Before I get into the topic at hand, I want to give my apologies for the lengthy period of time between this post and my last. When I first joined the Doing the Job crew, my intent was to write something weekly and later discuss it on the show (mainly because I write significantly better than I speak, and M2J and Denny can talk circles around me in the podcast realm). But you know how it goes: things such as work, a girlfriend, friends, random other hobbies, actually watching the product, and the pod diddly itself get in the way of writing anything good. And kind of like CM Punk, if I don’t think my performance is at its best, I’m just going to go home. But the fact is, as much as I love doing the podcast, I really miss the writing.
So with that being said, I think it’s time for me to quit the show and focus on writing full-time. Just kidding. I’d miss Matt’s marking over Hogan, Denny’s failure at not cursing, and conversations about Rita from Podgods too much. But it is time for me to get back into my comfort zone and start putting words back onto your screen, so that’s what I’m here for today. So sit back, relax, and throw on some of M2J’s favorite Mike Tenay smooth jazz while I ease us back into things. More specifically, let’s talk about Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns: the three men that make up The Shield.
Now, I’m certainly not claiming that they’ve gotten lost in the shuffle, but between the rise of Daniel Bryan, CM Punk quitting, the polarizing return of Batista, Randy Orton’s title reign, the Authority’s power trip, the Wyatt Family taking the next step, and the mere ever-presence of John Cena, it can be easy to underestimate and forget just how consistently incredible The Shield have been over the past year-plus. They have been as dependable as it gets in terms of quality in the ring and attention to detail out of it. Simply put, they just “get it”. Personally speaking, they’re my favorite part of the show, Bryan and Punk included, to the point where I am ready to rank them as my number two stable of all-time (I was too much of a mark for DX in ’98 and ’99 to give them that spot, as Denny will attest to).
Having said all that, a breakup of the group has been teased multiple times since the Fall of last year, only to fizzle out as The Shield continued to improve every week. Now, however, the end seems imminent. Unfortunately, it appears that this upcoming pay-per-view match against the Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber or sometime soon after may very well be their last stand as a group before it all falls apart. I, like many others, expect The Shield to take the loss here due to some selfish miscommunication from Dean Ambrose to the detriment of Roman Reigns, while poor Seth Rollins is caught in the middle.
I feel like this will ultimately lead to a triple threat match between the three to prove who “the man” in the group really is. Because really, aside from that, what else is there for them to do at Wrestlemania XXX? I suppose the ulterior would be a one-on-one match with Reigns against Ambrose, but then where does that leave Rollins? And maybe The Shield do in fact come out on top at Chamber and have a rematch with the Wyatts at Mania so they can get the win back, but if you believe everything you hear (and for their Royal Rumble interference to mean anything), Bray is all but locked in to face John Cena on the big stage.
Regardless of how this all culminates for The Shield, I’m more concerned about where the three individuals go after they wash their hands of each other. At first glance, it seemed that everyone believed, myself included, that Dean Ambrose was the true star of the group, ending up as a main event heel in the company not too far down the road. And while his endpoint might be the same, Roman Reigns has clearly skyrocketed past him in terms of a planned push toward the top (see: Royal Rumble 2014). The only question isn’t how high Reigns will go, but how fast he’ll get there.
My concern, which I touched upon briefly during last week’s podcast, is that there won’t be enough angles and storylines to go around for all three to be involved, in terms of importance, on WWE programming each week. Obviously, all three are extremely talented and can conceivably main event as singles competitors right now, but we know that’s not going to happen, nor should it necessarily. This isn’t like it was in the old days where seemingly everyone on the roster had something important to them going on. Now, we get around three to five actual stories at a time, and then guys like Kofi Kingston, who do come out every week, but to have a match of barely any consequence at all. This is where I am afraid. They have to make angles for three guys, and only about five spots tops to get them in (which is not a great way of maximizing talent, but that’s an article for another day). We might be looking at an odd man out situation here, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see on that one. For now, let’s break each member down individually, before I give my take on how I would personally utilize The Shield.
Life after The Shield for Roman Reigns
As mentioned, there is no holding Roman Reigns back; his star is rising so high that it might shoot out of orbit. And unlike Denny, who sold the statement that double-R will main event a pay-per-view in 2014 in our little buy or sell gimmick, I think he’s heading toward the top much sooner. He is already too big of a star to hold either the Intercontinental or United States championships, so I feel like he wins a high profile feud with a big heel after his Shield business is over and then maybe, perhaps finds his way into the main event after he becomes super over with the fans. I mean, seriously, the fans are going to go bonkers for this guy when he’s a face. I’d say he is main eventing pay-per-views no later than Survivor Series, if not earlier if he makes it into like a triple threat or four-way match.
