Since the pair went their separate ways last summer they’ve moved into very different roles. Reigns spent a while vaguely chasing the WWE championship before moving into a forgettable and mercifully short-lived feud with Randy Orton. Rollins joined The Authority, won Money in the Bank and had the best feud of the year with Dean Ambrose.
|Tyler Black in the same ring as John Cena and Brock Lesnar. It happened.|
The two were supposed to collide in the autumn but it ended up being called after Reigns hit the injured list. While his former teammate was out Rollins headlined his second pay-per-view in a row and then wrestled John Cena in a tables match at TLC. On the January 5 RAW it was revealed he’d once again be rubbing shoulders with Cena, joining him and WWE champion Brock Lesnar in a three-way match for the title at Royal Rumble. The January 12 episode saw him interacting with ‘The Beast’ himself, something usually reserved only for men of a certain station.
Rollins is WWE’s top active heel. He is one of the few people to receive something resembling genuine heat from audiences. That he turned on his pals in exchange for preferential treatment from the bosses is very relatable for audiences, and the fact that he revels in it makes him even easier to hate. But what’s really made Rollins’ character a success is that he has the ability to succeed without this preferential treatment. He could, if he wanted to, earn his way to the top. Fans recognise this and boo him more for it. Rollins is a very dislikeable characters as wrestlers go.
Reigns, meanwhile, has faltered. He’s offered a series of faulty matches as a singles guy and promos laden with awkward pauses, a variety of even more awkward voice pitches, and a general non-understanding of what wrestling fans want from a babyface in the 2010s. His good looks, better hair, and nice big muscles made him everyone’s choice to excel after the demise of The Shield, because those are the things WWE adores, but he’s actually doing significantly less well than his peers. This isn’t to say he won’t or can’t succeed, more that his shortcomings when compared to Dean Ambrose and particularly Rollins, are clear.
Rollins has stormed to the top of WWE. He’s managed to avoid making any serious blunders in the last seven months, and it’s paid off for him in the form of the Rumble main event match. That he’s been awarded a slot in a pay-per-view WWE championship match opposite top boy Cena and resident kill-monster Lesnar shows the level of confidence WWE decision-makers have in Rollins, and how happy they are with his progress. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him leave as champion. Whether he does or not I think this is just the beginning of a long stint at the top for the aptly named ‘Future’.