Even Seth Rollins seemed surprised the Curb Stomp was back.
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Finn Balor was in perfect position for the banished finishing move, on his knees, groggily trying to stand, his face inches from the mat. And then for the first time since the spring of 2015, Rollins charged at his foe and drove his head into the canvas with his boot.
Rollins looked taken aback before going for the pin, even as the fans at San Antonio, Texas, cheered in stunned excitement
In like manner, one of WWE’s best finishers returned. But for how long? Will it be a rarely seen weapon like Orton’s punt? Was the move’s comeback the catalyst for a new storyline?
Amid all the excitement over Rollins getting the Curb Stomp those are the kinds of questions that remained unanswered.
WWE pulled the finisher nearly three years ago thanks to concerns over public image and a concussions lawsuit. Rollins adopted Triple H’s Pedigree as a replacement before moving to a short-arm clothesline type of knee strike. Suddenly, in the heart of the build to the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, the Curb Stomp came back leaving plenty to wonder about in the process.
Is the Move Back for Good?
We’ve seen wrestlers sneak in the banned piledriver before. Despite blading being nixed, Superstars sometimes appear to skirt that rule for special occasions. Was Rollins’ Curb Stomp another example of this vein?
It sure doesn’t look like it.
WWE has not only not shied away from Rollins’ finisher, it has actively promoted it. The title of the clip of it on YouTube is “Seth Rollins resurrects a familiar finishing move.” And on Tuesday morning, the lead photo on WWE.com was of the Curb Stomp.
Announcer Corey Graves did refer to it by its original name, Blackout, so perhaps WWE is doing a bit of rebranding.
A blackout is a loss of electricity. A curb stomp is a violent act associated with white supremacists. You can’t blame the company for wanting to make a switch for PR reasons.
The other question is whether Rollins will use it regularly or bring it out from time to time when his other big moves won’t finish off his opponent. The latter makes sense as it would make the Curb Stomp/Blackout special.
What Impact Will It Have on Rollins?
Rollins using his old finisher was a reminder of how important these moves are in a wrestler’s total package. The Stone Cold Stunner elevated Steve Austin. The Superkick was huge for Shawn Michaels. Orton’s RKO bumps up his appeal.
A great finisher can be the perfect exclamation to matches.
And Rollins hasn’t had that since the Curb Stomp went away. The other finishers were underwhelming, unmemorable. His victories will be more emphatic with the move back.
He will come off as more dangerous, too.
Curb Stomp CITY for @WWERollins! #RAW http://t.co/HBN06ysYTH
1/13/2015, 5:14:06 AM
WWE often talks up the power of the RKO. Orton is always one strike away from putting anyone away. Rollins will have more of that vibe if the Blackout becomes a regular part of his arsenal again.
Should the company want to turn The Architect heel again, the revived finisher would help with that transition. The move emphasized Rollins’ viciousness during his previous reign as a villain.
How Will Balor Play in the Aftermath?
The final image of Raw added to the list of unknowns. The camera zoomed in on a glazed-over Balor and stayed focused on him for a long time. It’s hard not to think there’s something in the works regarding Balor, Rollins and the Blackout.
Wade Keller of PWTorch asked: “Will Balor claim that was Seth trying to intentionally hurt him beyond just trying to win a match? Will [WWE] use a concussion storyline to explain why Balor turns heel?”
After getting STOMPED by @WWERollins, @FinnBalor is shaken up…but WHAT A MATCH to close out #RAW! https://t.co/Kv5LfJf8RU
1/16/2018, 5:13:09 AM
Both of these are probable directions WWE could go. The effect the Blackout seemed to have on Balor was greater than the normal aftereffects of a finisher. The company looked to be hinting at something, setting up the next chapter of whatever story is set to unfold.
It’s not clear if Balor has gone to the dark side after his reunion with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. This moment provides an opportunity for him to grow angry and bloodthirsty as he makes that transition.
And whether the feud happens weeks or months from now, a sustained angle with Rollins would be an appealing one. Balor’s shoulder injury in 2016 halted their first rivalry. And as we saw on Monday night, these two warriors tear it up in the ring against each other