x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

WWE’s Seth Rollins raring to return to the UAE

The wrestler is due to fight at the WWE Live show in Abu Dhabi in February.

Seth Rollins is due to fight at the WWE Live show in Abu Dhabi in February. He has entertained crowds in the UAE before and is looking forward to returning. Courtesy WWE
Seth Rollins is due to fight at the WWE Live show in Abu Dhabi in February. He has entertained crowds in the UAE before and is looking forward to returning. Courtesy WWE

The superstars of WWE are not, generally, short on confidence. Former heroes such as Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock were hardly shy, retiring types, after all. Still, it takes a certain kind of self-assured wrestler – or astounding arrogance, take your pick – to deliver a victory speech before his match with one of the biggest names in the business has even started.

Yet this was exactly how Seth Rollins kicked off last weekend’s big Tables, Ladders and Chairs bout in Cleveland, Ohio, against John Cena. Maybe he had reason to be so confident. After all, Rollins is the man who would, later in the show, be called “the undisputed future of WWE”.

But despite Rollins repeatedly pummelling him into near submission, Cena managed to take advantage of late chaos in the ring and put Rollins through a fold-up table. Rollins was dazed and ultimately defeated.

But this minor setback is unlikely to leave permanent scars on one of the villains of WWE.

“My character is very polarising, sure,” says Rollins. “There’s a lot of stuff I’ve done over the past year that people haven’t been too pleased about – and to be the best at anything, you’ve gotta make some enemies.

“So call me number 1 villain, call me hero, call me top guy in WWE. Whatever you want, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m happy with what I’ve done to get here.”

Rollins certainly caused a stir when, in June, he took out his own teammates in The Shield faction with a steel chair. It might be understood that in wrestling, it’s every man for himself – but there was still a sense of betrayal. After all, Rollins had made his name with the group.

“Look, it had got to the point where it was time to make a statement for me,” he says. “The Shield had run its course as a three-man group, and we’ll go down in history as one of the greatest factions of all time.

“So I wanted to stand out, and now we’re three separate, successful entities. The others didn’t like the way it happened, sure, but maybe they’d look back at it a little differently now.”

Rollins is undoubtedly the former Shield member with the most star power.

The wrestler is due to fight at the WWE Live show in Abu Dhabi in February. The event will come at an interesting time for him, just a month before WrestleMania 31 – wrestling’s flagship, Super Bowl-style event.

Who would he like to face? “Whoever the WWE World ­Heavyweight Champion is at that point, it doesn’t matter,” he says. “As long as the title’s on the line, that’s the match I want to be in.”

The champion could actually be Rollins himself. The highlight of his career was winning the Money in the Bank contest in June, which allows him to take a shot at the title within a year. Ask him if he’s close to WWE domination, though, and he gets just a little tetchy.

“I’ve already been close, man,” he says. “If it hadn’t been for John Cena at the Night Of Champions, I’d have defeated [current champion] Brock Lesnar. I was seconds away. That’s been weighing heavily on my mind. But I’m a patient man.”

Watching Rollins pace around the ring at TLC, he doesn’t look very patient. Although he admits he’d be a fighting champion, in the vein of Shawn Michaels or The Nature Boy Ric Flair – “those were the guys who went out every night, gave the up-and-coming punks a chance and then shut the door on them” – he argues that his style is very deliberate.

“I’m well-versed on the mat, but I can pick up people much bigger than me,” he says. “I can hang with anybody, I can trade power moves, I can fly through the air. Maybe there’s no one in the history of WWE who can say they can do all those things.”

All of this makes his booking to appear at WWE Live in Abu Dhabi exciting. He has entertained crowds in the UAE before and is looking forward to a return.

“It’s incredible – when I was a kid all I wanted to do was to travel the world and wrestle in front of different crowds and cultures,” he says. “And the UAE fans are amazing, so die-hard and energetic – and knowledgeable, too.

“I promise you, if you’ve never been or if you’re sceptical, come to WWE with an open mind. There’s nothing like the live experience – and it’s a testament to how captivating we are as performers.”

And none more captivating than Seth Rollins?

“Maybe. That’s why I call myself the future of WWE.”

• WWE Live will be at Zayed Sports City Tennis Stadium from February 12 to 14. Tickets, from Dh300, are available from www.ticketmaster.ae

artslife@thenational.ae