It’s the First Day of #TheShieldWeek, the eleventh installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. In celebration of this month’s Survivor Series, we’re taking a look at famous stables from the wonderful world of wrestling. As always we’ll start by making The Hounds of Justice a
Wrestler Stable You (Should) Probably Know Better, then give you the finer points of their oeuvre tomorrow with some Essential Viewing. But then we’re going to do something different with #TheShieldWeek and give each member their own day. Wednesday will be Seth Rollins’ — and we’ll Watch and Learn him but good, and give him his own GIF parade after — with Roman and Dean coming after him to finish out the week. And, don’t worry, we will still be making our “Amazon.com on steroids” dreams come true with “Juice Make Sugar Recommends…” on Thursday before finishing everything off on Friday with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a Triple Powerbomb-fueled civil war.)
I actually missed their arrival. This was before Juice Make Sugar started in earnest, and I was broke, so the chances of me spending any type of money for anything was non-existent. I had known from watching a lot of wrestling — or, you know, at least more than two shows consecutively — that CM Punk was leaving Survivor Series with the WWE Championship. How they were going to do it was the confusing bit.
So, when I heard what happened I was VERY ready to call “Shenanigans”. I understood why they were doing what they were doing: having these three quasi-mystery men — Cole identified them from NXT almost immediately on air — destroy Ryback paved the way for Punk to pin Cena and give Ryback an out by allowing Cena to take a loss that wouldn’t affect his standing in the least. However, unless the “mystery” is The Big Show, and it’s a match between Stone Cold and Vince McMahon, the use of human deus ex machina in wrestling — especially at a PPV — is not a good idea.
This is partially because the crowd reaction is almost never big enough to justify the “damage” done to the promise of a clean ending (however much there is one) on a PPV. But it’s more than that. Bringing someone out this way automatically puts an expectation on their future prospects, and it’s very hard to live up to the anticipation of what comes next when someone makes a splash in a title match. Especially when the inevitable “I’m here to explain why I did what I did” promo comes in.
That’s when the wheels fall off, as not only is the crowd reaction never big enough, but the reasons behind the betrayal or ambush are usually so weird, convoluted or just downright idiotic that whatever heat they managed to get is quickly extinguished.
But then, The Shield explained themselves and set the world on fire.
All of the ideas we had, all of the reasons we could come up with evaporated in a mushroom cloud the first time Dean Ambrose opened his mouth. Ambrose, who had made his way up through the independent scene as Jon Moxley, was the perfect choice as the de facto mouthpiece of the group.
Ambrose’s speech pattern and mannerisms give off an immediate sense of agency: the Shield was doing this because they chose to. They were the ones moving things forward, they were the ones deciding when and where to dole out “justice” and it was up to everyone else to stop them.
And they still haven’t.
In the last year, they’ve moved from a narrative device to legitimate superstars, and have done so as rapidly as anything not named “Brock Lesnar” in the history of wrestling. Which, in a weird way, is their best comparison: a destructive force that exists largely outside of the tropes and rules of the program, creating a destroying convention through sheer force of will. Instead of becoming repetitive or complacent, the group has moved from paramilitary revolutionaries to the gatekeepers to the corporate throne while their message of “stopping injustice” has rang as beautifully hollow as it did when they first said it.
They are mercenaries and always have been, that they were willing to lie to our faces about it has been a bit of genius storytelling that manages to feel fresh — because it’s essentially new to WWE programming — and classic — because it’s been an essential component to basically every action movie worth its salt ever — without also feeling like a typical WWE matter of telling you something is the truth. No one ever “really” believed they were working for justice, but had no proof otherwise until poor Brad Maddox made one mistake too many.
And the entire time, as the group’s profile has evolved and elevated, they’ve changed the nature of the business, pumped new blood into stagnant belts and set themselves up for what seems to be long and illustrious careers.
Rollins and Reigns’ run as tag team champions — and their work alongside Ambrose in six-man tags — has been a sea change for the Tag Team division, creating actual intrigue around the titles that had been missing since the TLC-era. For the first time in a generation, the WWE has begun growing tag teams from the ground up instead of pushing together stars with nothing better to do, and nearly all of it is because of the performances of the Shield on the heels of Team Hell No’s reestablishment of the genre as a viable part of the show. And they’ve done it without having to “Hug It Out” a single time.
And while the Shield are DEFINITELY the youngest performers we’ve profiled for Wrestler of the Week, the amount they’ve done in the last year has made them a necessity to talk about. While it’s hard to say who will or won’t make it in a business as unpredictable as professional wrestling, it’s probably safe to say that these three have some of the brightest futures in the business right now and that we should all believe. Believe in The Shield.