Rollins appeared in a dark match prior to the SmackDown tapings on December 7, 2010 using the name Sam Robins, which he lost to Cody Rhodes. In late December of 2011, Rollins began appearing at SmackDown house shows, defeating Tyson Kidd on December 28, 29 and 30. Rollins appeared in a segment that aired during the Elimination Chamber 2012 PPV, where John Cena invited various developmental wrestlers to his gym in Tampa, and Rollins was one of a few of them who spoke.
In March, Rollins once again began appearing at SmackDown live events, facing Drew McIntyre and losing to Cody Rhodes for the Intercontinental Championship. In May, Rollins appeared on WWE NXT at two of the three taped episodes with many of the other rookies moving up to the main roster.
In June 2012, Seth Rollins, debuted on the second episode of the sixth season of WWE NXT taped at Full Sail University, where he defeated Jiro. On the August 1 episode of NXT, Rollins was inserted into the Gold Rush Tournament to crown the first NXT Champion, where he defeated Drew McIntyre in the quarter-finals.
In August 2012 Seth Rollins was crowned the very first NXT Champion after defeating Jinder Mahal in the final round. On the October 10 episode of NXT, Rollins had his first successful defense of his title against 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.
At the Survivor Series pay-per-view on November 18, Rollins, alongside Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, attacked Ryback during the triple-threat main event for the WWE Championship, which led to CM Punk pinning John Cena to retain his title. The trio of Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose declared themselves "The Shield" and vowed to rally against "injustice" while denying that they were working for Punk, but would routinely emerge from the crowd to attack Punk's adversaries such as Ryback, The Miz, Kane and Daniel Bryan, who had attempted to save Kane. This led to a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match being set up for the TLC pay-per-view pitting the three men of the Shield against Ryback and Team Hell No (Kane and Bryan), which Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins won in their debut match.
During the January 2, 2013 episode of NXT, which was taped on December 6, 2012, Rollins, now part of the Shield, defended his title against Corey Graves; as Graves was about to win the match, Ambrose and Reigns attacked him to cause a disqualification, but Rollins retained his title. On the January 7 episode of NXT taped on the same date, Rollins faced Big E Langston in a no disqualification title match. The NXT locker room neutralized the other Shield members, and Langston defeated Rollins to win the title.
The Shield continued to aid Punk after TLC; during Punk and Ryback's TLC match for the WWE Championship on the January 7 episode of Raw, they attacked Ryback, which resulted in Punk retaining his title. During the Royal Rumble event where the Rock challenged for Punk's WWE Championship, match, a blackout occurred and the Rock was attacked in the darkness by unknown assailants, directly leading to Punk pinning Rock; the announcers blamed the Shield for the attack. The match was later restarted with Rock winning. The next day on Raw, the Shield attacked and laid out John Cena; Sheamus and Ryback suffered the same fate when they attempted to save Cena. Later in the show, it was revealed through footage played by Vince McMahon that Punk and/or his manager Paul Heyman had been paying the Shield and Brad Maddox to work for them all along. This set up a six-man tag team match at Elimination Chamber, which the Shield won. Continuing to feud with Sheamus, Randy Orton and the Big Show also got embroiled in the fight against the Shield, resulting in a six-man tag team match at WrestleMania 29. At WrestleMania, the Shield successfully defeated the team of Sheamus, Orton and Big Show after the latter turned on his team. The following night on Raw, The Shield attempted to attack The Undertaker who was paying his respects to late Paul Bearer but were stopped by Team Hell No. This set up a six-man tag team match on the April 22 episode of Raw, where The Shield emerged victorious. Four days later on SmackDown, after Ambrose lost to the Undertaker, he and the rest of the Shield viciously attacked Undertaker, beating him down with chairs and powebombing him through the announcers' table.
Continuing to sporadically appear on NXT, Rollins continued his feud with Corey Graves who had vowed to dismantle The Shield. After interference from the rest of The Shield, Rollins defeated Graves in a Lumberjack Match. On the April 29 episode of Raw, The Shield defeated Team Hell No and WWE Champion John Cena in a six-man tag team match, they later suffered their first loss as a team via disqualification in a rematch of the event on the May 13 episode Raw, with an added elimination stipulation. Continuing their feud with Team Hell No, at Extreme Rules, Rollins as well as Roman Reigns defeated Kane and Daniel Bryan to win the WWE Tag Team Championships for the first time. Rollins and Reigns made their first televised title defense on the May 27 episode of Raw, defeating Team Hell No in a rematch. Rollins and Reigns successfully defended the championship Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton at WWE Payback and The Usos at Money in the Bank.
