Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns have had as impressive an 18 months in WWE as any three men, let alone most singular performers. Individually, they’ve stood above the fray as characters worth getting behind, unpoisoned by the company’s wont to bungle a good thing. As a group, they’re the company’s most prolific collective since DX’s first incarnation in 1998.
Their six-man tags have buoyed the most lacking of Raws and, even as heels, they’ve captured the crowd’s attention by simply standing out in a sea of half-baked commonality. Listed here are The Shield’s ten best matches in which all three have taken part.
10. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (April 8, 2014, Main Event)
Three disappointments were spawned from a great WrestleMania weekend, of varying emotional sting, obviously: The Undertaker’s streak ending, the death of The Ultimate Warrior (which still doesn’t feel real), and WWE Network not reaching the estimated 1,000,000 subscriber mark, falling about 330,000 purchases short of the stated goal.
With Main Event airing live on Tuesdays via the Network, WWE seemingly responded to that last bit of bad news by instituting a second rematch of the company’s two most reliable supergroups, trying to entice more subscribers. This time, The Shield actually went over in a 20-minute brawl, with Ambrose spiking Erick Rowan with Dirty Deeds.
9. The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan, Kane, and Randy Orton (June 3, 2013, Monday Night Raw)
There are far worse ways to eat up the minutes on the overblown three hour Raws than to give The Shield twenty minutes and a few capable opponents. Orton was still a face at this stage, as he and Team Hell No were just another combination of guys that failed to beat The Shield in the past, and were partnered up here for another kick at the heavy can.
Bryan tends to shine in these matches (which should surprise no one), either in the face-in-peril trope, or getting the hot tag and kicking everyone into smithereens. Bryan was the latter here, busting up Ambrose with his arsenal. A face miscommunication between Bryan and Orton undid the faces’ efforts, but keeping the Shield strong has served WWE well.
8. The Shield vs. Damien Sandow, Ryback, Titus O’Neil, Alberto Del Rio, and Bad News Barrett (April 22, 2014, Smackdown)
Technically not a six-man tag, but the Shield were still a three-man unit here, so it’ll be counted. The story was that Evolution had begun running The Shield through eleven-on-three wringers to soften them up and break their spirit before the match at Extreme Rules. Since the Shield has perfected their unbreakable hero act, this Smackdown told a great story.
An eleven-on-three match was booked for Dumping Ground Smackdown, but The Shield mercilessly took out the likes of Jack Swagger, 3MB, Brad Maddox, and Curtis Axel beforehand, whittling down the odds. Sandow took the fall via a Reigns spear. Amazing how effective faces can be when they’re not smiling and making corny wisecracks for eight-year-olds.
7. The Shield vs. John Cena, Sheamus, and Ryback (February 17, 2013, Elimination Chamber)
Only the group’s second televised match for the company after three months of vague beck-and-calls on CM Punk’s behalf. The group had been facing combos of the aforementioned opponents and Randy Orton on the house show loop. Conventional wisdom had The Shield going down here, as Cena had a date with Rock in grand fashion at WrestleMania.
It was a bit of a shock that The Shield ended up winning, as their uber-group push wasn’t firmly established, win or no win at TLC. The match was encouraging, both for the amount of offense The Shield got, and the way in which it elevated the game of their opponents, all of whom are known for eliciting mixed reactions. More of an ‘arrival’ moment than TLC.
6. The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan, Kane, and Kofi Kingston (May 20, 2013, Monday Night Raw)
Any combination of Bryan and the Shield is worth watching, and you can pretty much go plug-n-play with the last two slots. In this case, the opposition consisted of the three men who lost the United States and Tag Team Championships to Ambrose, Reigns, and Rollins one night earlier at Extreme Rules, and WWE just loves their mix-and-match rehashings.
Minor gripes about WWE’s molasses-speed storytelling aside, this was an excellent 25-minute match, so at least it’s a quality product eating up the three hours of infomercial time. Such was the length that Kingston and Bryan each had runs as face-in-peril. It was the larger Kane who would end up taking the fall over his considerably smaller cohorts, via a Reigns spear.
5. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (March 3, 2014, Monday Night Raw)
Only eight days removed from their unforgettable classic at Elimination Chamber (stay tuned), a rematch between the warring factions was instituted for ‘that’ Chicago Raw. Fans were threatening a protest over WWE’s recent booking, and WWE giving them an encore of their favorite match from the last PPV was a pretty good counterstrike by the office.
Though not quite up to the level of the Chamber match, it was still a high-impact bout of chaos, with an unexpected twist: Rollins would walk out on Ambrose and Reigns. This was done to cast light on the alpha-hubris that Reigns and Ambrose directed toward each other, threatening the team. The Wyatts won, but the Shield would benefit long term.
4. The Shield vs. The Undertaker, Kane, and Daniel Bryan (April 22, 2013, Monday Night Raw)
Pleasant surprise to see The Dead Man actually working a weekly TV show, let alone any PPV not called WrestleMania. In fact, it was his first televised non-WrestleMania match in two and a half years, and first Raw match in three years. The Shield at this point were undefeated, and it was explicitly said by announcers that no trio of all-stars could fell the well-oiled combo.
Well, WWE wouldn’t dust Undertaker off to have him lose on free TV, would they? They certainly did, having Ambrose pin Bryan after a missed diving headbutt, but not before giving Reigns a major moment of glory by having him spear Undertaker into oblivion. WWE’s general lack of character commitment was offset by now-four months of Shield dominance.
3. The Shield vs. Evolution (May 4, 2014, Extreme Rules)
Post-WrestleMania crowds make everything better. For several years running, the pilgrimaging fans make their voices heard on Monday Night Raw, serving as the actual pulse of viewer sensibilities, while also throwing in some irreverence (Fandango’ing, for instance). It was in New Orleans after WrestleMania XXX that fans approved of further Shield elevation.
Evolution reformed earlier in the night, after a brief but tense meeting in which Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista re-realized their collective strength. As the three set out to screw Daniel Bryan out of his newly won championship, The Shield (after finding out that Triple H put a hit on them via a blathering Kane) were the counterbalance for the company hero.
After Reigns speared Triple H, the match for Extreme Rules was inevitable, and the dynamic was perfect. Evolution rarely went down in their heyday, but the surging Shield went over cleanly on their first try, complete with a Rollins balcony dive, and Reigns putting away the maligned Batista with a Superman punch and spear, with all six stealing the show.
2. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (February 23, 2014, Elimination Chamber)
Say what you will about WWE, but their best work these days is being done with powerful trios. Between these two groups, the Evolution revitalization, and even the partnering of John Cena with the Uso Twins, the stable warfare that was enjoyable in the Attitude Era has experienced a revival. Still no cure for the Hell that spirals around 3MB, though.
After the Wyatts were set up to cost The Shield a chance to compete inside the actual Chamber (per Bray’s hellbent overtures toward Cena), this match was signed for WWE’s final traditional PPV, and the interest was immediate. The Shield vs. The Wyatts? That’s like the 1996 nWo vs. the 1988 Horsemen by modern standards, with all six men in their prime.
The fact that the fans were chanting “THIS IS AWESOME” during the prematch Mexican standoff, with a single punch yet to be thrown, proves how good the booking of the six has been. The Wyatts won after Ambrose exited on a vague miscue, which was meant to be the start of a Shield split. That was nixed when WWE realized there was much left for the group.
1. The Shield vs. Ryback, Daniel Bryan, and Kane (December 16, 2012, TLC)
The long-standing RSPW Awards provided a miniature surprise when this match was named 2012′s Match of the Year, over heavy favorites such as John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan, and the clinically-overrated Undertaker vs. Triple H. That’s not to say the match was undeserving, but the fact is it was merely a replacement match at 2012′s final PPV.
Originally to be Ryback vs. CM Punk for the WWE Title, plans changed as Punk sat with a knee injury. For the group on their 29th day in WWE, Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns floored home viewers and soaked in the adulation of notoriously-loud New York fans, as they warred in a TLC rules match, with a seldom-used pinfall and submission modifier.
It speaks to the faith that WWE held in three relatively new guys (no matter what experience Ambrose and Rollins had setting up their own matches in the indies) to go for well over 20 minutes in a marquee spot, and give them an early boost with the clean win, with Reigns pinning Bryan after a double powerbomb through a table. Greatest in-ring debut ever.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
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