By Hugh Firth
This Sunday, something very special will happen. No, I don’t mean Randy Orton’s inevitable Chamber win which will set up the ‘dream match’ versus Batista at WrestleMania XXX (well, it’s Triple H’s dream if no-one else’s). I also don’t mean The New Age Outlaws wheezing past Jimmy and Jey in yet another improbable match up. I don’t even mean Del Rio being beaten up for ten minutes by Batista to zero crowd reaction. No, that special thing, that defining moment, will come when two of the strongest factions for years go toe to toe against each other in that ring before a raucous Minneapolis crowd. It’s almost here. The Shield versus The Wyatt Family.
Alright, some of the matches mentioned above will be good if not better. The Chamber is usually a great, pivotal match on the road to WrestleMania. The tag match will be both fun and funny. Big Dave going over Del Rio might not be pretty but it’ll be good to see the Animal go at it after his stuttering return last month. The match, the future, though will be between two groups who have slowly begun to dominate the product, maybe not to Cena/Orton/HHH levels, but on a more surreptitious and interesting level.
When you look at those six men, as we will do in a moment, it’s hard not to think that, at the very least, half of them will be leading the product in five to ten years time. They are six talented men who all bring something very different to both the product and to the ring. When you watch the matches, you see six men who aspire to something more both in their groups and for themselves and their futures. To be honest, you look at some of the free agents out there and think, hell, Triple H has got something right because why bring in people from outside when the NXT developmental territory is working so well. Yes, obviously all wrestled for various promotions before coming to WWE but, just like Daniel Bryan and Cesaro before them, they were honed in a developmental school which prepared them for the big time.
Looking at the two groups, it’s hard not to see why they’ve become so big so quick. In The Shield you have a rogue element who, at one point can be easily bought (both Paul Heyman and Triple H have done so) and at another are complete loners. Flip that coin and you’ve got The Wyatt Family, a deranged cult with a leader who has a God complex and two hulking disciples that destroy all in their way. Something’s got to give.
It was teased brilliantly a few months ago on the 11th November episode of Raw. In the ring, Ambrose and Rollins stood tall against Harper and Rowan whilst Reigns and Bray pushed and fought on the outside. It was an all too brief tease and the fight was stopped by Bray as he reminded them that the common enemy, Daniel Bryan and CM Punk, were stood on the outside and which point they were taken down before Jimmy and Jey joined the fight.
The crowd reaction that night was incredible. The shouts of ‘Yes!’ were, for once, not for Bryan but for a feud the crowd, the fans, desperately wanted to see. The later shouts of ‘This is awesome!’ were even better. It was proof positive that these two factions would have to collide. In fact, since The Wyatt’s July 8th debut, many thought that the two could never co-exit anyway. Two three man groups in the same promotion, appearing on the same programme night after night? They would clearly meet and not like what stood before them.
What is interesting is that, bar Reigns’ eventual face turn and developing crowd reaction, this is still two heel groups who have taken down many of our heroes. It could be something to do with the inarguable talents of the men involved. It could be the ‘knowledgeable’ crowds who, in the pipe bomb era, will decide who to like, face or heel. It’s also because, in recent programmes with Punk and Bryan, they are dangerous and at times can barely co-exist with each other, let alone another faction. WWE has brilliantly built them up to the point that if Bray does take on Cena, would anyone bet against him taking down the noughties chosen one? The same if, down the line, Reigns takes on a World Title holding Batista.
When looking at The Shield, they are three very distinct individuals. In Dean Ambrose, the self-proclaimed leader of the group, you have someone with undeniable talent but an uncontrollable ego. Add to that an air of someone who, more than Orton, appears to have ‘voices in his head’ and you have a heady mix of danger and unpredictability. His facial expressions, his agility and his confidence mean that he is both dangerous and susceptible to error. He is a man that, in the storyline, refuses to admit he’s too scared to defend his US Title. If anyone will cost The Shield a win it is the man who ‘leads’ the justice-mongers.
