Throughout most of 2018, Seth Rollins appeared to be having the time of his life—beloved by fans, stealing the show night after night in mid-card matches, and well on his way to becoming the WWE’s next top guy.
He achieved that status in 2019, and with it another major honor: being ranked number one in the 29th annual “PWI 500.” But if anybody would know about how heavy is the head that wears the crown, it would be the man who once dubbed himself the “Kingslayer.”
“First of all, I need to make sure you guys know what you’re doing here,” Rollins said. “The Internet is not going to be very happy about this one.”
Like so many before him, Rollins’ ascension to the top of WWE has come with new pressures and new detractors. But, while Rollins may spend a lot more time these days defending himself, his employer, and his equally successful girlfriend, Becky Lynch, from criticism, the Davenport, Iowa native wouldn’t have it any other way.
“As difficult as it can be, this is all I ever wanted—to be in this position, to be having this conversation with you—talking about being the absolute best wrestler on the entire planet. I don’t think there is single part of me that would trade any second of it,” said Rollins, 33, who joins Bret Hart, Steve Austin, Triple H, and John Cena as the only wrestlers ever to achieve the top ranking more than once. “Those guys, obviously, are elite. They are in a class all their own. They are all Hall of Famers. So to be mentioned amongst them is pretty special. It's been a long road for me, actually, the last four years trying to get back to this point.”
That road began in November 2015, when—weeks after that year’s “PWI 500” hit newsstands with Rollins in the top spot—the then-reigning WWE world champion suffered a devastating knee injury that would sideline him for seven months. He returned the following year with a promise to “redesign, rebuild, and reclaim.” And, little by little, he did just that.
It was during the evaluation period for this year’s “PWI 500” (July of 2018 through June of 2019) that Rollins made the biggest strides in his comeback—winning the Intercontinental title for the second time, the Raw tag team championship for the fourth time, his first Royal Rumble match, and his first Universal championship by beating Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. Although he lost the title back to Lesnar in July, he was counting on winning it back in a rematch at SummerSlam.
Along the way, Rollins also twice reunited with his Shield stablemates to dominate rival factions and headline some major events around the world
“2018 was a fantastic year for me. I felt really good, super healthy through most of the year. I was fortunate enough to be in some really cool stories and get in the ring with some incredibly talented guys and girls. And 2019 has just kind of picked up where 2018 left off. It's been a hell of a run,” said Rollins, who makes no bones about agreeing with the Pro Wrestling Illustrated staff’s assessment that he is the best in the world.
“It starts with my work ethic … I really push myself to the next level,” Rollins said. “I also feel like I’m versatile, very well-rounded. I can sort of do everything. And I can do everything well. There’s not a lot of weak points in my game. Even the weak parts of it are not that weak.”
“People do not like me being positive about WWE. God forbid,” Rollins said about his employer, with whom he recently signed a new five-year contract. Rollins said he expects to spend those years growing as a person and as a performer—just as he did since he last topped the “500.”
“Looking back, I didn’t know what I was doing in the ring. Now, I feel like I’ve got a better grasp on it. But in five years, I’ll probably look back and feel like I didn’t know what I was doing now,” Rollins said. “I think that’s just the nature of learning.”