On November 18, 2012, at the annual Survivor Series PPV, C.M. Punk defended his WWE Championship in a triple threat match against John Cena and Ryback. Just when it looked as if Punk was about to taste defeat, out came three men dressed in black. They delivered a triple power bomb to Ryback through the announcers table, thus allowing Punk to score the pinfall inside the ring on a prone Cena. The group consisting of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns would become collectively known as the Shield.
One year later, The Shield has become the omnipresent force of WWE. They were often involved in the top angles and best matches every week on television and worked with virtually every major star in the company. In many ways they have been the backbone of the company this year.
But no discussion of their importance to the product can begin without stating the obvious—The Shield is WWE’s way of acknowledging they learned from the mistake they made with Nexus.
Three years ago The Nexus took WWE by storm. Few may remember because they were buried so horribly, but their debut angle on June 7, 2010 was among the most heated, spectacular moments in the history of Monday Night Raw. However, their momentum quickly fizzled and the group soon became a mere footnote in WWE history.
There is a difference in how the company views the long-term potential of The Shield when compared to Nexus. Management had little confidence that any member of Nexus would become a major star once they disbanded. With the exception of Ryback (who is on a decline) that prophecy was pretty accurate. On the contrary, many of the higher ups believe all three Shield members have the potential to make it as big time players.
Another reason I believe they have been so successful is because each individual brings a distinct element to the mix. Ambrose is the leader and one of the more psychologically sound wrestlers you will find today. Some have even compared him to a young Terry Funk. In the world of professional wrestling you can’t ask for a better compliment than that. Rollins is the daredevil and most versatile worker of the three, while Reigns is the quiet powerhouse. Together they make a unique package.
Their first few weeks on the main roster consisted of them coming to Punk’s aid whenever it seemed like his championship reign was in jeopardy. They soon transitioned into a feud with Daniel Bryan, Kane and Ryback, eventually making their in-ring debut against the trio at last December’s TLC PPV. The Shield emerged victorious in what turned out to be one of the best matches of 2012.
Despite Ambrose and Rollins having years of experience on the independent circuit, and Reigns being a product of the WWE developmental system, all three came off as seasoned main eventers. I’m convinced that match changed a lot of people’s perceptions of the group.
Even though they had a tremendous initial outing, I thought they would have a few hot weeks before disbanding and going their separate paths. But as time progressed their push only got stronger. Contrary to how WWE uses most of its young talent, it appeared that The Shield was getting a fair shot at playing with the big boys.
The Shield began 2013 running through the best that WWE had to offer. They defeated the team of Cena, Sheamus and Ryback at the Elimination Chamber PPV and beat Sheamus, Big Show and Randy Orton at WrestleMania. Two weeks later they overcame the team of Bryan, Kane and Undertaker in a hot six-man tag on Raw. It was Undertaker’s first match on Raw in nearly three years. That same week on Smackdown we saw Undertaker vs. Ambrose in the main event. What a long way they had come in such a short time span.
Working with a legend such as Undertaker was a big feather in their cap. Undertaker only makes a limited amount of appearances per year and for him to request a tag and singles match against members of The Shield was a sign of the respect he has for them. They even laid Undertaker out with their patented triple power bomb. Undertaker’s last appearance on WWE television saw him decimated by the group.
As summer rolled around, The Shield began setting their sights on championship glory. All three members captured their first taste of gold at the Extreme Rules PPV, with Ambrose winning the U.S. championship and Rollins and Reigns capturing the Tag Team titles. This period was also notable for being the start of Daniel Bryan’s rise toward true main event superstardom. Bryan was involved in some tremendous matches against The Shield in various combinations. The two that stood out most to me was a May 20 tag match on Raw where he partnered with Kane and Kofi Kingston and a match against Rollins on June 10. There is an old saying of how every great hero needs a great villain. Bryan and The Shield complemented each other perfectly in that regard.
Rollins and Reigns held the belts for five months until losing to Goldust and Cody Rhodes on the Oct. 21 in a great match. Ambrose is still the U.S. champion.
Their stock rose even further as they took on the role of Triple H’s enforcers in The Authority, where they are responsible for putting the boots to anyone that crosses his path. They continue to be featured at the top of the cards, even participating in last night’s main event on Smackdown.
Currently, WWE is in the beginning stages of grooming Reigns to be a main event singles star. He’s been given a lot of time to shine in recent performances and wound up as the sole survivor for his team at last Sunday’s Survivor Series PPV. Before that happens, I‘m sure we will see the long awaited Shield vs. Wyatt Family program.
For bringing tag team wrestling back to the forefront and being an integral part of the company for the entire year, The Shield have cemented their legacy as one of the best stables to ever grace WWE.