We've had some time to sleep on it (or at least, those of us who aren't vampires that live for the impassioned blood of pro wrestling fans), so it's time to take an analytical look at the break-up of The Hounds of Justice.
Oh, who am I kidding? SAY IT AIN'T SO, SETH!
Here are the reasons this mark is excited and afraid about a future with Seth Rollins aligned with Randy Orton and Triple H in Evolution against his former Shield-mates, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns.
On the one hand:
1) Those feelings that you're feeling.
Those don't just happen. In fiction, in life or the unique blend of both that is pro wrestling, shock, betrayal, sadness and anger have to be earned. And WWE worked for this over the last eighteen months. It almost certainly wasn't drawn up exactly like this, but teams are built to be broken. Fans, performers and behind-the-scenes players all know this.
So to create something where the dissolution of a team was both meaningful AND a surprise is pretty awesome.
2) Rollins works great as a heel, and this was one of the heelishly heel turns ever.
Prior to his debut as as a member of The Shield at Survivor Series 2012, I wasn't the world's biggest fan of the characters Colby Lopez had portrayed in the independents or in WWE.
With one exception...his heel championship run as Tyler Black in Ring of Honor (ROH) just prior to his departure for WWE.
That character came about because the ROH fans had labeled him a sellout when word of his contract with Stamford broke, and he claimed that they were just then revealing their true feelings. They had never appreciated him, so why should he look out for anyone but number one?
Solo babyface Seth Rollins was always kind of a dull affair. For those familiar with the current NXT product, he was more Adrian Neville than Sami Zayn. He's grown considerably as good guy within The Shield, but it's a good call to have his first work without Reigns and Ambrose on the main stage to be as a rudo.
3) Speaking of NXT, we're about to get some rematches of one of the greatest feuds in the history of its predecessor, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW).
Go and seek out the feud between Rollins and Ambrose over the FCW15 title, especially the 30 minute blowoff from September of 2011. And their follow-up matches from the first half of 2012 over the Florida Heavyweight Championship.
You can thank me later.
It'll be fun to see Dean and Seth do it again with the alignments reversed.
Bonus excited: My word, is Roman Reigns going to get one of the loudest babyface pops of all-time when he gets his revenge on Seth (if they do this right).
On the other hand:
1) What if they don't do this right?
WWE's recent track record feels pretty solid right now, but that's largely the result of the story that culminated with Daniel Bryan's WWE World Heavyweight Championship win at WrestleMania 30. Outside of that and the peripheral angles that it created (of which it can be argued the Batista heel turn which lead to Evolution reforming which lead to last night is one of them), they remain the same hit and mostly miss operation that they've been since the fall of WCW.
So while I'm confident that the BIG story that results in Seth and Triple H getting their comeuppance - and turning Reigns into the next main event hero, a la Bryan - will work out, I'm less confident in other aspects. There's precedent for WWE to screw up all of them...
Do they have Dean Ambrose's story plotted out enough to avoid his spending time adrift as a babyface in the mid-card title scene? I believe that he's got too much skill and charisma to get lost, but it's been known to happen to similar performers (see: Ziggler, D.)
Can they position Randy Orton to not end up just as lost as he was before last Summer? The Viper runs at the top make him an extremely valuable tool in Creative's toolbox. Wins over him need to matter, like they did for Daniel Bryan...as opposed to the way he spent his last year-plus as a babyface adrift...kind of like Sheamus is now.
What's the long-term plan for Rollins? Young guys usually flourish as part of a villainous stable, but "what's next?" can be a bit of stumbling block. Heels are built to lose, and as we've seen time and time again, it's what they do when they get back up that makes the difference between a hot angle and a long career. Ask Wade Barrett, just now recovering from Nexus' defeats of four years ago,
2) Does this development elevate anyone?
Long-term, yes, this continues the capital-M making of The Shield. Making as many of the trio into long-term main eventers is a worthy and essential goal.
But it's also simply a re-arranging of guys that were already big stars. While they've only held lesser titles in the company, The Hounds of Justice have been around the WWE championship since their debut, and have been in one of the top two or three angles in the company for most of the last year.
Does this help with the fact that Bryan will probably still be facing Kane when he returns? Or that John Cena and Bray Wyatt may be (unnecessarily and potentially damagingly) heading into their fourth straight pay-per-view (PPV) against one another?
A large part of the reason that WWE scrambles when top stars leave or go down is because they focus so myopically on the big stars. It's great that everyone is talking about Rollins' turn this morning. But it would be even greater if they were working on the new star or moment we'll be buzzing about in six months or a year.
3) Dean Ambrose: hero of the people?
As talented as he is, Ambrose's performance lends itself to playing an unhinged, even dangerous, character. The multitude comparisons to Batman villain The Joker don't happen for no reason.
The last few months of face Shield has shown that he can do that, but I don't think it allows him to reach his full potential. I want to see solo Dean unleashed to corrupt the WWE's heroes and bring down the whole enterprise, not play Riggs to Roman's Murtaugh in an odd couple buddy flick.
And while an anti-hero face works in small doses, we already kind of have one right now. It would probably be easier to craft a fully realized heel from Ambrose now, with the lessons they've learned from how fans have embraced Wyatt as a "cool heel", than it would be to turn back the tide of audiences singing along to "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands".
Final Analysis: 85% excited, 15% afraid...100% MARKING OUT
How's everybody else feeling about last night's big twist, following twelve hours to process and twelve thousand words on cSs to consider?