Finally, The Shield has returned to our pro wrestling lives!
There’s not a tremendous amount in Vince McMahon’s version of sports entertainment that generates genuine excitement these days. It’s not that the talent isn’t there, because the roster is loaded, it’s varied, and it’s incredibly skilled. The writing is often stagnant, the ideas stale, the finishes annoying, and WWE’s inability to get babyface hero characters over remains astonishingly disappointing.
Sunday night’s Hell in a Cell event featured two great spectacles, one a 39-minute stunt show, but over the 210 minutes, well over half was meaningless or had little effect. When the promotion has something big, they often behave as if they’re the adolescent with his or her allowance burning a hole in his pocket. That child can never save the money for something major long term, and instead blows the cash on a pack of Donruss baseball cards.
Not even Upper Deck.
I was concerned when it became apparent Vince was ready to pull the trigger on a full reunion of Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins, because that moment felt proper for a WrestleMania, and instead we’re going to get it next Sunday at TLC. However, I choose to be optimistic, and after witnessing the first true Shield photo op last night on RAW from Indianapolis, I think we need this.
Bearing all of that in mind, the reason for bringing back arguably the best faction in WWE history in October of 2017 feels awfully transparent. What was the Braun Strowman build all about? As I wrote two weeks ago, it appears to have been first and foremost about creating a monster that could succumb to Brock Lesnar, so that Lesnar’s stature would be higher for the inevitable loss in New Orleans to Roman Reigns next spring.
Anything that occurs on the brand Reigns works on should be seen as something that might be designed to get him over with the fans as a babyface. As much as the company claims they’re fine with the mixed reaction, once again these people are doing everything they can do get him cheered, rather than booed. And, as long as The Shield remains together, it’s largely going to work.
The larger question is whether Reigns can maintain any of the love if and when the group splits again, and the answer is obvious: No. He’s always going to get a loud reaction, but if they’re looking for the protagonist with Roman, they’re going to be looking for a long time. In similar fashion to The Rock, the hero thing didn’t take, and it wasn’t possible for Dwayne to be a strong babyface until after a successful heel run. Vince has been unwilling to pull that trigger this time, so Reigns lives in a perpetual “tweener” existence.
That’s completely fine, as long as WWE is aware that what McMahon wants from Reigns isn’t tenable without first slotting “The Guy” as “The Villain.”
Anyway, I dig Roman. That said, The Shield is back together, and that’s a great thing for the company.
Next Sunday, Reigns, Ambrose, and Rollins will work in a 3 on 4 handicapped tables, ladders, and chairs match against Braun Strowman, Cesaro, Sheamus, and The Miz. Incidentally, The Shield’s in-ring debut was at the very same show, which in 2012 occurred in December, as the trio battled Daniel Bryan, Kane, and Ryback. So, there’s history here, and last night’s reunion had history of its own. Indy was the site of The Shield’s debut, also the group’s break-up, and last night its reformation.
Taking on the NFL is a daunting task – even when it’s Vikings-Bears with a rookie in his first start playing a horribly banged up Sam Bradford – and the lead Shield angle took place in Monday’s opening segment, as WWE chose to get the jump on Monday Night Football. Although the Hounds of Justice did in fact appear a few other times during the night, it was a good gamble to place the “big” moment in front of the most possible eyes. It took over Twitter, and virtually every reaction was positive.
This is a faction that has been a part of some outstanding six-man tag matches this decade, including multiple barn burners with The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan), as well as a short series with Evolution (Triple H, Batista, Randy Orton). These bouts almost always delivered, often exceeded extreme levels of hype, and there’s no reason to believe the same won’t be true in 12 days at TLC.
Because of the sheer quantity of talent in that main event, it leaves very little else for the TLC card itself, so this is the very definition of a one match show, and the company knows it. It’s likely to be a long match as well, which would fit with this past Sunday’s Hell in a Cell battle between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon. Another similarity to that main event is in the level of risk in both matches. TLC gimmick matches are dangerous, as objects can be both unpredictable and unforgiving, and the last thing Vince needs right now is an injury to any of the guys involved.
On paper, it’s a can’t miss match, and anything attached to The Shield is huge business for WWE. It’s the single best memory, with the possible exception of the highs of Daniel Bryan and maybe C.M. Punk’s back half of 2011, in the past ten years of McMahon programming. And those are arguable. Some would say The Shield is THE best of everything. The faction was a thing of beauty, built and protected well, and all three members have held World Championships since breaking apart in the summer of 2014.
Sometimes, it’s better to be early than late, and here, I’m willing to give WWE credit for not waiting too long, putting the group and the match together last night (rather than next week), and giving fans something about which to get legitimately geeked. Also, there’s a new shirt on sale, and that thing will sell like gangbusters. It will be the most popular garment in the company in a while, and might even challenge Cena for superiority. That’s how beloved these guys are as a unit.
As poorly as Roman Reigns has been booked at times, as badly as Seth Rollins’ babyface turn has largely gone, and as uninspired as Dean Ambrose has appeared more often than not until joining forces with Seth in the summer, the three together are absolute magic.
The matches will be terrific.
The attitudes will be refreshing (particularly Ambrose).
The energy will be palpable.
The segments will be strong.
Now, if we can just enjoy it and not worry about how fast WWE chooses to move on from it, we can actually have nice things. That’s the key. Let’s not focus on the future, and let’s not roll eyes at Reigns vs. Lesnar, and instead let’s just bask in the entertainment and have a ton of fun watching.
It’s going to be a blast. And, after really faltering with Strowman in Los Angeles at No Mercy, the RAW brand desperately needs this right now. I’m all in.
WWE might have plenty of pens, and Vince will always hold the sword, but I’m thrilled he chose to rediscover his Shield.
I’m @JMartOutkick. Or… JULIETT, ALPHA, SIERRA, OSCAR, NOVEMBER… you get the idea.