WWE has the opportunity to construct one of the company's most memorable feuds in Ryback vs. The Shield.
They only have to look back to Jim Crockett Promotions in the '80s for the blueprint to have this rivalry reach its potential. WWE should rewatch videos of Dusty Rhodes' war with The Four Horsemen for inspiration and for guidance.
Ryback isn't on Rhodes' level, and no one is mistaking Dean Ambrose for Ric Flair, but the two narratives could parallel each other with fantastic results.
Flashback to 1986, to Nikita Koloff vs. Ric Flair in a steel cage match.
Rhodes rushed in to help Flair fend off Nikita and Ivan Koloff, only to be attacked. Ole and Arn Anderson took The American Dream to the ground and stomped him mercilessly.
This would be The Four Horsemen's opening act.
Some of the details are different, but Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns attacking Ryback at Survivor Series 2012 felt a lot like that incident. Both moments shocked fans and stirred up feelings of frustration.
The Shield vs. Ryback, like Rhodes vs. The Horsemen, is about an individual being outnumbered. It's the story of a gang acting with no remorse.
If WWE decides to borrow from The Horsemen/Rhodes rivalry, it needs to make things far worse for Ryback before they get better.
The Shield has robbed Ryback of the chance to hold the WWE title. They've powerbombed him through several tables, and as of yet have paid little consequence. WWE would be wise to hold back on Ryback's retribution by first plunging the big man deeper into darkness.
While smashing on Dusty Rhodes' leg served as The Horsemen's violent catalyst, it was another incident that forged their names into wrestling's history books.
On Oct. 14, 1986, The Four Horsemen followed Dusty Rhodes into a parking lot, tied his arm to a truck and (kayfabe) broke his arm.
That attack was like something straight out of a mobster movie.
That despicable act pushed the feud into a new gear. It made The Horsemen look like the ultimate badasses while creating sympathy for Rhodes. The parking-lot attack elevated the story's climax, making it far more satisfying in the end.
The Shield has done Ryback wrong, but they need to do something as dastardly as this.
The story of Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns' assault needs to unfold in such an unfair way that it leads fans to tug at their hair in frustration. The audience's sense of justice is there to be tapped.
Once Ryback finally does get his hands on The Shield, he's going to need help.
Rhodes recruited The Road Warriors and Nikita Koloff to help him combat The Horsemen, which led to a phenomenal match in the first WarGames.
The double cage match saw the two teams enter in staggered fashion before beating on each other inside the steel. Only submissions or knockouts counted.
The new match-type was the perfect vehicle for the overflowing hatred between all the men involved.
WWE doesn't need to recreate that stipulation, and likely won't, as it’s so associated with WCW. Hell in a Cell, some sort of modified Elimination Chamber or a gimmick match that has yet to be created could house Ryback and The Shield's rivalry.
Once the stage is set, the players need to be selected.
Does Team Hell No take on The Road Warriors’ role? Does Ryback enlist other Shield victims instead?
Regardless of who is cast, an all-out battle much like the six-man TLC match in December is the ideal climax. After Ryback has been embarrassed, injured and robbed of his dignity, a redemptive match inside a cage would thrill WWE fans.
Mimicking Rhodes and The Horsemen is a path to an explosive end to Ryback and The Shield's bad blood. WWE can pluck what it wishes from that feud, remixing and rearranging as the company sees fit.
Ask Hollywood: plenty of the best stories have already been told and beg to be told again.