Colby Lopez, as Gixx, debuted in 2003 for Scott County Wrestling (SCW). He also worked for Ian Rotten's IWA Mid-South, and entered the Ted Petty Invitational tournament, defeating Sal Thomaselli before being eliminated by Matt Sydal in the quarter-finals in Hammond, Indiana, on September 23, 2005. He would later win the SCW Heavyweight Championship, and spray-painted the championship belt black to mark "The Black Era" in SCW.
He soon joined NWA Midwest winning the promotion's tag team championship with Marek Brave. The two successfully defended the championship against Ryan Boz and Danny Daniels, Brett Wayne and Hype Gotti, and Jayson Reign and Marco Cordova several times in early 2006. He also faced Eric Priest and A.J. Styles in singles matches.
On May 25, 2007, while in a match with the Full Impact Pro (FIP) Tag Team Champions The Briscoes in Melbourne, Florida, Black's tag team partner Marek Brave suffered a back injury that sidelined him for several weeks before ultimately causing him to retire. Brave returned to competition in 2012. During this time Black pursued a singles career, competing in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) where he defeated Joey Ryan on June 10 and former mentor Danny Daniels at the supercard Point of No Return '07 on June 16.
At the Ring of Honor (ROH) pay-per-view taping of Man Up in September 2007, Black made his debut, alongside Jimmy Jacobs and Necro Butcher, with the three attacking the Briscoe Brothers, hanging Jay Briscoe from the rigging that had been used during the ladder match earlier that night. Jacobs announced that the three had formed a stable called The Age of the Fall. The angle was so controversial that ROH decided to remove the footage from the pay-per-view that was being taped at the event. However, the footage was heavily requested by ROH fans, so it was shown on the ROH Videowire for the week of September 15. Later on in the event Black faced Jack Evans in a dark match, which ended when Jacobs and Necro Butcher interfered leading The Irish Airborne to help Evans. A six-man tag team match between The Age of the Fall and Jack Evans and the Irish Airborne ended in a no contest when Necro Butcher attacked the referee.
Teaming with Jimmy Jacobs and Necro Butcher against The Vulture Squad (Jack Evans and Ruckus) in several handicap matches during early October, he teamed with The Age of the Fall to against Jack Evans, Ruckus and Jigsaw in a 6-man tag team match the following month at Glory by Honor VI Night 1 on November 1. The following night, Black defeated Alex "Sugarfoot" Payne but was attacked by The Briscoes following the match. He appeared with The Age of the Fall in their match against The Briscoes during the main event. At Final Battle 2007, Black and Jacobs defeated the Briscoes to win the ROH World Tag Team Championship. They lost the titles one month later on January 26 to the No Remorse Corps (Davey Richards and Rocky Romero) when competing in an Ultimate Endurance match also involving The Hangmen 3 (Brent Albright and BJ Whitmer), and the team of Austin Aries and Bryan Danielson.
At Take No Prisoners, ROH's sixth pay-per-view, Black challenged Nigel McGuinness for the ROH World Championship in a losing effort. At Up For Grabs, Black and Jacobs won an eight-team tournament to win the ROH World Tag Team Championship for a second time. The two lost the championship at Driven to the team of Kevin Steen and El Generico. Black had a second chance at the ROH World Championship at Death Before Dishonor VI in New York City, when he faced McGuinness, Danielson and Claudio Castagnoli in a three-way match, but McGuinness retained. At Final Battle 2008, Black lost a number one contenders match to Austin Aries. Following the match, Jacobs turned on Black, and Black was then attacked by Aries. At Full Circle, Black was given a non-title match against the ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness on January 16, and defeated McGuinness. The following night, number one contender Aries refused to face McGuinness, so Black faced McGuinness instead, but was unsuccessful as the match ended in a time limit draw. On June 26 at Violent Tendencies, Black defeated Jimmy Jacobs in a steel cage match to end their feud.
In September 2009, Black had surgery on a bulging disc in his neck. On October 10, Black defeated Kenny King in a first round match and then Claudio Castagnoli, Colt Cabana, Delirious, Chris Hero and Roderick Strong in the finals to win the 2009 Survival of the Fittest tournament this earned him a match for the ROH World Championship. On December 19 at Final Battle 2009, ROH's first live pay-per-view, Black wrestled ROH World Champion Austin Aries to a 60 minute time limit draw. Because of this draw, ROH commissioner Jim Cornette booked the two in a rematch between February 13, 2010 for the company's Eighth Anniversary Show. The booking saw Cornette set up a judging panel with himself on and one person picked by each competitor, in order for there to be a decisive winner in case of another draw. Aries picked Kenny King while Black picked Roderick Strong, whom he guaranteed a title shot should he win. At the event, Black pinned Aries to win the ROH World Championship.
