On the biggest stage of their career and in front of a record crowd of 80,676 at WrestleMania 29, The Shield were once again victorious. Their hands weren’t raised, but that’s not how they like it. Instead a clean break towards the crasher boards and into the crowd is more their style.
It is hard to find a wrestling stable in recent memory that has been protected and built up as well as The Shield. To date, the three-man group (Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns) has only two clean, pinfall losses to their name.
Perhaps, we should not even count the two: A loss to the three-man team of Kane, Randy Orton and Sheamus as the dark match to a Smackdown taping in Oklahoma City and a Wilkes-Barre house show defeat at the hands of Ryback and Team Hell No.
These matches are completely irrelevant matches in the grand scheme of things, but tell the story of how protected The Shield has been thus far.
They do not even lose cleanly at house show matches. If they do lose, it’s by disqualification and when they win, it’s on the grandest pay-per-view stages like their first victory at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, Elimination Chamber and the aforementioned WrestleMania 29 victory. Their victories haven't come in handicap matches against The Usos or Cryme Tyme's of the world, no, this crew has beaten a who's who of WWE superstars including John Cena, Sheamus, Ryback, Randy Orton, Big Show, Kane and Daniel Bryan.
At another level, no only have they been booked to look impressive in big matches against top-tier opponents, the three have delivered each and every time. Their debut match (TLC against Team Hell No and Ryback) was rated ****1/2 by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer. Their Elimination Chamber victory against Cena, Sheamus and Ryback, ***3/4. The lone below three-star match was Sunday's battle with Orton, Big Show and Sheamus which was given a **1/2 by Meltzer and is largely agreed to be the least entertaining of their three big matches. In fairness, it was also the shortest of their matches (10:34) and it was the debut match of the night at WrestleMania.
Either way, there's no need to make excuses, these three relative rookies have amassed a resume unmatched by any other stable or any other collection of young talents in quite some time.
When The Shield initially debuted, the prevailing fear was they would turn into another Nexus. A stable that debuted in 2010 with a bang invading an episode of Raw and destroying CM Punk, Cena, tearing apart the ring and assaulting members of the ring crew. The debut was one of the legendary stable debuts in professional wrestling history, the world was buzzing about this crew of relative unknown wrestlers (trainees from NXT/Florida Championship Wrestling) seemingly upset with their lack of exposure. It worked. It looked awesome and people were super interested to see where this group would go in the future.
Over the next few weeks, the Nexus attacked various members of WWE including then-Raw general manager Bret Hart and the legendary Ricky Steamboat. The group eventually received WWE contracts from the new-anonymous Raw general manager (yes, that horrible period everyone) and after a few more weeks of shenanigans inferences and attacks a match was set for Summerslam 2010. This is where it all came crashing down.
Not only did Nexus lose in relatively convincing fashion, with John Cena remaining as the sole survivor for Team WWE but the Nexus was exposed. Not for anything storyline wise, but the team was exposed as a bunch of underdeveloped, inexperienced wrestlers. They simply were not good in the ring. The loss killed any and all momentum the group had and one by one the group fell apart.
Eventually, CM Punk took a leadership role from Wade Barrett, members came in and out seemingly whenever they wanted and eventually when CM Punk went on to do "the promo" the group was just disbanded without so much as an explanation.
At this point, it's not even fair to compare The Shield with Nexus because where Nexus failed in so many aspects The Shield has surpassed them.
Nexus couldn't beat John Cena? The Shield could. Nexus couldn't wrestle? The Shield can. We're already in month five of The Shield, at this point in Nexus' tenure they were broken off into two separate groups on two separate television shows. The comparisons or the worry that the two will be similar are completely gone.
Now what is the next step? The title of the article mentions stardom and while I'd argue they are already there, what's that next step, what's the next plateau for the talented group to reach? It's hard to say at this point, but perhaps they should stay the course.
One of the benefits to The Shield and one of the reasons the guys are still over is they haven't been overexposed. We don't see them in the ring every single week, we don't see them running through the crowd three and four times per show. Their backstage promos are fantastic and get the team over without necessarily having to throw them into a meaningless match against Santino on a random Raw at the eight o'clock hour.
Where they are at now, they still feel special, they still feel unique and different. Those other guys wrestle all the time, on every show, these guys don't though. They wrestle when they have to and on the big shows. I think it's really cool.
I understand the want to get them to higher places but why the desire to throw them into the muck of current WWE mid-card titles? Do we really need to see Seth Rollins paling around with the likes of The Miz trying to take the Intercontinental Championship from him so he can defend it on the YouTube pre-show of an upcoming pay-per-view?
Are we really in that big of a hurry to see these guys with the tag team titles defending against Jimmy and Jay Uso using the Freebird Rules? Those two scenarios make them regular, everyday wrestlers and The Shield needs to be different than that. Perhaps you can propel one of them to a World Championship or have them take apart a legend (The Undertaker) but anything short of continued battles with main and semi-main event talent would be seen as a disappointment for me.
Not disappointing in the sense that they are being devalued but disappointment in becoming just another group. Disappointment in becoming just your standard, run of the mill wrestlers... only with protective vests.
This also applies to new members. One of the rumors going into WrestleMania 29 was a Randy Orton heel turn and eventual ascension to a leadership role in The Shield. Ew. Wrestlespective's Jason Mann had an interesting take on who should lead The Shield, his guess: The Undertaker.
Again, while it may seem like a cool idea, The Shield needs to remain Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose and never, ever change. The second you add new members, even if they are the level of The Undertaker, the group loses its identity and purpose. It would be nice if we saw an overall concept to the group and not just the vague understanding of "shielding" but the cloud of mystery regarding the groups full intentions is really cool.
The constant hints at CM Punk and Paul Heyman running the group were even more intriguing once they seemingly went away. It wasn't standard WWE "drop an angle without an explanation but more or less a nothing to see here, hired mercenaries-feel. It was different than anything else we've seen on WWE television in years.
Undertaker and Shield never touching Monday is a nice boost to my theory that Undertaker will eventually lead them. #WWE— Jason Mann (@wrestlespective) April 11, 2013
Anyone advocating the addition of new members need not look farther than the degradation of World Championship Wrestling's new World order to see the toll a bunch of new, meaningless members can mean for a stable. The original three nWo (Hogan, Nash and Hall) were best because it made sense, they had a purpose, they had a reason for forming and doing what they did. Even when they added a few figureheads like Eric Bischoff, or other "invaders" like Syxx (1-2-3 Kid/X-Pac) it still made some sense.
Eventually, when the likes of Buff Bagwell, Vincent, Michael Wallstreet and the likes joined it was over. It was simply "Hey this group is kinda cool, wouldn't it be cool if this guy joined!" It lost its luster, it lost all semblance of uniqueness and just became another wrestling stable.
The Shield can't become that if they want to remain on this path to superstardom. They must stay unique, stay fresh and the WWE creative team has to resist the temptation to overexposure or over push these guys. They've established a great niche right now and it's gotten them to a level of respectability no other young stable has seen.
The key is the next six months. Where do they go from here? If I'm in charge, they are staying the course and continuing on their current path.
Unfortunately, they don't pay me, so I'll just have to sit back and see where it goes.
This article also appears on VoicesofWrestling.com