The Shield's tag team title defense against Team Hell No was easily the best match of Monday's WWE Raw and one of the best TV matches of the year.
Daniel Bryan and Kane went after the men who took their titles at Extreme Rules in what was the second of two consecutive title matches on Monday. After Dean Ambrose successfully defended his United States title against Kofi Kingston, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins followed that good match with a great one.
Bryan has been obsessed with proving he's not his team’s weak link. Before Monday's match, he paced around backstage with Kane trying to calm him.
Bret Hart gave Bryan a pep talk, praising his mat skills and clearly making Bryan star-struck in the process.
Perhaps, it was the words of encouragement from "The Hitman," but Bryan was extremely aggressive. All of his strikes had extra explosiveness to them. His dropkicks were especially thunderous.
The same energy and chemistry that has made so many of the showdowns between Team Hell No and The Shield instant classics was on display here as well.
Rollins and Bryan's chemistry in particular teased at a fantastic future singles rivalry between them. They worked seamlessly together and emitted a convincing hatred.
Rollins tried to mock Bryan by using the surfboard hold on him, but Bryan slipped out of his grasp.
Sheamus and Randy Orton vs. Team Rhodes Scholars as well as the aforementioned Kingston and Ambrose were both entertaining, but neither felt as big and important as the tag team title match. It was a battle worthy of being on pay-per-view, a hard-hitting clash powered by passion, speed and violent artistry.
Bryan and Kane paid tribute to The Hitman and The Hart Foundation by nailing that team's signature double-team move, the Hart Attack.
Rollins sold moves in dramatic fashion. Reigns pounded on the two challengers.
Team Hell No continued to tell the story of their mercurial relationship and of Bryan's mental instability. Kane told Bryan to calm down when he got too worked up. They once again made the audience feel that they are a tumultuous team that truly cares about each other.
As the match neared its end, Kane and Rollins lay on the mat exhausted. Bryan knocked Reigns out of the ring with a missile dropkick and then catapulted himself through the ropes, colliding with his foe outside.
In the ring, Kane nailed Rollins with a big boot, but distracted by his own partner, the Big Red Machine fell victim to a flying knee from Rollins. The move earned The Shield the win and capped yet another great match on their impressive resume.
Can a team like The Usos or a turned Prime Time Players derail The Shield’s steamrolling train of dominance? Can another team produce the kind of engrossing theater with The Shield that Team Hell No has?
However the Hounds of Justice's reign turns out, it certainly began with a masterpiece.