The other day, I decided to clean out one of my old email accounts that I used when I wrote for another site. I was going through the different messages and conversations I had with readers when one question caught my attention.
"In 30 years, where do you think The Shield will rank on the list of all-time greatest factions?"
At face value, that seems like an easy question to answer, doesn't it? They had a good run, but that's the end of it.
Or is it?
You have to dig a little deeper for this one, but you also have to start your research with something easy to figure out... the length of time the faction was together. The Shield debuted at the 2012 Survivor Series and disbanded on the June 2nd, 2014 episode of Raw. That's a little over 18 months as a unit. Just over a year-and-a-half together. Let's look at how that compares to some of the other groups in the running for the best ever:
- The nWo's initial run, if you're starting from the moment that Hulk Hogan turned heel, lasted for approximately three years, with various groups and mini-groups spreading out across the world. Their final WCW run lasted about four extra months. The group's time in WWE lasted a total of five months. They've been together for one-offs, but we won't count those here.
- The Four Horsemen have had several different lineups through the years, but their total length of time as a group is about nine years. Again, that's their total time together, so I'm not counting the time during which they were disbanded, or when Ric Flair and Sid jumped to the WWF, etc. Please don't comment me about how the Horsemen started in 1985 and ended in 1999, and how that is more than nine years. Also, while groups like Evolution and Fortune were Horsemen-like, and both involved Flair, they weren't the actual Horsemen group, so they don't count here.
- DX was together for a little less than six months before Shawn Michaels left the business because of his back injury. The new group lasted about a year before being split apart but would get back together a few months later, and that run lasted another six or so months. Michaels and Triple H would bring the name back for their tag team in 2006, and they were together for seven months before Trips injured his quad. Upon his return, DX saw a bunch of one-offs, until 2009, when they actually stayed together for another six months before Michaels retired for the second time. Since then, we've seen non-wrestling returns, but we won't count those.
I'm sorry if all that was confusing, but the point stands that The Shield wasn't together for anywhere near as long, in total, as some of the other all-time great wrestling factions were. Now, is that fair, considering the members are all still active? Not exactly, especially now that they're all on Raw, and are all faces (don't get me started on Roman Reigns being a face, though). It isn't fair, but for right now, Kurtis Blow wants you to know that these are the breaks.
Now, let's switch gears to look at something that actually does work in The Shield's favor... star making. All three members of The Shield were virtual unknowns to the majority of the WWE Universe when they debuted on the main roster. By the time the group split, all three men were seen as locks to be major players in the business. Here we are, three years later, and the results speak for themselves. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns have combined for six World Title reigns, three United States Title reigns, two Intercontinental Title reigns, two Money In The Bank victories, one Royal Rumble win, one Tag Team Title reign, and a partridge in a pear tree. None of them will be older than 32 by the time 2017 comes to an end, so there's plenty of time for them to add to their trophy cases. The Shield made all three of them big names, and they skyrocketed to the top because of the group. Again, let's take a look at the three other major candidates for greatest faction ever:
- Hulk Hogan was already the biggest star in the history of this business when he joined the nWo. Kevin Nash was a four-time title holder in the WWF, including a year-long reign as WWF Champion. Scott Hall won the Intercontinental Title four times. If you run down the entire list of nWo members, you'd see that everyone was either a major star before their nWo days, or they never became anything, anyway. The closest arguments you can make are for gimmick/character changes, like with Syxx and Scott Steiner. In the WWF, The 1-2-3 Kid was clean cut, even as a heel, and wasn't believable as a bad guy. As Syxx, fans got to see a different side of Sean Waltman, and he played his role well. Scott Steiner was a legend in the world of tag team wrestling, but it wasn't until he turned on his brother and joined the nWo that we got to see the Big Poppa Pump persona which would eventually make him a main event guy.
- The Horsemen are an interesting case here. When the group started, Ric Flair was in his third reign as the NWA World Champion, but one could argue that it was the group which helped propel him to even greater heights and to win championship after championship after championship. Many would say that Arn Anderson reached the levels of love from wrestling fans that he has because of the Horsemen, and there's truth to that just by looking at his title successes. Before the Horsemen? One NWA National Tag Team Title reign (with Ole Anderson). After the Horsemen? Ten major title reigns, including one with the WWF after he and Tully Blanchard jumped ship. Arn wasn't a main event guy, but he was viewed as legit because of the "Enforcer" role he played to perfection as a member of the Horsemen. Tully was already one of the best midcard performers in the NWA when the Horsemen were formed, although the spotlight was on him more than ever as a member of the group. Lex Luger was definitely "made" by his time with the group, as he was brand new to Jim Crockett Promotions when he became an "associate member" of the group. That allowed him to achieve some tag and midcard success, which would eventually become main event success. Barry Windham was a successful midcard and tag team wrestler before being a member of the Horsemen, but none of that success came during his time with Crockett. All of Windham's Crockett success and title victories came after the Horsemen, so an argument can be made there. Sting was one of the most popular names in the company for a while, achieving some midcard success here and there, but it was joining the Horsemen, and more accurately, feuding with the Horsemen once they kicked him out, that helped take him to the top. Sid Vicious didn't exactly accomplish much as a Horseman, but he did have his brightest spotlight to that point while with the group, and he would use that to go on to much bigger and better things. The Four Horsemen has "built" stars of varying degrees, so you have to give them props in this area.
