Just to catch up: If you missed Friday Night Smackdown this past week, then you also missed a pretty big development for one of WWE’s hottest acts. The Shield, who have seemed unstoppable since their debut last November, finally saw defeat.
Re-read that first paragraph. Summary: “If you missed Friday Night Smackdown, then you missed The Shield’s first loss.”
See, no matter how I word it, it still doesn’t sit right with me. Wasn’t this supposed to be a big freakin’ deal? Wasn’t WWE propelling these guys to bigger and better things? Doesn’t JBL call this group “the best faction ever” on a weekly basis? So why, then, would WWE give this important moment away in such a careless fashion?
Don’t get me wrong, the moment was handled perfectly fine on Friday night. Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, and Kane celebrated their victory with a hot Greensboro crowd. Lilian Garcia even got back on the mic to make sure everybody knew this was the trio’s first loss as a three-man group. But from a big-picture perspective, this sucks.
These guys were positioned to lose on a big stage, to a big opponent. Our own Brian Fritz promoted his own fantasy booking scenario on the BTR Podcast where The Undertaker would return at Summerslam, team with Bryan and Kane, and finally give The Shield what’s coming to them. This sounded like great booking. It would sell a few more PPVs, give the babyface Undertaker his revenge, and further promote The Shield by losing on a big stage. Plus, there’d be little shame in losing to three veterans.
Instead, WWE creative got bored and decided to hot shot the angle.
There was little-to-no promotion for this three-on-three encounter. In fact, all the focus was on Sunday and the respective United States and Tag Team title matches (matches that, for the record, were booked just earlier this week). The hype train had us headed towards the PPV, not stopping off at the Smackdown station to see whether or not The Shield could remain undefeated.
I’m not saying that big, unexpected moments don’t have a place in the modern WWE – quite the contrary. Smart surprises should be staples of any pro wrestling organization. They keep things fresh for the fans, and give companies that much sought after water-cooler talk. I’d cite Del Rio’s World Heavyweight Championship win back in January as a perfect example. Being an established main-eventer, he didn’t need a huge build, and he was fresh into a face turn. Plus, WWE pulled the trigger on the title-change during the long void between TLC and Royal Rumble. It was a great way to create viewer interest.
But that’s not what happened on Friday night. Instead, when nobody was watching, and when nobody was told to watch, WWE gave The Shield its most damaging loss yet. And It left a lot of money on the table by doing so.
I’m not just counting potential Pay-Per-View buys of people hoping to witness the trio’s first loss. I’m including the credibility hit that these guys took as a whole. These guys had become must-see TV, both together and individually, because of the aura that surrounded them. Not even company demigod Cena could topple them. Now, they’re just another mid-card act, with mid-card titles, who have seen their greatest strength – being undefeated – completely vanish.
In all fairness, I have no perspective here on WWE’s big-picture. And what happens next with The Shield will depend mostly on how the creative team positions them coming out of Payback.
But this whole angle still feels like a giant missed opportunity, or at the very least, a rapid misfire. It’s simply not the way WWE should be handling the hottest group in pro wrestling today.