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.