Sunday will be a special day for Seth Rollins of Davenport, the new WWE Universal Champion, in more ways than one.
The 32-year-old Buffalo, Iowa, native (born Colby Lopez) — who graduated from Davenport West in 2004 — will compete in WWE Live at Moline's TaxSlayer Center for the first time in at least four years, and for the last time with The Shield (his three-man tag team), which will be broadcast live at 8:30 p.m. on the WWE Network.
“It's kind of funny, because there are so many familiar faces in the first few rows, it almost takes me out of it for a minute,” Rollins said Thursday in a phone interview, noting his family and friends will be there. “I forget that I'm there for work. Everybody's loud; Sunday will be extra special. It's The Shield's last match...There will be a lot of energy in the building.”
The Shield, with teammates Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, debuted in November 2012 at the Survivor Series pay-per-view, and had an undefeated streak from December 2012 to May 2013. They're doing their last tag team because Ambrose is leaving WWE.
“It just kind of just worked out, in an unfortunate way, obviously not something we ever wanted to say the final chapter,” Rollins said. “I always believed The Shield would live forever.” Reigns also has battled leukemia, he noted.
“Now we have this last weekend and it just happens to end up in Moline. It's very poetic,” Rollins said. “It will be a cool experience to do in front of friends and family.”
Compared to his single matches, the WWE superstar (known as The Architect) said it's “just a different vibe.” The tag team is “with guys you get along with, your best friends in the industry,” Rollins said. “It's a different level of camaraderie. Life is about sharing experiences; to do that in the moment with those guys is a very different experience, and I'm fortunate enough to have it happen at home.”
After putting in time with Scott County Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and Florida Championship Wrestling (now known as NXT, WWE's developmental brand), Rollins broke onto the WWE main roster as a member of The Shield.
At Wrestlemania 31 in 2015, he won the world championship, but nothing prepared him for becoming the “Beast Slayer,” pinning Brock Lesnar this April 7, at Wrestlemania 35 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to become universal champion for the first time in his career.
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“Facing Brock Lesnar never came into my realm of possibility,” Rollins said Thursday. “I dreamed a lot of big dreams as a kid. But there are things that have happened I never would have even thought were possible – like being on the cover of a video game, being an action figure. It's been pretty surreal.”
His thrilling victory at Wrestlemania (attended in person by his mother and stepfather) “almost happened so fast,” he recalled. “I try to take everything in as it comes. It's not very often you get 80,000 people on your side, facing one of the most decorated combat sports athletes, and having my friends and family there. It will definitely go down in history for me, as my legacy.”
A veteran of the independent scene “who sometimes seems more ninja than wrestler, Rollins set up shop as one of WWE’s on-the-spot history-makers from the second he walked in the door,” says his bio at wwe.com/superstars/seth-rollins.
“From his reign as the first-ever NXT Champion to his vaunted time as The Architect of The Shield, Rollins’ first two years in WWE were a master class of evolution. Coincidentally enough, that’s the name of one of the factions he and his fellow Hounds of Justice managed to upend in their near-spotless two-year run throughout WWE’s ranks.”
Thursday, he said he's home often, even during the WWE tours, and he's proud of his Black and Brave Wrestling Academy, which opened last summer in downtown Davenport (after moving from Moline's River Drive) and his partnership in 392 Caffe next door (502 W. 3rd St.), the hip coffee shop that opened this past winter.
“I'm happy to get an opportunity to share it with the world,” he said, noting 392 degrees is the temperature in which coffee beans crack. The wrestling school is his way “to teach the future of our industry, and way for me to give back to my community and the independent wrestling community.”
“Wrestling is all I've done my entire adult life; it's given me the ability to talk in front of a large number of people, to network backstage, learn nuances, how take in information from person to person,” Rollins said. “I've been able to travel the world through my gig. It helps give me worldly understanding. I wouldn't have done that if I was stuck in Iowa. I've grown a lot as a person.”