Moments of 2016: Believe in The Shield

Moments of 2016 is a series of articles that detail the year in review for WWE, whether it be specific moments, matches or superstars who've stood out on the WWE main roster and NXT, one way or another. You'll see this series of pieces go through to the end of December.

The Guy. The Man. The Dude.

This is the story of how in one 45 minute swoop the three men who are the biggest superstars in the WWE today and who are - for better or worse in some cases - the leaders of the WWE roster all became WWE World Heavyweight Champion in one night.

But before we go there, we need to retrace the steps as to how we got there. And it all started two years earlier. To that July night in Indianapolis. To the chair shot heard around the world.

Monday, June 2, 2014

It was heartbreak in its purest form if you're a wrestling fan. Nearly two years after they first crashed the scene and invaded a triple threat WWE Championship match at Survivor Series and having been on top of the world at that point by beating Evolution in a clean sweep the night before, and not to mention Tag Champions and US Title Champion respectively, The Shield crashed and burned themselves thanks to Seth Rollins.

Everything about that moment was perfect. Heartbreaking, but perfect. Distill it down: Roman Reigns's reaction, almost like as if his heart broke in the macro-second the chair hit his back. Michael Cole's perfect 'Oh My God' call (even Jerry Lawler's whispery 'what!?' call makes it perfect, similar to the similar call he made in the 'It's me, Austin' promo). The smug look on Triple H and Randy Orton's face. Dean Ambrose's realisation of what just went down. Everything of that moment was heartbreaking. But perfect.

We talk of hypothetical moments of what would happen if someone would turn on the other in a pair or stable and how heartbreaking those will be and kinda half-jokingly suggest it'll hurt more than The Shield breakup. What happens if The New Day breaks up thanks to Big E? How will we take Sasha turning on Bayley? Hell, considering the desent as of late, we're now expecting the bestest friends to end all best friends in Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens to turn on one another big time any day now.

But no matter how heartbreaking and heart wrenching those moments will be - and they still will be - those will be nothing on how The Shield broke up that June night. And in carving out their own path from that night out, it began the dynasty of The Shield and their subsequent rise as the three top men in WWE. They'd face against one another in Ambrose and Rollins, whilst Reigns began his ascent as the anointed one, for better or worse.

Rollins was annointed the face of the Authority and led Team Authority at Survivor Series (on the losing side thanks to Sting) before going on to be one-third of the triple threat at the Royal Rumble for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship with John Cena and Brock Lesnar that was arguably the Match of the Year for 2015 and then dealing with a returning Randy Orton, who was excommunicated by Rollins from The Authority heading towards Wrestlemania. Oh, did I mention Rollins was also Mr Money in the Bank and had still to cash in by that point?

Ambrose was dealing with Bray Wyatt at Survivor Series and TLC before moving on to the IC Title picture towards Mania.

Reigns, meanwhile, was dealing with something else entirely: due to compete at Night of Champions 2014 against Rollins, he had an emergency operation for an inflamed hernia which saw him miss the end of 2014 besides the odd appearance at the Slammys and TLC.

But come the start of 2015, the writing was on the wall to the fans: Reigns was the chosen one. And they did not respond to it well. In Philadelphia at the Royal Rumble, the crowd were booing Reigns massively. It also didn't help matters that minutes earlier, the fan darling Daniel Bryan, who everyone wanted to win, was eliminated. Getting an assist from his cousin The Rock didn't help matters with the crowd who even turned on him, realising what was about to happen. And happen it did: Reigns won it and punched his ticket to face Brock Lesnar at Wrestlmania, albeit it with a hiccup in the road at FastLane where he beat Bryan in what was otherwise a great match to confirm his number one contender status.

The path was set for Wrestlemania. Reigns would face Lesnar for the WWE Title - in his first singles title match at Mania no less - while Ambrose would compete for the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match against Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Wade Barrett and a few others, and Rollins would face Orton in a singles match.

But Rollins still had a joker up his sleeve. His proverbial nuclear football.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

For their first Wrestlemania as solo competitors, you could say it was mixed results.

