This past week was one of the better pieces of surprise storytelling that WWE has pulled in quite some time. After months of a stagnant, unexplained feud between Triple H and Seth Rollins, the story between the two men seemed to finally kickstart Saturday night, when Seth Rollins “took over” NXT Takeover: San Antonio, and successfully bridged the continuity between the main roster and NXT. On Sunday, Rollins was banned from the Royal Rumble. And Monday, when Rollins was finally about to come face-to-face with “The Game” on Monday Night Raw, a debuting Samoa Joe dismantled “The Architect” with an attack that shocked fans and further blurred the lines between “developmental” and the main roster.
But the fallout from that moment was like something out of a nightmare. Seth Rollins—who was out for almost seven months in 2015 and 2016 with tears to his ACL, MCL and medial meniscus—was likely reinjured in the melee. It isn’t immediately clear what caused the injury, although most people look to a moment when Joe locked on his rear naked choke, and Rollins, selling his attempts to escape the hold, appeared to twist his knee on the way down to the mat. While most fans prayed the injury was nothing but a part of the story, reports seem to indicate the injury is very real.
It’s a frustrating scenario for Seth Rollins, who put in tremendous work to come back from his injury. The WWE Network documentary about Rollins’ recovery, one of the best WWE 24 episodes to date, detailed that hard work, and went miles towards having fans identify with Rollins, who suddenly didn’t fit the villainous role he was portraying on television. To see Rollins’ dedication was to become a Rollins believer. To witness his return at Extreme Rules, hitting Roman Reigns with a Pedigree after his victory over AJ Styles, was cathartic. And to watch him excel again felt just.
Now, Rollins could miss a second Wrestlemania in a row, a situation which must be frustrating to a man who just two years ago was riding high at the top of the company. The impact could be even worse if it affects his career long-term. Meanwhile, the Rollins-Triple H storyline was belabored as it was; if a Rollins injury leads to significant time off, and a change in the Rollins vs. Triple H plans for ‘Mania, that story will likely be scrapped all together.
Seth Rollins is one of the best performers in the world, and deserves a chance to shine again on a large stage. To see him sidelined again would be yet another unfair outcome for a man who’s already come back from so much.
Paul DeBenedetto is Paste’s assistant wrestling editor.