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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The PPV Perspective (Extreme Rules 4/22/13) - The Shield Needs to Take the Next Step
By The Doc
Apr 23, 2013 - 12:38:19 PM

It is the commentator's job to sell the product. Thus, it is understandable when they hyperbolize. I often use hyperbole, myself. Yet, something struck me about a comment that JBL made on Raw about The Shield. He suggested that they would become the greatest faction of all-time, even making note of the bold nature of his statement (surely he, too, knew that it was a huge reach). As I watched Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns pick up another victory in a 6-man tag team match involving the Undertaker, I thought about the context of JBL's prediction.

There is no doubt that The Shield brings a nice element to WWE TV right now. They are somewhat (predictably) unpredictable. Personally, I enjoy their gritty backstage, handheld camera promos more than anything, as they give us a chance to get some insight into the reasoning behind their actions. Ambrose, particularly, has shined in that area, but his penchant for superb stick work has, perhaps by osmosis, made Rollins and Reigns better on the microphone. However, to be considered amongst the best factions in wrestling history, there has to be some definable purpose that leads to an end game that translates to PPV buys or ratings. That, after all, is the point of professional wrestling; it's a business that needs to make money.

Well, ratings aren't likely going anywhere but down anytime soon. WWE programming is too bland and features too few dynamic personalities to draw in casual viewers. The TV audience is who it is. PPV expectations have changed, as well. If Brock Lesnar wasn't on the card last year after Mania, then getting to 200,000 buys was good news. That idea would have been laughable years ago, but that's today's reality.

Unfortunately, The Shield is doing nothing to add to a buyrate. As much prominent TV time as they have earned, they don't seem to be going anywhere. Spinning your wheels on a soap opera, as I've learned as the only child of a (short term) single parent and later as a husband, is commonplace for a lot of characters, so it isn't surprising to see so many personalities on Raw and Smackdown struggling to get out of second gear for any length of time when the writers for the WWE are mostly from daytime television. However, The Shield needs to get some new material written for it and fast. I'm quickly losing interest in the characters, which is not to state I've lost interest in the guys playing the characters. I want all three to succeed and see some serious potential in each, as I've stated in other columns. But I'm bored. I still believe in The Shield, but I believe in them like I believe that Carmelo Anthony is going to shoot 30 times to score 30 points and that it won't translate to victories in late May or early June. I want to believe that there's something more to The Shield.

For a major focal point of last night's show to be three guys that, at this point, seem destined for a tag team title match (maybe?) at Extreme Rules, is a problem. There's no group for The Shield to feud against. Unless the Deadman comes back and continues to build a program with them that headlines a PPV, then The Shield will mow through people until......until when? What are they doing? What they are not doing is drawing any money, yet. I’m not suggesting that they, yet, should be, but what would be helpful is some greater definition of the purpose and the aim, followed by some delineation for the hierarchy of who’s in charge. A leader needs to emerge. There’s a reason why the Denver Nuggets won’t win the NBA Championship and it’s because there’s no alpha dog. Every great team, unit, or stable needs a clear cut, standout alpha male and it’s time that the WWE defined who amongst The Shield fits that role.

I’m perfectly fine watching The Shield dominate people as a unit, but until a star emerges – and it seems like Reigns and Ambrose are the best candidates - I’m not sure that they can be more than a somewhat interesting change of pace on TV that doesn’t really add anything to business - and from the fan perspective, that means whether or not we order a PPV to see them. You’ve often seen me use the phrase “let’s see how it plays out.” Well, six months of the same thing over and over again with no further definition of character has my interest waning and my mind wandering toward the fast forward button since I already know what’s going to happen each time those guys are on TV.

Unless something changes quickly, The Shield can be ruled out as a draw for the PPV four weeks from now. Cena vs. Ryback and Lesnar vs. Trips III are going to have to carry the load. That’s fine for now. That should be good for a solid 200,000 buys, which would have to be considered successful given that the non-big 3 average over the last year is less than that. However, I think the WWE better be hoping that my thoughts on Ryback’s heel turn (I’ve enjoyed it, so far, as he’s doing the very character expanding that I want to see from The Shield) represent the majority opinion, as I don’t imagine they would like what they read around the net if they cared about its collective thoughts.

As of now, I'm still sold on Extreme Rules based on the aforementioned big 2 and Ziggler's first title defense (which interestingly garnered zero hype last night), but I would like to see The Shield take the next step and become a bigger part of the PPV ordering decision process.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Realistically, do you think that a member of The Shield could emerge as a top tier player, flanked by the other two, by September?

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