With a well-timed chair shot, Seth Rollins just cracked what was once considered impossible to break: The Shield. By walking across the ring to the arms of Randy Orton and Triple H, Rollins might be moving into a new home, but he still ended something special. It’s too early to say if The Shield decide to go ahead and get a new member, but from November of 2012 to June of 2014, The Shield existed under one form. That form was Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns.
It would feel cheap to just ask if The Shield was the best of the modern era. In the past 10 years we haven’t really had a lot of strong stables in pro wrestling. If you put The Shield up against Nexus, 3MB and The Corre you’re not really making it much of a fight. While nostalgia always has an unfair advantage against the recent, it’s time to ask the tough question:
Presuming this is the last we see of the Original members of the Shield together for the foreseeable future, where do you feel The Shield ranks among the greatest factions/stables in pro wrestling history?
For a question like this, we couldn’t just have one person answer. It’s time for a Roundtable. With us today are Shawn Wilken, Aaron Wrotkowski and James Carlucci.
Shawn Wilken: The Shield first came on the scene in the WWE when they interfered in the main event of Survivor Series in late 2012. For me, that puts them on a level with the nWo. Granted, they did not have a larger than life superstar — I guess in this case, you could say John Cena — turning heel and heading the faction but the overall shock was on par. These three men also pulled of a rare feat, which is debuting at the same time as a group. You look at Nation of Domination, DX, Evolution, nWo, all of those groups were either established stars teaming up or a mix of guys who made it and guys who were on the push.
Many questioned how far they could take it. With the role of enforcers, a trio of men who came through the rafters and stalked those who created injustice, it had to wear thin at some point. After 19 months, it has come to an end but those that questioned them are now held in disbelief, wondering what could have been had they went on a full two years, maybe three. In that sense, Evolution comes to mind. After all, Orton’s first run in Evolution lasted 19 months before he was kicked out for doing what Triple H could no do — capture the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Where does The Shield stack up against the wonders of the wrestling world? The nostalgic factor will play a key role and many will argue that The Shield did not dominate the Championship system the way the nWo did, the way Evolution did, the way DX did and the way some of the bigger factions have done decades ago. Yet with that said, no other faction has been able to remain a trio through their entire run and intimidate a company with fear the way The Shield has done. It took half a roster and tazers for the nWo to scare the rest of the roster. All The Shield needed was their entrance theme to play and their presence to be felt.
It is in my opinion that The Shield is the greatest faction wrestling fans had the pleasure of watching in the modern day era. Perhaps even in the last three decades.
Aaron Wrotkowski: The Shield was extremely well executed. It took three promising rookies in the FCW system, tied them together under a unique image and let them run roughshod through the WWE roster with calculating teamwork. They evolved from just an excuse to attack top babyfaces to a group run through ideology and eventually becoming high profile babyfaces themselves. Nobody got lost in the shuffle and from their beginning to now, though everyone is at a different height for their success. The most unique part of Shield is even if they are different wrestlers with various ceilings for star power, nobody was a “leader”. Everyone was on equal footing. That’s unlike any other group in the past. However, what hurt the group ended up being their greatest strength. To have such a uniform image, they are now on the brink of singles careers where their most defining points are just being intense. Roman Reigns is big and intense. Seth Rollins is agile and intense. Dean Ambrose is wild and intense.
Remembering who they all were in FCW/NXT, Leakee went from just another power guy in development to a potential marquee player as Roman Reigns. Seth Rollins went from the scene kid who talked about revolution to the hardened soldier who brought revolution. Dean Ambrose is the only one who hasn’t brought a new potential, as both his mic work and wrestling work in FCW was so miles beyond anything anyone else was doing. For all the love Bray Wyatt has had in his WWE run, Ambrose was doing it better in every way in development. Nobody needs the breakup more.
When you compare the Shield to the past 30 years of wrestling factions, they certainly stand out for being nobodies turning all into primetime players in less than two years. Everyone was elevated equally. They are by far the best handling of new WWE stars in the company in a long time. Where they pale in comparison for me is overall impact. The Four Horsemen changed how wrestling looked at wrestling groups within organizations. They were champions and sought after for membership. It was the ultimate private club. The New World Order (which I’m discussing each week here on Last Word on Sports on their 18th anniversary) changed not just wrestling factions but professional wrestling entirely. Just wearing their shirt made you a new star at one point. It was a cultural phenomenon still remembered to this day. It’s Austin/Rock level. The Shield for me are more comparable to Tokon Sanjushi in New Japan Pro Wrestling, three young wrestlers put together and then expected to do greater things in singles than together. Even as a calculating team, you still got the feeling the real importance was when they separated. One has now separated, with the other two unsure of what’s the future for the group.
I just don’t feel the team/group/gang mentality that kept the Von Erich’s and Freebirds relevant, or the value and worth it meant to be a member of the Four Horsemen or New World Order. The Shield were instead a uniting gimmick that kept three individuals as a cohesive unit longer than anyone imagined, and gave them co-operative success. With that, they should be the model for how you to bring three young wrestlers together. But when I look at it from a business standpoint, the Shield were not merchandise machines. When I look at it from a booking standpoint, the Shield were great for storylines but it was hard for them to be division leaders (Ambrose’s US Title reign was the definition of a neglectful champion and I think they held the tag titles but have zero memory of it) or for them to do anything on the card and be at full impact other than six man matches. When I finally look at it from a cultural standpoint, the Shield were great for the WWE and nothing else. They do not transcend. And that’s fine. They don’t have to. Pro wrestling needed The Shield to remember what a great faction looked like. They haven’t seen it in over a decade. And nobody was stronger from debut to breakup.
James Carlucci: The history of professional wrestling is littered with stables, dominant factions of competitors who stood united for a time to further their own goals against the will of the company. During their run that started at Surivior Series 2012 and apparently culminated this past Monday’s episode of Raw, The Shield solidified themselves as one of the greatest stables to ever compete inside the squared circle.
While there are a litany of stables that one could rank as their favorite, when analyzing The Shield there are two that are worth mentioning: Degeneration X and the NWO.
The Shield can’t compare to these two in terms of mainstream popularity. Not through fault of their own, but due to the simple fact that those two came to fruition during the biggest boom period the industry has ever seen. What can be compared between the stables is their effect on fans of the product and what they produced on-screen and in-ring.
All three stables reinvigorated the fan bases of their time, making them a promise that no matter what was going on during the program that week, they had at least one segment that would be worth looking forward to. However, what differentiated The Shield from the other two is that while those groups focused on prematch antics, the main focus of The Shield were there six man tag matches.
The Shield undoubtedly performed better in the ring than their NWO counterparts despite their legendary stature in the business, and while DX originally had perhaps the greatest worker of all time when they were a tag team in Shawn Michaels, when they were actually a stable they had Triple H on the cusp of greatness bogged down by several less than stellar workers.
This disparity in tenure is probably the most distinguishing and impactful aspect of The Shield, and what solidifies their place in history. The NWO was the revitalization of legends on the apparent downside of their careers, and DX was a group of wrestlers who had been around for a while and were finally starting to hit their stride.
The Shield was the first time these three superstars were able to perform on the world stage. The fact that they can be mentioned in the same breath as these other historic stables is remarkable in it’s own right, and why they are deserving of so much praise.
They are proof that legacy and antics and politics aside, when you give three hungry hounds who want to make the most of every opportunity the chance to make an impact, they will make history. They will show what they truly are, and they are superstars in every sense of the word.
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