WWE's Seth Rollins on Fighting Dean Ambrose, Their Summerslam Match, and What Daniel Bryan Taught Him About Life

If there's one life lesson we've gleamed from decades spent watching professional wrestling, its this: Your best friend could possibly turn into your worst enemy. As unthinkable as it may seem, we're willing to bet that you and your bestie could easily become frenemies (or worse), given the right set of circumstances.

It's something that happens quite often in the wrestling world, where close-knit allies (like, say, Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage, who feuded both in wrestling rings and in real life) sometimes become hated enemies. Just ask WWE superstar Seth Rollins, as he's spent most of the summer battling his former storyline compatriot Dean Ambrose.

See also: WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan Stops Burglary of His Phoenix Home

For those who aren't up on the latest WWE storylines, we'll cut to the quick: Both wrestlers were as thick as thieves while a part of the fearsome three-person cabal known as The Shield. After conquering most of the opposition in the WWE, Rollins went rogue and delivered his resignation from the group with the business end of a steel chair while delivering a tremendous beatdown to both Ambrose and fellow Shield member Roman Reigns.

Rollins is now a hunted man as Ambrose is out for some WWE-style vengeance after the betrayal. The characters have getting into brawls it out on such weekly television shows as Raw and Smackdown and set to finally square off in a wrestling ring this Sunday, August 17, at Summerslam, which airs on both pay-per-view and the subscription-based WWE Network.

Given how wrestling feuds tend to stretch out over weeks and months, they're likely to still be at odds when WWE tapes its next episode of Smackdown on Tuesday, August 19, at US Airways Center three days before it airs nationally on SyFy.

In honor of the WWE's latest visit to the arena, we recently got a chance to talk to Rollins on the phone. Besides discussing his upcoming Summerslam battle with Ambrose, we chatted with Rollins about the "Money in the Bank" contract he won in June (which grants his character a shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at a time and place of his choosing), as well as how his betrayal got turned into a YouTube parody of LeBron James leaving the Miami Heat.

We also got to learn his feelings concerning the recent burglary here in Phoenix of the home of the WWE's Daniel Bryan, as well as what the fellow superstar taught him about life. Rollins even gushed a little about his love of legendary Valley band Jimmy Eat World.

Two out of the last three WWE superstars who won a "Money in the Bank" contract have failed to win the world championship. Is there some sort of curse developing with the contract? Well, I wouldn't call it a curse, if you look at the percentage over the period of time that Money in the Bank has ever existed, the contract holders have been more than successful than not with the championship cash-in. And regarding the last two, I'm not Damien Sandow and I'm also not as dumb as John Cena was when he tried to cash in. So I think I've got a good brain on me and I think that will enable me to cash in Money in the Bank successfully when the time is right. 

So you're going to be lurking around backstage waiting for a world champ to get the perfect time to strike? In other words, whenever they get laid out? Well, if you watched the Money in the Bank match, I went through hell to get that briefcase and get that contract, so I'm not going to foil myself by getting hasty with the cash-in attempt. I'm going to hold onto it until the time is right and make sure that I get it done properly.

Does the Money in the Bank win make you the most successful former member of The Shield thus far? I mean, there's really no question. You can look at the position of a Roman Reigns or the fan support of a Dean Ambrose, but all that doesn't really mean anything. Roman Reigns didn't win the World Heavyweight Championship. Dean Ambrose hasn't won anything. I'm the only one with any sort of clout as far as carrying around that Money in the Bank contract, which virtually guarantees me a world championship reign at some point. So as far as success since the split, it appears that I've made the proper decision by destroying The Shield.

Have you seen the parody video of LeBron James turning on Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade using footage of you betraying The Shield? Oh yeah. I watched it many many times in multiple incarnations. It was quite, quite comical. [Laughs] I may have retweeted a couple of them. It was so funny. It was funny, right when it happened, when he announced he was going to Cleveland, there was like a short version of it, and like a week later, someone had done a full on long version where LeBron James is beating Chris Bosh to death with the chair or whoever it was. So it was pretty funny. I loved the changing of the facial expressions through every chairshot. I twas quite amusing.

It was like something out of South Park. Yeah, it was really good.

So does that make you the LeBron James of The Shield then? I would think so. Maybe the LeBron James of the WWE, you know what I mean. I like to fancy myself as a guy who can do it all, and Lebron is that way in the NBA. He can play any position on the court, he can guard anybody, he score from anywhere on the court and I like to think that I'm that kind of guy. In The Shield, I was sort of pigeonholed as the high-flyer of the group, but realistically, I was the guy who put all the players in their place to get the most out of everybody. And to achieve as much success as we did, is a testament to I think myself, I know, and to the other guys to and how talented they were, but without a guy like me putting everyone where they needed to be, I think it might not have been quite what it was.

Do you think The Shield had run its course? You know, we did all we had to do. There was really nothing left for us to conquer as a group in WWE. We had disbanded and destroyed, dismantled the greatest group in the last decade in WWE, Evolution. Granted, they're 10 years past their prime as a group, but we dominated. And it wasn't even really close, it was a clean sweep at Payback in the elimination match and we had got to them before that even, and so it was time. We had to take the next step, and I had to take the next step and there wasn't anywhere else for us to go as a group. There's no six-man tag team championships, so as cool as that might've been, this is where we're at now and I'm really happy on the path I'm on. 

