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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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Eyes On WWE: Why The Shield Isn't The Greatest Faction Of All Time

By @TrueGodImmortal

I had three other articles waiting. I have four in the pipeline. I put them on hold to do this one. WWE stans, sheep, and fanboys beware: Eyes On The Ring is back and better than ever. Yes, we are a mixed bag of opinions, as some of the opinions on today's product are that it is good, some of the opinions are that the product is bad, and some are indifferent in their thought process on the company. Regardless, the reality is, the WWE have a number of disgruntled fans, hardcore and casual who took offense to the WWE ranking The Shield as the greatest faction to ever walk the planet. Now, surely, the WWE was going for shock value right? One could never discredit The Shield and their accomplishments, and if we are talking in-ring work, Seth Rollins alone has the faction in the top 10 of all time. However, the issue with The Shield being no. 1 is much like the issue with people saying John Cena is top 5 all time period. Like Cena, The Shield exist and thrive in a down era for wrestling. Yes, the WWE has huge success and use their name to push more ventures, but a lot of signs point to an all around decline in the actual business. When Cena was on top, business was decent and he was a needle mover in terms of merchandise, but Cena was also rejected by a large amount of the audience and booed. He was also lapped in merchandise sales several times by Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio, The Rock, CM Punk, D-Generation X, and more. While Cena is undoubtedly a legend and one of the greatest to ever do it on the top 10-15 list perhaps, revisionists will wipe away the rejection of the man who was seen as forced once upon a time. Of course, Cena has always had his fans. He always will. That changes nothing. It was the rejection of Cena at times that hurt his legacy minimally and honestly put a damper on one of the longest face runs in company history. Cena was seen as the face of WWE, but the fans would gladly select someone else over him at various times before WWE forced him again, even when no one asked for it (Cena vs Rock 2 anyone). I say all this about Cena to make the comparison slightly to The Shield. The Shield were booked very well at one point, and at the time of their arrival, they seem poised to be the next big thing. The WWE fumbled the ball shortly after The Shield went on their unbeaten path and the trio would have some odd periods during their run.

For some, the booking of The Shield was legendary, but breaking it down by just the PPV matches will show that it wasn't always the best. I mean, their first match against Ryback, Daniel Bryan, and Kane was a classic, but the mext month comes and they are relegated to being backup for CM Punk against The Rock. An afterthought if you will. Shortly after this, The Shield head into Wrestlemania 29 with a solid feud going, facing John Cena, Sheamus, and Ryback at Elimination Chamber (and winning) before the opening match at Mania against Randy Orton, The Big Show, and Sheamus. A highlight during this time came when The Undertaker returned and took on Dean Ambrose, and teamed with Kane and Bryan to take on The Shield on an episode of RAW. At this point, The Shield were being booked very well, but were still afterthoughts on the show in a way. They were behind Cena, Rock, and even Punk on the card, as well as Brock Lesnar and Triple H. They were still over as heels, but they would need solo success to really make it right. They would start that path at Extreme Rules 2013, with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins capturing tag team gold and Dean Ambrose winning the United States Title. They would embark on feuds with Kane, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, The Usos, and Rob Van Dam during the summer of 2013, but still they felt a little lost in the shuffle at the time. They would pick up the pace after a little while, and were the workhorses in many ways of the company, with all three members putting in work. It was clear at the time that the true star of the group was Dean Ambrose, as he was the most charismatic and carried most of the promos. He was shining and earning his keep, so one would assume that the WWE had big plans for him instantly. After The Shield got relegated to Preshow duties on Summerslam, things slowly started to fall apart a bit.

They would lose the tag titles to Cody Rhodes and Goldust, and then Ambrose would slowly start to lose his fire as the booking seemingly got a little suspect. At the time, the average fan probably felt The Shield was being booked beautifully. They weren't. They were severely mishandled and struggled at times finding the right angle to take, and that was made worse at Survivor Series 2013, when the wheels were obviously set in motion to make Roman Reigns the next guy. Five years later, we can look at that and see that was clearly the wrong move, but of course, WWE hasn't stopped forcing Reigns. As of this writing, he is still Universal Champion, still a face that gets booed regularly, and still NOT the guy that WWE needs to push. Honestly, I could stop there and that alone would disqualify The Shield from being the greatest faction ever, but I'll continue up until a certain point, and you know what point that is. So, in the late 2013 period, The Shield would basically be stuck as the Hounds For Authority, not justice, as they would do most of the dirty work for Stephanie and Triple H. They would feud with CM Punk and Daniel Bryan and lose most of those matches, and the once unstoppable force looked weaker than ever. Surely you remember The Shield losing a 3-on-1 handicap match to a beaten down CM Punk? Surely, you remember Daniel Bryan picking up wins over the members as well? Of course you don't. You know what you do remember however?

