WrestleMania's headlines avoided The Shield, but the black-clad trio is set to collide with The Authority in a feud that has the potential to be one of 2014's best.
The star power opposite The Shield in this simmering rivalry, the gimmick match it promises to contain and the compelling action it will produce will thrust Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins forward. Fans will be having too much fun at that point to think much about how WWE underused The Shield on April 6.
When WWE finalized WrestleMania 30's match card, The Shield was left out of the marquee bouts.
The superteam faced Kane and The New Age Outlaws—three men well past their prime. In what may be the trio's final WrestleMania battle together, they were essentially asked to play the role of palate cleansers after Daniel Bryan and Triple H's violent, emotional match.
"The Hounds of Justice" dominated, winning in just under three minutes.
Undertaker's loss shocked fans, and Bryan's win electrified the arena. The Shield's match, though, caused the fans to collectively ask, "Wait, that's it?" The word "waste" was a common one when fans discussed the contest.
WWE may have asked them to play this supporting role, but it appears that the next months are going to highlight The Shield in a big way.
When The Authority storyline began last summer, The Shield stood at Triple H's side. The COO used the group as attack dogs, siccing them on Bryan to assert his dominance.
Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose have since torn the puppet strings from their arms. They now operate on their own, resisting Triple H's tyranny.
On the Raw after WrestleMania 30, The Shield stepped in to protect Bryan. Triple H, with Randy Orton and Batista following his orders, prepared to pounce on the new world champ. The Shield stood in their way.
That moment created a gleaming spark.
WWE hinted at a battle between the company's most dominant group in the last two years and a group that once amassed championships and stood firmly on WWE's mountaintop. It's a rivalry that pits rising stars with a collection of marquee names.
Orton, Batista and Triple H have won a total of 31 world titles. At least one member of that trio has been in seven of WrestleMania's main events.
It would be hard to find a bigger, more prestigious set of prey to put in front of The Shield's hungry mouths.
Any wins Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose get in this war will amp up their resume. Knocking off a star-studded group that has history together would take The Shield back to their early run, where they toppled teams that included everyone from Bryan to Undertaker and John Cena to Chris Jericho.
While WrestleMania offers WWE's brightest spotlight, a series of collisions with Evolution 2.0 in the coming months has its own benefits.
Thanks to Extreme Rules' gimmick-match tradition, fans can count on The Shield competing in anything but an ordinary match.
The scale of this battle has many fans pining for WWE to bring back WCW's War Games.
While there's only an outside chance of that particular stipulation being a part of the pay-per-view, WWE's options for how it houses this upcoming war are plentiful. A team-based variation of the Elimination Chamber, a six-man Hell in a Cell match or some sort of elimination-type bout would all be mighty intriguing.
Whatever type of match it ends up being, one can count on it being a great one.
The Shield have made the most of their opportunities on center stage. When asked to lock horns with The Wyatt Family at this year's Elimination Chamber, for example, The Shield delivered a front-runner for Match of the Year.
Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose have been producing masterpieces since their first WWE match back at TLC 2012.
Evolution has an impressive record of its own. Flash back to 2004, when Orton, Batista, Triple H and Ric Flair took on Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels.
Count on The Shield vs. The Authority matching the intensity and drama that powered that match. Triple H will be seething after watching Bryan become world champ. The Shield are seeking to take out the aging alpha males to establish themselves.
What happens when they meet head-on at Extreme Rules and beyond will brush memories of The Shield's disappointing WrestleMania away.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!