When the Shield first emerged at the end of 2012, smarks happily name-dropped about how they’d seen these guys wrestle on the indy circuit (or in FCW) under their previous names.
Just over a year later, nobody refers to them as anything other than Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.
That proves just how successful the Shield have been – not only did they obliterate most of the roster, they’ve also obliterated the baggage that inevitably comes with a pre-WWE wrestling career in the internet age.
The Shield have been part of a lot of my favourite WWE matches this year, and most of my favourite vignettes. I may have not been impressed with several of the WWE storylines, but everything they’ve been given to do they’ve carried it off brilliantly.
The division of labour has been fairly clear – Ambrose on the mic (and with his belt), Reigns doing the heavy lifting, and Rollins taking the vicious attacks. Yet the group dynamics are intriguing – the friendship is evident, but there are inevitably tensions (witness Rollins and Reigns’s disgruntlement at Ambrose breezily mentioning that he was the only one of the trio left with a title).
I do suspect, however, that WWE were not entirely prepared for just how much the female element of their audience have appreciated the Shield, believing (as they seem to do) that all women would like either John Cena or Randy Orton (possibly both, never neither).
Case in point: at the TV taping in Manchester last month, as soon as Kane said the words “the Shield”, there was a significant amount of high-pitched screaming at the very mention of their names; but there weren’t any ladies’ fit t-shirts available to buy at the merch stand.
Even if the WWE aren’t savvy about it, the boys themselves, I think, are – witness their matching suits and Ambrose’s knowing comment about his gorgeousness, and if that wasn’t a deliberately slashfic-inducing kiss to Reigns’s hair on Monday night, I don’t know what was.
Daniel Bryan might be the individual WWE performer of the year; the Shield are, so far, my favourite faction of the millennium.