Thoughts from the Top Rope 1.09.14: Believe in the Shield
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 01.09.2014
In this week's Thoughts from the Top Rope we countdown my top ten favourite Royal Rumble moments and examine the rise and potential fall of The Shield.
We're going to kick things off today with some quick thoughts from the world of wrestling and its major news stories from the last few days. Without further ado...
- WWE creative failed to follow up on the hot angle that closed last week's Raw. Personally, I have no problem giving a story time to play out, but the Daniel Bryan situation was much talked about in the lead up to this week's Raw and unfortunately, the angle fell flat Monday night. They need to rebound next week when Bray and Bryan team up.
- Congratulations to Kaitlyn and Matt Morgan for seemingly getting out of the wrestling business and embarking on new chapters of their respective lives that don't involve relentless travel, minimal time with family and full body pain every waking morning. Morgan is a guy with a great upside but for whatever reason he never really clicked with any audience he was put in front of, despite what Watry says. Just another thing that hack was wrong about.
- Seeing Jake "the Snake" was indeed a fantastic moment to end Raw, even if the Baltimore crowd sat on their hands for the most part. It's great to see Jake has seemingly turned his live around after all his troubles.
- Dolph Ziggler is going to be out for an extended period of time with another concussion. Sources are putting the blame on Ryback, and now everyone believes it's time to let Ryback go. There's been a ton of rumours about the guy being unsafe to work with and lots of criticism hurled his way. Thus far, no suggestion of Dolph being injury prone, but how long before people start comparing him to Mr. Kennedy?
- At the time of writing, the WWE hasn't made their big official announcement re: the WWE Network, but one wonders how soon the Network will be available in international markets. As an Englishman, this is of the utmost importance to me, but may also be relevant in regards to TNA gathering momentum in many international markets while WWE is seeming down in those same markets. The United States is not the be all, end all. Thursday morning edit: and now we know, late 2014/early 2015! Could be worse.
- For the last couple years WWE has a tendency to only highlight two or three matches heading into their pay-per-views, and if the last couple weeks of TV are anything to go by, they're barely hyping the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match for the Royal Rumble. Granted, the Rumble sells itself, but it only guarantees you around 250-300,000 buys. Only two or three years ago the same pay-per-view was doing twice that, with or without The Rock.
- The return of AJ Styles to Impact last week really fell flat. And Dixie Carter is still a horrible on-air personality, and not in the good way. I want to see the AJ Styles situation resolved as soon as possible; either get him back under contract or forget about him and move on.
- Finally, major kudos to all at 411 for their work in the various Year End Awards columns that have been going up over the past couple of weeks. I contributed to the Movies, Music and obviously Wrestling awards, but I know a lot of hard work went into every zones' pieces regardless of whether our readers agreed with the outcomes or not.
And with that out of the way, good morning, ladies and gentleman, and welcome to another edition of Thoughts from the Top Rope with me, your host, Daniel Wilcox. With the entire festive period out of the way, many of us are back at work and having to brave this bizarre weather, whether you're in the US or here in the UK, mother nature is playing havoc lately. And for us wrestling fans, we've got ourselves a Royal Rumble in a couple of weeks and then we're into the most exciting period of the year as we build to WrestleMania XXX, which was the principle subject of last week's column.
Last Week's Feedback
Plenty of good feedback and discussion last week regarding the Royal Rumble, Bryan joining the Wyatts and the year's potential top matches. Oh, and Ice Dagger showed up too. Here's some selected comments and responses as per usual.
From SHADE: "I still don't get why everyone wants Bryan vs. Orton AGAIN. To me that's not conventional booking to have your WrestleMania title match be a match you just put on about a dozen times the year before, 3 times on pay-per-view in fact wherein those pay-per-view matches did not live up to the expectations. Not to mention this big moment of Bryan beating Orton for the title already happened at Night of Champions, yes he got stripped of the title, but that moment happened already.
Give me someone else vs. Orton for the title and not a match I've seen enough in the span of a year."
My Response: Yeah, pretty much. I'd love to see Bryan get his moment just as much as the next guy, but I've no interest in another match with Orton. We've seen it at least eight or nine times of TV and pay-per-view in the last six months.
From Michael L: "I would love to see Bryan v. Punk in an iron man match--I just don't think the WWE has enough faith in them to do it on PPV--but perhaps on an edition of Raw."
"Maybe on at Payback or Battleground, but not at Night of Champions." - Juan Jiminez
My Response: I'm envisioning a scenario where because of their diluted pay-per-view schedule that time of the year, they keep some major players off the show to really showcase their champions.