Rollins and Reigns finally lost their tag team titles on October 14 of RAW in a No Disqualification match against the team of Rhodes brothers (Cody Rhodes and Goldust), ending their reign at 147 days. The Shield also lost at TLC to CM Punk, after Reigns accidentally speared Ambrose. At the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Rollins entered the rumble match at #2, and lasted 48 minutes 31 seconds, the second longest time in the Rumble match, only behind CM Punk, who lasted 49 minutes 11 seconds. At the Elimination Chamber event, the Shield lost to the Wyatt Family. On the March 3 Raw, the Shield lost a rematch with 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.
However, The Shield quickly got back on the same page and began a feud with Kane, turning all members of The Shield faces in the process. During this feud, Kane was joined by the New Age Outlaws to battle The Shield in a six-man tag-team match at WrestleMania XXX, which The Shield won. The Shield then started feuding with Evolution. The two teams clashed at Extreme Rules where the Shield came out as the winners. In a rematch with no holds barred and elimination rules at Payback, the Shield eliminated all three of Evolution without losing a member.
On the June 2, 2014 episode of RAW before a match between Reigns and Orton could take place, Rollins was revealed as Triple H's "Plan B" - replacing Batista (who had quit earlier in the show) in Evolution - when he struck his partners Reigns & Ambrose multiple times with a steel chair and hit the Curb Stomp on Ambrose, thus leaving The Shield, turning heel in the process. Triple H promised that Rollins would explain his actions, but on the June 6 edition of SmackDown, Rollins instead stated that only he deserves to know why he betrayed Reigns and Ambrose. Later, he won the match against Dolph Ziggler, who interrupted his promo just before their match, and attacked Big Show during his match with Randy Orton. on June 9 Raw, Rollins was interviewed by Michael Cole, after the rest of the Shield had come out and made vow to keep on fighting Evolution. In the interview, Rollins stated that the Shield would not be a success without him, that Ambrose and Reigns were not his brothers, but just business partners.
On the June 17 episode of Main Event, Rollins announced a second ladder match at Money in the Bank, and appointed himself as the first entrant. Rollins promptly became embroiled in a feud with Ambrose, with Rollins attacking Ambrose during his matches. On the June 23 episode of Raw, after Ambrose cost Rollins a win over Rob Van Dam, Rollins convinced Triple H to add Ambrose to the ladder match. At Money in the Bank, Rollins won the briefcase after Kane knocked out Ambrose and held the ladder for him. The next night on Raw, Rollins attempted to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase on John Cena (who had won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Money in the Bank), with Triple H signalling to do so. However, Ambrose came out and attacked Rollins before he was able to cash in. 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, Dean Ambrose attacked Seth during a backstage interview. This led to Rollins curb stomping Ambrose through cinderblocks and (kayfabe) injuring him. Rollins was then scheduled to face Roman Reigns at Night of Champions, however Reigns had to pull out of the PPV due to emergency hernia surgery. Ambrose returned at the PPV after Rollins had issued an open challenge, which led to the two brawling until they had to be pulled apart. Later that night, Rollins attempted to cash in his contract on Brock Lesnar, only to be seen off by John Cena. For the next several weeks Rollins would be attacked and blind-sighted by both Cena and Ambrose until Ambrose and Rollins faced off at Hell in a Cell in a Hell in a Cell match, which Rollins won after a returning Bray Wyatt interfered.
At TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, Roman Reigns returned preventing Big Show from attacking John Cena, which allowed Cena to win the match. On the December 15 episode of Raw, Seth Rollins defeated John Cena in a steel cage match with help from WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar after shaking hands with Paul Heyman.
