Since Evolution disbanded in 2005, the WWE has tried and failed to create a successful and dominant faction akin to the collection of former, present and future World Champions that Evolution was. There was JBL’s Cabinet, La Familia, King Booker’s Court, The Straight Edge Society, Legacy, and of course most recently The Nexus; all attempts to create a stable that could garner an inkling of the success of Evolution. Each of these factions had promise, and each failed for the same reason; one member of the team was booked well while the others were simply pawns to be fed to the babyface challenger en route to the head honcho. Don’t be fooled, Batista, Flair, and Orton were chess pieces to Triple H in Evolution, but they were Knights and Rooks and were far more serviceable and valuable than the collections of pawns that comprised these subsequent stables.
It was starting to look like the WWE had completely forgotten how to build a viable and dangerous stable, and sustain their success over a period of time. That was until Survivor Series when the WWE Universe was introduced to Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. From that night where they appeared out of nowhere and powerbombed Ryback throught the announce table, the collection of young talent known as the Shield have taken the WWE by storm. Not only have they been about the most interesting thing on WWE television since their arrival, but they’re also starting to rival Evolution for the title of best wrestling stable in the last ten years.
This week I’m going to analyze the components of “The Shield” angle, and get to the root of why they are one of the very best things going in pro wrestling today, and why they very well may be the best put together and booked stables in the last decade, bar none. Let’s Rock and Roll!
Say what you will about how cool The Nexus was upon their debut, but their failure was a result of Wade Barrett being the primary focus of their band of disgruntled NXT contestants. He was the clear leader, and everything that The Nexus did served his agenda first and foremost. The other personnel were just fodder to be fed to John Cena, or Randy Orton, or to anyone who was trying to get their hands on Wade Barrett. There was very little effort put into making the other members of the group feel like real characters, much less viable threats in the grand scheme of things and the same can be said of The Straight Edge Society, The Cabinet and La Familia. The personnel in all those groups were littler more than buffers for the babyface to annihilate before reaching the boss.
One of the primary reasons for the success of The Shield is the collection of superstars that comprise it. All three are thoroughbred, future WWE mega stars, all three can wrestle, and all three have a role to play in their collective. Reigns is the powerhouse, Rollins is the “wrestler”, and Ambrose is the brawler and most of the time the primary mouthpiece. Upon their debut I was an advocate of Kassius Ohno taking Reigns’ spot in the group, but after several months, I can’t see anyone but Reigns filling his role. They are a balanced grouping of young talent that simply fit perfectly together.
One of the things that definitely helped this faction find balance is the fact that all three men were relatively unestablished upon their debut. There wasn’t one big name to distract viewers from the other members, and there has never been a focus on getting one member over above the other two. They are treated as equals so we as viewers perceive them as equals.
The motive for this group’s assembly and activity is a very big reason why they are very likely the most interesting thing going in the WWE right now. They have said on numerous occasions that they looked at the WWE and saw mounting injustice, from John Cena’s entitlement, to Ryback’s undeserved title shot, etc. They took it upon themselves to become the Hounds of Justice, a Shield against injustice, making their presence felt whenever injustice reared its ugly head. Their motivation is clear and every action that they took was informed by the code that they have (and some of course required payments made by Paul Heyman and CM Punk, because nobody said justice was free).
The best villains are the ones whose logic you can follow. Take one of cinema’s greatest villains of all time, Khan Noonien Singh. We understand Khan, and why he wants revenge on Kirk. We see his logic, flawed as it may be, and while we don’t support his actions, at the end of the day, we understand his outrage and lust for vengeance. That’s what I like most about The Shield. I can follow their flawed logic and see how in their mind, they are the purveyors of justice. When they explain themselves, much like the Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence (aka V.I.K.I) from the film “I, Robot”, The Shield’s logic is undeniable. More than anything, The Shield is a product of the best writing the WWE Creative team has done in years because there is an effort to make sense and stay on message.
The demise of most factions is poor booking. The Straight Edge Society had great segments, but Luke Gallows and Joseph Mercury were booked to look weak more often than they were booked to look strong. The same can be said of Bashams and Orlando Jordan as part of The Cabinet, and the members of The Nexus not named Wade Barrett. They were booked to be bested in pursuit of the man in charge (CM Punk, JBL, and Wade Barrett respectively) and were never being groomed for anything more substantive.
Quite frankly the biggest reason The Shield has so much credibility is the fact that they have been booked to look so strong collectively. The story behind it is simple and I’m surprised the WWE has taken this long to write a story like this one. The Shield is a unit, impenetrable because they are always on the same page and working together. They are a real team while everyone they’ve faced is a collection of highly regarded individuals. Not only do they look strong in competition, but they are also incredibly active characters. They don’t sit around and wait for stuff to happen, they actively pursue the justice they speak of. The fact that they continue to be booked strongly nearly half a year into their run is a huge reason why they are viable threats in the WWE and command attention and interest.
The Shield isn’t perfect (what is in life?), specifically the shaky camera work during their attacks. It makes sense cinematically, but the WWE isn’t presented like a movie, so it leaves the audience wondering why the cameramen suddenly develop the shakes whenever The Shield makes their presence felt.
That being said they are one of the top two wrestling stables in the last decade and are only behind Evolution because Evolution had championship success during their run. I have no doubt that The Shield has all the tools to surpass Evolution as the best faction in the last ten years, and maybe become one of the best stables of all time. They have the right personnel, a clear and identifiable motivation, and if they continue to be booked as strong active characters in the WWE landscape, the sky is truly the limit. One thing is certain, they are the best written part of WWE TV today, so kudos to whomever is creatively responsible for the trio known as The Shield.
FINAL GRADE: A+
There you have it, but what do you think about The Shield’s run? What is your favorite thing about The Shield? What do you not like about them? Do you think they can become one of the best stables of all time? Can they be better than Evolution?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying goodbye to one of my favorite cartoons, Young Justice. You will be missed every weekend for the foreseeable future. Have a great week everybody!