In Rollins and Reigns you have former tag-team title holders who are a heady mix of strength and agility. Rollins is an immense talent. He can sell like Ziggler and wrestle like Bryan, and that’s no mean feat. He is also the middle man between the fracturing faction and clashing egos of Ambrose and Reigns. He is probably the most level-headed of the group, not in terms of Roman’s steely determination and bewilderment at Ambrose’s psychotic, selfish tendencies, but in that he can see the wood for the trees and knows, without his negotiations, how this story ends.
Roman Reigns. Not the tallest in the group (that accolade goes to 6ft 4in Dean Ambrose) but he is certainly the widest and, to all intents and purposes, is ‘the muscle’. He has broken Kane’s thirteen year (how apt) record for the most eliminations in a single Royal Rumble match. He has also taken down some of the biggest of big men through a mix of his devastating spear and his rapidly developing superman punch. WWE have put their faith in this young, former footballer, and see him as the future. Does this mean Ambrose and Rollins will fade away to the midcard? Of course not. They’re too good for that, but in a rapidly corroding group of vigilantes, Reigns’ button has been pressed first.
They seek justice, but on their terms. They are three men with differing talents in the ring but, put them together, get them on the same page, and they are as devastating as any stable in recent memory. Dressed in black, they are your worst nightmare.
Well. They were.
Out of the swampy mud-land have come a cult leader and his disciples who hark back to Robert De Niro’s Max Cady and Robert Mitchum’s Harry Powell. In Bray Wyatt we have a powerhouse wrestler who can brainwash those weaker than him. It worked on Luke Harper and also on the sheep masking Erick Rowan. He is the second coming, the backwoods messiah who will drag the following behind him in earnest retribution on the non-believers. He almost took Daniel Bryan down with him but was tricked by the little goat. He knows when to fight...it’s when it’s best for him.
On that initial stare-down and coming to back in November, it was Bray who reminded the other five of their priorities. Similar to recent forays to the ring only to walk away from The Shield at the last moment, infuriating the unbalanced Ambrose even further. In fact, Bray knows that Ambrose is the weak link, not in talent, but in psychology. He will target him because he knows he is the key to success. In that, Bray is as intelligent as Reigns is strong. Which one will win the match this Sunday thought? Brains or brawn?
When it comes to brawn though, in Harper and Rowan, Bray has two monsters who will do almost anything for him. Harper is a bear from the wilderness. A man who has long dark hair and a beard, who gator rolls his opponents into submission with an eerie call of ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.’ He is the monster in the shadows who appears at the last moment and drags you away.
Rowan is interesting in that he appears to be most the unstable. On his initial debut, he was the sheep-mask wearing big man who almost played second fiddle in the tag-team with Harper. In recent weeks though he has taken to decimating those who either get the sneaky roll-up or who have the audacity to stand in front of him and try to stare him down. If Ambrose is the wild-card for The Shield, Rowan is definitely the loose cannon for The Wyatt Family. Bray knows Harper will do his bidding, but how long will it be before Rowan completely snaps and turns on his master?
This Sunday, these two factions will stand tall and wide as they enter the ring. Three men will stand before three men. One has brains and strength on his side, and a ritualistic worship of two brainwashed soldiers. The other has a strong man who has grown too big for the group and a wily negotiator whose time might have come. Also, Bray is the leader of the Wyatt Family, no argument. Ambrose has merely placed himself in that position...and Roman Reigns knows this.
The crowd will be cheering like at no other time during the night bar Daniel Bryan’s Chamber participation but to hear it for six villains, two groups of violent, cruel and vicious men is quite different. They will wrestle, they will brawl and, at the end of it all, two men will stand tall. Bray with the win and Roman with the exit strategy he needed to take him on the route to World Title glory. It will all come from a once-in-a-lifetime match between two group though, and that is what we all want to see.