Monday's edition of Raw went off the air with all three members of The Shield standing tall as WWE's three top babyface stars were either laid out or retreating.
The scenario sounds much more promising than it really is for The Shield. There doesn't seem to be any long-term program invested in The Shield's current conflict with Daniel Bryan, John Cena or Randy Orton. There has been no prior conflict with The Shield during the buildup of Bryan-Cena.
The group seemed to be used as a foil to tell a bigger story of a combustible WWE Championship picture.
Don't be surprised if the once-potent heel faction returns to purgatory, where it has been mired for several weeks. Two months ago, there were rumors of The Shield feuding with The Undertaker come SummerSlam.
With less than two weeks until the event, The Shield still has yet to be booked.
It wasn't too long ago that The Shield was must-see-TV. The faction got over through effective gang attacks on top superstars. Shrewd tactics when it came to exposure prevented the stable from growing stale. The undefeated record of The Shield as a whole protected the individual members in losses.
With every member of The Shield holding a championship, the up-and-coming tripod was posed as a threat to WWE's elite.
In recent weeks, however, WWE has gotten away from its strategy of differentiation with The Shield. With every passing Raw and SmackDown, the group is one week closer to the rank-and-file. There was once a time when The Shield rarely competed on free TV. When it did, the booking was promoted throughout, creating the perception that these guys were special talents a la Brock Lesnar.
The Shield can now be seen competing against The Usos for the tag team championships with a post-title-contending Mark Henry sprinkled in to keep things interesting.
After being booked to beat down talents like The Undertaker, John Cena and a red-hot Ryback, tag-team champions Reigns and Rollins were slotted on the WWE pre-show. Dean Ambrose jerked the curtain—without an entrance—in a losing effort during an otherwise entertaining Money in the Bank match.
Then there's the Wyatt Family.
The current surge of The Wyatt Family has adversely effected that of The Shield. After all, WWE can't burn its fanbase out on too much gang warfare in one show. The Wyatts are now being slotted in high-profile time slots while being presented as alternative WWE characters. And it is now this faction that has a conflict with Kane.
How much shelf life does The Shield have left in the WWE?
Sure, many are excited about Bray Wyatt and wrestling's second answer to Cape Fear. But with WWE's ADD booking, they too will be shelved by the spring. Just like The Nexus was. Just like The Shield will be.
The Shield's current decline speaks to a larger problem in the WWE. It is the same problem that results in WWE lining recent WrestleMania cards with stars created in other eras. Too many current stars are pushed aggressively, only for WWE to get cold feet for one petty reason or another. Instead of going all the way with promising acts, many fall by the wayside in a self-defeating war of attrition.
Sheamus, The Miz, Wade Barrett and now Ryback are all examples of talent bound for super stardom only to be quickly discarded. Some even captured the WWE championship prior to main event extinction, further damaging its prestige.
The WWE can only go to the Attitude Era well so many times before glaring roster flaws become impossible to cover up.
The Shield is just the latest example of a structural problem. Sadly, it won't be the last.