The Shield vs The Wyatt Family. At a time when The Shield finally turned face and broke away from The Authority, they would engage in a brief but epic feud with the other faction that was making waves in the company. This feud is probably the best highlight of The Shield's initial run as a feud so far up until this point or at the very least, it is second to the entire Team Hell No vs The Shield run. However, after a pointless squash match at Wrestlemania 30, The Shield would have their biggest feud and moment against the reunited Evolution. When we look back at The Shield and their run, this is a big bright spot. With two back to back wins on PPV against Evolution, The Shield was riding a wave of popularity, success, and after a rough and up and down year and a half booking wise, they had finally found their goldmine as a unit.... so what would be next for the group? A breakup of course. To be clear, I don't mean a breakup in a few months, I mean a literal breakup just a day after their second big win over Evolution. So, to recap this, The Shield struggled with their booking off and on during their first year and some change, finally found their comfort zone with back to back classic moments against The Wyatt Family and Evolution, only to breakup abruptly. It was confusing, perhaps a little rushed, but two good things would come from it immediately. One, the becoming of Seth Rollins as a mega heel, and the arrival of Dean Ambrose as an instantly popular face and merchandise king. Now, you may notice that this is essentially an article about why The Shield isn't the GOAT faction and I've yet to mention any other faction so far. Well, let me change that.

For The Shield to only have a year and some change under their belt, with decent success and then breakup, it takes them down a notch as a faction in my eyes. I was once on The Shield was going to be top 3 all time in terms of factions, but reality hit me and changed my perspective completely. The Shield as a unit ran from November 2012 until June 2014 with some good success, some big losses, some moments of uneven booking, and some pretty irrelevant feuds. The Shield as a unit was consistent, and were ready to usher in a new era of wrestling, but the success just didn't reflect that. The Shield couldn't move merchandise like the NWO, they couldn't truly carry the entire show like the NWO, they didn't have the short term run yet long term lasting effect of D-Generation X, they didn't have the longevity of The Four Horsemen, and they lack the true staying power and game changing ability that even an independent faction like The Bullet Club has. The Shield as a unit honestly was a success, but not on the level of the names I just mentioned honestly. I think we were so excited to see the WWE not completely screw up the booking of a faction or a group (especially just a year or two after The Nexus debacle) that we went overboard in the applause for the talented group. Once the breakup happened for The Shield, Ambrose and Rollins took off. Although I am admittedly not a Reigns fan, I thought he was positioned nice as a mid-tier main eventer of sorts, and perhaps if the WWE went with Triple H and Reigns at Summerslam 2014 instead of holding it off for nearly two years, things would have worked somewhat differently. Regardless, Reigns struggled to really hit that popularity level during the summer feud with Randy Orton and he never really recovered. Fans had begun to slowly turn on him before he was sidelined for months with an injury, and that is a tough fact that fans have to deal with. Reigns was never THE guy, and the crowd made it known they preferred Ambrose as their guy. The pops that Ambrose would receive during this period of time was amazing and he became a top 2 merchandise seller in the company under Cena, even overtaking Cena for the no. 1 spot for a couple of months.

