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Seth Rollins: “That was the moment that showed that the three of us have the same opinion and one goal”
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins made their first appearance on the WWE programming on November 18, 2012 survival series. They were mercenaries for CM Punk and helped him retain the WWE Title in a triple threat against John Cena and Ryback. It wouldn’t be another eight days before they announced their intentions or even named their group, but the future for The Shield had already been written a year earlier.
“I think that was 2011,” says Rollins, who is emerging as one of WWE’s most beloved stars more than a decade later. “That was the first real moment for us.”
Rollins and Ambrose (now the backbone of AEW as Jon Moxley) became closely bonded during their time together in the WWE developing territory of Florida Championship Wrestling, a precursor to NXT. While they might not have realized it back then, they were just a stone’s throw from becoming one of the most influential factions in wrestling history. Luckily, Joe Anoa’i didn’t have the NFL career he envisioned. This led him back into the family business of Pro Wrestling, where he eventually became Roman Reigns.
“Mox and I were already on the same wavelength,” says Rollins. “We knew what we wanted to do to change the business and the way it was perceived. We knew Roman had the work ethic to be in this group. But from that moment there was a different respect between the two of us and a different understanding.”
In a sweaty, unair-conditioned Florida training facility, Rollins and Reigns had their first must-see fight.
“It was a time when nobody knew who we were,” says Reigns, who has become the industry’s most compelling star. “They trained us like dogs, trained us well, and I cranked Seth up big that day.”
The ring was nondescript, but this was a platform to glory. During a practice session led by former wrestling star and current WWE coach Terry Taylor, there was a breakout moment — one few eyes witnessed.
“I remember it very clearly,” says Rollins. “Terry worked with the talent that day and worked with some of us to increase the intensity for short time sprints. A lot of what we did back in the Tampa training facility was pointless work. It’s summer in Florida; inside it is bubbling. We struggled in development and it was all very frustrating.”
There was a drill where talents had to show Taylor what it looked like to go from zero to 100 in just a few seconds. No one could perfect it – until Rollins and Reigns pushed past the limit and breaking point to create magic, creating the final piece of The Shield in the process.
“You had five or 10 seconds to blow yourself up,” says Rollins. “Roman and I were together, and whatever we did, it wasn’t to Terry’s liking. We both looked at each other across the ring and there was this clarity and communication between the two of us. We said, ‘We have to get out of this ring as soon as possible.’ We knew what to do.”
Reigns remembers the story with a distinct fondness, although his version is a little more nostalgic than Rollins’ account.
“I remember it well, and I know Seth remembers it,” says Reigns. “I beat him up.”
Unsurprisingly, Rollin’s memory of the moment is crystal clear.
“Roman was on offense and I was on defense, so I knew what was going to happen,” says Rollins. “Roman knew how to bring it and he got us out of that drill.”
Rollins did the drubbing. The drill was mercifully over, and in short order the industry would change forever.
“Mox and I were already on the same wavelength, and that was the moment that showed that the three of us had the same mind and purpose,” says Rollins. “That allowed us to be The Shield. Without that mindset there is no Shield and the last ten years have been very different.”
That day marked a landmark turning point for the pro wrestling industry. Reigns is the face of WWE, Moxley is synonymous with AEW and Rollins puts the finishing touches on a Wrestler of the Year performance and has been a consistent best-match performer for the past 11 months.
Rollins, one of the most diverse artists in the business, hooked up to Babyface last week Rawwhich opens a window for a showdown against Reigns in next year’s Main Event WrestleMania. While bringing The Rock back for a title match against Reigns would be sizzling, there would be more substance with Rollins chasing Reigns. Her royal rumble game in January was absurdly entertaining. Despite a lackluster DQ finish, the match was packed with excitement and the aftermath – as Reigns knocked Rollins down with a steel chair and expressed frustration at not being able to beat Rollins – was executed masterfully.
“We realized early on that if we worked hard enough, we would be the guys for the company who could pull the car as far as we wanted,” says Reigns. “If we hadn’t stood up, someone else would have, so we’ve always done everything in our power to put ourselves in the right position.”
Moxley will lead AEWs All out Pay-per-view Saturday. He is the only Shield member to forge his own path outside of WWE, creating spectacular moments in AEW, New Japan Pro-Wrestling and across India.
“Looking back, it was like we were kids,” says Moxley. “The first few months of The Shield were pretty damn intense. It was a different time then. We weren’t necessarily welcomed with open arms by everyone, but we didn’t care. We wanted to pick up the pace and deliver damn good matches. Soon everyone wanted to work for us.”
Wrestlers from all over the world still want to work with Moxley, Reigns and Rollins. They are the standard setters poised to determine the immediate future of wrestling.
“We created this ‘Shield work ethic,'” says Moxley. “The people we’ve been with have that too. Claudia [Castagnoli] is an old riding partner of The Shield. Damn Bryan [Danielson] was our opponent in our first game.
“I still have that. We all do. It makes us who we are.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Vikingo comes to the United States.
- The image of the Tag Team Title in WWE has been tarnished with two different champions, but the Usos have surpassed Demolition and The New Day’s record as longest-reigning champions – and it feels especially right considering they are are the only tag champions in WWE.
- LA Knight is a great choice for Bray Wyatt’s first feud.
- Kaito Kiyomiya and Timothy Thatcher had a phenomenal match for the GHC Heavyweight Championship at Pro Wrestling NOAH last week that ended with Kiyomiya retaining the belt after 37 hard-fought minutes.
Daniel Cormier had the idea of coming to WWE for a long time. He finally made his debut last month, serving as a special guest referee in the Fight Pit fight between Seth Rollins and Matt Riddle Extreme Rules.
The match was an excellent main event but was ultimately overshadowed by Bray Wyatt’s stunning return. For a perfectionist like Cormier, who was a multiple UFC champion and world-class amateur wrestler, the cameo didn’t live up to his exacting standards.
“I was dressed like I should have gotten shoes from the back,” says Cormier, laughing. “I had fun and they’re great, but I looked like I worked at Foot Locker.”
Cormier’s charm showed as he spoke about the event. There’s a lot of potential if he ever decides to wrestle in a WWE ring.
“Then they were like, ‘What do you want to do next?'” says Cormier. “I was like, if there’s something I want to do next, let me lose weight and then I’ll come back.”
Tweet of the week
Kazuchika Okada vs. The Rock…why not?