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Posted in: Just Business
Just Business: The Three Workhorses That Run This Business Now
By Samuel 'Plan
Oct 10, 2017 - 7:27:06 PM

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Just Business: The Three Workhorses That Run This Business Now

Over the last three years, ever since The Shield split up, each one of its members has been subjected to the usual narratives imposed by the IWC. They’ve been called under-pushed and over-pushed; poorly utilised and sorely missed; the future stars of the company or the old guard in need of changing; ‘excellent heels’ and ‘failed babyfaces.’ Through it all, though, I and many others have remained steadfast: they are the top three names of their Era. Last night reminded the world exactly why. Roman Reigns said it himself: the three workhorses that run this business.

There have been innumerable events and moments over the last three years that have felt like the prime opportunity for WWE to sever itself from its increasingly dated and toxic past and, instead, commit wholeheartedly to its future, only to neglect to do so. It is because of that restraint in cutting ties with the perennially over-valued “OVW Class of 2002” that fans who have in turns been cynical towards the role and central importance of the three Hounds of Justice could be forgiven. In spite of each of them looking increasingly bored and acting increasingly disinterested with every passing run, John Cena is still around, Randy Orton is still around, Brock Lesnar is still around and all three of them remain as irritatingly prominent, as central to the product, as they always were. The fact Orton won this year’s Rumble feels outright bizarre, that Lesnar is still Universal Champion utterly puzzling and that Cena became a 16 time World Champion downright insulting, and it feels that way because, creatively, each of the three of them are bordering increasingly irrelevancy, if they aren’t already there.

That’s what makes this second go-round for The Shield equal parts similar to and different from their first stint. Just like the first time, their emergence on Monday Night Raw could shatter the stubborn status quo WWE just cannot bring themselves to kill off, and do so in the knick of time. Unlike the first time, though, thanks in large part to their already historically notable careers, their second turn could ensure that the glass ceiling stays shattered for good.

This reunion wasn’t my first choice, of course. I would rather have seen WWE hold off on it for another few years, quite honestly. I have no problem in admitting that I was wrong. Having watched their reunion on Monday night, the timing couldn’t feel more perfect; even if that perfection is accidental.

Or should that be ‘fateful,’ rather than accidental? That was always the key element underpinning The Shield’s success: the sense of fate. This was not just any other group, and the reaction to what they did last night proved that. The way each of them performed, with such visible glee and as much fiery determination to succeed as they carried the first time around, was testament to how special this group’s role in WWE’s modern history has already proven. If WWE capitalise on this apparently bottled lightning they have so wonderfully unleashed again, we might finally be looking at the death throes of yesteryear, and not a moment too soon.

It’s time to “call an audible.” Rumour of a planned Reigns / Lesnar match at WrestleMania 34 has done the rounds, and inspired very few fans. WWE might have contended that there was no viable alternative to headline next year’s WrestleMania, after Reigns had sent The Undertaker packing, just as their rumoured reasoning behind reuniting The Shield was because they had no viable alternative to build TLC 2017 around. Well, put two and two together and you end up with four. Your viable alternative, that WWE themselves have now deemed a fitting replacement of equal value to John Cena or Brock Lesnar, emerged last night, and is the match everyone wanted to see back at Battleground 2016: The Shield engage in a Triple Threat Match to close out the Show of Shows.

It’s easily done, too. In fact, you could argue that fate itself is trying its damnedest to push WWE towards this. It simply makes too much sense.

Consider the various factors that have unfolded over the last year or so.

Lesnar has been on a steady path of humanisation since his first loss to Goldberg; his losing is no longer a Holy Grail and, thus, is no longer mandated to happen at a WrestleMania. It already has happened elsewhere anyway.

WWE have gradually been rebuilding the Big Four to each stand out from the rest of the pay-per-view pack. Their primary means of doing this has been to increase the running time and, at times, visual scale of each; the make them feel more like a WrestleMania.

With increasing regularity, WWE have shown themselves willing to stage WrestleMania main event worthy matches at any pay-per-view they like: No Mercy 2017 provided two examples, and Money in the Bank 2016 provided two others; there have been more.

The Renaissance Era has been defined by its one dominant emergent trend of revitalising, reusing, sometimes rehashing notable ideas of the past: Brand Extensions; match types; finishes; pay-per-view names; now, even famous stables.

Roman Reigns has beaten legends in WrestleMania main events and won championships in WrestleMania main events, and in doing so has facilitated a character change that has seen him fall into a downward trajectory by increasingly coming under the influence of his worst vices; most especially since WrestleMania 33.

