Breaking Down The Shield's Rise, Fall and Reunion Ahead of WWE TLC 2017

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2017

Breaking Down The Shield's Rise, Fall and Reunion Ahead of WWE TLC 2017

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    The Shield has nearly five years' worth of history.
    The Shield has nearly five years' worth of history.Credit: WWE.com

    WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2017 on Oct. 22 will feature a reunion for the ages when The Shield battles The Miz, The Bar and Braun Strowman in a 4-on-3 Handicap Tables, Ladders, and Chairs main event.

    That match will mark only the second time in three-and-a-half years that Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have teamed up for tag team action.

    The story of The Shield has essentially dominated WWE programming since the group arrived on the scene almost five years ago. Although a majority of the WWE Universe was unfamiliar with the NXT alumni at first, the trio quickly rose up the ranks by targeting the roster's top stars and beating them all.

    From a seven-month undefeated streak in six-man tag team matches to headlining pay-per-views, The Shield made its mark on WWE history, but what's most incredible is how the faction didn't last as long as Evolution, The Wyatt Family or even 3MB. The group's surprising split in mid-2014 shook the company to its core and created three promising singles stars in the process.

    In between the breakup and Monday's reunion, The Shield's members crossed paths and waged war with each other on countless occasions, sometimes with WWE Championship up for grabs. If it isn't the greatest WWE faction of all time, then it comes close considering The Shield served as a platform for Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose to become breakout stars in addition to revitalizing Raw from 2012 to 2014.

    Back together and better than ever, The Shield looks to prove its dominance once again by targeting The Miz, The Bar and anyone else who gets in the trio's way. Before they begin annihilating everyone again, starting next Sunday night, take a look back as to how The Hounds of Justice came to be and the most pivotal points in the group's history.

Early Beginnings

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    The 2012 installment of Survivor Series was shaping up to be an average, uneventful pay-per-view when the night's WWE Championship Triple Threat main event between CM Punk, Ryback and John Cena was crashed by three invaders whom commentator Michael Cole clarified were Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns from NXT.

    Indianapolis stood in shock as the trio targeted Ryback and put him through a commentary table at ringside, allowing CM Punk to pick up the scraps and retain his WWE Championship. In an exclusive interview on Raw eight days later, the trio referred to themselves as "a shield from injustice" and were called The Shield from that point forward.

    Punk's injury and consequent pulling out of his TLC title match with Ryback was for the better, as it led to The Shield's in-ring debut at the TLC event against Ryback, Daniel Bryan and Kane in a stacked six-man tag team match. Not only did The Shield emerge victorious, but the bout is widely regarded as one of the best of the past five years for everything it had to offer.

    That match was merely a taste of what the three of them were capable of together, and in the months that followed, they toppled everyone who stepped up to challenge them. At Elimination Chamber 2013, they scored a huge clean win over Cena, Sheamus and Ryback before beating Sheamus, Randy Orton and Big Show at WrestleMania 29 shortly thereafter.

    Sheer dominance allowed The Shield to maintain momentum throughout first half of 2013, but they eventually came to the conclusion that in order to obtain more power, they needed to become champions.

Going for the Gold

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    In the group's first six months on WWE's main roster, The Shield owned several victories over Team Hell No, and thus it was only inevitable the former would challenge for the latter's WWE Tag Team Championships. At Extreme Rules 2013, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns got their chance to contend for the twin titles in a Tornado tag team match and soundly defeated the duo of Daniel Bryan and Kane to score the straps.

    They weren't the only members of The Shield to pick up hardware on that night, however. While his brothers in arms were focused on taking home the tag titles, Dean Ambrose set his sights on the United States Championship and was willing to go to great lengths to beat Kofi Kingston for the belt.

    He was successful in his pursuit of the prestigious prize, completing The Shield's collection of championships. Similar to Evolution at Armageddon 2003, every member of the group walked out of Extreme Rules with gold around their waists, securing The Shield's status as the undisputed most dominant stable in the organization.

    Their respective championship runs weren't short-lived, either. Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns had a stranglehold on the midcard and tag team divisions for the remainder of the 2013 and knocked off all potential threats to their titles, including Kane, Rob Van Dam, The Usos and The Prime Time Players.

    Less than a year removed from the group's WWE debut, The Shield was already a major force to be reckoned with, yet the trio wouldn't hold the keys to the kingdom until it aligned with The Authority.

A Powerful Partnership and Teasing Tension

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    At SummerSlam 2013, it was revealed that Triple H and Stephanie McMahon had been in cahoots with Randy Orton to ensure Daniel Bryan didn't become WWE champion. As if that partnership wasn't powerful enough, The Shield joined the group on the next night's Raw at the behest of Triple H.

    During their alliance with The Authority, The Shield made enemies out of the Rhodes family and contested a classic with Cody Rhodes and Goldust at 2013's Battleground pay-per-view. At that year's Survivor Series, Reigns emerged as the sole survivor in the traditional elimination match while his cohorts were eliminated.

    The seeds were being planted for a split, which was also made evident when the group failed to defeat CM Punk in a 3-on-1 Handicap match at the TLC pay-per-view. When Reigns was successful in singles competition against the two-time WWE champion yet Dean Ambrose and Rollins were not, it led to the three of them teasing tension and fans to speculate that Reigns was beginning to break off on his own.

    In the 2014 Royal Rumble match, Reigns eliminated both of his brethren in shocking fashion, forcing the team to further drift apart. Following their defeat at the hands of The Wyatt Family, it was merely a matter of time before they broke up.

