The Shield ended the April 14 edition of Raw as Evolution's victims, flat on their backs, becoming far more sympathetic characters than the trio was to begin the night.
Evolution mauling Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to close the show creates pathos for a group that has spent the majority of its WWE existence as villains. "The Hounds of Justice" suffered more than they ever had, thanks to a heinous group reforming, making it difficult not to be drawn in emotionally.
The Shield have mostly been this generation's version of The Four Horsemen—cool, butt-kicking bad guys.
It was Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose who doled out the destruction in the past. Randy Orton, Sheamus, Ryback and John Cena populated a long list of victims in their wake.
The Shield developed a fanbase by way of intrigue, just like Cobra's edginess made it more interesting than the members of G.I. Joe. Watching the trio work was akin to watching a pack of wolves devour an elk.
It wasn't that fans wanted The Shield to win as much as it was fun to watch them do so.
The Shield have since become babyfaces, although their attitude is essentially the same. After serving as Paul Heyman's mercenaries and Triple H's guard dogs, Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose have now refused to be controlled.
That rebellious attitude makes them worthy of rooting for, but they weren't as much heroes as they were autonomous gladiators. It was hard to tell whether they were saving Daniel Bryan last week or picking a fight with Triple H.
WWE wisely grabbed control of the audience's emotions on Monday's Raw in order to make the distinction between good and evil far clearer.
Triple H ordered Brad Maddox to inform The Shield that they would be facing mystery opponents in the main event. The group stomped down to its ring. It at first looked as if it would be facing Jack Swagger, Alberto Del Rio and Fandango.
More enemies came trotting out, though.
Titus O'Neil, 3MB, Bad News Barrett and others made up an 11-man squad. After that uneven bout devolved into a brawl, Triple H, Orton and Batista entered to their old Evolution entrance music.
They throttled The Shield, delivering a beating that made what The New Age Outlaws did to them on the March 21 SmackDown look like a series of love taps.
Watching someone take a beating like that, scripted or not, it's hard not to feel empathy for the victim. Meanwhile, rage toward the attacker fills the viewer.
It's classic pro wrestling booking. Tommy Dreamer gained momentum aplenty after suffering a caning from Sandman. It's been a narrative WWE has turned to recently as well, with Mark Henry whipping Sheamus with a belt and Triple H assaulting Bryan in handcuffs.
The Shield have now received the same treatment in a moment that will have fans rooting for them more than ever. The injustice they suffered is the kind that stirs fans up and makes the audience angry enough to forget momentarily that it is watching a scripted drama play out.
When Extreme Rules arrives, those emotions will boost The Shield.
The desire to see them avenge that beatdown powers that match much as Bryan's suffering helped elevate the emotional quality of his WrestleMania showdown with the Chief Operating Officer. Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose limped away from their beating as bigger heroes, warriors by virtue of their willingness to continue post-punishment.
Had that attack happened to an everyday person, they would have curled into a dark corner and started calling up attorneys.
The Shield, though, will of course strike back the way Sheamus, Dreamer and Bryan did before them. When they do, expect more fervent cheering and passionate rooting as fans back the heroes in their quest for revenge.