Seth Rollins has had prominent WrestleMania roles of his own too, and also facilitated The Shield’s original split by betraying them, because he came under the influence of his worst vices. Over the last year he has been on an upward trajectory of redemption and learning to overcome those vices, most especially since WrestleMania 33.

Dean Ambrose is no stranger to big matches at WrestleMania, or in WrestleMania season either, and his key character trait has always been his love, dedication and loyalty to the brotherhood of The Shield. His incredible story opposite Rollins is defined by that trait, as is his friendship with Roman Reigns. To destroy The Shield is to betray Dean Ambrose. His journey since WrestleMania 33 has been one that has brought him back to his family; to his brothers.

At some point, WWE want Reigns to beat Lesnar for the Universal Championship. At some point, the Rollins / Ambrose partnership will need to come to an end; whether it be respectfully or in hostile fashion (my preference is the former). At some point, the character arcs Reigns and Rollins have had this last year need resolving. At some point, now that The Shield are back together, Ambrose will need to deal with its second dissolution.

Fit all the pieces together and it seems simple. Make Royal Rumble 2018 special by staging a WrestleMania main event worthy match: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship. Give Reigns the win you want. Bring the Ambrose / Rollins partnership to an end by revisiting the concept of a joint Rumble winner used in 1994, flirted with in 2005; the same manner, incidentally, in which the OVW headliners of Cena and Batista began their journeys to their first WrestleMania main event. Position the Hounds this way at Royal Rumble by dissolving The Shield as a result of egos that fray because of a story that writes itself.

I balked, very briefly, at one thing when I watched The Shield’s reunion last night - for the briefest of seconds as Rollins and Ambrose stripped the announce table for the Big Dog, I feared a situation where a Shield reunion became Reigns and Company instead. Silly really; it was only the way it used to happen back in the day.

Except these are not the same three men they were back in the day.

The closer the three come together, the more they will see who they have become in their time apart. Rollins will see Reigns doing what Rollins did before him: surrendering to his baser self as success comes in droves. Rollins will attempt to warn him of the dark place that can lead a man. Reigns won’t listen; Reigns knows what he’s doing. He’s main evented more ‘Manias, won more World titles and beat more legends than either of his brothers. He’ll assert himself, almost as if inherently assuming leadership. It will irk a Rollins unwilling to accept second place, and an Ambrose unwilling to accept anything other than complete equality. As they bicker, The Shield will begin to split and Ambrose will look to his two brothers as the reason for their group’s second dissolution. Events will escalate into a second all-out war.

In such a situation, each man would have his own motivation heading into Royal Rumble to do what fate seems to want to suggest, and each of those motivations would be bred from long-running character arcs, three dimensional storytelling and engaging creative output. The pieces all just fit so beautifully!

All of this raced through my mind as I watched The Shield’s reunion last night; and that, in turn, told me something else.

As a group, when they first arrived, The Shield forced their hand and forced the company toward change. They used that as a means to establish themselves as main event wrestlers.

As a group, when they reformed last night, I couldn’t help but feel they were already trying to force their hand again, trying to force the company toward changing its priorities once more; or at least, towards remembering them. None of them have ever wanted anything less than to be at the top of the company, or believed they deserved anything less than that, and none of them have ever been shy of saying as much. They can’t possibly be happy still playing second fiddle to this second, smugger, frankly less talented wave of part-timers then, surely.

That means that, this time, The Shield isn’t about establishing Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose as viable main event wrestlers; it’s to permanently force the OVW establishment, and WWE too, to accept the truth that the likes of Cena, Orton, Lesnar and company are, all of them, done.

If this angle remains as red hot as it was last night, then you have a situation on your hands, amidst a sea of mediocre storylines, dwindling attendances and disinterested top stars, that you simply cannot afford to ignore; creatively or financially. In that world, WWE will not be able to look past The Shield’s successes, or refrain from reappraising what those successes, both together and as a group (twice over now!), really mean.

That they are the three workhorses that run this business now, whether WWE like it or not, and the time has come to just accept it, because if you won’t, The Shield are, once again, about to make you!

But tell me what you believe right now. Are The Shield on the fast track to an undeniable fate, and if not just what exactly is this reunion doing for you?

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of my book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, from the LOP Store or Amazon today! Simply click here to find mine and a host of other books and merchandise on offer, all courtesy of LOP, or on the icon to the left to be taken directly to Amazon!

Click here to add me on Facebook!

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