The last pages in The Shield's story are not yet written, but the now-splintered faction is already among pro wrestling's greatest stables.
An overflowing collection of fantastic matches and the group's prominence during its run have Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose in the discussion of wrestling's best groups, right alongside The Four Horsemen, The Von Erichs, The Freebirds, D-Generation X, the nWo and The Nexus. The Shield, though, aren't at the top of that list, as announcer John "Bradshaw" Layfield so often claims on-air.
Other stables lasted far longer and had an impact on the industry that will be felt forever.
Still, when one ranks The Shield among the best groups ever, there aren't many that beat it out. From the first bout they entered, The Hounds of Justice announced that they were special.
Their TLC clash against Team Hell No and Ryback was the kind of fast-paced, frenetic action fans would see from this group for the next year-and-a-half.
Few groups have produced as many thrilling bouts, especially considering that The Shield wasn't even together a full two years. The amount of The Shield's matches that inspired the often stingy Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via ProFightDB.com, to give out at least four out of five stars is staggering.
|TLC 2012||Kane, Daniel Bryan, Ryback||4.5|
|Hell in a Cell 2013||The Usos and Cody Rhodes and Goldust||4|
|Elimination Chamber 2014||The Wyatt Family||4.25|
|Raw-March 3, 2014||The Wyatt Family||4.5|
|Main Event-April 8, 2014||The Wyatt Family||4.25|
|Extreme Rules||Randy Orton, Batista, Triple H||4.5|
|Payback||Randy Orton, Batista, Triple H||4|
Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via Pro FIght DB
The Nexus made an indelible impression on WWE. That goes double for nWo, but when you think back on those group's peaks, there aren't nearly as many great matches to reflect on. Sting, The Giant and Randy Savage vs. nWo from the March 9, 1998 episode of Nitro was solid, fun and dramatic in spots, but few would hold that up to what The Shield put out each week and place it on the same level.
The Four Horsemen, on the other hand, can proudly place their resume side by side with The Shield's.
In tag matches against The Rock 'N' Roll Express, The Fantastics and The Road Warriors, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and company produced some of wrestling's most compelling action. Add to that their War Games matches, and the talk of The Shield being the best group ever has to slow down.
The Shield was a stellar group, but placing them on top is disregarding history.
Digging through the past winners of the annual awards from Wrestling Observer Newsletter reminds us that wrestling has had posses as powerful and entertaining as Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose.
The Freebirds vs. The Von Erichs won Match of the Year in 1984, a year when they won Feud of The Year as well. WCW vs. nWo was the runner-up for Feud of the Year in 1997 and won the award in 1996. Jumbo Tsuruta's crew vs. Mitsuharu Misawa's crew earned the prize for 1991's best feud.
One reason for The Shield not taking home any of these trophies is that it didn't last as long as other groups.
The Four Horsemen were the highlight of Jim Crockett Promotions from 1986 to 1989. The group reformed several times with less effectiveness each time. Still, the reformed version with Sting in 1989 and the versions of the stable in the mid-90s that included guys like Brian Pillman and Chris Benoit make The Shield's time together seem like a blip.
The Freebirds dominated the '80s, thriving in whatever promotion they landed.
They stretched their run into the '90s as well, finally ending their alliance after over a decade. Considering that amount of longevity, it's hard to put The Shield above them either.
The Shield was a high-profile part of a number of pay-per-views and countless episodes of Raw and SmackDown. The trio have been a constant since the end of 2012, a thrill ride waiting to happen.
Groups like The Nation of Domination or The Million Dollar Corporation didn't have as high a spot on the card as often.
Wrestling's very best groups—The Freebirds, nWo and The Four Horsemen—were as highly showcased as The Shield, but they also have the advantage of long-term impact.
We don't yet know how many future groups will try to mimic The Shield or what the three members' influence will be on wrestling in general. That's something that can only be assessed in hindsight.
Gorgeous George entered the ring to music, but it was The Freebirds who popularized the concept of an entrance theme. Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and either Jimmy Garvin or Buddy Roberts strode toward the ring as rock music blared from the speakers in the arena.
They began with Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" and later used "Bad Street USA" as the means to announce their arrival.
Hulk Hogan and the nWo were such a vital part of WCW in the late '90s that there were few storylines that didn't center around that group's battle with the company. The takeover concept wasn't an nWo creation, but theirs became the most memorable version of that story. One could argue that The Nexus and even The Shield, to some degree, were fathered by nWo.
The Four Horsemen inspired countless groups like it.
Evolution is the most obvious, as it featured Flair and four men in suits. D-Generation X, TNA's Fortune and The Million Dollar Corporation also carried on The Horsemen tradition in their own way.
This is the part we don't yet know about The Shield.
How much will the faction impact the future of wrestling? How many reprisals will we see of it in WWE, Japan or elsewhere?
It's easy to look back at past stables and count up the Hall of Famers, see what they inspired and have a complete resume to look over. The Shield may not even be dead yet, as Reigns and Ambrose could find another partner or two.
If the original trio ends up catapulting all three men into megastardom, the stock of the group goes up. Evolution is a big reason Batista and Orton became top stars. The Nexus is hurt by that aspect, as Michael Tarver, Heath Slater and David Otunga have yet to make much of an impact.
For now, there's no question The Shield belong on the list of the best groups wrestling has ever seen. The next legs of the journey, either as a reformed group or as individuals, will help determine just how close behind The Four Horsemen, nWo and The Freebirds the trio deserve to be.