The Shield aren't supposed to be the hottest new WWE act in a decade. Professional wrestling simply doesn't work that way.
Since the dawn of Hulkamania, wrestling stars have been built with performance-enhancing drugs, pedigree and more than a sprinkling of politics.
Wrestling success is traditionally a product of shiny, spray-tanned muscles not suplexes and slams. The kind of physiques that make you snort when someone mentions drug testing with a straight face. Buddy Rose, one of the great talents of his generation, never made a big impact in WWE. The Warlord, a musclebound, immobile and completely underwhelming Road Warriors rip off, got multiple chances to try to get it right.
About 70 pounds of Grade A muscle.
WWE owner Vince McMahon is a fetishist. His addiction? Veins and bulges. Most top WWE stars need to deliver in the weight room. Period.
The path to the top is easier to navigate, too, when you manage to get tight with the right crew. The boys in the back can make you or break you. It didn't hurt to be tight with Hogan or the Klique back in the day. It doesn't hurt to nod your head at the right times around The Undertaker or John Cena now.
If all else fails, you better hope your daddy was wrestling royalty. Outsiders have proved unreliable. Goldberg, Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley all got big pushes. None of them lasted. The progeny of wrestlers, it is thought, will be better suited than others to sustain the rigors of the road and the pressure of the politics.
Who you are can trump what you can do.
What's interesting about The Shield's success is how poorly they fit the established mold. For the most part, they're lacking in all three categories. They don't have friends in high places like Daniel Bryan. They don't have John Cena's freak musculature. And though one of them descends from wrestling greatness like Randy Orton, the Anoa'i family may not quite count. We've seen islanders with esteemed pedigrees come and go. That alone is not a guarantee of success. And for Roman Reigns, being the son of Sika from the Wild Samoans seems incidental, not central, to his WWE persona.
And yet, here they are—a major cog in the system despite being in their first year with the company. Can that last?
Let's take a look, together, at the most dynamic six-man tag team in 30 years. Five quotes over the last week stood out to me as emblematic of The Shield, both their journey and the path they have yet to walk.