If you were asking the “WWE Universe” a question about what superstars represented the “future” of the company, the three men who be right in the middle of that discussion would be Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns…The Shield.
Their debut back in 2012 and their subsequent run was one of the strongest opening gambits in modern WWE. Considering that they were “unknowns” to the vast majority of the audience the strength with which they were pushed was even more remarkable. Even more so, they seemed to bypass the regular WWE obsession of having to “prove” themselves in the big league. Although they wrestled infrequently on TV they invariably won their matches, even when pitted against top stars, and their eye-catching walk though the crowd gimmick made them stand out even more. The very fact that they were presented as stars made it a lot easier for fans to accept them as such.
Of course, the comedown came. Ambrose jobbing to The Undertaker was no disgrace, but other losses followed to lesser opponents. This, however, is just the way the WWE operates these days. The strong push had to be brought back a little, if only to “test” all three men and ensure that their attitude was the right one for business. For better or worse it’s a phase that all new recruits have to undergo in some form or another. The fact that they are being used as the Corporation’s muscle is proof that there are still big things in store for the trio.
But who will ultimately prove to be the biggest star when the inevitable split comes? People will have their own ideas, based on personal preferences, but it is possible to predict who will prove to be the biggest of them all?
Of course not. But why should that stop me?
If you were splitting it down into basic terms, you could argue that The Shield’s strengths are as follows. Dean Ambrose is the one with the golden mic skills, Seth Rollins is the best in-ring performer and Roman Reigns has the size and look that WWE, erm, looks for in it’s superstars. (We’ll get to the CM Punk/Daniel Bryan thing later…)
As the de facto leader of The Shield, Ambrose has shown a lot of verbal fire but anyone who has access to YouTube can find plenty of examples of just how good he can be. He was even scintillating in last year’s (non-televised) WrestleMania weekend angle when he confronted Mick Foley “on the streets” and lambasted the hardcore legend for the example he had set to young wrestlers. To my mind he’s a mix of Roddy Piper and Terry Funk in terms of his verbal ability and anyone who knows me will realise that this is high praise indeed. He has the loud intensity of Piper combined with the, occasionally, more measured approach of Funk. Quite simply he is compelling on the mic. And we shouldn’t also forget that he can go in the ring too.
Seth Rollins has a similar background to CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in terms of coming to prominence in the wrestling world largely thanks to a stint with Ring of Honor. Although the company doesn’t make a lot of money (if any, these days) it has a remarkable track record for showcasing talent and in some ways acts as a modern day ECW. It might not be the place that “produces” the talent but it is the best place a non-“mainstream” wrestler can get noticed. Indeed if you aren’t coming through the WWE system early in your career there is little doubt that you have more chance of getting a WWE contract if you wrestle in RoH rather than TNA. Rollins can talk and can wrestle the WWE style whilst still injecting enough of his own personality to avoid becoming another WWE cookie-cutter identikit “superstar”. And as with Ambrose his slender look isn’t as much of an issue as it once might have been.
Which leads us to Roman Reigns. He’s clearly the least experienced and polished of the trio. There’s a reason he was the least utilised of the three in the early days of the Shield, acting as the muscle and strength of the group and having limited mic time. And yet despite the fact that in recent times the likes of Punk, Bryan and Dolph Ziggler have shown that the days where you had to be built like a brick outhouse to become World Champion are gone let’s not kid ourselves. A man with the traditional “look” of a WWE Superstar is always going to have an advantage over talented, but smaller, rivals. What has impressed me with Reigns is that the WWE have stuck to the tried and tested Paul Heyman booking manual; hide the negatives, accentuate the positives. Reigns was, if you’ll pardon the pun, shielded from having to carry matches and promos and instead could concentrate on looking powerful and dominant in brawls whilst all the time learning on the job. It would, for instance, have been perfectly acceptable to have Reigns take on The Undertaker in terms of them being a perfect size match, but that honor went to Ambrose, so as not to risk bursting the bubble of Reigns unnecessarily. More recently he’s been in a RAW main event with Daniel Bryan. Being put in there with the best in the WWE was clearly designed to showcase him and word has it that the power players in WWE were impressed with his display.
All three men under the spotlight here should have great WWE careers ahead of them. Given the nature of the business it’s difficult to predict to what extent each man will progress and succeed but to the same extent you wouldn’t bet against either man lifting a version of the World Title given some of the recent champions, and the fact that Damien Sandow currently is walking around with the World Heavyweight Title MITB Briefcase. Indeed in a year’s time or so, all three could be conceivable winners of a MITB match.
I just have the feeling though that Roman Reigns might prove to be the breakout star. In some ways it could be similar to Evolution and the Batista/Randy Orton stories. Ambrose and Rollins may become long-term stars in the way that Orton has but it might be Reigns who provides the same sort of spark as Batista and makes the biggest initial impact. Lets not forget that Batista’s face turn and bout at WrestleMania with Triple H was MEGA successful at the box office and he would walk back into the main events if he were to come back today.
No matter how unimportant it seems in a world where Daniel Bryan is arguably the most popular wrestler on the roster, the look is still important. That’s what makes the current storyline where the 5’ 8” Bryan is considered a “B” so compelling; it has a ring of truth to it. Reigns looks like a monster, and can convincingly act like one too. If the WWE continue to “protect” him and allow him to grow into the role even further I think he has a very bright future indeed. As Sheamus and Jack Swagger have shown, even if they weren’t entirely successful, a large man who can work a decent match will always get an opportunity in the WWE.
And if I was a betting man, I’d put my money on Reigns taking advantage of that and being the first of the three to become a World Heavyweight Champion.
– By Matthew Roberts