The WWE will hold a live event in Saudi Arabia for the first time ever on April 27. The “Greatest Royal Rumble,” is the first event in Saudi Arabia’s long-term partnership with WWE and will feature a 50-man Royal Rumble as well as seven title matches.
After winning the Intercontinental title at “WrestleMania 34,” Seth Rollins, one of WWE’s top names, will be defending his title against The Miz, Finn Balor, and Samoa Joe in a ladder match in front of the crowd at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Prior to that event, Rollins spoke to Yahoo Sports about the grueling travel schedule some of the WWE’s stars have had to endure, how the Saudi Arabia crowd is expected to be different than most, and who he would love to face in the coming months.
Yahoo Sports: The WWE is constantly traveling, but has this stretch been particularly difficult or taxing? You were in South Africa last week, back here in the U.S. for “Raw” on Monday, and will be in Saudi Arabia later this week. What has it been like for you?
Seth Rollins: We’re on the road quite a bit, but this schedule for April and May is pretty intense for us. I was just thinking about it today as I was packing my bags for “Raw” in St. Louis, which luckily for me was just a drive, so I was able to get home. A lot of the guys who were in South Africa were not able to come home, so they’re already in St. Louis and are going right back out tomorrow. I was amazed thinking to myself, ‘Wow I have to get back on a plane for a 15-hour flight.’ It just didn’t seem real to me after having to take two 15-hour flights last week. It’s going to be a trying schedule because we’re going to Europe pretty much a week after we get back from Saudi Arabia. It’s going to be a wild month, but hopefully it’s going to be a great experience we’re talking about when we’re older and telling our kids.
You recently looked back at your beginnings in the wrestling industry on WWE’s “Formerly Known As” series. Have you thought about where you are now – competing at “WrestleMania” and at the “Greatest Royal Rumble” in the span of a few weeks – compared to those humble beginnings?
It’s pretty nuts. When I got the opportunity to film the “Formerly Known As” it was awesome and it really put me in a wild mental state. To go back to that little back room at Don’s Pub and remember where I started and then take myself all the way to these massive arenas, an outdoor one in Saudi Arabia and the Superdome in New Orleans, with tens of thousands of people, it’s really an incredible journey. I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to live out my dream. As a kid from a small town in Iowa, people would tell you every day that you don’t have a chance to do the things that I have been able to do. For me, to be able to have those experiences and share them with future generations and tell them it doesn’t matter where you come from that you always have a chance, it’s really special and I’m glad I have the opportunity to do that.
For the crowd at the “Greatest Royal Rumble,” it will be the first time most of them are seeing WWE perform live. What do you expect from the fans?
When we get the opportunity to go to places that have not seen the WWE live, it’s really incredible. It’s like they’re little babies opening their eyes for the first time, they’re virgins for what we do. The cities that we go to in the states, not that they’re jaded, but they’ve seen us so many times, every single week we come through these different towns, sometimes two or three times a year. To go over to this part of the world where they just don’t have this kind of entertainment all of the time, it’s a really special kind of event and a really special relationship we establish with the fanbase over there. They’re just not used to it so they’re super respectful, super excited and it’s a different type of reaction. It makes it a lot of fun, speaking from my experience.
As far as the match itself goes, we saw you beat Miz and Finn Balor at “WrestleMania,” but there are two new factors at play here: Samoa Joe and it being a ladder match. How does that make it different?
The first word that comes to mind is dangerous. When you think about Samoa Joe and my history with him it’s dangerous. When you think about a ladder match it’s dangerous. That definitely ups the ante and adds the element of danger to the situation. It makes the odds of me retaining the Intercontinental championship all the more precarious. When I come out of it on top, still having my belt going into “Backlash,” it’s going to make the title more prestigious than it already is.
Anything I can do to elevate the prestige of the title and myself along the way, I’m all for it. I’m up to the challenge and am looking forward to the opportunity to get into the ring with three of the best in the world to defend my title.
Speaking of your Intercontinental championship, you’re in a fairly exclusive club now that you’re a grand slam champion. How’s that feel?
I remember when Shawn Michaels became grand slam champion way back in the 90s. Thinking about it then I had never heard the term before that. I thought ‘Wow, that’s incredible, he has held all of the titles WWE has to offer. That’s an incredible feat.’ It’s one of those things that when you’re getting into the industry or trying to become a professional wrestler, you don’t even consider that a possibility. For me, I’ve been in great situations where the accolades have piled up and you then you realize, ‘Shoot, I guess I’m there too now.’ To think that someone out there is thinking out Seth Rollins the way I thought about Shawn Michaels in that regard, that’s pretty awesome. There’s a very short list of people who have been grand slam champions. To join them is really awesome and something I’m proud of.
You mentioned before that you’d watch matches differently as you got older. Do you still watch tape? What would surprise people who may not think there’s film study in wrestling like there is in the NFL or NBA?
Every time I watch wrestling, it’s tape study for me. When I was younger, it was watch these pay-per-views, watch “Monday Night Raw,” watch whatever shows were near me, tapes, DVDs, pick up what I can. Now, we get 200-plus live events a year and I try to watch as much of that as possible and I’m learning all of the time. I’m constantly picking up things to do and not to do. People would be surprised to see I’m not sitting home watching [Ricky “The Dragon”] Steamboat versus [Ric] Flair, I’m learning from a Sonya DeVille and Nia Jax match, I’m learning from The Revival versus Titus Worldwide. There’s something you can learn from every single match you have your eyes on. I think it’s really important for us to never stop having that passion to get better. That’s what really sucked me in, you can never be perfect in this business. There is no end. You constantly have to improve and get better.
With some new talent coming over to Raw, who is someone you’d like to have a match with in the near future and someone who you’re watching as an up-and-comer?
There are some obvious matchups. For me, it’s Drew McIntyre. I had some great matches with Drew down in NXT and I think he’s gotten so much better since he left and came back. I think we can have some really good stuff to do now. Bobby Roode is someone I’ve never been in the ring with and would like to see what kind of chemistry we have.
A sleeper pick, someone who I only think is going to get better as the years go on and has slid under the radar since coming over, is Chad Gable. He’s someone who has an incredible amount of potential. He’s a workhorse, he goes out and gives 120 percent every single time and only makes people better. I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops and a Rollins-Gable in the future has great match written all over it.
When I spoke to the Usos before WrestleMania they talked about how getting away from Roman Reigns helped them. You’ve been alongside Roman and Dean Ambrose in the Shield and you have been a singles competitor. Which do you prefer?
I think there are good things about both. For me, being with the Shield and with Roman, there’s a different vibe to it, it’s a real special feeling. Obviously, I feel like there’s a special match every time about a Seth Rollins match, but when I’m out there with Roman or Dean, there’s an extra electricity in the air. We always have a good time when we’re together. There are advantages to both but I love sharing the fun with my friends and we all feed off of each other and make each other better. If I had to pick, if I was forced to, I think I like being out there with my guys.