On April 3, Black retained the title in a three-way elimination match against Austin Aries and Roderick Strong at The Big Bang! pay-per-view, thereby depriving Strong of his championship chance in a singles match. He also retained at the following pay-per-view, Death Before Dishonor VIII, on June 19, in a match against Davey Richards. Black turned heel at the August 20 tapings of Ring of Honor Wrestling, after news broke that he had signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). His new heel character involved him criticizing the fans who were labeling him a sell-out for signing with WWE, a feeling Lopez states was based on true feelings. He also threatened to take the ROH World Championship with him to WWE, and refused to put the championship at stake in a match with Davey Richards on August 28 which he then lost by submission. On September 11 at Glory By Honor IX Black lost the ROH World Championship to Roderick Strong in a No Disqualification match with Terry Funk as a guest enforcer. This was his final ROH appearance.
Lopez debuted for FCW on September 30, as Seth Rollins (a name he states is an ode to Henry Rollins), in a loss to Michael McGillicutty. Rollins then faced Hunico on November 4 in the first ever 'FCW 15' match under 15 minute Iron Man rules where they fought to a 1–1 draw. Following this, Rollins, along with Hunico, Richie Steamboat and Jinder Mahal, participated in the FCW 15 Jack Brisco Classic tournament. On January 13, 2011, Rollins defeated Hunico in the finals to win the tournament and became the inaugural FCW 15 Champion.
In July 2011, Rollins began a feud with Dean Ambrose. Ambrose and Rollins had their first match for the FCW 15 Championship in a 15 minute Iron Man match on the August 14 episode of FCW. The match ended in a draw with neither men scoring a fall and, as a result, Rollins retained his title. A subsequent 20 minute rematch for the title two weeks later resulted in a similar 0–0 draw. A second 30 minute rematch for the title on the September 18 episode of FCW TV went to a time limit 2–2 draw and the match was sent into sudden death rules, where Rollins scored a pinfall to win the match 3–2. On September 22, Rollins lost the FCW 15 Championship to Damien Sandow by way of disqualification after Ambrose attacked Sandow late in the match.
When WWE rebranded FCW into NXT Wrestling, Rollins' NXT television debut took place on the second episode of the rebooted WWE NXT taped at Full Sail University, where he defeated Jiro. Rollins entered the Gold Rush Tournament to crown the inaugural NXT Champion where he defeated Jinder Mahal in the tournament finals on the August 29 NXT (taped on July 26). Rollins earlier defeated Drew McIntyre in the quarter-finals and Michael McGillicutty in the semi-finals. On the October 10 NXT, Rollins had his first successful defense of his title after he beat McGillicutty. During the November 15 tapings of NXT, Rollins pinned Mahal again in his second successful title defense; the episode of the match aired on December 12 due to tape delay.
During the January 2, 2013 NXT, which was taped on December 6, 2012, Rollins, now part of The Shield, successfully defended his title against Corey Graves after interference from The Shield led to a disqualification. On the January 7 NXT taped on the same date, Rollins faced Langston in a no disqualification match for the NXT championship. The NXT locker room neutralized the other Shield members and Langston went on to defeat Rollins and win the title. The Shield then turned their attention to Graves and attacked him during his number one contender's match for the NXT championship with Conor O'Brian. Graves then challenged any member of The Shield to a match to which Rollins accepted. Rollins and Graves faced off in a lumberjack match and after the rest of The Shield disposed of the lumberjacks and attacked Graves, Rollins won to end the feud.
Rollins in his Shield attire at a WWE show in November 2013.
Rollins made his main roster debut on November 18, 2012, at the Survivor Series pay-per-view alongside Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. They assaulted Ryback during the triple threat main event for the WWE Championship, allowing CM Punk to pin John Cena and retain his title. The trio declared themselves "The Shield" and vowed to rally against "injustice." The Shield would deny working for Punk, but they routinely emerged from the crowd to attack Punk's adversaries. This led to a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match being set up for the TLC pay-per-view, where Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns defeated Team Hell No and Ryback in their debut match. The Shield continued to aid Punk after TLC, attacking both Ryback and The Rock in January 2013. On Raw on January 28, it was revealed that Punk and his manager Paul Heyman had been paying The Shield and Brad Maddox to work for them all along.
The Shield then quietly ended their association with Punk while beginning a feud with John Cena, Ryback, and Sheamus that led to a six-man tag match on February 17 at Elimination Chamber, which The Shield won. The Shield had their first Raw match the following night, where they defeated Ryback, Sheamus, and Chris Jericho. Sheamus then formed an alliance with Randy Orton and Big Show to face The Shield at WrestleMania 29 where The Shield emerged victorious in their first WrestleMania match. The following night on Raw, The Shield attempted to attack The Undertaker, but were stopped by Team Hell No. This set up a six-man tag team match on the April 22 episode of Raw, which The Shield won. On the May 13 episode of Raw, The Shield's undefeated streak in televised six-man tag team matches ended in a disqualification loss in an elimination match against Cena, Kane, and Bryan.
On May 19 at Extreme Rules, Rollins and Reigns defeated Team Hell No in a tag team tornado match to win the WWE Tag Team Championship. Rollins and Reigns made their first televised title defense on the May 27 episode of Raw, defeating Team Hell No in a rematch. On the June 14 episode of SmackDown, The Shield's unpinned/unsubmitted streak in televised six-man tag team matches ended at the hands of Team Hell No and Randy Orton when Daniel Bryan submitted Rollins. Bryan and Orton would then face Rollins and Reigns at Payback for the WWE Tag Team Championship but Rollins and Reigns successfully retained the titles. Further successful title defenses followed against The Usos on July 14 during the Money in the Bank pre-show and The Prime Time Players (Darren Young and Titus O'Neil) at Night of Champions.