Iron Man WWE Championship Match: Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk
Intercontinental Championship Match: Big E Langston vs. Dolph Ziggler
Diva's Championship Match: AJ Lee vs. Paige
United States Championship Match: Fandango vs. Kofi Kingston
Tag Team Championship Ladder Match: Ambrose/Rollins vs. The Usos
Then in 3 weeks times you have Battleground with Cena, Orton, Show, Reigns etc. back on the card. Give you six weeks of build between Summerslam and Battleground for key matches.
Highly unlikely though.
From ZigZag987: "At the Elimination Chamber PPV the Intercontinental Title should be defended in the chamber... That helps make it feel more relevant, and midcarders get to shine in that match."
My Response: I really like this idea. Let's assume Van Dam and Jericho return around Rumble time, making your five challengers for Big E's strap RVD, Y2J, Ziggler, Big Show and Fandango. Four former world champions challenging makes the Intercontinental strap seem even more important and gives you plenty of star power, and makes Big E look like a beast when he wins.
And finally, from Sidderz97: "Have we all forgot that Ambrose is US champ? It's just no-one mentions a possible match for him to defend his title? Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins at WrestleMania for the US Title would be great!"
My Response: This is absolutely true, and it segues in nicely to the main part of this week's column, right after the social media promotion.
Social Media Propaganda
411Mania is not just a website, it's a revolution. Join the revolution, and more importantly, follow it on TWITTER and like it FAECBOOK!
And what about me? I don't TWEET MUCH but I might if I had more followers. I am, however, all over that FACEBOOKIZZLE so be my friend on that and then like all my statuses so all my real life friends think I'm funny.
This Week's Match
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match: Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero vs. X-Pac [No Way 2001]
No Way Out 2001 is one of my favourite pay-per-view cards of all time and this match is a big part of the reason why. There's a hell of a lot of talent involved in this match regardless of your personal feelings about any of them. All four guys were in a weird limbo at this point with none of them having entered into a program ready for WrestleMania X-Seven, so they kind of just got told to go out here and put on a show, which they did. The match is almost split into two halves, the first with Benoit and Guerrero working as a unit to wear down their two opponents, the second half commencing when they turn on one another. The action is fast-paced as you'd expect and for the most part they don't just use the tried and true formula of two guys pairing off and the other two doing the same. The match had a weird dynamic with Jericho the only babyface and nobody really caring about X-Pac despite him being a tremendous worker. He was just forming X-Factor at this time with Justin Credible, who would also play a part in the match and hadn't had much direction prior to that since coming back from a back injury in 2000. Unfortunately I've only managed to find a highlights reel on YouTube, with some poor music over the top of it as well, but if you have access to this match it's always worth a re-watch every now and then. The one question that popped into my head as I watched the match back last week is whether the level of talent in today's WWE mid-card can hold a candle to this time period.
This Week's Feature
Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lema. Delta. Six words that when blared out over the PA at any WWE event in the last fourteen months has elicited a response from the audience, and struck fear into the hearts of any WWE Superstar unfortunate to be standing in the ring at the time. The Shield burst onto the scene at Survivor Series 2012 and have had a dominating debut year unlike any other team or stable in history. Critical acclaim has greeted their matches and the group's booking, and few can argue that 2013 has been the year of the Shield. But from day one there's always been talk of who would be the breakout star and with rumours of their imminent break up gathering speed on the Internet, it's time to look at the Shield and determine whether the group is greater than the sum of its parts, or if there's money to be made from a break up.
Believe in the Shield
Survivor Series 2012: The Debut of The Shield
Believe it or not but in the fall of 2012 Ryback was the hottest thing going in WWE and fans were clamouring for him to win the WWE Championship. The only problem was, WWE had no intentions of ending CM Punk's record-breaking reign as champion and so they needed to protect Ryback in defeat. At Hell in a Cell they used a crooked referee. At Survivor Series, they used three debutants, drafted up from the NXT roster. Even to those who didn't follow NXT, two of the trio were instantly recognizable to many of us. Dean Ambrose was the former John Moxley, well known on the independent circuit in various promotions including CZW, FIP and Dragon Gate USA. As Dean Ambrose, he spent a couple years under a WWE developmental deal in Florida Championship Wrestling having notable feuds with William Regal and one of his future Shield brethren, Seth Rollins. Rollins had a massive following on the independents as he worked under the Tyler Black gimmick, notably as a member of the Age of the Fall and then as ROH World Champion. Rollins signed to WWE in 2010, where he found major success in FCW before becoming the inaugural NXT Champion last year. Roman Reigns had no wrestling experience whatsoever when he reported to Florida Championship Wrestling in 2010. A former defensive tackle in the Canadian Football League, Reigns possessed a look and a style that WWE liked and he soon found his way up through the ranks in FCW before debuting as the muscle of the Shield alongside Rollins and Ambrose at the Survivor Series.
