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10 Things We Learned Looking Back At The Shield's WWE Debut

It's been five whole years since The Shield stormed onto the scene, you know...

The explosive genesis of The Shield was five years ago. It doesn't seem that far in the past at all, but then again, five years doesn't necessarily feel like five years.

A lot can change in half a decade. At the time of The Shield's debut, current WWE Champion AJ Styles was still in TNA, having recently been part of a weird pregnancy angle. Shinsuke Nakamura was one of the most popular stars over in New Japan Pro Wrestling, but a virtual unknown in the United States. Tyler Bate was 15 years old, which is disgusting, quite frankly.

Even though 2012 seems like only yesterday, certain aspects of it can take our present-day minds by surprise - and the debut of Rollins, Reigns, and Ambrose is certainly no exception.

Before re-watching the main event of Survivor Series 2012 for this article, I tried to visualise what the first main roster appearance of The Shield was like from memory. I remembered the basics: the all-black attire, the announce table spot, and so on.

But so many details were lost to time, and many more I simply never knew at all. Therefore it only seems right, five years on, to have another look back at the debut of today's biggest Superstars.

Let's go back to November 18 2012 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, where CM Punk had a huge task on his hands. He was defending his WWE Championship against not only the formidable Ryback, but a certain John Cena as well.

Fortunately for the Straight Edge Superstar, he had an ace (or three) up his sleeve...

10. Cena Was Undefeated At Survivor Series Heading Into This Match


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Here's an interesting fact right off the bat: John Cena had a remarkable 7-0 Survivor Series record before this bout. Beginning in 2003, Cena had wrestled in a variety of matches at WWE's annual November pay per view - and ended up on the winning side of them all.

From traditional elimination tag matches to one-on-one showdowns, nobody could deal Big Match John a loss at Survivor Series. His most memorable victory perhaps came the year prior to this match, where he and The Rock formed an uneasy partnership to defeat The Miz and R-Truth.

While that may have been the most headline-grabbing of Cena's wins, the most impressive unquestionably came in 2009 - the astounding Triple Threat between himself, Triple H, and Shawn Michaels. It still stands as one of the best matches in Survivor Series history.


9. CM Punk Is Still Over As Hell


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Watching the entrances of the match back, one of the most striking things is the abundance of yellow 'GTS' shirts in the crowd - a very tangible sign of CM Punk's enduring popularity.

It's easy to think of Punk's WWE peak as the summer of 2011 (before Triple H and Kevin Nash got involved), where he delivered one of the most jaw-dropping promos in wrestling history and followed it up with the five-star classic against Mr Cena at Money in the Bank.

That's certainly a reasonable opinion, but Punk's popularity didn't diminish quite as rapidly as you might think. Yes, Hunter and Nash robbed him of a great deal of momentum, but he was able to recover a great deal, carrying an immense amount of popularity deep into his record-breaking run as WWE Champion.

Even as a heel, Punk was beloved by many; just remember the furious reactions when he lost to The Rock at the 2013 Royal Rumble, and we all realised he wasn't heading into WrestleMania as champ.

8. And So Is Ryback!


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Alright, so CM Punk's enduring popularity may not be the biggest surprise looking back at Survivor Series 2012. I knew he'd still be over as champion, but the extent of the crowd's continued support threw me slightly off guard.

A bigger shock is the reception that greets Ryback. Of the three men in this match, the Big Guy certainly enjoyed the least glittering WWE career. After his brief time in the main event scene ended, he'd fall dramatically back down the card and struggle for momentum, eventually being released in August 2016.

Here, though, Ryback seems on top of the world. The crowd go crazy for his moments of dominance, chanting along with every cry of "feed me more!". It's certainly very interesting, and a reminder of just how fleeting superstardom can be in the wrestling business.

7. Cena And Punk Briefly Work Together


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My memory of this bout had Cena and Ryback occasionally teaming up to take on the match's sole heel, but that's really not how it goes down at all.

Yes, Punk is the only bad guy in the ring, but he actually teams up with Cena at one stage - the man who was his mortal enemy just over a year prior.

The pair, seemingly recognising the terrifying strength of Ryback, join forces to drive the Big Guy through the ringside announce table.

Of course, this wouldn't be the only table spot of the evening...


