I had an eventful Sunday. Somewhere in between seeing my beloved San Diego Chargers get absolutely destroyed by the Carolina Panthers (those season tickets were $1000 well spent), finishing The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling (loved it), and having my mind blown by the Homeland season 2 finale, I snuck in some time to watch WWE’s TLC pay-per-view. Although it’s considered a minor PPV by WWE standards, and everybody is already looking ahead to what should be a historical Royal Rumble, TLC typically delivers the goods, and there were a couple of matches I was really looking forward to.
One of those matches, not shockingly, was the debut match of The Shield. I’m not going to sugar-coat my excitement for these guys, I was delighted when they first appeared last month, and I’ve been dying to see Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose in particular prove their mettle. You could even say that I was elated when CM Punk was forced to miss TLC, inserting The Shield into the main event with Ryback, Daniel Bryan, and Kane. Okay, the match didn’t go on last, but it was perhaps promoted more so than John Cena vs Dolph Ziggler. Knowing that my expectations were high, could The Shield possibly deliver?
I’m glad to say that they absolutely delivered on all fronts. For those of you that caught TLC, I suspect no convincing is necessary. But if you passed on the PPV, and I don’t blame you for doing so with CM Punk sidelined, I’d like to share my thoughts on the match with you. I think it’s fairly significant that I was so pleased with the match (as if I’m any kind of authority on the matter) that I’d like to dedicate an entire article to it. That says something, right? No? Well you can leave then. Everyone else who is still reading, find out why I’m so pleased, and why you should be excited about the futures of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns:
WWE pulled off some amazing booking at TLC. Prior to the match, The Shield held a promo, extolling the importance of true teamwork. They promised to win, simply because they had each others backs, and work well together. That set up an amazing story for the match. The Shield succeeded in isolating each of their opponents, first Ryback, then Kane, and finally Daniel Bryan. Unlike Ryback and Team Hell No, they worked together in a cohesive fashion, and decimated their opponents. It came across like a legitimate gameplan, and - SPOILER - added believability to their victory.
It was a simple storytelling formula executed to perfection. A lot of credit has to go to everyone involved in the match for properly performing the story. The pace was blistering, and most importantly, The Shield looked as if they belonged. Rollins and Ambrose in particular looked polished and as good as anyone in the WWE. Let’s not forget to credit Kane and Daniel Bryan, who both have the ability to make anyone in the ring with them look good.
Rollins displayed the athleticism you’d want in someone of his size. Ambrose displayed the mannerisms you’d want in a top heel, both in his face and in his bumps. They complemented each other well. Really, looking forward, you could see Rollins fitting the role of a baby face nicely, and Ambrose a great villain. He’s got a face you love to hate, and the skills to back up his arrogance. These guys are good.
But you already knew that Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose were going to be good. You’ve read the hype, possibly seen some of their indie work, or watched NXT on YouTube. They’re “internet darlings”, or “IWC favorites”, or whatever it is we like to call them. Roman Reigns, though, has been much more of a mystery thus far. He has the look, the lineage, and the endorsement of some big names. Yet he’s clearly less experienced than his comrades. Which is what makes his performance at TLC all the more impressive.
Reigns looked better than your average big man. Countless times in the past, WWE has pushed big bodies simply because of their look, and had to deal with a lack of in ring talent. Remember Mason Ryan? I try not to. Luckily, there are ways to mask big-body-shortcomings. One such way is by inserting a big man in a tag team. Reigns, is clearly covered here. Being in a stable with Rollins and Ambrose, two men who so clearly know what they’re doing, is sure to benefit Reigns. Provided he wants to learn.
Another way to mask inexperience in the ring is to take the big man out of the match for long periods of time. At TLC, WWE successfully pulled this off with both Reigns and Ryback. Ryback was to be the featured man on his team, yet his in-ring abilities pale in comparison to Daniel Bryan and Kane. That’s not a slight against Ryback, it’s just that Daniel Bryan may be the best pure wrestler in the business right now, and Kane is perhaps one of the best big men to ever grace a WWE ring. People paid to see Ryback, but his torrid pace and limited moveset couldn’t possibly hold up throughout a twenty minute match. So, The Shield took Ryback out of the match five minutes in by powerbombing him through the Spanish announce table. Target, isolate, execute.
Roman Reigns, who held his own with powerful moves and good bumps, was taken out of large chunks of the match when he patrolled outside the ring, ensuring Rollins and Ambrose would be uninterrupted in dismantling Daniel Bryan or Kane. It allowed Rollins and Ambrose to display their considerable abilities, while avoiding any possible Reigns weaknesses. Best of all, it played perfectly into the story that they were trying to tell: target, isolate, execute. The Shield is a powerful force due to the sum of its parts.
The WWE was right to have The Shield debut on pay-per-view, and TLC was the right pay-per-view. Letting them win was also the right decision. They looked strong (absolutely destroying Kane and Daniel Bryan), but clearly used weapons to their advantage. It leaves their story open for Raw, and Royal Rumble, and beyond.
More important than the weeks and months ahead, the WWE has something special in Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns. All three are capable of doing something significant with their careers. And all three have plenty of time. On a show that also featured Dolph Ziggler scoring a victory over John Cena, you have to be hopeful regarding the future of WWE talent.
Thoughts and opinions? Share them with me!