Ambrose competed in the IC ladder match, but lost out to Daniel Bryan. Not to mention, suffered one hell of a nasty spot onto a ladder thanks to Luke Harper at one point which saw miss out on the rest of the match. Rollins, meanwhile, didn't have much luck with Randy Orton who defeated the architect with quite possibly the best RKO of all time.

As for Reigns? The proverbial nuke was finally used.

Good as the match between Lesnar and Reigns was - it was a stiff affair which also became the birth of Suplex City and had Reigns coming out of it a lot better than he did coming in to it to the fans anyway - it was still a massive moment to see Rollins cashing in on Reigns and Lesnar, making the match a triple threat, and then pinning Reigns to win his first WWE title. And at Wrestlemania too, the first person to cash in on the grandest stage. It was a massive shock, but a moment to mark out for no less.

That night in Santa Clara would begin a period where, in one form or another, all three men of The Shield would be in the main event picture for upwards of a year-and-a-half, with skermishes to the mid-card now and then for the IC title in Ambrose's case, from Wrestlemania 31 all the way through to Battleground this year.

Monday, December 14, 2015

We're skipping a huge chunk of time here where a lot has happened between Wrestlemania and what was the night after TLC 2015, but bear with it.

Rollins was WWE Champion for upwards to seven-and-a-bit months - and found some time inbetween to simultaneously win the United States Championship from John Cena to hold both belts, as well as face Sting in what would be his last match ever for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions after being beaten by Cena for his US Title the match before - before suffering a massive knee injury during a house show in Dublin which forced him to miss the rest of 2015 - and thus vacate the WWE World Heavyweight Championship - and the early part of 2016, including Wrestlemania.

As for Reigns and Ambrose, they'd face each other as the final two in a tournament held over the previous weeks on Raw and earlier in the night at Survivor Series to become the new champion. It was an okay match in which Reigns beat Ambrose and finally became a WWE World Heavyweight Champion in his own right.

For five minutes and fifteen seconds.

Sheamus, who won Money in the Bank a few months earlier, laid out Reigns and became WWE World Heavyweight Champion immediately after his match with Ambrose. Which led to TLC 2015 and a rematch there. But it's what would happen after a match which Sheamus won which would, short-term at least, finally put Reigns over with the marks as well as the casual by reverting to 'give-no-fucks Roman' in which he would lay out Sheamus and then near kill Triple H within an inch of his life. Oh, and Dean Ambrose beat Kevin Owens to win his first Intercontinental Championship in the same show.

The following night on Raw, realising they'd be stupid to not capitalise on this new Roman who seemed over at last with the fans, WWE set up a rematch from TLC - Sheamus vs Reigns for the title (with the added caveat if Roman lost, he'd be fired). And guess who was coming to oversee matters? Vinny Mac himself. In what was a decent match, including a bit in which Vince put over Reigns by taking a Superman Punch on the apron, before spearing Sheamus to become a two-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

WWE would subsequently fuck it up and we'd revert back to the Roman we all knew by the time 2016 kicked into gear. But for that 24 hour period and even the two weeks after, Roman was finally over as the face of the company. And the ultimate irony was he did it in the same building in Philadelphia that he was booed out of nearly a year earlier at the Royal Rumble. Now he was being cheered by the same people who near enough wanted to riot when he won the Rumble. And while he's had his moments since, nothing has come close to recapturing that period last December. It was the night Roman Reigns finally had his moment in the way Rollins did at Wrestlemania

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Which brings us full circle to Money in the Bank this year. Between that night in Philly and MITB, Beforehand, Reigns was turned on again by the fans, lost his championship to Triple H at the Royal Rumble, beat both Ambrose and Brock Lesnar in a triple threat at FastLane to face The Game at Wrestlemania in a drawn out feud, and quite possibly one of the worst Wrestlemania main events ever, and subsequently won his third WWE World Heavyweight Championship (and in doing so, proclaiming "I'm not a bad guy. I'm not a good guy. I'm The Guy.") before having two Match of the Year contenders against a recently debuted AJ Styles.