Once again though, I have a concern; what if he changes and somehow sucks as a babyface? People really dig Reigns now in his current iteration. This shouldn’t happen, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they put their foot on the brake in terms of his character’s aggressiveness as a good guy, just for the sake of him being more likeable. And he’s talked, by far, the least out of the three members of the group; what if we find out he can’t speak for himself very well? That will certainly limit some of the face charisma he will have on his own. Look, I don’t necessarily think any of these things will happen, I’d give it maybe a twenty percent chance, but I’m certainly not ruling it out either. I really like Reigns a lot and am actually very much looking forward to rooting for him as a face myself, but everyone loving his good guy work is not a complete slam dunk.
Life after The Shield for Dean Ambrose
As stated above, throughout the first half of The Shield’s run I was convinced that he was in line for a top heel role once the group eventually broke up. Now, however, I am a little worried that he toils away on the midcard for a while similar to Damien Sandow, who also once looked destined for a prominent role as recently as a few months ago, at least until they figure out what to do with him. At the moment, that US title is bogging him down, too, so right off the bat he will have to lose to a midcarder just in order to drop it. On the contrary, perhaps dropping that dead weight of a belt will allow creative to propel him into a more featured role with a higher quality face opponent.
Oddly enough, Ambrose is so unique that I can’t picture a realistic, WWE-style one-on-one feud with someone. (Realistic, meaning not some crazy Jon Moxley story an internet mark would armchair book that WWE would never do, like I’ve heard people say many times before.) Because of this, I feel it’s a little while before the company really features him, which I do believe they eventually will, while they try and figure out how to play their cards with his character. He will get there, but it might take a little longer than we had hoped.
Life after the Shield for Seth Rollins
I feel like Rollins’ career path is the most difficult to predict of the three, as he has both a high ceiling and low floor. Additionally, while both Ambrose and Reigns are set in their face/heel roles beyond The Shield, Rollins’ alignment can go either way. The talent is undeniably all there, and he has improved on the mic, although only in a heel role. If you read between the lines, he appears to be on the side of Reigns in any quips with Ambrose, which would lead one to believe he will turn face, the way he likely belongs, after the group is finished. Although it wouldn’t be stunning to see him take a “Reigns is becoming a too big for his britches” approach when the end comes for the Hounds of Justice, either.
Right here is where my theory that there aren’t enough storyline spots to go around comes into play. If he is a face, he’s already got multiple guys ahead of him (John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, Sheamus, and Batista if he doesn’t turn), which probably means wasting time holding a meaningless midcard title that will only be a tool to placate his character until something better comes along. Or a worst case scenario (gulp), where he is something of a rich man’s Justin Gabriel, playing the exciting face coming out of a heel stable and goes nowhere. Again, like my concerns for his stable mates, I don’t think this happens, but I’m pointing out the possibilities for those that may be a little too optimistic. And like the other two, I think he eventually does “get there,” although his climb to the top might be a little long and arduous.
What should be the future of The Shield?
If it appears that I have much more concerns than hope for the three moving forward as singles wrestlers within WWE, it isn’t because I think they can’t or won’t make it on their own. I think they can and they will, despite taking much different paths. But my solution to a breakup is entirely different than what has been discussed in this article and many others altogether.
My solution is to keep The Shield together.
I get it. If anyone is looking at this with total optimism for each guy and sees Reigns’ star power, Rollins’ athleticism, and Ambrose’s dynamic character, it is easy to claim that they are all ready, that they’ve “graduated,” in a sense, from the stable life. But why tear apart something that works so well for your product? The Shield is excellent, and the three bring a teamwork, both in terms of kayfabe and reality, that is very difficult to come by. In wrestling years, sure, they’ve been around for a while. But that just means that now is the time to switch it up a bit.
To go further, my solution is to turn them babyface. And what better opportunity than now with the crowd in their favor with a rivalry brewing with the heel Wyatts? And after that is done, they could go on for another six months to a year making the rounds taking out the heels to the crowd’s delight. To draw a comparison, think D-Generation X, and how they spent a similar amount of time playing the villain, hit a point where they did all they needed to do in that role, and switched over in what was an even bigger success than anyone could imagine. And hey, if they want to blow their load with Reigns right now, they should keep in mind that spending a bunch of time in stables didn’t hurt The Rock any during his formative years.
Basically speaking, a lengthy good guy run for The Shield could be epic and do absolute wonders for the babyface careers of Rollins and Reigns, while making Ambrose that much more despicable when he ultimately turns his back on his friends.
Regardless of whatever they decide to do with them, I believe that we should take a moment to reflect on what an amazing run these guys have put on for us since November 2012. Because, yes, I do believe in The Shield.