By Ted Gruber
6:06 PM CST, March 2, 2014
So you want to be a professional wrestler?
Take it from Seth Rollins, who has jumped through more rings than you can count, that it's a long road. But after years of driving from his hometown in Iowa to the Berwyn Eagles Club, Rollins has made it to the big leagues of pro wrestling.
The 27-year-old former Chicago resident spoke to RedEye about the WWE, his time on the local wrestling circuit and what the Windy City means to him.
You had a couple of years in the WWE's NXT development organization and finally got the call-up and formed The Shield in November 2012. What was it like when you headed up to the main WWE roster?
I think the couple of years in developmental was really starting to get me impatient. It's not a bad thing that you get that mindset because you want to be on the main roster and working with the top guys. I spent a lot of time on the independent scene honing my craft, so I thought I was ready from day one. But the time I spent in NXT was the best things that could happen in my career. It gave me the mindset that I could succeed at the highest level.
When it was time to get called up and The Shield was ready to make an impact, I was nervous, excited, but most importantly prepared for [it]. I think that preparation and confidence came across well in front of the WWE universe.
"WWE Raw" hits Chicago on Monday and this is your second home. How has Chicago helped your career?
It's pretty surreal. With our schedules there isn't a lot of opportunities to sit back and smell the roses, as they say. Every time I come back to Chicago it's just amazing the support I have. It's amazing to think I was in the Berwyn Eagles Club in Berwyn for [All American Wrestling]. Coming back to the area I feel like I'm on the top of the world. It's a very satisfying feeling that I get to now wrestle in front of the biggest crowds each and every day. The crowds here are always awesome, and they have all treated me with such respect and class. It's just very special to me.
There’s always an electric buzz about this city. There’s some kind of energy that nobody can figure out, but there it adds a little extra pressure to exceed expectations. The butterflies will be there for sure on Monday.
You were the second wrestler in the ring at the Royal Rumble and almost won. Now that you have gained exposure as a singles competitor, what could be in the future for Wrestlemania for you?
The Rumble was amazing. To be in the match that long and being part of that list that not many appear on is very humbling and satisfying. I would have liked to gotten the W, but I did my best. I think I made a big impact and was very proud of my performance.
Heading into Wrestlemania, it's the most exciting time of the year. Right now I don't know the plans yet for The Shield or myself but I know there will be an impact made. With so many things going on right now leading up to the big show at New Orleans there's that little extra self-push that wants you to put on the very best match each and every night.
Many have said you have the talent to become an individual star in the WWE. In five years, where do you see yourself?
Five years? I see myself as world champion. If you were in my position and you aren't saying that, something is wrong with you. I want to be holding a title, beating up John Cena and Randy Orton and headlining pay-per-views. I have the confidence and drive and those goals would be satisfying.
What are your thoughts on the new WWE network?
For me, first and foremost I am a fan. I logged in a few days ago and it’s amazing, you can’t put it any way else. I am scrolling through the old PPVs [pay-per-views], looking at the Eddie Guerrero matches from Judgment Day and I did everything on my phone. It’s a revolutionary step going forward and will change the way the business model is formed in the next century. This is the next big step and this is something that will continue to grow each and every day.
With all the old NXT shows there will be plenty of my matches I can go back and watch as well, to relive those “rookie” days. I think in the near future you could see a section of just Seth Rollins.
Ted Gruber is a RedEye special contributor.
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