WWE Superstar Seth Rollins strutted out from behind a Jumbotron playing his highlight reel and into controlled bedlam.
Through blinding flashing lights, the screams of more than 5,500 people muffled both a drum solo throbbing from the loud speakers and the announcer’s attempts to declare that Rollins hails “from Davenport, Iowa.”
But the audience at the Quad Cities’ iWireless Center knew where Rollins is from…because it’s where they’re from, too.
Countless handwritten signs read, “Welcome Home, Seth!” while an especially bright one sparkled, “Will you go to prom with me, Seth?”
Standing in the ring, his chest bare and his wet hair hanging below his shoulders, Rollins, 28, snarled like Mick Jagger as he held up the World Heavyweight Championship title, a big gold belt won at WrestleMania, WWE’s marquee event.
He’s the only Iowan to ever win that title.
For Rollins, who grew up in Davenport, this was a heavyweight homecoming.
The Davenport West grad fell in love with wrestling during a show at the Wharton Field House, just two miles from the ring he stood in. He’d honed his skills scrapping with his brother and scraping by in the local independent wrestling scene. Now, he’s the champ, and this was the first time he’d taken a Quad Cities’ stage since winning the title.
“It will be emotional,” Rollins said as he sipped coffee earlier in the day. “This is my place. I’ve lived here my whole life basically, and my family is here, and now I get to walk in as the WWE Heavyweight Champion. It’ll be different than any other (performance).”
But being a champion is more than just flash bulbs and champagne. It’s hours at the gym, nights in far-flung hotel rooms, days away from friends and family and months of plotting to stay on top.
The Register spent time with Rollins, whose legal name is Colby Lopez, while he was in the Quad Cities for a taping of WWE’s weekly show “SmackDown,” consistently the top-rated regularly scheduled program on SyFy, according to WWE.
Between hours of media appearances, workouts and preparing for the show, Rollins barely had time to sit down, let alone to answer all the calls, texts and Facebook messages from friends hoping to grab a moment with the champion.
This is a day in the life of Seth Rollins.
6 a.m. — Media Begins
Rollins hadn’t slept. He and a bunch of guys drove straight into town after taping WWE’s Monday-night wrestling program, “Raw,” in Green Bay, Wis. He got to his home in Davenport at 5 a.m., too close to his first appearance to get meaningful rest.
“The joke we always say is that WWE doesn’t pay us to wrestle, they pay us to travel,” Rollins said. “Once you step out (in the ring) and you are doing your thing in front of people and just living in that moment, that is great. I could do that for free for the rest of my life.”
Bouncing from a morning TV show, where they made him do the weather, to what felt like never-ending radio station interviews, Rollins kept up his wit.
Fans gave Davenport native Seth Rollins a hero’s welcome when he returned to the iWireless Center for Tuesday’s WWE Smackdown.
On April 28, 2015, hundreds lined up to see Rollins’ homecoming, this time as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
“Oh, its great to see him back. I live just down the road from where he was born in Buffalo, Iowa,” said fan Brice Chapman.
“Iowa’s got a guy now, and it’s awesome that he’s number one right now,” said Steve Guida, who made the trip from Dubuque.
Rollins, whose real name is Colby Lopez, won the crown last month, and successfully defended his title on Sunday. Tuesday, he told News 8 he was very excited to be back in the Quad Cities.
“This is where I was born and raised,” Rollins said. “I mean, these are my people. This is my place. I’ve seen so many shows here, and now I get to walk in as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. It really doesn’t get any better than that.”
Rollins describes the past month as ‘a whirlwind.’
“Now I’ve got a bulls-eye on my back, and everybody’s gunning for me, but I kind of like that. Pressure is where I thrive,” said Rollins.
