No one ever wants to suffer an injury, especially one as big as the one Seth Rollins experienced in November 2015. He was on a roll at the time and arguably the biggest heel in the WWE. Rollins was riding high. Then during an overseas match with Kane, his momentum came to a halt as he tore the ACL, MCL and medial meniscus in his knee. It would be more than seven months before “The Architect” returned to the ring. There was a positive as he was offered a role in the WWE Studios movie “Armed Response” and now had the time to do it.
The movie, which also stars Wesley Snipes and Anne Heche, finds Rollins and a team of highly trained soldiers looking into the disappearance of another team. As they investigate, they find themselves trapped inside a military compound controlled by artificial intelligence and things quickly get out of control. Sporting News spoke with Rollins about being in his first feature film, fighting Anne Heche, recovering from his knee injury during filming, becoming a good guy in WWE, and getting the cover of the upcoming WWE 2K18 video game. “Armed Response” will be available on digital download and limited theatrical release beginning on Friday, August 4.
SPORTING NEWS: How was the movie making experience for “Armed Response” for you overall seeing this is the first feature film you’ve done?
SETH ROLLINS: Yeah, this is the first one. It was cool. Honestly, it was a good experience. I had no idea what it was going to be like going in. I had no preconceptions or anything like that. I was going in with an open mind and it was a lot different than what I’m used to doing live shows all the time. It was super-interesting and a fun experience, a learning experience for me.
SN: How would you explain this movie is someone asked you? Is it a horror movie, it is a thriller?
SR: I’d call it more of a suspense-thriller. There are some elements of action and horror but that’s not the predominant theme. It’s more of a suspense thriller, a whodunit trying to figure out how the other Special Forces team was supposed to be manning this outpost and have gone missing. There’s a lot of elements of who, what, when, where, stuff like that.
SN: There’s a big twist in this movie where you’re going along one path and suddenly something happens where it takes you in a different direction. Did you like that element of storytelling?
SR: Yeah, I remember reading the script for the first time and being like ‘oh, I didn’t see that coming’. They did a good job of not letting you in on the secret too much until it was time. I thought they did a good job with the script and the idea was pretty cool. I honestly think it turned out pretty well.
SN: You said this was a learning experience for you. What was the biggest thing you took away from it?
SR: I think just the subtlety of acting on a movie set as opposed to doing it on a live crowd. Obviously, we have our television show and there’s a bit of subtlety that’s involved especially in backstage segment or talking in a microphone but at the end of the day, most of our work is done in front of a live audience with instant reaction and we have to be sort of larger than life all the time. Whereas on a movie set, when they’re shooting a scene, some of it’s so close up, that even just the little inflections in your voice can really change the whole dynamic of your character and your scene. For me, it was really get used to just being subtle all the time instead of being big and boisterous.
SN: I would think there’s a certain comfort level with you being in WWE and being live that are used to that when you do a long promo in the ring by yourself. Was this a different kind of a comfort level or did it take a while to get comfortable with this process because it is so much different than what you’re used to doing?
SR: It’s a lot different. When you’re in front of a live crowd with a microphone, you say one thing and you’re going to get a response. You can tell if people are listening to what you’re saying and paying attention within seconds. And you’re able to adapt on the fly because you get that immediate response. There’s a little bit of an energy, a vibe, a flow that comes with orating and talking to a live crowd like that. Whereas when you’re doing a scene in a movie, it’s a little different because you’re not getting that instant feedback and you’re doing the same scene over and over and over so you lose some of that flow. Mentally, it’s a different kind of challenge to constantly stay in the moment, especially in some of the more emotional scenes that we had to shoot during this film.
SN: When you see the cast of this movie and you probably think you’re going to be involved in a big fight scene, did you ever think that your big fight scene would be against Anne Heche?
SR: (laughs) No, definitely not. Obviously, when I read the script and we got down to it I thought ‘oh, well that’s very interesting’. I thought it was pretty cool. Anne pulled her weight. It was a good job. I thought we did a decent job of Seth Rollins vs. Anna Heche. It sounds like an old celebrity death match. They should do it up in Claymation.
SN: I thought we were going to see you in more fight scenes. I was a little disappointed in that.
SR: Yeah, you’re not going to get a whole lot of Jackie Chan-style fight scenes. Also, I was at the end of my rehab so I wasn’t doing … You probably can’t tell but I was still a month or two from coming back to the ring. So, I was still a little tentative with my knee. Thankfully, we didn’t do too many fight scenes or more than I could handle.
SN: Were you worried about re-injuring your knee while shooting the movie since your goal was to get back in the ring as soon as possible?
SR: I wasn’t worried about hurting it. I had gotten my routine established with my rehab at home so in moving down to New Orleans, I had to find a new routine. I wasn’t very interested in that. I was so concerned about getting back as soon as I could that I was like I have to keep rehabbing and working out. Consequently, I’d be at the set sometimes all day, 12 hours a day, and we filmed about an hour south of New Orleans. So I had to commute back and forth and then I would end up working out at like two in the morning sometimes because that was the only time I could train. It reminded me of all of the ‘Rocky’s’ and the Rocky tweets and Instagrams about how he’s clanging and banging at 4 a.m. I was like, dang, that’s a real thing because sometimes that’s the only time you get a workout in.
