The Shield is just getting started in the WWE, but it's never too early for speculation about where it might be headed.
Since the trio of NXT studs debuted at Survivor Series a couple of weeks ago, there has been a lot of chatter about what it might do in regard to its short- and long-term plans.
Obviously, The Shield is loaded with talent, or else it wouldn't be getting such a big spot on TV. But is the group's talent enough to ensure that it has success down the road?
You never know when it comes to the WWE, which is why how the trio is booked will ultimately be the deciding factor as to whether or not it's successful.
So, just which way will it go?
Here are 10 possible future directions for The Shield in the WWE.
At least so far, The Shield has made Ryback its primary target, but that doesn't necessarily mean he will be its only one.
Over the last couple of months, Ryback has been booked like the WWE's top dog, which could be part of the reason why the trio is targeting him. Yet he might not be the top dog a month from now, which could turn The Shield's focus elsewhere.
It wouldn't be even remotely surprising if Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns were targeting Ryback now but had plans to attack some of the WWE's other top stars in the future, which is a great way for those guys to get noticed.
We could very well see The Shield target guys like Sheamus, John Cena and Big Show, completely ignoring whether their targets are face or heel and instead simply going after the biggest names in the business in order to make names for themselves.
Of course, we've seen this happen plenty of times in the past, but that's precisely why it seems like a simple and easy way to book The Shield and still have it make an impact.
We're expecting The Shield to go somewhere worthwhile, but what if it doesn't?
There's always that chance that the trio of NXT stars, no matter how much potential it has, ends up getting the shaft and is booked so badly that it is ruined before it even gets a legitimate opportunity to succeed.
We've seen this happen so many times throughout the WWE's history. A star (or group of stars) debuts, and you expect him to get a massive push and have a ton of success, only for him to fail miserably.
Not to be a negative Nancy here, but logic says that there's no guarantee that that won't happen to The Shield. Even though it features three very promising talents (all of whom might main event one day), that certainly doesn't mean that the trio will work out, especially if the creative team screws it up badly.
While I'm very optimistic about The Shield, its stars and its future, many won't be, and they may eventually be proven right.
Here's a possibility that not many seem to have considered: What if someone not currently on TV is behind The Shield?
In the group's first-ever interview, Seth Rollins mentioned Booker T, Vickie Guerrero and the Board of Directors, or in other words, all authority figures. Other recent authority figures, like Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis, weren't mentioned at all.
Might that be a sign that a former authority figure is the puppet master behind The Shield?
Yes, this might seem a bit "out there." But there's a good chance that someone is behind the group, and it might just turn out to be a disgruntled former authority figure or even a (former) star.
If that indeed turns out to be the case, there is certainly no shortage of possible options here. Any guy or girl who might have a grudge against the WWE could be the one pulling the strings.
The first time we ever heard the members of The Shield speak, the group constantly threw out words like "honor," "wrong" and "injustice."
In fact, Dean Ambrose referred to the group as a "shield from injustice," which we can assume is where it got its name from.
It seems that the main purpose of the trio is to rid the WWE of any wrongdoings, which essentially means that Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns want to fix whatever it is that they think is wrong with the company.
Exactly what does that mean? No one can really be sure.
But with The Shield's main goal seemingly to make everything right (at least in its own eyes), that opens up the possibility for several different scenarios to play out. It all depends on what these guys think is right/just or wrong/unjust, though.
As we all know, The Shield currently consists of three known members: Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.
Although we haven't seen any new members added to the group as of yet, that certainly doesn't mean that it won't happen. In fact, it actually seems likely.
The WWE has made it known that The Shield consists of three NXT stars, and since that detail has even been played up on commentary by Michael Cole, you have to think that there's a reason behind it.
That reason might very well be that more NXT stars will join The Shield in the future in some type of "invasion" angle that brings a handful or more of developmental stars up to the main roster.
Over the last year or so, the WWE has brought plenty of NXT guys (Antonio Cesaro, Damien Sandow, Ryback, etc.) up to the main roster. Perhaps The Shield will be the company's latest way of elevating new talent.
