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(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield – WWE Elimination Chamber 2014

For a very short window of time in the so-called ‘modern era’, WWE actually had two great acts that fans wanted to see: The Shield and The Wyatt Family. These were two of the most attention-grabbing stables anyone had seen in years and they were gaining fan admiration, albeit for different reasons. One was a trio of easily-distinguishable individuals that treated each other as equals with a common goal of destroying whatever was in their path. The other was a cult leader with two (mostly) mindless drones following his orders. Both of them ran roughshod over WWE’s roster and rarely lost. This trend kept going until the two groups crossed paths in one of the most memorable six-man tag matches in WWE history.

But was it really that good? Or was it simply the product of a dissatisfied fanbase that was desperate to sink their teeth into anything new and exciting? There’s only one way to find out.

Today we look back at the tag match between The Shield and The Wyatt Family from WWE Elimination Chamber 2014.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story

In 2013 and 2014, WWE’s midcard was dominated by two factions: The Shield and The Wyatt Family. The former had spent over a year destroying everyone in their paths and were well on their way to becoming one of the most successful and dominant trios in WWE history. The latter was a more recent creation, appearing on the main roster for the first time in July 2013. From there, the Wyatts began dropping one team after another, until they crossed paths with the Shield. That’s when things got good.

Shortly before the 2014 Elimination Chamber PPV, The Shield were in a six-man tag match against the team of John Cena, Daniel Bryan, and Sheamus. The winners of that six-man tag match would be given spots in the event’s eponymous Chamber match to challenge for Randy Orton’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship. But the Shield never made it because they were attacked by the Wyatts, which caused a disqualification and led Cena’s team to get those coveted spots in the Chamber match. Thus, the Shield went after the Wyatts to get revenge, and so came this match. (Author’s note: I remember watching RAW when the first tease of a Shield vs. Wyatts match took place. People were going absolutely bats**t over it. For the first time in years there was a feud between two groups of wrestlers that people were genuinely excited to see face off).

Needless to say, this was a dream match for many fans, despite its short build-up. The Shield were perhaps the most successful unit in years in WWE, and people loved watching them rampage through WWE’s regular roster like a hot knife through butter. Each one of them appealed to some subgroup of fans or another, be it those that appreciated talented in-ring workers (Rollins, a.k.a. the former Tyler Black), unpredictable brawlers Ambrose, a.k.a. John Moxley), or silent powerhouses that let their actions speak for them (Reigns). At the same time, The Wyatts were incredibly over with people at the time. Even though they were newer than the Shield and lost more matches, people went nuts for them. The act was creepy and mystifying. They had an unbreakable group identity, yet each member stood out in their own subtle ways as well. And while the Shield were adored for being straightforward ass-kickers, the Wyatts were captivating for playing these esoteric cultists with a leader that came straight out of a horror movie.

It was bound to be an epic clash, regardless of the outcome.

The match

This match originally took place on February 23rd, 2014 at the 2014 Elimination Chamber PPV. It was originally rated ****1/4 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It was also rated ****1/2 out of five by TJRWrestling’s John Canton. Let’s see how it looks now.

A loud ‘this is awesome’ fills the arena as the two teams go face to face. A brawl breaks out and all the Wyatts end up outside. Lots of cheering early on. Rollins and Rowan start the actual tag match and Rollins escapes a chokebomb with a dropkick. Reigns tags in and lands some kicks in the corner and then Rollins tags back. Rowan lands a big clothesline on Rollins and tags Harper, who starts raking Rollins’ eyes. In comes Wyatt, who lands some early punches and corner elbows. Rollins ducks a throat thrust and tags Reigns, and the crowd cheers wildly. They tease locking up and Reigns powers Wyatt into a corner. Wyatt fires back with head-butts but Reigns clotheslines him down. Wyatt fires back with a throat thrust and tags Harper. He goes for a vertical suplex but Reigns counters with one of his own. In comes Ambrose, who unloads with punches. All three Shield members triple team Harper for a one-count.

