Although Seth Rollins deserted The Shield and Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose showed more individual autonomy in their storylines, what is left of their faction means more now to WWE’s storylines than ever. Reigns has turned his attention to HHH and the WWE World Heavyweight Title while Ambrose has focused on retribution for Rollins, which means that the “brothers” have appeared separately more than usual. Nonetheless, their angles remain closely related and they have played off of one another to elevate to new heights. In fact, one could argue that this week’s Raw was the strongest yet for either of them, and they accomplished largely apart from one another.
Even before their exceptional performances on Raw, Ambrose and Reigns were at the heart of a strong episode of Smackdown. They appeared in the ring to start the show and addressed HHH. They were booked into the show’s two biggest matches as a result. Reigns faced Bad News Barrett and looked solid in a short match. Reigns lacks the experience and depth of moves to put on entertaining matches for 15 minutes or more, but his size and explosiveness make him compelling in short fights like this one. After the match, 3MB attacked him as payback for The Shield’s beatdown on the previous Raw. Reigns took them all out single-handedly and looked like an absolutely dominant force. Ambrose did not receive the same powerhouse booking, but still put on a great show. He faced Bray Wyatt in a Money in the Bank qualifier in the show’s main event. Ambrose reminded everyone that he is able to put together matches that are greater than the sum of his athleticism and offensive arsenal. He made Wyatt look very good as the villain regained lots of in-ring credibility in victory.
Ambrose and Reigns grew from the strong Smackdown performances into even bigger roles on Raw. Both appeared in multiple segments that were uniformly the strongest parts of the show. Ambrose interfered in an early match between Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins to prevent his old friend from notching a victory. Rollins did the same to him when he faced off with Bad News Barrett and caused a countout loss when they brawled into the crowd. Through both segments, Ambrose showed his manic, unhinged persona more than ever before. It’s that uniqueness that makes him stand out and that will eventually make him a major star if he keeps it turned up to maximum volume. For his part, Reigns used Vickie Guerrero’s tension with The Authority to angle his way into the MITB qualifier Battle Royal. He reprised his Royal Rumble performance and dominated the event. His showdown with Rusev in the final two had the feeling of something fresh and exciting, and the crowd went crazy when his Superman Punch knocked Rusev off the apron to the floor. While some may disagree, I thought the performance was a good example of how wrestling can be highly enjoyable even when the outcome is obvious. Reigns established himself in the main event with the win- his first major PPV match as a singles wrestler. Even if Reigns does not come out of the event with the title, he is on the fast track to the big time.
Part of what made The Shield so exciting when the debuted was the idea that three young wrestlers with a ton of potential would all develop together. It never felt like Rollins, Ambrose, and Reigns were destined for the same fate, but the fact that they were pushed consistently and uniformly let them establish themselves individually without the risk of immediately failure. Now that they are even more entrenched as WWE stars, they have started to branch out and enhance their individual personalities. As thrilling as it is to dream about the possibilities of the future, it is also exciting to see these wrestlers realize some of that potential and start to become the stars we hoped they would be.