The timing of a group breakup is always interesting in wrestling: too soon and you short-circuit fan interest and the momentum of the group; too late and the group becomes stale. Break up too soon and a push given to former group members is hard to sustain because fan interest didn’t ascend to the point where people would be genuinely interested in each group member. Break up too late and the staleness of a group can seep into the pushes of the former group members, as fans tire of seeing certain people and become disinterested in them. A year ago, the WWE struck gold with the creation of the Shield, a group of three young stars who could all easily reach Main Event stardom and hold World Titles, but now they are teasing that the inevitable split will come sooner rather than later.
The creation of the group was smartly executed. You had two Indy vets and a rookie with a strong bloodline for this unique line of work. Ambrose came in the all-around skilled guy with the sadistic streak, edgy personality and manic temperament. Seth Rollins came in as the wrestler with alarming versatility (could match you hold for hold, kick for kick, aerial move for aerial move, etc.) and a unique ability to work any style necessary. Roman Reigns came in as the highly-touted rookie with the right attitude and potential to be a huge star. With that unique combination, eventually it became no surprise that the Shield did as well as they did–although people were surprised that the WWE would let them be as good as they were and beat certain teams and people. This was a talent-rich group that was distinctly united for a common goal and to support each other in every endeavor. They were set up for success with their unique identity, accentuated by their three-man promos, their crowd entrance (which makes you think about mid-90’s Edge), and the combat gear that doubled as their ring attire.
Recently, they’ve teased a break-up of the WWE’s most successful and dominant group in recent memory, with signs that everyone in the group may not subscribe to the All-For-One, One-for-All mentality that defined them. The split itself is not surprising–the inception of a group is really the start of the countdown to the breakup–the real question is about the timing: Would it be smart to split up the Shield anytime soon? It may be too early to break the group up and send Ambrose out on a single’s career and the Reigns/Rollins into the tag division (or conversely into respective single’s careers). Their chemistry is distinct and few other groups have been this cohesive and worked together as well as this group. While teasing the split serves to put the seed of discord and dissension into the minds of fans, splitting them up wouldn’t be what’s best for business. They work very well as the security force that bolsters the Authority presiding over the WWE, there’s more to be done with this group, and they continue to impress and innovate in the multi-man matches. They’re unique ability to create good 6-man tag matches is the lone reason that 6-man tags have become somewhat routine as some commenters alluded to earlier this week. You always know that the 6-man tag is coming once they start an ambush, but these three make the matches watchable, instead of an excuse to showcase 6 wrestlers at one time. Even as a trio, these 3 guys wrestle well together, complementing each other’s respective styles.
One of the best things about the Shield is the fact that they’re always striving to do better, which can only be good for the fans. When each member speaks in interviews, to a man they always emphasize finding ways to improve, superceding past accomplishments, and doing something that the WWE has not seen. They’ve achieved a lot as a group as all three of them held gold for quite a few months, but it’s conceivable that there may be more for them to achieve before they break off. (For example, they can put over another tag team and a single’s star, and the frustration of no one having a title/losing can cause them to implode.) Drawing out the tension may create a situation that gives rise to three distinct stars as soon as they split up. With the way that announcers have mentioned the star potential of these three and the group identity as a legitimate coalition of three individuals, that would be the best outcome of the breakup.
Breaking them up anytime soon-in the next 4-8 weeks-wouldn’t be smart. Arrange and time the split, so that when the Shield disbands, we have three guys ready to bolster the midcard, tag scene, Main Event or whatever landscape they’re sent into after the split. That would be best for all parties involved, fans, wrestlers, and creative alike.