Every so often one looks at the wrestling landscape and sees something that is so egregious that you can’t help but point at it and say WTF! We are at that point with this Shield reunion. Yes, wrestling fans have been salivating over the idea of a Shield reunion since they broke up over three years ago. But I can promise you, as much as we want to enjoy this reunion, this is by far the worst approach WWE could have taken to bring the band back together. Here is everything that’s wrong with the way WWE did this.
I know what you’re thinking, what build? WWE did two weeks of “build” to this. Week 1 – Roman caught a beatdown from the Miztourage. Miztourage did the old Shield fist bump. Week 2 – Roman pre-empted the Miztourage beatdown, beating the holy hell out of Curtis Axle and Bo Dallas. Unfortunately, Miz enlisted The Bar for help and Roman took the beatdown anyway. Miz and friends once again do the old Shield fist bump. Week 2 ends with Dean and Seth walking in on Roman’s locker, everyone nodding and the fans knew what was up. Week 3 – Shield is reunited. By midshow they have the shirts and triple powerbomb Braun through a table. We end up with Miz, The Bar, Braun and Kane as the matchup for the reunited Shield at TLC. We got there in two seconds flat and as much as fans were always gonna cheer that moment, this was underwhelming and history will prove the same. Now some may argue that the whole story was told starting from the reunion between Dean and Seth, but I don’t buy that. Those guys getting together and this were clearly two separate things. I also get that this was their “break glass in case of emergency” move for the fall, but man, give it some thought and effort.
Some of the best moments in WWE have been ones that happened by complete surprise – except Kane bursting through the bottom of the ring, that will never be a best moment in 2017. Nonetheless, the Hogan, Rock and Austin moment at Wrestlemania 30, relatively a surprise, and one of the most Wrestlemania moments of all time. Brock’s return the night after Wrestlemania 28, a somewhat spoiled surprise by the fans chanting for Brock, but one of those “Holy Shit!” moments that WWE longs for. One can look no further than the Shield debut in 2012 – a definite surprise and a memorable moment. If WWE was gonna go with the crappy/no build route for the reunion, they might as well have made it a surprise. But there was no surprise to this. They telegraphed it the moment the Miztourage did the fist bump in Week 1.
Now, I need to stop right here before I go any further and say this – I love the Miz. I love everything that he has done since the brand split. I think he is the best old school heel in WWE right now and I am disappointed that he is on Raw because it seems impossible for him to get another top title run on that program with all of the behemoths running around. All that being said, the Miz, and really moreso his friends, are not worthy of the Shield reunion. Especially not a rushed, we need to get the band back together to fight off this menace, type of reunion. Again this goes back to the lack of a real long-term build. They could have developed a much better story around the need for reuniting the Shield. I’ll save my recommendations for later, but there were better enemies that could have forced the reunion.
I hate to bring this up, but we are here. Bo Dallas was off of tv after Week 1 of the build to the reunion. This, we later found out, was due to a viral meningitis scare/outbreak on the Raw brand. Who was the last person Bo interacted with physically on screen, none other than Roman Reigns (and technically Curtis Axle). Bo, Bray and JoJo were all held off tv during this time while Roman continued to wrestle despite his contact with a wrestler who either had or was exposed to viral meningitis and thus could have been contagious. After Week 1, WWE could have paused this whole thing and rethink it while holding all of these folks off tv and building something totally different for TLC. Maybe they could have broken the emergency glass case for a rare Brock Lesnar date and title defense instead. But no, they proceeded with the reunion and build to TLC and then had to replace Roman with Kurt Angle at the last minute. As fun as it was to see Kurt come out through the crowd with the Shield in the flak jacket etc., it still made the whole point of the reunion seem moot. This is obviously why we got the through the crowd entrance make its return at Raw before TLC instead of at TLC, WWE probably knew they might ultimately have to keep Roman off TLC. This is the worst part of it all, because the reunion definitely feels wasteful now.
How would I have done it differently? I’m glad you asked. I’ll just lay out a couple of different scenarios that speak to a better build, better opponents etc.