On the December 29 episode of Raw, Rollins, Big Show and J&J Security took out guest host Christian and held guest host Edge hostage with the help of Big Show and J&J Security, forcing John Cena to reinstate the Authority. Even so, Rollins tried to break Edge's neck anyway, but Cena thwarted him and Rollins beat Cena up with the help of Big Show and J&J Security. After beating up Cena, he along with his partners proceeded to the ramp. Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman then came out to the ramp and Heyman shook the hand of Rollins. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon then came out and celebrated their return. On the January 5, 2015 episode of Raw, Rollins was added to the match as a reward for bringing back the Authority after coaxing Cena on the previous episode, making the match a triple threat. At the event, Rollins failed to capture the title despite interference from J&J Security. In the weeks following the Royal Rumble, Rollins would start a war-of-words feud with The Daily Show host Jon Stewart, claiming to be able to host the show better than Stewart. Rollins would appear on The Daily Show multiple times, both live and via video, inviting Stewart to appear on an episode of Raw. On the March 2, 2015 episode of Raw, Stewart appeared during a Daily Show-styled promo segment hosted by Rollins and kicked Rollins in the groin before running out of the ring. At Fastlane, Rollins teamed with fellow Authority members Kane and Big Show to defeat Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan in a 6-man tag-team match.
After an absence of several months, Randy Orton returned and attacked Rollins following his match at Fastlane. The following night on Raw, Rollins and the rest of the Authority tried to get Orton to rejoin the group, which Orton seemingly accepted. However, on the March 9 episode of Raw, Orton abandoned Rollins during their handicap match against Roman Reigns and Orton then attacked Rollins in retribution for the attack by Rollins four months prior which had put him out of action. This led to a match between Rollins and Orton at WrestleMania 31, which Orton won.
Later that night, Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract during the WWE World Heavyweight Championship main event between Brock Lesnar and former Shield stablemate Roman Reigns, making it a triple threat match. Rollins curb stomped Lesnar and Reigns before pinning Reigns to win the match and his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He became the first man to cash in a Money in the Bank contract at WrestleMania, as well as the first man to cash in during a match in progress. By winning the title, he gained a spot on the next morning's episode of Today, also a first. On the April 6 edition of Raw it was announced that Seth Rollins will defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Randy Orton at Extreme Rules. That next week, Orton announced that the title match will be a Steel Cage match, with Rollins adding the stipulation that the RKO is banned after defeating Kane in that same night. Throughout April, Rollins and Kane failed to see eye-to-eye, with Rollins openly criticizing Kane's job performance. At Extreme Rules, Rollins defeated Orton after Kane interfered, attacking both competitors. Orton used the RKO on Kane, then Rollins used the RKO on Orton before escaping the cage, leaving the commentators confused as to whether or not the RKO was banned outright or just for Orton. In May, Rollins and Kane kept to criticize each other after Kane annonced that, by vote on the WWE App, Rollins would defend the title against Orton and Reigns in a triple threat match that later became a four-way match when Ambrose defeated Rollins, and as per pre-stipulation by Kane, Ambrose was added to the match, which lead to Triple H return on screen on the May 11 episode of Raw, where he announced that if Rollins would lose the title at Payback, Kane would no longer be the WWE's Director of Operations. At Payback, Kane sided with Rollins, who ultimately won the four-way match, after performing a Pedigree (Triple H's finishing move) on Orton. He retained his title once more at Elimination Chamber (2015) after being disqualified for shoving a referee. Rollins retained the title against Ambrose at Money in the Bank in a ladder match. The following night, Lesnar returned and was chosen by The Authority to face Rollins for the championship at Battleground. At the event, after being dominated by Lesnar, the match ended in a no contest after The Undertaker returned and tombstoned Lesnar. This was initially reported by WWE.com as a "no contest" but Lillian Garcia announced the following night on Raw that it was a victory for Lesnar by disqualification.