Rollins with Reigns and Ambrose as The Shield in April 2014.
In August, The Shield began working for chief operating officerTriple H and The Authority. At Battleground, a fired Cody Rhodes and Goldust earned their jobs back by beating Rollins and Reigns in a non-title match. On the October 14 episode of Raw, Rollins and Reigns lost the WWE Tag Team Championship to Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a No Disqualification match, following interference from Big Show. At Hell in a Cell, Rollins and Reigns failed to regain the tag team title in a triple threat match. Tension was then sown in The Shield while their recent lack of success continued with a loss to CM Punk in a handicap match at the TLC pay-per-view. At the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Rollins entered the Rumble match at #2; he had three eliminations and spent the second longest time in the match at 48 minutes before being eliminated by teammate Reigns. The next night on Raw, The Shield competed in a six-man tag team match against Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, and John Cena with all three members of the winning team qualifying to enter in the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The Shield lost the match via disqualification after The Wyatt Family interfered and attacked Cena, Bryan, and Sheamus. The Shield wanted revenge and a six-man tag for The Shield against The Wyatt Family at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view was arranged, in which The Shield lost. On the March 3 Raw, The Shield lost a rematch against The Wyatt Family when The Shield's poor teamwork led to Rollins walking out during the match; Rollins claimed that he had enough of being the glue holding the group together. On the March 7 episode of SmackDown, Rollins stated The Shield reconciled despite their long-running tension after venting their frustrations on each other.
Later in March, The Shield began a feud with Kane turning all of the members of The Shield into fan favorites in the process. Kane then teamed up with The New Age Outlaws and faced The Shield at WrestleMania XXX where The Shield would win their second WrestleMania match as a group. The Shield would then feud with Triple H, the C.O.O. of the WWE and leader of The Authority, who then reformed Evolution with Batista and Randy Orton to take on The Shield. The Shield would defeat Evolution at the next two pay-per-views, Extreme Rules and Payback, in what turned out to be their last matches as factions for both Evolution and The Shield.
On the June 2 episode of Raw, after Evolution's loss to The Shield, Batista left Evolution and the WWE due to Triple H not fulfilling his promise to Batista of a one-on-one championship match. Triple H then claimed to have a "Plan B" which proved to be true. Later that night, Rollins would attack Ambrose and Reigns with a steel chair and subsequently aligned himself with The Authority and turning heel once again. Rollins later explained his actions by stating that The Shield would not be a success without him and Ambrose and Reigns were not his brothers, like they claimed, but business partners to help Rollins move up in the WWE. Rollins then promptly became embroiled in a feud with Ambrose with Ambrose repeatedly attacking Rollins during his matches.
On the June 17 episode of Main Event, Rollins, acting on behalf of The Authority, announced a traditional Money in the Bank ladder match for a WWE World Heavyweight Championship contract at Money in the Bank and named himself as the first entrant. On the June 23 episode of Raw, after Ambrose cost Rollins a win over Rob Van Dam and threatened to ruin Rollins' chances at Money in the Bank, Rollins convinced Triple H to add Ambrose to the match. At Money in the Bank, Rollins won the ladder match and the Money in the Bank briefcase after Kane knocked out Ambrose and held the ladder in place for Rollins to climb. The next night on Raw, Ambrose stated that every time Rollins would attempt to cash in his Money in the Bank contract, Ambrose would attack him and stop him from getting a championship opportunity. A scheduled match between Ambrose and Rollins at Battleground was called off by Triple H after Ambrose attacked Rollins backstage before the match, resulting in Rollins being handed a victory via forfeit. Rollins and Ambrose eventually fought at SummerSlam in a Lumberjack match, which Rollins won. The next night on Raw, Ambrose attacked Seth during a backstage interview. This led to Rollins curb stomping Ambrose through cinder blocks and (kayfabe) injuring him; putting him out of action for weeks. Rollins was then scheduled to face Roman Reigns at Night of Champions, however Reigns had to pull out of the match due to legitimate emergency hernia surgery. At the PPV, Rollins declared himself the winner of their match by forfeit and issued an open challenge, which prompted Ambrose to return to attack Rollins. Later that night, Rollins interfered in the main event and attempted to cash in his Money in the Bank contract on Brock Lesnar, only to be seen off by John Cena. For the next several weeks Rollins would be attacked and blindsided by both Cena and Ambrose until Ambrose and Rollins faced off at the main event of Hell in a Cell, in a Hell in a Cell Match, which Rollins won via pinfall, after Bray Wyatt interfered and attacked Ambrose. During the match, both Rollins and Ambrose fell from the cell onto the announce table.
^Asher, Matthew. "Raw: Bryan's road through Hell continues". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 31 August 2013. "It appears as though The Shield is now Triple H's lackeys as they open tonight's Raw as makeshift bodyguards (Jerry Lawler called them "henchmen") for The Game as he makes his way to the ring."