- DX is a lot easier to figure out. Obviously, Shawn Michaels was already the top guy in the WWF when he formed the group, but Triple H owes almost everything to his time in DX. Before being in the group, the man formerly known as Hunter Hearst Helmsley was a one-time Intercontinental Champion and a King Of The Ring winner, so it's not like he was some lowly job squad guy, but he was never pushed as anything overly special. Even in his time with the very first incarnation of DX, he was still viewed more as Michaels' "lackey". It wasn't until Michaels left the company, and Triple H began to run things on his own, that people started to truly view him differently. The New Age Outlaws had already won the Tag Team Titles once (and Billy Gunn won them on three occasions as a member of the Smoking Gunns), but their true stardom came as members of DX.
Even with the positive cases I made for the Horsemen and DX, neither of those groups can say they built three future Hall Of Fame inductees from the ground up solely due to the success they had as a faction. WWE was a perfect three-for-three with creating major stars there, and what makes that even better is the fact that those creations came at a time when many fans would argue that WWE has trouble with creating new stars, as well as creating entertaining stories that make people want to tune in. That probably says more about Rollins, Ambrose, and Reigns than it does about anything else. They forced you to pay attention to them. They forced the company to push them.
For years, I could argue that the Four Horsemen were the greatest faction in wrestling history... until the nWo came along. The Horsemen were fantastic, but the nWo changed the entire wrestling business, and almost changed it for good. They took WCW to the top of the mountain, and they helped to breathe new life into Hulk Hogan's career, making him perhaps the best babyface of all-time AND the best heel of all-time. They almost put the WWF out of business, by all accounts, and that's amazing to think about, two decades later.
If the Four Horsemen were the greatest faction in wrestling history until the nWo came along, then the nWo was the greatest faction in wrestling history until The Shield came along.
Yes, I said it, and yes, I mean it.
From the moment you heard "Sierra, Hotel, India, Echo, Lima, Delta, The Shield", followed by that opening guitar, you knew something big was going to happen. If you were in attendance for shows, there was a palpable buzz in the air when those guys made their way to the ring. As I said, you knew something big was going to happen, no matter what it was. All three men worked together as a unit perfectly, as if they had been teaming their entire careers. They all brought something different to the table, with Rollins as the insane in-ring performer who would put his body on the line for the "cause", Ambrose as the talker, and Reigns as the "muscle", but it all worked. They were badass as heels, but remained badass as faces. It didn't matter if they were facing off against other trios such as Evolution or the Wyatt Family, or going up against randomly put together groups of faces like they were in the beginning of their run.
Look, this column has nothing to do with the hate that Roman Reigns has received from the WWE Universe in recent years. That's not really his fault, unless you're of the belief that he could halt his entire face push by simply going to Vince McMahon and telling him to change things up. This column also has nothing to do with Dean Ambrose becoming "stale" in the eyes of a lot of the people I see on social media every single day. It also has nothing to do with Seth Rollins gaining the unfortunate (and incorrect, mind you) labels of "dangerous" and "fragile". Despite Roman's fall in popularity, Dean's lack of character progress, and Seth's injuries, all three of them are still in prime positions every week. All three of them are in positions to compete for any title that is on whatever brand they happen to be on at the time. As I said earlier, there's plenty of time for them to add title after title after title to their collection before they're all retired. The amount of gas left in the tank is what also benefits them in this discussion about factions. Chances are, we aren't going to see the nWo, Four Horsemen, or DX reform again and do anything outside of a one-off on a milestone episode of Raw. Their time is done, while you just know that The Shield will reunite at some point. There is plenty of money left to be made there. I've already seen people discuss The Shield vs Balor Club (Balor, Gallows, and Anderson) in fantasy booking, as well as other, much less likely scenarios (vs Cesaro, Kassius Ohno, and Samoa Joe, for example). There are WrestleMania matches to be made with them as a reunited group. There are SummerSlam matches to be made with them as a reunited group. That's the beauty of it all... they can already make a claim to be the best faction of all-time, but the door is still wide open for them to build on their legacy.
On a scale of 1-10, how crazy am I for saying that The Shield is the greatest faction in the history of pro wrestling? Hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and give me your thoughts. I'm very interested to hear what you have to say.