The debut of the Shield got the Internet Wrestling Community talking like no other "moment" since the debut of the Nexus several years prior. And immediately there was talk about how success they could achieve, as a group but also as individuals. See Ambrose was well known for his charisma, his bizarrely intense promo style that resulted in his feud with William Regal gaining so much praise. This, combined with his in-ring ability, made him an instant favourite among fans and many thought he'd be the breakout star. We anointed him the unnamed leader of the Shield because of the charisma we knew he possessed. Seth Rollins didn't get much of a look in simply because of his size. Everybody who had watched his independent work knew he was a fantastic hand in the ring, but his lack of size and his arguable lack of natural charisma meant that we all assumed WWE would never give him much of a chance. Then there was the cynical crowd who assumed only Reigns could make it because he had the look that McMahonagement liked, irrespective of his wrestling ability. Truth be told, not many people knew a whole hell of a lot about Reigns, so we made assumptions.
In fact, plenty of people assumed the Shield would be a flash in the pan. We assumed they'd fizzle out after a few months. The conventional wisdom was that they'd all become fodder to John Cena, just like the Nexus did. We all jumped to these conclusions because we've seen all too many times before. And we were all proved wrong. Yet those same people a year later are jumping to conclusion about the booking of Daniel Bryan, among other things.
So what has made the Shield so successful in 2013? Well, a big part of it is obviously the talents of the three individual members. All three guys have proven to be good in-ring performers, even Reigns. And of course they've each benefitted from working with some of the very best in the business all year. Furthermore, each member stands out as his own man – they each have their own in-ring styles, looks, mannerisms etc that mean you have three individual characters on equal footing making one unit, as opposed to a group of interchangeable Superstars (see Nexus, the). But the pivotal factor in their success has undoubtedly been the booking. We like to give WWE creative a lot of stick for when they get things wrong and rarely hand out praise even when they take three guys unknown to the WWE Universe and turn them all into stars in a matter of months. From day one, the Shield was booked as a credible threat to anyone on the roster. They took out Ryback, Kane, Daniel Bryan, Big Show, Sheamus, CM Punk, Randy Orton, Christian, Chris Jericho and others. That's all well and good. But they also put a beatdown on The Rock. They put The Undertaker on the shelf. And they beat John Cena, clean as a whistle. That's a phenomenal year by anybody's standards, but for three NXT upstarts? That's unheard of.
Importantly, the Shield hasn't just been invincible as a unit; each individual has been able to hold their own in singles competition as well. Dean Ambrose went toe-to-toe with Undertaker back in April and came off looking like a million bucks and then proceeded to capture the United States Championship in April. You can argue he doesn't defend the title all that often, but as Ambrose himself said, that's because nobody is willing to challenge him. Roman Reigns has been billed as the powerhouse of the Shield since day one and in recent months he has really come into his own, putting on a great display of dominance at Survivor Series and is just now beginning to turn heads as a performer. The guy also oozes natural charisma and he's no slouch in the ring, so those assumptions many made about the guy a year ago were proved way off. Seth Rollins has been portrayed as the workhorse of the Shield, and any time he steps into the ring one-on-one with another Superstar, be it Big Show, Daniel Bryan or John Cena, the guy holds his own. He's had stand out matches with Bryan over the summer and Cena and CM Punk in recent weeks.
But is it possible that the Shield can now transition into three individual mega stars?
If rumours are to be believed, Roman Reigns is about to go through some sort of monster push. It seemed to start at Survivor Series when he eliminated four of the opposition team with four Spears and won as the sole survivor. There's been subtle moments in Shield promos where Reigns has given Ambrose quizzical looks as Ambrose puts himself over. And whatever WWE is trying to do seems to be working, as the fans chanted "Roman Reigns" as CM Punk poled the Universe as to who the very best in the Shield is. Many are expecting Reigns to have another breakout moment in just over two weeks at Royal Rumble. And I have to admit, the guy has everything going for him. He's built like a star, he looks like a star and he sounds like a star. His in-ring work is more than good enough to fit into the WWE main event scene, and the fans look like they're ready to react to him. If handled correctly, and quite frankly it's damn near impossible to mess up with this guy, Roman Reigns for all intents and purposes should be a major star and moneymaker in WWE for a long time to come.
Dean Ambrose just oozes charisma. Current booking is suggesting Ambrose may be the weak link of the Shield, despite many thinking of Ambrose as the group's leader. That seemingly started at Survivor Series too, with Ambrose getting eliminated early. Then in recent weeks we've seen Ambrose get beat frequently in singles competition and take the fall in many multi-man matches. Angles like this are usually very risky, because more often than not, the audience will end up buying into the idea that the guy really is a weak link. WWE got the story right with Daniel Bryan earlier this year, but historically this angle never goes well. Ambrose has that charisma though to make anything work; his promo work down in FCW is phenomenal and showcases Ambrose at his best. The guy is a good hand in the ring but it's his intensity that makes him must-see. He's not the biggest guy but the he's a dangerous mind and that means he always be a threat.
