The Shield: 10 Years On Top

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When those infamous words hit the speakers, everyone knew that destruction would follow. I find it crazy that November 18, 2022 marked ten years since The Shield made their blistering WWE debut interrupting the main event of Survivor Series. A triple threat between WWE Champion CM Punk, face of the company John Cena and the very hyped up Ryback were interrupted by men who were complete strangers to the WWE audience.

Since the mid-2000s, a major critique of WWE was they weren’t producing enough homegrown stars. We saw the likes of John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Batista come through the infamous OVW class of 2002 to have iconic careers both in the squared circle and mainstream media. WWE seemed to know exactly what to do with those guys in order to kickstart their careers in the most impactful way, they won countless world championships and starred in many top movies as they capitalised on insane popularity which started in their own ranks.

Since that burst of talent, there hasn’t been much to write home about in terms of produced talent. From the late 2000s to the early 2010s, the majority of WWE’s projects failed. Whether it be down to a prodigy being over pushed, having a bad presentation or simply not being up to scratch, barely anyone was connecting with the audience. Odd groups like 3MB came along with gimmicks that made fools out of two future WWE champions, Curtis Axel was supposed to reach the heights of Mr Perfect and I think it’s best we skim over Ryback. With every unsuccessful experiment, it’s fair to say that the WWE’s talent river has run dry. That was until The Shield came along.

On debut, The Shield were unknowns to the mainstream WWE viewers yet those in the audience that followed wrestling more closer recognised how impressive the moment was. It showed WWE’s perspective shifting towards those that had caught the eye on the independent scene. They brought in Tyler Black (now known as Seth Rollins), a former 1x ROH World and 2x ROH Tag Champion, and Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose) who had a reputation of violence in CZW. For WWE, the most family-friendly wrestling promotion in the world, to position Moxley as a top star straight away raised many eyebrows. He was the group’s unpredictable brawler to go alongside the aerial architect in Seth Rollins and the silent powerhouse in Roman Reigns.

They were different and this was evident right from the start. They dressed in black riot gear and entered through the crowd which signified their complete separation from the rest of the locker room. The group would cut promos through grainy camera footage which they shot themselves in a dark and isolated part of the arena. Overall, they were presented as outsiders who would run through the roster in the name of justice. At any moment, the infamous ‘SHIELD’ name would be spelt out over the speakers and fans would lose their minds. The three mercenaries would stalk their victims and unleash a wicked numbers game that no one could overcome.

The exciting thing was that the people The Shield targeted could be either face or heel. As they evolved, the group didn’t have an alignment but acted as a force against any injustice they saw. As the group matured in the company, their presence grew and it felt like they could overpower anyone. Their list of victims ended up including the likes of The Rock, John Cena and The Undertaker, within a year on the roster The Shield became increasingly popular among the fans who found themselves in awe of their dominance, to the point where WWE decided to set up some huge dream matches for the group in an attempt to strike while the iron was still hot.

In late 2013 and early 2014, another popular three-man group surfaced and The Shield soon found themselves face-to-face with The Wyatt Family. Bray Wyatt would psych out their opponents with brain mashing riddles before instructing the members of his cult, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, to destroy whoever they were feuding with. The Wyatt Family method was slow and methodical which opposed The Shield‘a ambush and overcome mentality. Tensions were high following the Wyatt’s attack on The Shield which cost them spots in the Chamber match for the world titles. There was a real sense of each team admiring the other’s domination and understanding that in order to be truly on top they had to go through each other.

June 2, 2014. I don’t even have to double check to make sure that was the date. The Shield were feuding with Evolution lead by Triple H at the time. I had a hospital appointment that morning but before I went I made sure to finish Raw which had happened the night before. I wasn’t quite 11 years old at the time so I had no way of browsing through wrestling fandoms online and finding out any spoilers for what had happened. Whilst the show was coming to a close with The Shield in the ring facing Evolution on the outside, my mum stepped forward in preparation of the show’s ending and being able to leave the house. At the same time Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns also stepped forward. It was just going to be another enthralling brawl between The Shield and Evolution, wasn’t it? No. Rollins cracks a steel chair across the back of Roman Reigns, and it would break the hearts of fans across the world, changing the wrestling industry.

As fans recovered from their heartbreak, each member of The Shield was left in a completely different position. Dean Ambrose was hellbent on vengeance against Seth Rollins, who had destroyed the brotherhood which the lunatic valued so highly. For Reigns, the breakup was used as a way to elevate himself to the main event scene and begin solo feuds. Rollins had The Authority by his side as the company looked to make him the first world champion out of the group.

In all honesty, Ambrose became lost in the shuffle in the years following the Shield’s split. While in the group, he was the main focal point in terms of solo success. Ambrose amassed over 351 days as the United States Champion (the longest US title run under the WWE banner) yet away from the group he struggled to reach those same heights. He had some great Intercontinental Championship matches with Kevin Owens but never really found his footing on his own. This is especially the case when you look at where the other two were at the time. Reigns was WWE’s next chosen top guy who was being rejected by the audience and Rollins had captured the Money In The Bank briefcase and used it to achieve arguably the greatest cash-in in history during the Main Event of WrestleMania, even pinning Reigns in the process.

It didn’t seem as if Ambrose would ever reach the main event level that his Shield brothers had been placed at. Fans were beginning to grow frustrated at the lack of opportunity that was being presented to the “lunatic fringe” in comparison to his former friends who were regularly competing for World Titles. Though, to many fans’ delight, Money In The Bank 2016 was what Dean had been waiting for. During a show headlined by Reigns battling a returning Rollins for the WWE title, Ambrose was able to capture the MITB briefcase. In a move that suited his character down to the ground, Ambrose wasted no time cashing his newly won contract in. He waiting until Rollins had picked up a gruelling win over Reigns to reclaim the title before attacking Rollins from behind and finally ascending the mountain of gold in WWE. The two main event stars of The Shield met in the main event over the top championship and it was Dean Ambrose who walked out the winner of the night. The fact that all three ex-Shield members held the WWE Championship on the same night is wild to think about but perfectly sums up the trio’s career path. No matter what they do or where they go, they will always end up together.

WWE’s decision to break up the group was a bold one which resulted in something the fans loved ending before they grew tired of it. But, due to the nature in which The Shield broke up and how popular they were when it happened, fans were left clamouring for more of the trio together despite them going their separate ways. Any time the company presented us with a Shield reunion, fans were eating out of the palm of their hands. Of course, in storyline, it would’ve been hard for Ambrose and Reigns to have trusted Rollins again but, while tugging on a few heart strings, the three produced memorable moments of reunion throughout the years. Seth and Dean won the tag team championships together in 2017 and a full blown reunion was staged later that year. Shield Reunions always felt like awesome crowd pleasers and something for the people involved to always fall back on in a story. Sadly though, a Shield reunion was always going to be short-lived.

Today, all three men find themselves in vastly different positions in the wrestling world. Reigns finally became the mega star that WWE always told us he would be, Rollins is a character maestro who is trying to restore prestige to the US title and Ambrose, now Jon Moxley, is ruling the landscape over in AEW as their reliable Ace. It’s unlikely that we’ll see the three together again due to their current circumstances but the impact they’ve had on the business as a whole has been immense. From titles to stories to carrying the two biggest wrestling companies in America on their backs, they’ve proven they can do it all. WWE created stars that would last forever and now there’s only one thing left to say.

Believe in The Shield.

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