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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Shield Will Emerge from WWE's Uncertain Times
By The Doc
May 27, 2014 - 10:29:59 PM

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The Snowman is a genius

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Who do you think will win The Shield vs. Evolution match on Sunday?

It has been an interesting month of May for WWE. They started off on an extremely positive note with a very good follow-up PPV to WrestleMania on May 4th, climaxing four weeks of television that did well to ride the wave of momentum from “The Show of Shows.” On May 5th, their balloon was punctured and WWE has been coming back to earth on an increasingly rapid descent. The usual creative doldrums of post-Mania season kicked in almost immediately on the Cinco de Mayo Raw, featuring that God-awful Kane-Daniel Bryan-Brie Bella segment. Up until last night’s broadcast kicked things up a notch in a much-needed way, we had been suffering through some seriously mundane WWE TV. Yet, it didn’t end with bored writers mentally clocking out for a few weeks like it usually does at this time of the year. On May 12th, Bryan announced his imminent neck surgery on the 15th that would put him out of action for an undisclosed amount of time. Clinically, any procedure that has “neck” and “surgery” in the description is potentially career-threatening. It most likely won’t be, but it’s not good news any way you cut it. Shortly after the surgery for the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, who some would say was literally forced into his spot in the WWE hierarchy by a fanbase in desperate need of being heard, the WWE failed to recognize their weak negotiating position for a new TV contract and had to accept an offer to stay put for a deal of which the financial industry thought very little. When you anger PPV providers by abruptly announcing an internet-based channel to air your top events as part of a subscription package in January and continue to see the Nielsen ratings for Raw and Smackdown drop, there is going to be some backlash. For this particular (former) stockholder, I can only say about the plummeting stock prices last week that I am glad that I sold my shares at $30 per share a couple of months ago. Not many others with investment interest in WWE are feeling too glad right about now. There has even been a demand by a substantial shareholder that the WWE Board of Directors change the Executive Management team (Vince, Steph, Trips, etc.).

Suffice to say that the month of May has been about three times worse than the usual lousiness…

It is a unique time in WWE right now. The WWE Network was the boldest move that Vince and Co. have made since they decided to allow their product to take a risqué turn in 1997 in order to compete with WCW. That had not fully sunk in until recently. The Network is really the first of its kind, so WWE are asking stockholders to be patient while they try to keep current subscribers interested and potential subscriber interest piqued. If it works out, then it will probably be the last success of this magnitude for Vince’s career. I personally believe that it is going to succeed. What they’ve created is just too good not to work. It already has worked to an extent, but they’re changing their business model and it’s going to take some time for it to completely take effect. Short-terms sacrifices will have to be made for long-term gains.

Times like these have proven in the past to be harbingers for talents to emerge that become associated with a generation. Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, and Roddy Piper were the names that carried the phenomenon of WrestleMania (and WWE as we know it) into both existence and prominence. A decade later, Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Mick Foley defined the Attitude Era. All of them were more than mere pieces in the McMahon family chess game against the wrestling industry; they were icons without whom we would not be sitting here exploring topics on websites like LOP. In a comparable period of uncertainty and economic risk, I believe that we’re on the precipice of seeing a similar group of superstars rise to the occasion; a group that includes all three members of The Shield.

When I look at The Shield vs. Evolution feud that is about to hit its crescendo this Sunday, I see not just another storyline, but a carefully crafted concoction of opportunity…and not just any ordinary opportunity. Talent seeps from the pores of those three guys; they exude the qualities of future main-eventers headed for more than just average results at the top. There’s a lot of “it” running through that trio’s collection of veins and WWE knows it full well, having handled with care the gradual increase in responsibility that The Shield has been asked to bear. Each month since the New Year began, they’ve been given a little bit more. Sunday, they may well wind up main-eventing a PPV for the first time. It is for nights like Payback that WWE will be glad that they were cautious. Much is at stake for not just The Hounds of Justice, but for WWE, as well. It is imperative that a fresh crop of burgeoning superstars capture the imaginations of the masses, particularly during this economic climate. As Bob Backlund and Bret Hart before him, John Cena has done all that he could ever do in present form. He has become a creative abyss. His spot is ripe for the taking. Considering that I’ve not seen a hungrier, more motivated three men in a very long time, I’m betting that it’s going to be someone from The Shield that snatches it.

With all due respect to the “Yes Movement,” underdog stories are fleeting and the ceiling of success for such tales fairly low. As big a proponent as I have been for Daniel Bryan getting his WrestleMania moment because it was the hottest thing going, I do not view him as the commodity that will carry the WWE to the place that it needs to go given their current plight. There are a lot of people that are going to be upset by that statement and I understand why. Allow me to reiterate that Bryan can, should, and will be a top level star for as long as he is able, but he’s more Kurt Angle than Triple H, more Shawn Michaels than Steve Austin. Destined though he may be for more glorious moments, the WWE is rightfully going to keep looking for someone else. And I think they’ve found a few “someone elses” in Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins. Such is why there has rarely been any mistaking how the higher ups feel about all three based on their booking since late 2012. From Day 1, the general rule for The Shield has been to keep them looking strong and on the cusp of something huge. They shrewdly decimated every trio put in their path for the first several months of their time on the main roster and then proceeded to rack up accolades, nicknames, and notoriety. Increasingly cognizant of the fact that they’ve been quietly breeding a pack of alpha males, WWE appears to be going “all in” on The Shield.

Reigns has the look and the pedigree to be the biggest star in the industry. He could be the #1 star of an era or he could end up being his generation’s Batista – a multi-Mania main-eventer with Hollywood buzz. Either way, people are going to pay to see him destroy or be destroyed. Ambrose is so distinct and versatile that he could easily be the type that comes out of nowhere to become the most popular man in the business just as simply as he could light up the screen as the most hated villain for a half decade or longer. Rollins is a mixture of Jeff Hardy’s devil-may-care attitude, Bryan’s passion, and John Morrison’s in-ring creativity. Plus, he can talk and his offense looks legit. He could catch lightning in a bottle at any moment. The scary thing is that they are 29, 28, and 27 years old, respectively. Frankly, their speedy ascent in the last few months came at the ideal time.

In front of the best PPV crowd that we’re likely to see all year, The Hounds of Justice are going to get the chance to unleash their talents with a brighter spotlight than ever before. Chicago has had a tendency to be a trendsetter, pushing the likes of Stone Cold into his anti-hero persona and making it cool for the masses to jeer John Cena. Most recently, they helped to turn CM Punk into an all-time great. Payback’s audience may well give the green light for whatever the future holds for The Shield. Chicago provides the perfect litmus test; Evolution the perfect antagonists. The Shield could not have asked for a better launching pad, off of which they can skyrocket to rarified air in the business...


Join me Wednesday at 5PM for “The Doc Says…” on LOP Radio for a full preview of Payback via the introduction of our newest segment, “The Five-Star Preview.” Plus, a reading from "The Book of Sports Entertainment"

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