This is inevitable.
At some point, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose will all go their separate ways. The only question is exactly when and how it will happen.
Truth be told, there are literally countless ways for the trio to split up. Two guys could turn on one and kick him out of the group, or they could all agree to "mutually" part ways. That's just two possibilities out of 1,000.
The issue for the WWE's creative team, however, will be to book an interesting breakup angle for these guys (way down the road) that keeps them all relevant. It's probably too early to even speculate about this, but I think it will ultimately end with Rollins turning babyface.
Rollins is the most face-like character in The Shield and many expected him to make his WWE debut as a good guy. He's not exactly being portrayed like a face now, but once the group splits, I think he will become one.
That being said, it's still far too soon to even predict how The Shield may end.
From the moment that The Shield debuted, the Internet was flooded with statements like this: "The Shield is nothing more than a Nexus ripoff."
If we're just being honest with ourselves here, the group's attacks on Ryback have been eerily similar to the attacks by The Nexus in late 2010. Thus, it's understandable for some to associate The Nexus with The Shield.
After all, the WWE recycles storylines and angles all the time. Whether that's a good or bad idea is up for debate, but it does indeed happen.
The problem for the WWE is that Nexus ended less than two years ago, so if The Shield is anything at all like it, the fans will notice. Therefore, it's absolutely imperative that the WWE do something to differentiate between the two.
If The Shield is booked exactly like The Nexus was, it's not going to succeed. But with both being a group of rogue rookies of sorts, that's easier said than done.
We should give the WWE the opportunity to make The Shield unique. At the same time, we aren't going to be shocked if it becomes a 2012 version of Nexus, only slightly different.
Speaking of being a Nexus ripoff, does anyone smell a Team WWE vs. The Shield match coming?
At SummerSlam in 2010, we saw The Nexus vs. Team WWE (or Team Cena), and it seems like we could get something similar with The Shield either this year or the next.
It's just that a group of "outsiders" invading Raw and causing chaos can only lead to so many things. One of those things is that someone assembles a team to take that group down.
In 2010, it was John Cena forming a team to take on The Nexus. In 2012/2013, it might very well be Ryback forming a squad to try and topple The Shield.
That, of course, would be extremely lazy booking by the creative team. But if that's the direction this angle goes in, it seems like a very real possibility.
Especially if we see The Shield target other top stars, don't be surprised to see a handful of guys unite and go after the trio of NXT studs.
When it comes to The Shield, Brad Maddox seems to be the wild card.
No, we haven't seen any interaction between Maddox and The Shield. No, there's been no real indication that the two sides are in cahoots with each other.
But remember when Maddox had that unheard conversation with Paul Heyman before his big match with Ryback on Raw? Some seem to have forgotten about it, but those who haven't know that it might end up meaning something in the long run.
Think about it like this: Heyman could have told Maddox that, win or lose, The Shield would get revenge on Ryback for him.
Now that The Shield has destroyed Ryback a couple of times and successfully "infiltrated" the WWE, we might know where this is headed. It could be revealed that Maddox has been or is currently working in cahoots with The Shield.
This could get Maddox back on TV, give him a sizable push and give us an angle that actually makes a little bit of sense.
Perhaps the most obvious scenario, but maybe the most logical one, too: The Shield and CM Punk join forces.
At least so far, everything that The Shield has done has benefited Punk. Their three attacks left Punk's nemesis, Ryback, destroyed twice and his opponent on Raw, Kane, annihilated once.
Is this just a coincidence, or is it a sign that Punk and The Shield are working with one another?
The fun part about this is that we really have no idea what's going on yet. But what might be even more fun is if it's eventually revealed that Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns are in on everything with Punk.
The thought of a "Paul Heyman guy" stable of sorts involving four really talented stars is enough to make the Internet implode. Perhaps more importantly, though, it's a logical scenario and a very real possibility.
After all, if The Shield has consistently helped Punk, wouldn't it make sense for them to be cahoots with him?
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!