The Shield's Recent Vulnerability Making the Group Sympathetic Babyfaces

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The Shield's Recent Vulnerability Making the Group Sympathetic Babyfaces
Credit: WWE.om

When The Shield first went from villains to babyfaces, little changed but who the trio targeted.

WWE has since worked to make Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns suffer and have them fall more often than they have in the past, resulting in "The Hounds of Justice" becoming more sympathetic characters.

An age-old method of working the crowd has succeeded once again.

Swaying the audience to root for someone fresh off residing in the dark side is a more difficult task than going the other direction.

The Shield had spent its WWE run cheating the then-popular Ryback out of championship opportunities, doing The Authority's evil bidding and dethroning likable duo Team Hell No. After WWE made the group fan favorites, the process felt incomplete.

Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns deciding to begin rebelling against Triple H and company was a start.

Triple H was the heartless executive who had tortured Daniel Bryan and anyone else who resisted his tyranny. The Shield tearing away from the Chief Operating Officer had the "righteous rebel against an evil despot" appeal going for it.

The Shield clashes with Triple H.

Still, there needed to be something else. The only reason it seemed The Shield was going after Triple H and his regime was because the group felt slighted by him.

Teenage girls mystified by the trio's good looks didn't need any additional reasons to root for The Shield, but its choice of enemy wasn't enough for everyone else.

WWE has changed The Shield's narrative in a way that it has so often before. The company made Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose endure hardships onscreen at the hands of a merciless foe.

Jerry Lawler attacked Bret Hart after King of the Ring 1993. Much more recently, Triple H laid out Bryan before their match at WrestleMania 30.

Each time, the wrestlers pulled fans in. These underhanded attacks had fans feeling for the hero and rooting for justice to be served.

In the feud between The Shield and Evolution, this same strategy has worked yet again. The beatdown Randy Orton, Batista and Triple H handed out to The Shield on the May 5 Raw marked the second such ambush.

The Shield had just finished a match and couldn't fend off its attackers. It ended the night writhing on the mat. 

It was in that moment that The Shield was at its most sympathetic. It wasn't just the black-clad trio brimming with swagger who was cool to like, but the center of the kind of act that inspires rage in an audience despite its scripted nature.

WWE did well to follow that up by having each member of The Shield forced into action on SmackDown on May 9 despite still being injured from the Monday-night beating.

Triple H had been abusing his power to put Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose in disadvantageous positions before this. 

Ambrose was forced to defend his United States Championship in a Fatal 4-Way match on the May 2 SmackDown. After surviving that, he found himself in a 20-man Battle Royal with his title on the line just a few days later.

Those moments of unfairness worked to win fans over, but not as much as making The Shield tap into its grit in singles matches.

Reigns took on Mark Henry, Ambrose battled Sheamus and Rollins met Batista one-on-one. The most striking images of those three clashes is Rollins lying face-down after crashing into the announcers' table.

Medical staff soon attended to him.

Credit: WWE.com
Medical staff attend to Seth Rollins.

For so much of The Shield's time in WWE, this was not something anyone saw from the group.

It left folks out cold like that, but it's now the group's turn to endure bruises and humiliation. In the process, fans are seeing The Shield go from untouchable predators to gutsy warriors fighting off defeat.

Reigns struggled with Henry more than he ever has. Rollins fought Batista with his arm bandaged.

Ambrose wobbled for most of his bout. He was Rocky Balboa in a flak jacket. Sheamus bashed him again and again and Ambrose continued to stand on his wet-paper legs.

It's hard to not start pulling for courage like that, and that's precisely the idea.

In adjusting The Shield's role, WWE has begun to make the team much more like traditional babyfaces. It is the victims one sides with, the men trampled by tyranny who win folks over by virtue of their stubborn toughness.

By no means a new formula, it's certainly an effective one and has added a compelling layer to The Shield.

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