@JoeyStyles: In an interesting series of twists, champion Seth Rollins chose to have Randy Orton’s outta nowhere RKO banned and the challenger chose a Steel Cage Match so The Authority could not interfere. Orton can use something else to beat Rollins, but Rollins can’t use somebody else to help him because his new adversary Kane will make sure of it, right? Wrong! I don’t buy that Kane is fed up with being The Authority’s hired muscle. I think Triple H having to keep the peace between Rollins and Kane is a ruse. As WWE’s longest tenured Superstar, Kane knows that you grin and bear whatever position The Authority gives you. When it seems that Orton is about to take the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from The Authority-installed Rollins, Kane will interject himself into the Steel Cage Match (which has no disqualifications) and personally see that Rollins remains champion. WINNER: Seth Rollins
Anthony Benigno: If this were just a regular Steel Cage Match minus the RKO, I’d go with Orton. The Viper’s got the deeper arsenal, more experience in these sorts of matches, plus, he’s got the dreaded punt in his back pocket. However, this match will hinge on Kane’s status as keeper of the keys for the steel cage. The Director of Operations has been on the outs with Rollins for some time now, and no amount of smoothing-over on the part of Triple H seems to have swayed him from his general disdain for the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. He’s still an Authority employee, though, so expect this match to go much as Rollins’ Money in the Bank victory did: The Architect will earn the win on the shoulders of The Devil’s Favorite Demon. WINNER: Seth Rollins
Scott Taylor: Despite the uncertainty surrounding Kane’s role as “gatekeeper,” I have no doubt that Seth Rollins has plans B, C and D ready to go. The WWE World Heavyweight Champion didn’t get to where he is without outsmarting the competition along the way. WINNER: Seth Rollins
Matthew Artus: As one of two Extreme Rules grapplers whose experience at this event dates back to its ECW One Night Stand days, Randy Orton feels like an obvious choice. However, the banned RKO and Seth Rollins’ record of escaping cagey confines due to unannounced guests (Bray Wyatt or Brock Lesnar, anyone?) put the odds in favor of The Authority’s golden boy. WINNER: Seth Rollins
@HowardFinkel: Getting the RKO banned was smart strategy from Rollins. But you can’t downgrade Orton’s chances of winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship just due to that. Orton’s got Rollins exactly where he wants him — in the cage — and you know how that can go. I am also curious as to what frame of mind Kane will be in this Sunday as gatekeeper of the cage. Regardless, I look for Rollins to eke out a victory and retain his championship. WINNER: Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins: 5, Randy Orton: 0
Seth Rollins vs. Cactus Jack — Boiler Room Brawl
Whether jumping from the TitanTron or falling off Hell in a Cell, Seth Rollins always got back up no matter the damage. It’s reminiscent of Attitude Era icon Cactus Jack, who kept fighting no matter how many times a rival knocked him down. Rollins wanted to see if he could be the one to keep him down once and for all.
“I’m going to shoot for the No. 1 hardcore legend of all time: The Cactus Jack personality of Mick Foley,” Rollins said, “in a Boiler Room Brawl.”
Rollins goes extreme against Randy Orton | Watch Cactus battle Orton, too
While stepping into a stipulation Mick Foley helped to innovate, where the competitors brawl backstage until one can make it to the ring, Rollins had his eyes on stealing a victory by stealing the closest friend of Foley’s most diabolical persona.
“Barbie, of course, the baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire — that’s Cactus’ weapon and I’d like to take it from him and use it against him.”
The WWE’s run with Brock Lesnar as world heavyweight champion was successful, but the move to put the title on Seth Rollins has transformed him into the old-school heel the company needs on top.
Rollins is on Raw and SmackDown almost every week, and that is a pleasant change of pace from seeing the champion once every three months. With the champion’s heel tactics each time he is on television, he is slowly building his legacy as a weasel who will do whatever it takes to retain the title.
There is a vocal minority of the WWE Universe that does not like Rollins as champion due to his willingness to take the easy way out, but there were many top stars in the industry who made a living doing the exact same thing.
From Ric Flair to Jake “The Snake” Roberts and even Triple H, some of the best heels in the history of the business have made an impact by portraying the bad guy who uses cheap tactics to earn victories and draw heat from the fans.
Being the weasel heel allows Rollins to retain the championship and hold on to it for an extended amount of time. Wrestling fans know Randy Orton will not win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules, but they also know Rollins will use heel tactics to help himself retain, even if that means infuriating the No. 1 contender enough to force him to hit the RKO.
Using The Authority as a way to ensure he remains the top star in the company—few steel cages in the past have stopped interference—makes him the reliable Superstar who can carry the title throughout the period heading into SummerSlam. While the time between WrestleMania and SummerSlam is usually considered a down period, Rollins being the face of the brand right now is the ideal booking.