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    Monday, July 18, 2016

    #MustWatchMonday (7/18/16): Before Rollins Was Rollins

    He's a man that WWE Hall of Famer Sting has described as "the most talented wrestler he's ever seen or worked with." He's paid his dues, working his way up through the ranks in such highly-esteemed independent wrestling promotions as Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and Full Impact Pro. He's a two-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and one of the slimiest, most unlikeable heels of his generation.

    Seth Rollins is a great wrestler, no doubt. And he's also a world-class asshole. Starting from his betrayal of The Shield, all the way until his run as The Authority's new golden boy and subsequent return from injury as an even more insufferable, self-aggrandizing jerk, this is one man who simply gets it as far as being a pro wrestling bad guy is concerned.

    But can you remember what Rollins was like back when he was trying to project himself as a fiery, peppy babyface who relied on the love and adoration of the crowd to get him going? Let's take a look back at a fun little match from four years ago, before Seth Rollins was the grade-A douchebag we know him as today.


    The setting was the finals of the 2012 Gold Rush Tournament to crown the first-ever NXT Champion as it completely graduated from its previous identity as Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). On one side was the dastardly Jinder Mahal in full-on "evil foreigner" mode, months before his comedic turn as a 3MB member. His opponent—Seth Rollins, far removed from the smarmy, cocksure jerk we know and love. Here he was in hyper-active, crowd-pumping mode, complete with a million-watt smile and oozing a "good guy" shtick most fans probably couldn't imagine on him today.

    It's a nifty little match that showcased the obvious athleticism and charisma of both men, with the match building to a crescendo through such close calls as Mahal kicking out of a stiff Avada Kedavra that had the crowd gasping in amazement, Rollins crashing and burning on a failed Phoenix Splash attempt, and a near-fall for Jinder after a crushing full nelson slam that had the crowd rallying behind the future Architect with a rousing chant of "RO-LLINS! RO-LLINS!"

    In the end, Rollins emerged victorious after a turnbuckle bomb-Curb Stomp combination to a massive reaction from the audience in attendance. You can watch the full match below.

    This isn't necessarily Seth Rollins' best match ever—although why Jinder Mahal couldn't get the WWE more behind him after a showing like this is a mystery to us—but it's surreal watching him play the good guy so convincingly. The connection he formed with the fans watching live was the real deal, and seeing him hug the late "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes so warmly in victory was a genuinely heart-warming sight and a true feel-good moment for early-era NXT.

    Who'd have known this amiable, positive wrestler could get thousands of people booing so effortlessly later on in his WWE main roster career? Just watching this match, anyone would have thought he was the second coming of Ricky Steamboat as a plucky do-it-all do-gooder rather than pro wrestling's version of Taylor Swift.

    So, Henrinites, which version of Seth Rollins do you prefer? The smiling #GoodGuyRollins version we see here, or the smug, self-entitled prick of today? Let us know in the comments below!
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    Item Reviewed: #MustWatchMonday (7/18/16): Before Rollins Was Rollins Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Unknown
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