Did you ever think that you and Dean Ambrose would have as much chemistry in the ring as you have or that your feud would develop this much heat? Ambrose and I, we made good friends, but we make better enemies, I think. And I don't know why that is, there's just some people you get in the ring with and there's some sort of strange electricity that really hits the spot, and for whatever reason, he and I [have that]. Like I said, good friends, but better enemies. And I think people who may have been disappointed that they didn't get the match they wanted at Battleground can look forward to Summerslam. I don't know what it's going to be like yet, but I wouldn't mind having another match with Dean Ambrose scheduled for Summerslam, because if past encounters have told us anything what we're capable of, I think the wrestling world is gonna be... well, they're gonna be blown away.

So are you personally disappointed that the actual match didn't happen at Battleground? Not at all. Not one bit. 

Because it builds things up more for Summerslam? For me, Summerslam is the biggest event of the summer. It's our second or maybe third arguably biggest event of the year and a match of the caliber of Seth Rollins versus Dean Ambrose, the first time you've seen two members of The Shield interact in the WWE, in the universe really, in any form or fashion as far as any kind of a one-on-one contest, I think deserves the biggest stage it could possibly get, bearing mind the timing of everything. So I think with Summerslam, I'm absolutely looking forward to that opportunity.

Dean is a beast on the mic and is famous for his promos. Do you have to work harder to keep up with him promo-wise? We're each doing are own thing. He's a master with the microphone. For whatever reason, he just has a knack for drawing audiences in with voice and his words and his storytelling as far as how he speaks. If you've followed my career, you'd know that. [It] hasn't been how I've made my way to where I'm at. It's always something to work on, you know, as a performer, as an artist. You're always performing [and] trying to get better, you're always looking for ways to improve. And having to keep up with him on the microphone is one of the ways that I've tried to improve. And splitting from the Shield has really offered me the time to stand in front of a live audience and talk to them about the situation and I feel like that's definitely helped me out. And hopefully if Ambrose and I can go back and forth on a microphone at some point here in the near future that'd be nice for me as well.

Looking ahead, way ahead, like say WrestleMania 31 or even WrestleMania 32, are we ever gonna see a triple-threat main event between the former members of The Shield? That's far away that I have no idea about that. Right now I've got this [Money in the Bank] contract, I've got Dean Ambrose jabbing at me, trying to make sure I don't cash that in, so I'm trying to fight two wars right now [while] looking ahead to WrestleMania. Ideally, I'd like to go into WrestleMania 31 as the World Heavyweight Champion. And with [WrestleMania 32], the same thing. So whoever the top contenders are at that point, if I am the champion, let's go. Otherwise, I'll always have that [Money in the Bank] briefcase, at least for the next 300 days or so, and I'll be able to have that in my back pocket if need be.

So I'm assume y'all heard about how Daniel Bryan stopped a burglary here in Phoenix recently. Yeah. Crazy, huh?

What was the reaction backstage or your reaction to hearing about it? It was pretty shocking for someone like myself who just bought a new house and had just put in a security system as well into my home. To have that happen to him, he just bought that new house and just moved in not that long ago. So it was kind of frightening, kind of eye-opening, like if it could happen to him, it could happen to anybody.

It's an awesome story, but realistically, he's more lucky than anything that they didn't have any weapons on them or anything like that, it could've ended up a lot worse than it was, so I'm just happy he was of relatively minor threat and Daniel was was able apprehend one of the gentlemen in timely fashion.

So what would you have done if the same situation had happened to you? I mean, everyone would like to say we would've done what Daniel would've done, but who knows? When you're faced with a dilemma like that, but when you see people come out of your house and you've got to protect your family. He had a smaller dog in his home that I know he cares a lot about, I have the same thing in mine. And not knowing what they had taken or what the situation was, my first instinct probably would've been to move forward.

I think that's how a lot of us are, just in our lives as WWE superstars and entertainers, and we just have that mindset of always moving forward, so like I said, I'd like to think that I would have followed suit and done the same thing Bryan did. But when push comes to shove, you really never know until you're in that situation.

Both you and Daniel started in Ring of Honor when you were Tyler Black and he was Bryan Danielson. Did you ever thing that you eachwould achieve the level of success with WWE that you have? You know, a lot of people would [think] the smart answer, the right answer is to be humble and say, "This is tremendous and we never could have expected this," but I'm not really of that opinion. I was always a fan of Bryan coming up. I got to work with him in Ring of Honor, I knew that he was one of the best in-ring performers that I'd ever stepped foot inside a wrestling ring with, I learned so much from him, not only in the ring but outside the ring.

How so? Like how to conduct yourself as a person, as a human being; how to be a man, really, in the wrestling business and not to get swept up in the glamor and the glitz of being a star in our business, which a lot of guys do. [Daniel's] not that guy, and I think that's one thing that you could take away from him. And his humility has always been a major part of his success.

But I always knew he was gonna [succeed] -- the cream always rises -- and if he ever got an opportunity, I knew that he was going to knock it out of the park and the same thing for me. I have the utmost confidence in myself and my own ability that I was going to do whatever it took to get where I am today. And I'm very proud of that hard work.

Thanks for the interview, Seth. No, thank you. I'm really looking forward to coming back to Phoenix, I really love that place.

Right on. We hear you're a really big fan of Jimmy Eat World. Oh, yeah, I really do love Jimmy Eat World. Good band, man.

They're from here. Oh, awesome. Very cool.

The taping of WWE Smackdown takes place at 4:45 p.m. On Tuesday, August 19, at US Airways Center. Tickets are $30.75 to $108.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.