Luckily, I had a buddy who owns a gym down there and I was able to sneak into his gym. He gave me a key and I was able to get in and out at two, three o’clock in the morning sometimes.
SN: Like any movie, there’s a lot of stand around time. What were the stories like on set with Wesley Snipes? Was there a lot of ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ discussion with Wesley?
SR: I 100% asked him about ‘White Men Can’t Jump’. Absolutely. And ‘Demolition Man’ as well. Those were the two for me. We talked about ‘Blade’ a little bit just because he had done ‘Blade 3’ with Triple H so he had a little history with our industry. I was a big ‘White Man Can’t Jump’ fan as a kid so I was asking him about Woody Harrelson. I even had a Simon Phoenix action figure, I still have it to this day. I had my brother send a picture of my action figure beating the crap out his Simon Phoenix action figure, which he was very amused by.
SN: What’s next for your movie career? Is this something you’re going to pursue more now?
SR: I don’t know about pursue. I welcome the opportunity. I recently voiced a character for an animated film coming up (tentatively titled ‘Troubled’ which is a kid’s animated movie about dogs). I got to be a bulldog, which is sweet because I never imagined myself as a bulldog. I got to do the WWE ‘Jetsons’ release as well, which was pretty awesome, where I got to play a robot version of myself. If the opportunities come, I’m down for it. Again, it’s hard to pursue anything like this with the schedule we keep. If something pops up and I’m asked to do it, I’m more than happy to give it a shot if it’s the right fit for me.
SN: You mentioned your knee injury. Earlier this year, you tweaked your knee. How close did it come to whether or not you were going to make WrestleMania 33?
SR: I went to Birmingham the following day, I thought it was the same injury. I thought I was going to be out another six months. Once we got the MRI, the possibility was going to be to make it back by WrestleMania was just a matter of if the ‘powers that be’ in WWE were going to be OK with me working at a certain level. But I knew my knee would be healthy, especially in a brace. It was just about me packing my bags and moving down to Birmingham and rehabbing and making sure it was as strong as it could be going into WrestleMania.
SN: A lot of people thought when you came back from your first injury that everyone would love you and you’d get a huge response. Instead, you were still a heel. What was it like to come back like that and see where you have gone including now being a fan favorite?
SR: I think it’s been a nice, organic change in my character. We had an opportunity … I could have been a babyface when I came back but it didn’t feel right at the time. Then we had stuff go on with Finn Balor’s injury and stuff like that. It felt from a television perspective watching it back and thinking back on it, it felt like a good, slow burn as opposed to all of a sudden I flipped the switch. People will say what they want about it but I think it’s gone well so far. I think it’s only going to get better as we keep moving forward. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to shed my old skin and try this new thing out. It’s something I haven’t done on the main roster since I’ve been up here. I haven’t been a good guy since NXT. It’s definitely a different change of pace but something I’m looking forward to continuing to develop as we move forward.
SN: Does it ever feel strange having people cheer you rather than boo you?
SR: Nah, it doesn’t feel strange. Sometimes I watch our bad guys, our heels, and see how much fun they’re having, being goofballs. Man, I miss that. It’s a new challenge, especially in 2017 to be a babyface in professional wrestling. I’m trying my damnedest and, hopefully, we’ll keep moving forward and keep things going in the right direction.
SN: Are there really babyfaces and heels now, especially in WWE, in this day and age? Fans are going to root for who they want. We see the response that John Cena gets or even Roman Reigns.
SR: You could certainly make the argument that there’s a lot more gray area when it comes to that than there ever has been. Our audience is always changing. The easier and more readily that information is available, the smarter our audience and fans are going to become as we move forward and they want more sophisticated characters and sophisticated stories. You can certainly make the argument that the days of classic babyface and classic heel are dead and gone. But at the same time, I still think there are possibilities for very strong protagonists and strong antagonists in a traditional sense. You look at someone like a Daniel Bryan, pretty much universally loved, I still think there’s a place for it if it’s done right and it can be very exciting if done the right way.
SN: You are on the cover of the upcoming WWE 2K18 video game, which is a huge honor, and you’re only the fifth guy to be on it. What does this mean for you to get that and going forward? I think getting the cover is a huge vote of confidence by the company.
SR: 100 percent. You can look at all the options past and present that it could have been and the company decided to give me that honor. That’s huge. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that. It’s something I look forward to. From day one, I told everyone around me that I wanted to be the guy. You’ve known me for a long time and you’ve always known that about me. I think this is just another step in that direction for me. Obviously, you want to be the Universal Champion. Obviously, you want to be the guy who’s on top of the card at “WrestleMania.” There are tons of options when it comes to that and stepping stones and little things, notches in your belt so to speak, and being on the cover of the video game in the company with The Rock, Brock Lesnar, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, John Cena, that’s pretty cool. For me, it’s a great honor and another step in the right direction towards me creating a legacy for myself.
SN: “Black and Brave,” your wrestling academy in Iowa, is doing really well. You have merchandise in “Hot Topic” now. How did that come about?
SR: Yeah, we recently got a T-shirt in “Hot Topic” and we are slowly but surely getting in stores all across America. Get out to “Hot Topic” and get yourself a “Black and Brave Wrestling Academy” T-shirt. We have our own apparel site and everything. It’s been a really good experience over the last couple of years for me and we’re only getting bigger and better as time goes on.