Ambrose tags in and lands a dropkick for a one-count. Lots of quick tags from The Shield as they wear Harper down. Ambrose, now legal, lands a diving elbow but gets distracted by Rowan on the ropes. That distraction allows Harper to land a big dropkick and tag Wyatt. Wyatt lands tons of punches and uppercuts, and then connects with a big running corner splash as the crowd cheers. Rowan tags in next and lands a big slam, and then pushes his knuckles into the sides of Ambrose’s head. Ambrose escapes by biting Rowan’s hand. He charges…but runs into a sidewalk slam for two.

Harper tags in and lands a vertical suplex that gets two. He rakes Ambrose’s eyes again and goes for a back body drop, but Ambrose counters with a swinging neckbreaker. Hot tag to Rollins who unloads with running kicks and forearms. He goes to the top rope but Rowan cuts him off. Harper uses this to go for an avalanche German suplex. He throws Rollins…but Rollins lands on his feet and clotheslines Harper out of the ring. Suicide dive by Rollins. That’s followed by a springboard knee strike back in the ring. The crowd is going crazy. Rollins charges but runs into a big clothesline from Harper. One, two, Rollins kicks out.

Wyatt tags in, tosses Rollins out of the ring, and lands a senton onto him on the floor. He smashes Rollins chest-first into the apron and pins in the ring for two. Rowan tags in as the dueling ‘let’s go Wyatt/let’s go Shield chants begin’. Rowan lands some basic slams and forearms for a two-count and then tags Harper. Harper lands tons of punches and uppercuts and guillotines Rollins on the bottom rope. Wyatt tags in and mauls Rollins some more until Rollins boots him on a corner charge. Rollins goes for a dive…but it’s blocked. Wyatt lands a big uranage and pins. Ambrose makes the save but Harper boots Ambrose down and then tags in. he mocks Reigns, who is the only person left on the apron for his team, as he stomps away on Rollins. Harper goes for another guillotine…but Rollins counters and lands an enzuigiri. Reigns tags in and knocks all the Wyatts down. Samoan drop on Rowan. Harper throws him out of the ring. But Reigns doesn’t give a f**k and lands his drive-by apron dropkick on Rowan. Then he ducks a charge and sends Harper flying to the floor. Backdrop suplex on Rowan. Wyatt makes the save. Ambrose comes in and attacks both Wyatt and Harper. He goes to the floor, but here comes Harper. Suicide dive through the ropes. Rollins follows with a suicide dive over the ropes. The fans are on their feet screaming. Rowan misses a corner clothesline and Reigns goes for a roll-up. One, two, no, Rowan kicks out. Double clothesline. Both men collapse.

At ringside, Rollins starts dismantling one of the announce tables until Wyatt breaks it up. Wyatt and Harper tease a triple powerbomb on Rollins but Ambrose makes the save. Wyatt and Ambrose brawl into the crowd as Rowan and Reigns recover in the ring. Rowan drives Reigns shoulder-first into the ringpost and charges. But Reigns hits first with a clothesline for two. Meanwhile, Rollins brawls ringside with Harper and hits him with a TV monitor (somehow that’s not a DQ). Wyatt and Harper place Rollins on the announce table as Rowan lands a fallaway slam on Reigns in the ring. Then Rowan joins his brothers ringside. Double chokeslam on Rollins. Rollins goes flying through the announce table.

All three Wyatts surround Reigns. He’s left alone in the ring in a 3-on-1 situation. Reigns tries to strike first but is quickly outnumbered. Harper lands an aided big boot and tags Wyatt, who signals the end. He goes for his Sister Abigail swinging reverse STO. But Reigns powers out. Wyatt tries firing back with head-butts. Reigns powers through and lands a Samoan drop. Harper gets thrown out of the ring. Both Rowan and Wyatt eat Superman punches. Spear on Harper. Wyatt hits Reigns with a crossbody. Sister Abigail connects for Wyatt. One, two, and three! There’s the match!