    All signs pointed to a Triple Threat between them for Ambrose's United States Championship at WrestleMania XXX, but before that could materialize, they put their differences aside for a common cause and instead shifted their focus toward the crumbling Authority.

Defying The Authority and Shocking Split

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    Instead of turning on each other during their confrontation with Kane on the March 17, 2014, edition of Raw, The Shield laid out The Authority's director of operations and underwent a subtle face turn. The group realized that the injustices in WWE were within The Authority, deciding to destroy the stable member by member.

    At WrestleMania XXX, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns made quick work of Kane and The New Age Outlaws in six-man tag team action before coming to the aid of Daniel Bryan on the next night's Raw. That cemented the trio's status as rebellious anti-heroes and kicked off an anticipated program with the reuniting Evolution: Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista.

    The two factions met in a melee of a match at Extreme Rules 2014, and while that bout wasn't contested under extraordinary rules, they took the fight all around the arena in one of the best fights of the year. The Shield had their hands raised that night, but the rivalry resumed through the Payback pay-per-view the following month.

    The No Holds Barred rematch was every bit as brutal and exciting as their initial encounter, and with The Shield sweeping all of Evolution, it solidified the stable as the greatest faction of the new millennium. Despite losing both bouts to The Shield, Evolution won the war when Triple H and Randy Orton coerced Rollins into turning on Ambrose and Reigns and joining The Authority.

    Shocking moments are few and far between these days in WWE, but Rollins' betrayal of his brothers in arms was astonishing and couldn't have been better executed than it was.

Finding Singles Success and Settling Scores

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    It was argued at the time that it was foolish to break up The Shield while the group was still at the peak of its popularity as babyfaces, but in retrospect, WWE desperately needed fresh faces in the main event scene, with Daniel Bryan out injured and CM Punk gone from the company.

    Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns going their separate ways accomplished that.

    While Reigns wasted no time in entering the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture that summer and resuming his rivalry with The Authority, Ambrose and Rollins continued to feud with each other through the end of October. Rollins won each of their encounters and eventually cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 31 to capture the company's top title.

    Rollins reigned supreme as WWE world heavyweight champion for the better part of 2015, successfully defending the belt against both of his former stablemates on various occasions. When he suffered an injury that forced him to vacate the title, Reigns and Ambrose rose to the top of the card by clinching the WWE World Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships, respectively.

    It may have taken longer than expected, but Ambrose finally reached the mountaintop at Money in the Bank 2016 when he cashed in the contract to win the world title. This was minutes removed from Rollins beating Reigns for the belt, meaning all three members of The Shield held the prestigious prize within a five-minute span.

    That set the stage for one of the most anticipated Triple Threat matches in recent WWE history between The Shield's Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns at Battleground 2016.

An Anticipated Triple Threat Decides the Shield's Superior Member

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    Immediately after the announcement was made on the June 20, 2016, edition of Raw that it would be Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE World Championship at Battleground, Reigns was suspended for 30 days for violating WWE's Wellness Policy, forcing Ambrose and Rollins to build up the bout in his absence.

    Despite Reigns' suspension, he was able to return in time for the pay-per-view, so the match many fans had waited years to see went on as planned. It was a miracle it did considering how incredible it ended up being, with all three men putting in phenomenal performances and delivering a championship clash for the ages.

    Essentially, everything was riding on this blockbuster main event. In addition to the longstanding issues between all three men from their Shield days, this match marked the end of an era, with the returning Brand Extension set to go into effect the following day.

    Whoever won would take the title with them to either Raw or SmackDown Live, raising the stakes of what was already a thrilling encounter. With that in mind, the fans in attendance that night bought into every near-fall and were excited to see who would come out on top as The Shield's superior member.

    Reigns disposed of Rollins with a Spear and seemed to be on the verge of victory before Ambrose connected with Dirty Deeds on The Big Dog to retain his title. That clean win was a major endorsement of Ambrose by the company that it had faith in him to carry the torch to SmackDown as the face of the blue brand.

Burying the Hatchet and Ultimate Reunion

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    Once the long-awaited Shield Triple Threat match was out of the way, questions arose in regard to when we would see them ride high as a unit again. Dean Ambrose's position on the SmackDown Live brand while Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins were on Raw delayed the inevitable, though that didn't stop them from aligning for one night only to take out AJ Styles at Survivor Series 2016.

    Talk of a Shield reunion started up again when Ambrose moved to Raw in the Superstar Shake-up, but it wasn't until he and Rollins started their story over the summer that it became a possibility. At first, Ambrose refused to trust Rollins because of The Architect's betrayal three years earlier, but deep down he knew he wanted to rekindle that friendship and that it would be best for both of them.

    At SummerSlam, Ambrose and Rollins finally got on the same page and knocked off Sheamus and Cesaro to capture the Raw Tag Team Championships. Reigns was busy chasing the Universal Championship, but it was apparent he too needed backup as soon as The Miz and The Miztourage stacked the deck against him.

    On the Oct. 9 edition of Raw, Reigns stood side by side with Ambrose and Rollins on top of the stage for the first time in several years. From there, they savagely beat down Miz, Curtis Axel and The Bar before doing their signature Shield pose, indicating the band was back together at long last.

    Whether this Shield comeback tour will be a short- or long-term deal remains to be seen, but no matter the length of the group's latest run, the Raw roster better believe that justice is about to be served.

               

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.

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