So, here stands WWE with a new merch king and a top popular star in Dean Ambrose, a successful merch seller and a top heel in Seth Rollins, then Roman Reigns as a nice complementary piece and a main eventer as well who could easily be the no. 2 or no. 3 guy on RAW and get opportunities here and there. Booking this way seemed almost too easy and because of this, WWE fucked everything up. They forced Reigns so much over the last few years, starting with the Royal Rumble 2015 that it shows that the company only seems to work with long term booking when it's an idea that no longer works. The more it became evident that Reigns is not the guy, the more the WWE forced him. The more it became evident that the other two members of The Shield were easily more over, the more the WWE booked Ambrose worse and worse. Rollins would luck up, winning the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 31, but the WWE would spend most of his run booking him oddly and grooming Reigns once again for a main event spot and a title run that no one wanted. The boos persisted for Reigns and what did the WWE do to try and stop the boos? They put him back next to his Shield brother, the more over and popular Dean Ambrose, and it worked for a split second, until the WWE ruined it all over again. What was once a dominant faction used to make three future stars had now become a crutch for the WWE to try and invoke cheers for someone who could not earn those cheers from the majority of the crowd on his own. I cannot recall a moment where a big member of the NWO was not over as face or heel, the same for the Four Horsemen, the same for DX, and the same for a number of factions. As pure wrestlers, The Shield might be amazing. Ambrose isn't the greatest and truthfully, Reigns isn't either in the ring, but Rollins by himself is enough to put this faction into a different stratosphere. Reigns can't cut a promo to save his life except for once in a blue moon, and Ambrose has struggled with laziness. In the heyday of The Four Horsemen, Flair, Arn, Ole, Tully, and J.J. Dillon could command a promo like no one else. Ambrose is a great promo when focused, and Rollins has got better, but neither man can truly hold a candle to the promo greatness of Flair and Arn IMO. Add to that the fact that the NWA thrived off the back of the Four Horsemen era and you have one faction that is easily bigger and better than The Shield on the all time list. For the younger fans with no true knowledge of the business or even the older fans who don't know any better, any list that reflects The Shield above The Four Horsemen is wrong. Simple. Even the later version of the Horsemen with Benoit and Malenko involved has a case to be better than The Shield.

The NWO features one of the greatest wrestlers to never win a World Title in Scott Hall alongside a legend in Kevin Nash, and one of the biggest wrestlers ever, Hulk Hogan. This trio was bigger and more impactful than The Shield and if you add in the talent they would later bring in like the Macho Man Randy Savage and Curt Hennig among others, it is not even close. Sure, the NWO fizzled out two years later in 1998 after forming in 1996, but those two years were so big that it catapulted WCW to the top of the wrestling world for nearly the entire two years. The NWO broke records, sold ridiculous amount of merchandise, and incited crowds in every arena across the world. They would bring in record ratings, record revenue, and change the entire WCW landscape. Can the same truly be said for The Shield? There is no way you could legit make that argument so don't even try. Now, I'm not here to disregard The Shield at all. For this era, in WWE, they are the best faction we have seen. Unless, of course, you want to give that nod to the New Day, who have remained together and dominated the tag team division and the merchandise sales for the entire duration of their run. The New Day remains popular, isn't using reunions as a crutch to make the hand picked star more popular, and they have continuously been a part of history making moments. They had their own cereal, they took things to a different level, and they are the most popular black faction in wrestling history, with The Nation Of Domination not too far behind them. So, while the average fan might not want to crown the New Day as better due to the solo careers of The Shield, when it comes to comparing consistency and runs as a unit, there is a discussion to actually be had.

Now, wrapping things up, because why keep going here, the truth is, aside from NWO and the Four Horsemen, there are maybe a few other factions who would rank higher than The Shield. Sure, Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns have all had successful solo careers and that is why many rank The Shield so high, but can one claim The Shield has had a better run overall than the original D-Generation X solo wise? Or even D-Generation X as a group in the Attitude Era? The group that sold huge merchandise, popularized the crotch crop, and took a tag team with perennial solo jobbers Billy Gunn (a tag team legend) and Jesse James, then made them one of the most popular teams of the era? Yeah, I'm going with DX every time.

So, I feel like my case has been more than made. You could argue the Bullet Club being better, you could argue The Nation being better in a way even, the Fabulous Freebirds, Evolution, and more. Simply put, that WWE.com article and the many misinformed fans were wrong. The Shield is NOT the greatest faction in wrestling history, they aren't even the greatest faction in WWF/WWE history. That ship has sailed for them and while they won't end up as the GOAT, they will have the opportunity to solidify a top 5 all time spot, which some feel they have earned already. Regardless, the book for The Shield is still being written, but much like there is no way for LeBron to ever surpass Jordan, The Shield will always be behind the NWO, DX, and The Four Horsemen, just to name a few.



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