Winners after 22:28: The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan)

Review

This was a pretty damn good match. It was a classic example of getting the most out of so little. There was no need for any of these six wrestlers to spam a hundred different moves; they were in complete control of the crowd from bell to bell. They kept things simple here and had a fun little brawl. Though I’ve definitely seen better matches, this one has an odd charm to it that makes it fun to revisit from time to time.

This was the six-man version of ‘irresistible force meets immovable object’. The Shield were on a tear but they hit a brick wall in the form of the Wyatt Family. The Shield guys tried to maintain control from the beginning with frequent quick tags, but that strategy only got them so far. So they each tried to showcase what made them unique as individuals. Ambrose was the unchained brawler that risked everything, and that approach led to him being eliminated from the match early and in rather unflattering fashion. Rollins was the in-ring technician, and he showcased a lot of his capabilities here. But once he started flying around and hitting moves out of nowhere, he opened himself up to being double-teamed. That led to the Wyatts chokeslamming him through an announce table to eliminate him as a threat. That left Reigns, who attacked with pure brute force against a united front in the Wyatts. And while the Shield was composed of three individuals that stood out from one another, the Wyatt Family was basically Bray Wyatt and two followers that lacked personalities of their own. But that wasn’t a detriment here; instead, the Wyatts’ unified approach allowed them to gradually wear the Shield down. By acting as a unified force that constantly acted as a cohesive unit, the Wyatts managed to pick apart the Shield one by one until Reigns was the only man left.

But damn if Reigns didn’t go down swinging. He was still cheered for being the silent but deadly powerhouse at that point, and people simply enjoyed watching him wreck people left and right. And that’s what Reigns did here. Once he was left alone, he went all out trying to take on three opponents at once. He got his moment to shine and look incredibly powerful in defeat. He came across as a genuine badass that couldn’t be defeated in one-on-one combat. He managed to turn a negative into a positive when Harper threw him out of the ring and he answered by kicking Rowan’s head in. but despite his best efforts, he couldn’t overcome a united Wyatt Family and took the fall for his team. And yet, the loss didn’t harm him at all. This was the right balance of making a guy take a fall without him being ‘buried’ and without him being shoehorned into ‘being made to look good’ in a way that harms others in the match. It was the most commonsensical booking decision possible, which made it refreshing to watch.

I just wish they went a bit further in this match. Even though both teams were incredibly popular at the time, there was something a bit off here. Although the match was mostly simplistic brawling, I think they could’ve gone a bit further with the tension during the second half. The first half was sprinkled with pointless pin attempts that no one bought as believable, and neither team had suffered enough damage to make them credible as ‘forcing the wrestlers to expend more energy to stay in this’. I think the match would’ve been better if the wrestlers did more to build up the tension and believability towards the end. Furthermore, Ambrose was largely written off as a non-issue when crowd brawling with Wyatt and was never seen afterwards. Considering that Rollins ate a double chokeslam through a table and Reigns was triple-teamed until Wyatt landed his finisher, it seemed like Ambrose was let off pretty easy, which made him come across as weaker than his teammates.

Final Rating: ****1/4

This is one of the few dream matches in WWE that mostly lives up to the hype. It featured two teams that people loved to watch facing off in an epic clash. It wasn’t the best match by any stretch, but it was fine for what it was. Thankfully, it benefitted from an incredibly hot crowd that gave it a much-needed big fight atmosphere. And ultimately, that ended up being a big difference-maker: these six wrestlers were able to get so much out of so little thanks to an audience that reacted loudly to even the simplest of actions.

Then again, re-watching this match might make one feel a sense of disappointment. Not at the match, but at the state of things in the present day. Of these six wrestlers, only two are still in WWE. Reigns is in the midst of a historic Universal Title run and Rollins just sits in the upper midcard doing little to nothing. Meanwhile, Ambrose left WWE under the most acrimonious of circumstances, Rowan returned to the independent circuit, Wyatt hasn’t been heard from in months after being released, and Harper, sadly, is no longer with us.

This match could’ve been the start of another ‘SmackDown Six’ situation. Instead, it’s just another memory of a bygone (read: better) time.