was Triple H’s own Pedigree, costing him the WWE Heavyweight Championship, that confirmed Rollins’ transition into the land of the babyface.
However, what has made him the first adequate babyface in recent memory is the lack of on-screen recognition of his altered status. Never for one second has he pandered to his newly-acquired fans (most children), nor has he chosen to alter his character in any way, shape, or form. Rather, he has simply removed the hemmoriging tumor that is The Authority to go stag in pursuit of his never-truly-lost WWE Universal Championship (you know, because he can’t really battle for the in another one at the moment).
In addition, he was held his own verbally when sharing the screen with Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho. While he (and very few others) can never attempt to match wits with these two creative, comedic, compelling masterminds, he has shown that he is still willing to embrace the villainous DNA that still runs through his veins. His actions thus far (including his snarky, charmingly lame withholding of The List of Jericho) have shown that his cocktail of a babyface move set and iniquitous personality is so unique that it can make one forget that they originally wished to cheer Jericho and Owens.
Seth Rollins is the babyface that we need in the current age of professional wrestling. Wrestling fans want real: realistic heroes with realistic gripes, using realistic tactics to get what they believe that they truly deserve. Rollins is a man who knows his worth, but does not believe that he must live by a certain code to accomplish his goals. Moral codes are passé in the minds of today’s wrestling audience, and nobody exemplifies this newfound concept better than Seth Rollins.