The Raw Build – Miz Option
Let’s backtrack a bit. I am not at all mad at the Miz’s involvement in this angle, it is their approach to the rest of the team that I am not a fan of. So we can run back the same captain but let’s change the approach a bit. Let’s say Miz vs Roman for the IC belt happens. But instead of The Bar, we get a Braun Strowman interference. He beats down Roman and just as he goes to attack Miz (because we know Braun doesn’t care) he steps off and gives something of a wink to Miz. Fast forward a week and we get the rematch (because Kurt loves babyfaces) and this time we get interference by someone like that big dude from Sanity down in NXT – Killian Dain. Same routine. He goes like he is gonna attack Miz but instead he gives him the nod and walks off. You continue with this back and forth attack approach for a few more weeks so maybe a retaliation match between Roman and Braun. Then one between Roman and Killian. Eventually we get back around to Miz but at this point the full plot is revealed and we get the three on one beatdown. You could even tease it further by having Seth and Dean approach Roman and have Roman blow them off saying he can handle it. Then you get Killian and Braun beatdown Seth and Dean for trying get involved. Inevitably you end up at another three on one beatdown of Roman during which Seth and Dean get involved and then you push to the full reunion. Taking this approach would be a better approach for a couple of reasons. First, you get Miz operating as a mastermind behind two monsters (where we know the eventual outcome is him mouthing off and taking a beatdown and maybe a babyface turn). Second, you get the option of running Braun and Killian against Seth and Dean for the tag titles. Third, you have two awesomely huge men that can present themselves as a legit physical challenge for the Shield with Miz pulling all the strings. If built properly, everyone wins.
The Raw Build – Monsters Option
So what if we look at that last storyline option – Miz with the two big men and we adjusted just a little bit. So let’s say we start back at the Roman vs Miz IC Title match again. We run the same ending as proposed above with one slight change. Braun comes out, destroys Roman. Miz extends his hand and Braun beats him down too. No big deal. Seems like the same old same old. Braun doing Braun things. We run some misdirection here and there with Braun just beating other random wrestlers down left and right. We get the Roman Braun Raw match at some point after a few weeks and Braun wins clean. Roman starts to doubt himself and challenges Braun to a TLC match to finally determine who the better man is. We get to TLC, Roman is about to win and then we get the debut of Akam and Rezar, the Authors of Pain. Next night on Raw Ellering can start to blabber on about how he has assembled a trio of monsters that are unstoppable. With Braun as the lead and Akam and Rezar at his flank they start to dominate the Raw roster. Maybe we even get a Brock vs Braun rematch and we move the belt over to the Monster Among Men. They destroy Brock and we don’t see him for a while. Inevitably AOP sets their sights on the Raw Tag Titles and wins them. Now you have the tag belts and universal title all held by this group. You use that as the impetus to reform the Shield. Once again you are talking about a legitimate threat of epic proportions at least a little more worthy of getting Roman, Seth and Dean back together.
The Survivor Series War
The last approach could have been an all out surprise. So let’s flashback to last Monday when Smackdown Live invaded Raw. Let’s say everything went down exactly as it did but the reunion hadn’t happened yet. Now, let’s fast forward to either last week’s Smackdown or this week’s Smackdown. You’re watching Smackdown and they keep finding SDL’s top guys laid out in the back. You start with KO and Sami, found knocked out backstage. Then you find AJ and Shinsuke, laid out near their lockers. The show goes on with no one sure what’s happening. Then, with Shane McMahon in the center of the ring addressing the attacks the following words blear across the speakers – Sierra Hotel India Echo Lima Delta SHIELD. Would the roof not blow off of that arena? Would that not have been the perfect method to reunite the Shield? They come down to the ring, triple powerbomb Shane through the announce table and leave SDL in ruins. Imagine the triumphant return to Raw a week later having perfectly executed Kurt Angle’s plan for retaliation. Now THAT, would have been a return. THAT would have been a surprise. THAT would have been a much better approach to reuniting the Shield. This option is my clear favorite. It solves the issue of Roman missing TLC. It gives so much more meaning to the reunion. By not even referencing it ahead of time outside of maybe Kurt vowing that he has a plan you have a genuine surprise. It would add another layer of importance to the Survivor Series matchups. Best of all, you wouldn’t have to worry about continuing it post Survivor Series. You can pop in and out of the reunion without the need for solving how to break them up again. It just works. While the monsters option might be the most fun and chaotic, this would have been the absolute best approach. Alas, this is WWE and we got the rush job.
What a Waste
That’s all I can really say. Did fans pop when they teased the reunion at the end of Raw the first time? No doubt. Did fans lose it when they entered through the crowd two weeks ago, all decked out in the Shield gear? Oh, but of course. Was the approach they took the best path to the endgame? Not particularly. Will we remember this run as fondly as their first one? No, probably not. Would we ever have, even if it was done well? It depends, but probably not. At the end of the day, all we ever want as fans is to be fully enraptured in a story to the extent that we either do not see or are willing to overlook the warts. WWE has not accomplished that here and this will likely fizzle out with very little fanfare in comparison to the first run. (Rumors are Dean will be the initiator of the split this go around leading to a match with Seth at next year’s Mania.) I guess all we can do is enjoy it while it lasts, try to see past the plot holes and/or deficiencies in storytelling and be happy that the band is back, for now.