(02/23) Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan & Luke Harper) vs. the Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns)

Target Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Before the match even began, the crowd was totally psyched. Everyone involved deserves a big pat on the back for that. It is hard to remember the last time an undercard match on a WWE card created such great and genuine anticipation.

The match was – to completely misuse a popular phrase – “too big to fail”. The booking and buildup to the match – essentially starting 15 months prior with the Shield’s big league debut – had been so well thought out and so strong that it is difficult to imagine a scenario where the match could have fallen flat on its face. It was uniquely positioned to be good before the bell even rang. This might be a reach, but the eye-rolling “This is Awesome!” pre-match chant sort of serves as proof of that. The fans were not reacting to the match quality given that the match had not begun yet. It was the build that they were calling “awesome”.

When the match actually starts, the wrestlers are not able to convert all of that anticipation into actual heat. I went from the edge of my seat back a few steps. I don’t like to fantasy book matches that have already taken place, but it feels like they could have some done something in this instance to give the match a hotter start given how ready the crowd was to see it. The crowd does go down as they work a relatively mundane (though still good of course) opening few minutes before kicking it into high gear near the end of the Rollins heat segment. This was a match that needed some sort of hot opening, rather than a normal step-by-step ramp up of the action.

Rollins was awesome here (I was about to say “Rollins was fun to watch” before I caught myself . . . I have been listening to WWE announcers far too much recently). I loved the fire during the comeback. I actually think at this point, his post-Shield future is brighter than Ambrose’s. Rollins is over and a good enough bumper that he should make it. Then again, I basically just described an upgraded version of Dolph Ziggler so who knows.

Harper was the star for the Wyatt Family even before the great tope. Reigns continues to be booked remarkably well. They are presenting him like a big deal and a huge threat, without setting him up for the big push backlash (at least not yet) since he is not presented as unbeatable. Not sure if that is a conscious decision in light of what has gone on with other guys they’ve pushed recently but it is smart.

The ending was great booking with Harper and Rowan landing the Spanish announce table powerbomb on Rollins to get it going. I can lose focus momentarily during a match causing me to miss a spot or two. So when Reigns was left alone in the ring with all three members of the Wyatt Family at the finish, I figured at first I must have missed some obvious spot that incapacitated Ambrose. That ended up being part of the story – should have Ambrose been in the ring to help Reigns or was he too hurt? – which was some nice in-match subtlety that WWE has been known to lack. Reigns’ expression upon seeing he was way outmanned was great, as was his attempt at fighting all three of his opponents off. The finish – with Reigns taking all three out before falling to Bray and the numbers came – was the right call.

After the initial viewing I wouldn’t necessarily expect this to be a true match of the year candidate for me. It was very good, as our all Shield matches. That’s sort of the point. I think they missed the opportunity to properly capitalize on the anticipation of the match and pre-match heat. What they did was perfectly fine, but it didn’t feel all that much above the bevy of great Shield matches we have seen the past 15 months. They had the shot to make it really special given how hyped the crowd was for this, but worked their normal opening segment stuff instead. Grading a match on what it could or should have been is something I try to avoid, but here I thought it directly impacted the quality. That’s nitpicking though – still a match well worth watching.

Trios | Watch It | Quality

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