Ambrose, as well as the aforementioned FastLane triple threat, was part of the final two in the Royal Rumble before being eliminated by Hunter, lost his IC Championship again to Kevin Owens on Raw and then went into a short-term feud with Hunter which culminated at Roadblock (the one before Wrestlemania, not the one next week - just in case it needed to be said). After the FastLane triple threat, he found himself in a Mania feud with Lesnar which was build up fantastically, but the match itself failed to live up to expectations (a lot of that can be attributed to Lesnar - something Ambrose was keen to mention as well) before being a stupid idiot and feuding with Chris Jericho over Payback and Extreme Rules.

But it was time for Rollins to make his return. After several months out with his knee injury, after he defeated Styles at Extreme Rules, Reigns was unexpectedly pedigreed out of nowhere by Rollins. The next night, Rollins got one of the pops of the year in his return to Raw.

He was treated like a god, essentially, before he spoke. For all intents and purposes, he was a face before he turned on the crowd. And it was then that WWE had to knew they made a mistake bringing him back as a heel. Even still, they pushed forward and gave Rollins to reclaim the title he never lost by facing Reigns at Money in the Bank.

Meanwhile, Ambrose was inserted into the Money in the Bank match itself, going up against the likes of Jericho, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Cesaro and Alberto Del Rio. And it's there where the joints start to come together. After a great contest, which was assumed ahead of time would to go to Owens, it'd be Ambrose who'd walk out with the briefcase and become Mr Money in the Bank.

Which brings us to the main event - Reigns vs Rollins for the WWE Heavyweight Championship. Where the next 45 minutes would solidify the group formerly known as the 'Hounds of Justice'. Reigns walked in and started the match as champion, but by the end of it, it was Rollins who'd finish it as the now two-time champion by pinning Reigns clean as a sheet one, two, three.

But 90 seconds after the match ended, the triple was achieved.

Two years after 'The Chairshot' that had broken up the most powerful group in modern WWE, all three men that formerly made up The Shield could now call themselves WWE World Heavyweight Champion and mean it. And by winning his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Ambrose had achieved his triple crown. And soon afterwards, with Reigns's US title win at Night of Champions, all three members of The Shield had achieved the triple crown in one form or another over the course two-and-a-half years plus change.

Rollins: 2x WWE World Heavyweight Champion, 1x United States Champion, 1x Tag Team Champion
Reigns: 3x WWE World Heavyweight Champion, 1x United States Champion, 1x Tag Team Champion
Ambrose: 1x WWE World Heavyweight Champion, 1x United States Champion, 1x Intercontinental Champion

Making for a combined total of six WWE World Heavyweight Championship reigns, three United States Championship reigns, one Tag Team Championship reign and one Intercontinental Championship reign.

But as far as mark out moments come, at least this year, Ambrose's title win was certainly up there. I recall having a massive moment alone in my home at around 3 in the morning and just marking the shit out.

Two years on from the breakup to end all breakups, Money in the Bank showed that if you somehow still didn't believe The Shield were the future of the WWE, it was - and is - a future you had best start getting into.

Believe that.


Day One: The Phenomenal Year (AJ Styles)
Day Two: Grateful (Daniel Bryan)
Day Three: Here Comes the Money (Shane McMahon)
Day Four: The Rising Sun (Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn)
Day Five: The Queen - Making history (Charlotte - 1/4)
Day Six: Fight Forever (Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens)
Day Seven: The Boss - A new era (Sasha Banks - 2/4)
Day Eight: Shootin' from the lip (The Miz)
Day Nine: The Hugger - Our girl, Bayley (Bayley - 3/4)

Johnny Cullen writes about games for a living and has written for the likes of Eurogamer, VG247 and Official PlayStation Magazine UK and also podcasts about games for My Favourite Game. You can follow him on Twitter - for mostly games hijinks but also WWE tweets (and be a bit obsessive over Bayley), The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Jonsi & Alex) - @JohnnyCullen.

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