Seth Rollins' size and stature, once upon a time, would have been an issue in terms of how far he can go in WWE. But thanks to guys like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, neither his size nor his history as an independent star will hold Rollins back. The former Tyler Black is a phenomenal in-ring talent, and one of the guys whose matches you always look forward to. If Rollins can work on his promo skills (and I'm not saying he's bad, just not great) then the sky is the limit for Rollins, as it is for all three members of the Shield.
The fact of the matter is WWE has positioned all three members of the Shield to be viable future singles competitors. Reigns is going to get the first look in by the look of things, but don't be surprised if Ambrose and Rollins get to the top in the end as well. In the long run, it might not work out for each member of the Shield, hell it might not work out for any of them, but because of the brilliant way the company has handled their debut year, it's going to be harder to screw up with any of these guys than it is going to be to succeed with all of them. We often criticise WWE for failing to create new stars, and while it is true that we haven't really had anyone reach the level of The Rock or John Cena, the company has expanded its crop of main event talents to include the likes of CM Punk, Sheamus, Daniel Bryan, Alberto del Rio and The Miz in the last few years and with the amount of talent they have sat in the mid-card at the moment, they've secured their future for the next five to ten years in terms of main event talent. And the very best of that talent lies in the Shield.
Of course, this is all well and good if you buy into the rumours regarding the Shield's imminent break up. Not even a tenth of the rumours we all read online about pro wrestling turn out to be true. And while it does seem that seeds are being planted ready for Roman Reigns' breakout, there's nothing to suggest that Ambrose and Rollins cannot carry on as the Shield, potentially even recruiting a new member or even numerous new members. At the very least, if WWE has immediate plans for Reigns as a singles guy, Ambrose and Rollins should be kept together as the anchors of the current WWE tag team revival. If they have no plans for those two as singles guys, there's no point letting them tread water in the mid-card with the likes of Miz and Kofi Kingston. Furthermore, if WWE is looking to push Reigns right now, they need a big plan for him. We are pretty much about to turn onto the Road to WrestleMania, and that means every Monday night you're going to see part time guys taking up TV time (for better or worse). Just last week we saw the return of Brock Lesnar, and next week we have the return of Batista. Just wait until Undertaker, Hulk Hogan and the rest show up. If Reigns isn't going to be involved with any of these guys, he's not going to get the TV time necessary to make the split from the Shield mean something. Personally? I say keep them together until post-WrestleMania and go from there. They could make it their big summer angle if they so wish.
What WWE has in the Shield, or rather what WWE has created in the Shield, is a vehicle of instant credibility, whereby anybody who comes out through the crowd donned in the black attire is a threat because they're a part of the Shield. There is a wealth of talent down in NXT who are ready to be brought up to TV and may just be in need of something to do. It doesn't have to be another muscle guy, merely someone who brings something into the group that it doesn't already have. Quite frankly the possibilities are endless, I simply feel it would be a shame to kill off the group completely considering they've been the best part of WWE television over the last 12 months.
This Week's List
Ah yes, the Royal Rumble. It's pretty much universally everybody's most anticipated match of the year. We all love the suspense, the drama, the guessing, the countdown, the surprise returns and waiting to see just how the fuck Kofi Kingston is going to keep himself in the match this year. So in anticipation of this year's match, here's ten of my personal favourite Rumble match moments. Obviously this is completely subjective and merely what appeals to me, so leave me your personal favourite moments in the comments section and I'll feature them.
My Favourite Royal Rumble Moments
Honourable Mention [would be higher if I could find video]: Christian: Gimme a beat.
10. Ric Flair's Post-Match Promo 
9. Snitsky Eliminates Paul London 
8. Eddie Guerrero Steals Ric Flair's Number 
7=. John Morrison is Spiderman /Kofi Kingston Uses a Chair 
5. Santino Marella Nearly Wins 
4. Kane Dominates 
3. John Cena Shocks the World 
2. Maven Eliminates The Undertaker 
1. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels Steal the Show 
This Week's Farewell
And so concludes another week's Thoughts from the Top Rope. Remember to hit up the comment section with your thoughts on all of this week's talking points including;
1. Is it the right time to break up the Shield?
2. Who's going to be the most successful Shield alumni?
3. What are your personal favourite Royal Rumble moments?
4. What did you think of the follow up to Daniel Bryan joining the Wyatts?
5. Do you want to see AJ Styles back in TNA?
6. Your thoughts on No Way Out 2001?
7. Can today's mid-card hold a candle to that of the Attitude Era?
And don't forget to check out all the great columns around the entire site for all your year-end fun with lists! I'll leave with the links you need and see you back here next week. Thank you for reading.