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31 Days of Wrestling (12/29/18): The Birth of Monday Night Rollins


Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2018 produced for us.

Five hours of WWE main roster programming alone can be too much for the average wrestling fan to consume on a weekly basis. Now when you consider all the content you can watch on the WWE Network (inclusive of required viewings like NXT, NXT UK, and 205 Live), as well as offerings from other promotions around the world such as NJPW World, DDT Universe, Honor Club, and so on,  you'll realize that wrestling fans really do have it great in this day and age. 

But while it's certainly a benefit wrestling fans can appreciate, it's not without its problems—considering how much time we can realistically dedicate ourselves to our favorite pastime. Not everyone can put in five hours of main roster time without getting bored and losing attention, much less put in extra time to look over what else is happening in the wrestling scene all over the world. Fortunately, and unfortunately, for the busybodies who go to work or school every day, this is a trend that is expected to continue for a long time. Again, a problem, yet somehow a good problem to have.

But for those who do dedicate their time to keep up to date with the current happenings, sometimes, they get rewarded with historic moments they would never expect. In 1999, RAW was host to Mick Foley's first-ever WWF Championship victory (under his Mankind persona). In 2011, CM Punk went on a five-minute tirade after the main event of RAW that would forever shift the course of wrestling history, the one that would be known as the first pipebomb. 

And in 2018, on that fateful February 19 episode of Monday Night RAW, fans witnessed what is now known as the longest televised match in WWE history.



In a two-hour affair, the seven competitors in the upcoming Elimination Chamber Match to determine Brock Lesnar's Universal Championship challenger at WrestleMania faced each other in a Gauntlet Match. 

Why WWE management had seven men face each other in a grueling match before a WrestleMania-defining encounter with no actual stakes, nobody knows. But all seven competitors (Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Finn Balor, John Cena, Elias, The Miz, and Braun Strowman) put on a hell of a show and enthralled fans during the marathon that ensued, with no expectations coming into this particular episode of RAW whatsoever.

While Braun Strowman would secure the victory at the end of the match by pinning The Miz, the biggest winner by the end of the match, without any question, is Seth Rollins. Of the entirety of these two hours, the Kingslayer straight up competed for more than an hour while securing victories over Roman Reigns and John Cena in succession while managing to maintain his top-notch form in the process. His more than one-hour performance solidified Seth Rollins as WWE's true workhorse and solidified his claim to being the new Mr. Monday Night and effectively proclaim himself as Monday Night Rollins. 

This match would lead to Seth being a central figure in major WWE storylines, including his emphatic involvement in the Intercontinental Championship scene and the ongoing drama with Dean Ambrose. With a year like 2018, it would be a travesty if he doesn't hold the Universal or WWE Championship during the next year.



The idea of a wrestling match taking two hours of a three-hour show is unheard of, even in today's scene. But that's the beauty of this whole situation. 

It's simple if you think about it: who would have thought that the best way to entertain an audience in a wrestling show is some good wrestling? Main roster programming can be a drag to watch, mostly, and people would rather pay more attention to alternatives like NXT because of it. But for this one night, a two-hour gauntlet match with no real stakes became a shining highlight that not only delivered the second W in WWE in spades, but also changed the career trajectory of a main event star like Seth Rollins forever. It's proof that for how draggy things can get in main roster programming, something historic just happens when you least expect it.

From that point on, Monday Night RAW became Monday Night Rollins, and all was right in the world.


***


31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2018.

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