6. There Are Several Excellent False Finishes


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I honestly didn't remember the match being as good as it is. It's not merely a slog while we wait for The Shield to make their exciting debut. Punk, Cena, and Ryback actually put on a very intelligently structured main event, one featuring several wonderful false finishes.

First, with Ryback out of the picture, Punk and Cena kick out of each other's finishers in the ring. Then John slaps on the STF, but Ryback recovers in the nick of time to pull him out of the ring.

The weakened Big Guy is still able to take out Punk with his Shell Shocked finisher, but Cena dives back into the frame to break things up.

It's a frantic, brilliant sequence of events - one which occurs shortly before the arrival of The Shield. But before the trio make their shocking entrance, another crucial move is hit. Ryback scoops up Cena and plants him with another Shell Shocked...

5. Ryback Almost Becomes WWE Champion!


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Another big part of the match I misremembered is the fact that The Shield broke up Ryback's cover. I'd assumed it was Cena for so long, but the Hounds of Justice actually pounce on the Big Guy while he's covering John. That would have been his first WWE Championship! Poor Ryback!

This is the part that probably stands out most vividly in all of our minds, of course. While Michael Cole loses his mind on commentary, Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns drag Ryback out of the ring and Powerbomb him through the only remaining announce table. It's a big impact, both literally and metaphorically.

We can't dwell on it for too long, however, because back in the ring, Punk is slowly crawling into a cover on Cena...

4. Ryback's Finisher Is Put Over As Deadly!


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Okay, this is probably the most surprising aspect of the entire match to me. Punk rolls wearily on top of Cena and, with Heyman's eyes popping out of their sockets at ringside, the referee counts to three. Wait, what!? That's John Cena taking the pinfall, to be absolutely clear.

Yes, Cena was drilled by Ryback's Shell Shocked, and had already suffered a fair amount of punishment at the hands of CM Punk - but quite a lengthy amount of time lapses between the finisher being executed and the cover being made.

Enough time, in fact, for The Shield to jump into the ring, beat down Ryback, drag him to the ringside area - pause for theatrics - and slam him through the announce table. And then stand around all badass for a few more seconds while the cameraman gets their faces in shot.

By the time Punk crawls into his cover, you'd expect a Superstar as protected as John Cena to burst into life at the count of two. But he doesn't! He just...loses.


3. The Shield Don't Wear Bulletproof Vests


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Quite a simple one here, and one that you may remember yourself - but I do not recall The Shield rocking those dubious turtlenecks.

I had a feeling that the vests came later, but I wasn't quite sure what replaced them at first.

In fairness, as big a risk as turtlenecks always, always are, it does fit The Shield's task at hand. They aren't coming out to destroy a poor team of opponents, as they will many times in future. They're ambushing a main event, and you have to imagine that those turtlenecks provide greater mobility (while drawing considerably less attention) than the flak jackets.

I can't believe I've analysed that so seriously.

2. Michael Cole Recognises Reigns First


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Of course Michael Cole mentions Roman Reigns' name first out of the three Shield members. Of course he does.

In fairness, it could just be a coincidence, but given WWE's treatment of Reigns in the years since his debut it does seem more than a little suspicious that Cole yelps his name before either of his stablemates.

It's not just a few seconds before, either. Cole hysterically blurts out that the man standing feet away from him is Roman Reigns, waits a good few seconds while Ryback is cannonballed into the announce table, and then reveals the names of the other two.

We see what you're doing, WWE. We may not have realised at the time, but we see it now.

1. The Shield Disappear As Quickly As They Arrive


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I thought about making this final point something like 'Nothing Was Ever The Same Again', but that's like a feel-good cop-out ending to a Buzzfeed quiz.

Instead, I'm going to go for the fact that The Shield depart almost quietly, disappearing back into the crowd with minimal fuss. I honestly thought they stayed at ringside while Punk and Heyman celebrate back up the ramp, but once the pinfall has been made, they turn and stride away as if to say "job done".

It's actually a crucial part of what makes the debut so badass. The newcomers don't stick around to celebrate with Punk and congratulate themselves on a job well done. Their mission has been accomplished, so why hang around?

It's all very understated in a mercenary sort of way, as if three Boba Fetts (with black turtlenecks and long wet hair) had just crashed the party.

And in a way, he had, hadn't he?

(He hadn't. I just wanted a snappy ending to the article. Thanks for reading.)

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]