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A blog by Simon Brady to cover a surprisingly wide range of geekiness, in a combination that no-one else does quite the same way. Probably. Either that, or it'll just be Simon talking about the likes of Football (usually the Soccer variety), PC & Tabletop Gaming, WWE, Movies, Music and occasionally even my actual job of Graphic Design, depending on what I'm up to in the world.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why I Believe in The Shield

Sierra Hotel India Echo Lima Delta. Or, Reigns, Ambrose and Rollins.
Sometimes Pro Wrestling is a cavalcade of awfulness, of cliches and dead horse tropes, with really crappy acting, stunted plotlines and any excuse to get the crowd to cheer, boo and spend their money.

Occasionally there is something genuinely worth watching, either as a one-off event/match or as a vein of new blood or new thinking washes through to the product we get to see.

The group known as 'The Shield' are one such thing, for me, but why are they worth watching rather than anyone else?

In the three months since they debuted on WWE's flagship programming, these three chaps have quickly become the best thing to watch. They seem to style themselves as anti-Superstars, though are continually referred to by the commentary as regular, if young, WWE Superstars who are part of the NXT show. So far they've actually wrestled an official match three times - twice on Pay Per View and once on Monday Night RAW, the WWE brand leader of TV shows. This doesn't count, of course, the number of promos they've given and matches they've interrupted.

Much of what they do is counter to the built-in training that WWE have been giving us for years. By 'training' I mean the things we've come to expect as part of kayfabe or 'in-Universe goings on from the viewers perspective.

First of all there are three of them, which is unusual compared to the duo tag teams or full-on stables of four or more. They don't come down the ramp to their matches, they come through the crowd. Strangely they come down the aisles as a pair - Ambrose and Rollins - with Reigns making his own way down. Their theme music ('Special Ops', perhaps named with their non-standard ring gear in mind) is very cool, being a strange combination of incredibly generic rock yet with a distinctive tune. The best WWE entrance music always has that Pavlovian reaction of immediate cheering or booing, and The Shield's is no different. Because of their unusual entrance itself, their Titantron video is totally generic, not even featuring the three of them, and looks more like a DX or nWo video, which is no bad thing.

Their goal is unusual, too. They're not after titles or respect or revenge or whatever, their stated mission is to right the wrongs of the WWE and shield it from injustice. Why do some guys continually get placed into Championship matches despite their current form, why should the Champion unfairly be disadvantaged, that sort of thing. Setting their own agenda, again, is nice to see. Then come to their actual matches.

As WWE viewers we've been trained to think that when a guy gets flattened outside of the ring, they're supposed to stay there for a while. This is especially true in matches with multiple participants. It lets some guys take a breather, recover from a particularly large bump, or let the action focus on a certain set of participants in the ring or elsewhere. The Shield don't conform to this, as before you know it one or both of the disposed-of members are back in the action and interfering in their side's favour.

They give the impression of a pack of animals; a team working in real unison. Three of them allows for more action more often as they can rest for two-thirds of the match time, rather than just half, and then get involved more often. In their past two three-on-three tag matches (on the Elimination Chamber PPV and the following RAW, which were essentially the same match, with practically the same finish) they've used this technique to great effect and it feels new, fresh and exhilarating.

The three members, too, make the perfect team for the WWE top brass, bookers and fans alike as they each bring their own thing to the table. Dean Ambrose, long spoken of with reverence by the internet-savvy fan, is the obvious leader and mouthpiece, despite being the shortest and least athletic-looking. He's a very good wrestler and has looks like he's permanently unhinged, obviously drawing on Heath Ledger's excellent performance as the Joker. This makes him fairly scary, but in a different way to Roman Reigns. Reigns is the obvious big guy with a wrestling family pedigree shared by few, being related to Rikishi, Umaga, the Usos, Rosey, Samu, Manu and, distantly, The Rock. He is physically intimidating and contains the real power of the group, despite being limited to shouting when speaking. Finally there's Seth Rollins, who as a RoH champion (like a certain Mr Punk) is obviously a very gifted wrestler and relative high flyer. While Ambrose looks like he'd torture you mentally and Reigns looks like he'd beat you up, Rollins looks like the type who'd knife you and smile about it.

The unnerving feeling continues even down to the way the camerawork changes when they're wrestling, switching to a fast cut documentary style and zooming in and out rapidly, making their three-man assaults on other Superstars look vicious, feral and very dangerous.

One day, hopefully not too soon, they'll get their comeuppance. They'll be beaten, destroyed, the group will be broken up and out of it will have to come at least one good guy as their three career paths diverge, for better or worse. But, for now, I believe in the Shield, because they're definitely worth watching.

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