On the July 20 episode of Raw, John Cena issued a challenge to Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which Rollins refused. The following week, Cena again issued a challenge to Rollins for the title, with The Authority this time refusing the match, instead making Cena defend his United States Championship against Rollins. Later that night, Cena retained his title against Rollins, suffering a legitimate broken nose during the match. The following week on Raw, Rollins challenged Cena to a title for title match at SummerSlam. On the August 11 episode of Tough Enough, Cena accepted Rollins' challenge. At the event, Rollins defeated Cena after guest host Jon Stewart, appearing to side with Cena, attacked Cena with a steel chair. Rollins thus became the second man to hold a world and secondary title consecutively, after The Ultimate Warrior. On the August 24 episode of Raw, The Authority attempted to present Rollins with a statue for winning, but instead Sting made his return to the WWE for the first time since the night after WrestleMania 31 and attacked Rollins, challenging Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship by raising it over his head. Triple H then announced on the WWE Network that Rollins would defend the title against Sting at Night of Champions. On the August 31 edition of Raw, Cena invoked his rematch clause to face Rollins for the WWE United States Championship at Night of Champions. At Night of Champions, Rollins lost the United States Championship to John Cena, but was able to defend his World Heavyweight Championship against Sting, despite an interference by the returning masked Kane after a two month hiatus. In the following weeks, Demon Kane continued to attack Rollins, while also acting as the Corporate Kane persona. At Hell in a Cell, Rollins successfully defended the championship against Demon Kane, resulting in Corporate Kane being relieved of his duties as Director of Operations.
On November 5, 2015, it was announced that Rollins tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and meniscus at a house show in Dublin, Ireland and would be out of action for 6–9 months. As a result, he was stripped of his WWE World Heavyweight Championship with a new champion being crowned at Survivor Series. Rollins returned on the December 21 episode of Raw where he came out on crutches to pick up his Superstar Of The Year Slammy Award. During his acceptance speech, Rollins claimed he would redesign and rebuild himself, and also reclaim the WWE World Heavyweight Championship which he never lost.
At Extreme Rules on May 22, 2016, Rollins returned from injury by attacking Roman Reigns after his WWE World Heavyweight Championship defense against AJ Styles. The following night on Raw, after telling the fans he doesn't need them to win back the title, remaining heel in the process. Rollins would then confront Reigns, with Shane McMahon announcing a match between the two for the title at Money in the Bank. At the event, Rollins gave Reigns his first clean loss in a singles match since 2012 and won his second WWE World Heavyweight Championship, only to drop it minutes later to Dean Ambrose, who would cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase he won earlier that night and defeated Rollins for the title. On the 18 July edition of Raw, Rollins faced Ambrose in a rematch for the title. Stephanie McMahon declared Rollins the champion despite a double pin with Dean Ambrose. The decision was later reversed on WWE Network due to the double pin, with Ambrose retaining his title. On July 19 at the 2016 WWE draft, Rollins was drafted to Raw, being the brand's first draft pick. At Battleground on July 24, Rollins lost the triple threat match against Ambrose and Reigns for the WWE Championship, which became exclusive of SmackDown as the WWE World Championship. Because of this, the WWE Universal Championship was introduced the following night on Raw and, as Rollins was not pinned at Battleground, he was automatically set for that match against Finn Bálor, who won two qualifying matches on Raw to challenge Rollins for the title at SummerSlam. At the event, Rollins was defeated. After Bálor relinquished the title on the August 22 Raw due to a legit shoulder injury suffered in the match at SummerSlam, Rollins defeated Sami Zayn to qualify for a Fatal 4-Way match to determine the new WWE Universal Champion. On the August 29 Raw, Rollins faced Kevin Owens, Big Cass, and Roman Reigns in an elimination match for the title in a losing effort, after a returning Triple H hit Rollins with a Pedigree, causing Owens to win the title. The following week on the September 5 Raw, Rollins interrupted Kevin Owens' celebration by confronting Stephanie McMahon, who denied any knowledge of her husband's attack. Owens began to berate Rollins, which caused Rollins to attack him. Stephanie McMahon initially suspended Rollins for the attack, but Mick Foley overruled it by granting him a rematch against Owens for the Universal Championship at Clash of Champions, thus cementing his face turn. Later that night, Rollins defeated Chris Jericho. At Clash of Champions, Rollins was defeated by Owens after interference from Jericho. At Hell in a Cell, Rollins failed to capture the Universal Title in a Hell in a Cell match after Jericho was able to enter the cell and assist Owens. On the November 7 episode of Raw, Rollins was revealed as the final member of Team Raw for Survivor Series. Next week, team Raw managed to fend off the SmackDown Live members on Raw who had made a surprise appearance. At Survivor Series, Team Raw was defeated by Team SmackDown. The next night on Raw, Rollins failed to capture the Universal Championship from Owens in a no disqualification match after interference from Jericho. On the following Raw, Rollins attacked Jericho in the parking lot, pedigreeing him on top of a car. At Roadblock: End of the Line, Rollins defeated Jericho.