WWE Politics: How the Boys in the Back Will Derail The Shield's Push
It's been so long since it's happened, a phenomenon like The Shield, that some fans might have forgotten what it feels like. If you came up a fan in the post-John Cena era, you might have never experienced it.
A hot act.
Built organically, pushed strategically and set up for success. Delivering on its promise and potential.
In the glory days, it used to happen on a routine basis. Wrestlers were being groomed all over the country and it was never particularly hard for WWE, the top promotion in the industry, to find a budding star ready to shine under those bright national lights.
By swallowing their competition whole, the WWE won the wrestling wars. But it also killed the pipeline that has kept new talent flowing to Stamford, Conn. for decades. Today, the pickings are slim on the independent scene.
The WWE's own developmental system churns out solid prospects, but they're prospects forced to learn on the job—on national television—where fans all see them fall down time and again. By the time they are any good, capable of carrying a top spot in the promotion, it's too late. The audience is already predisposed to view them as not quite ready for prime time.
The only solution, then, is to push new talent to the top of the cards immediately. If you tell fans a new wrestler is a star, that he's a major talent deserving a top spot, eventually they'll believe.
That's the theory at least.
But carrying the ball in the WWE is a tough grind. Few are cut out long term to do it. It takes a level of craft, dedication and natural charisma that most wrestlers never come close to approaching. A rookie being put in that position right off the bat? He's being damned to failure before he takes his first steps.
Which brings us to The Shield.
Unlike most acts coming through the WWE's developmental system, The Shield was as close to "ready" as you're likely to see. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were both veterans with significant time under their belts as independent stars. Roman Reigns is wrestling royalty, born to the business and all too familiar with the pressures and expectations that come with being a top star.
If anyone was going to make it in the WWE pressure cooker, it was these guys. And they have. From its very first appearance, The Shield has felt and looked like a collection of stars. And in the image-heavy world of the WWE, that's more than half the game.
The rest is in the ring, where the three members have delivered beyond expectations every week. When skeptical fans saw them hold their own with the Undertaker and Team Hell No, a trio of exceptional veteran wrestlers, not just in the storyline but in the actual match itself, the sky seemed the limit. Fans were finally willing to buy in, confident it wasn't misplaced faith.
The last thing a hardcore wrestling fan wants to do is back a loser. We've all been there too many times, seen guys we felt were destined for greatness languish on the undercard, doing jobs for the lowest of the low or forced to become a comedy act to pay the bills.
It's emotionally exhausting. Fans are smarter now about investing their emotional currency. There is only so much we can care. Why waste it on an act that isn't going anywhere? The Shield, it seems, is capable of going right to the top.
Which brings us, every so slowly, to the point. The Shield is now firmly planted on everyone's radar. While the matches in the WWE are predetermined, the competition is fierce and brutal. There are just a handful of top spots in the business—and no one is giving theirs up without a fight.
This is no place for justice. The whispers have no doubt begun; competitors are trying to get in Vince McMahon's ear and sidetrack The Shield before it can make a legitimate main event run.
What are they saying? What dastardly plots are being hatched even as you read this? We can't know for sure, but it's fun to speculate! Click on to find out how The Shield will be brought low by the political trench fighters in the locker room.
Time to Start Doing Jobs
The Shield seems special because it can hold its own—even with top stars in the industry like the Undertaker and John Cena. Will that still be true when its members spend night after night on their backs looking up at the ceiling?
There comes a time in every WWE star's run when it's their turn to lose. It's part of the business, and no one is too big to do a job.
But WWE, at times, goes too far in an attempt to burn this ideal that into a wrestler's psyche. It builds up new stars and then sends them around the horn, doing jobs for seemingly everyone in the company. Even the likes of Tenzai or Team Rhodes Scholars. By the time they are sufficiently humbled to deserve a big push again, it's too late. No one sees them as anything special anymore.
You'll know The Shield is being chastened and shown its place the first time one of them does a random job to Randy Orton or Sheamus in a match without the benefit of a storyline on Raw or SmackDown.
That's the kind of midcard purgatory that kills heat dead. That's the definition of being "just another guy." The day that happens will be the beginning of the end.
They Group Is Booked to Main Event an off-Brand Pay-Per-View
The smarter politicians are actually pretending to lobby for The Shield in the back. These savvy players are advocating giving The Shield a shot in the main event.
So what's the catch?
They'll push for The Shield to be in a match at the last minute, one with little time to build properly, in one of the promotion's off-brand pay-per-views. Or, if that doesn't work, they'll suggest giving them the coveted main event slot on Raw—on a night when there is significant competition from the NBA playoffs or another major ratings-killing show on opposite the WWE.
That way, no one can say The Shield didn't get a fair chance. And the politically brilliant operator can shake his head in sadness, abashed that the guys he had gotten behind and pushed on Vince just couldn't cut it as main event draws.
Divide and Conquer
The Shield's strength, what makes it special, is its cohesiveness. The three members comprise a true team, the best faction the business has seen since the hey day of Degeneration X in the hallowed Attitude Era.
What better way to sap their power, then, but to divide and conquer? I guarantee a slick WWE politician has already picked out who he thinks is the top star, the Justin Timberlake to The Shield's brawny 'N Sync. And he's in the new star's head already about how much the other guys are holding him back, how the business is built on singles success. That no one makes it to the top as part of a team.
In this case, that "star" is likely Roman Reigns. He has the physique, pedigree and muscle tone the WWE loves. And, once separated from the pack, he'll be easier to corner and destroy.
This is some serious backroom maneuvering, the kind of delicate play best handled by a master manipulator. Unfortunately for The Shield, the WWE locker room is filled with guys ready, willing and able to sell an ice pack to an Eskimo.
If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them
This is the most insidious plan of all. If the Shield can't be derailed, a heat-leeching, fading star will most likely accept that the trio are too over to fail and try to insert himself into the hot act as the group's newest member or behind-the-scenes mastermind.
In the 1980's WCW, booker Dusty Rhodes was famous for this kind of power play. Whoever was the hot act at the time was suddenly joined, inevitably, by the aging and ever-expanding Rhodes. The Road Warriors, Magnum T.A. and the Rock 'n' Roll Express all suddenly found themselves carrying a Dusty Rhodes-sized ball and chain down the aisle every time they went to the ring.
Will a top WWE star try the same shenanigans with The Shield? Is there another Superstar bending Vince's ear about how much star power he would add to a concept that has everything going for it but an established name?
Of course, these are just a handful of the political games likely being played behind the scenes at every WWE event. The Shield is now swimming with the sharks—and in this business, there is no such thing as a life vest.