Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose all held the WWE World Title on the same night at Money in the Bank in June. How they got there is an interesting story of shifting perceptions from WWE’s braintrust.
In actuality, Dean was penciled in as the first of the three Shield members to hold a top title in WWE. He ended up being the last of the three when he won his first World Title at MITB.
Former WWE Creative Team member Kevin Eck, who was part of the team that formed and shaped the unit on a weekly basis, revealed interesting insight on how things played out, including Dean being considered for the Randy Orton role as heel WWE champion when The Authority was formed with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon three years ago at Summerslam 2013.
“As far as perceptions of Dean go, I was there when The Shield came together and debuted. Vince (McMahon) was not really familiar with the guys and what they had done in NXT. So, he listened to a lot of what Hunter said, and he asked other people’s opinions,” Eck exclusively told PWTorch editor Wade Keller on the June 30 PWTorch Livecast.
“The decision was made to have one guy be the singles guy. They’re going to be a unit; a three-man operation, but he want to break out one guy to be a singles guy, and then have the tag team. I think everyone was in agreement that Roman is the greenest of the three, Seth is the technician – they didn’t see a lot of personality in Seth at that point – so let’s put those two together as the tag team. Roman is the power guy and we can cover his in-ring weaknesses while he’s learning; Seth’s a great guy to be a technician.
“Dean was seen as the guy who was most ready at that point to come in and assume a singles role. He was seen as the best promo, (having) the most in-ring experience. He was seen as ready-made. But, there was never any discussion of him being a long-term ‘he’s the guy we’re going to build around.’
“It was very, very clear and specific that Roman is the guy who has the most long-term potential. He’s everything we look for in a future champion. He’s got the look. He’s got the lineage. Everything is there that this could be The Guy. So, let’s protect him. Let’s not push him too much too soon. When the time is right, this could be a guy who could be the face of the company. So, that was the perception from the beginning.”
Eck also laid out tentative plans for Dean Ambrose to be the heel champion representing The Authority.
“I will say this. There was talk at one point when The Shield was associated with The Authority that Dean Ambrose could have gotten – it was discussed – to be the chosen one of The Authority. Randy Orton got the spot. There were actually some plans for that to happen,” Eck said.
“I think as things went along, everyone kind of said, ‘Maybe Dean isn’t World Championship material, at least right now. He’s not ready for that spot. Some of that could have been our fault from a Creative standpoint that we really didn’t put him in a spot where he would be believable in that role, or that he was ready for it. Or, that the fans would accept him in that role at that point. So, that was when the decision was made to go with Randy Orton.”
Eck said there was a constant shift in how WWE management viewed each Shield member individually.
“Dean Ambrose has always been seen as a valuable guy, but never necessarily The Guy. It’s funny because the perceptions of The Shield guys were always fluid; it was always changing. The Shield rarely lost, but when they did, it was usually that Seth took the fall. At one point, Michael Hayes came in and said, ‘We gotta stop beating Seth so much. I’m telling you, he’s the guy!’
“At one point, Dean, who was number one in Shield pecking order actually bumped down three. Roman’s The Guy, but this guy Seth surprised some people that he was a little better on the mic than they thought. We knew he was good in the ring, but he’s actually great in the ring,” Eck said.
“So, I saw Seth’s stock rise. It wasn’t so much that Dean’s fell so much, it was that Seth surprised some people. Not everyone, because there were some people who knew what he could do. If you remember, we started the break-up of The Shield with it looking like Reigns was going to be the babyface and Dean was going to be the heel. We were like, ‘Okay, what’s with Seth?’ It was like, ‘Well, he’s the voice of the reason. He’s going to be the voice of reason who is kind of in the middle.”
It’s funny picturing Seth as the “voice of reason” in-between the other two Shield members since Seth has played a weasely, annoying heel since breaking up The Shield. As Eck noted, Seth has never played solo babyface on the main WWE roster. So, it almost came to fruition before he played the heel figure with the annoying cackle that fans have grown accustomed to.
“I don’t think it’s ever been said, but Seth Rollins wasn’t even going to be at WrestleMania the year The Shield (was in a six-man tag match). I’ll give myself credit for this. I spoke up because it looked like there was no spot for Seth. I threw out the idea of all three members of The Shield after we backed off on breaking them up. The producers were all in agreement that it’s too early; it’s premature to break them up. So, we went away from that storyline of a rift between Roman and Dean. We haven’t gotten all the mileage we can out of them,” Eck said.
“I said why don’t we do this six-man match… And Vince was kind of like, ‘Eh, anybody got anything else?’ Some ideas were thrown around and nothing was great. And then Vince finally said, ‘Well, I guess the thing that makes the most sense is doing the six-man match.’ … I think that was the best that he heard even though he wasn’t wild about it.
“It’s really been interesting for me to have been on the inside from the very beginning of The Shield and then after I left to see how things have developed. One thing that you can really point to is all three guys are looked favorably upon, but I think Seth is a guy who they looked at as ‘maybe a technician, good worker, Intercontinental champion type.’ I don’t think they necessarily saw him getting to the level that he’s gotten to.”
“To me, Seth has surpassed everyone’s expectations. Except maybe Hunter. Hunter was a fan from the very beginning; Michael Hayes was also a big (supporter). I think they saw the potential there. I’m guilty of it as well. If you asked me to rank The Shield members back in the day, I would have said 1 – Dean, 2 – Roman, 3 – Seth. And one day Roman is going to be #1. That’s how I saw it.”
As for Roman Reigns’s qualities that create a very strong mixed reaction, Eck said Reigns was personable when working him behind-the-scenes, but he can see where there is a certain jock-like smugness that translates to TV.
“In my interactions with Roman, he’s not a bad guy at all. I don’t know if there’s a perception when he does public appearances that sometimes he’s aloof or whatever. But, I never had an issue any time I worked with him or saw the way he carried himself backstage,” Eck said.
“If you don’t really speak to him, though, and just kind of see him, there is an arrogance that is projected. I think Roman – even if he’s going to be a babyface going forward, he can’t be a pandering babyface. I think WWE finally realized that.
“That’s not Roman’s personality in real life. It’s not that he’s a bad guy, he’s just not the jovial funny guy. It’s the same thing with Randy Orton. When Randy Orton is a babyface and you have go out there and try to pander, it doesn’t come across as authentic; it comes across as disingenuous. Because we all know that’s not Randy Orton.”
When Reigns returns from his 30-day suspension, one of the interesting stories will be whether WWE shoots him back to the top, where he was WWE champion going into Money in the Bank. Or, if he’s taken down a notch. People are under the impression that he’ll return to his previous position given one of Vince McMahon’s famous “second chances.” Former WWF star “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase discussed this topic in an interview with BBC Radio Norfolk over the weekend.
“What I know of – and I don’t know him well, what I’ve seen of him and what I’ve heard from other people is that he’s really a great kid. He’s not a dope addict. He’s not addicted to anything. He’s just a kid who (made a mistake) – I wrote a book about it. Everyone deserves a second chance, and I still think he has an extremely bright future in WWE,” DiBiase said.