Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima. Delta. SHIELD. That battle cry which blared through the arena speakers for almost two years grew to represent the team of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns. From the moment that the trio made their shocking debut during the main event of Survivor Series 2012, the three proved to be a force to be reckoned with. In just a couple years, they won big matches against future hall of famers like The Undertaker, Triple H, Randy Orton, Batista, Sheamus, Big Show, Daniel Bryan, and Kane. For two years, The Shield dominated their way up the WWE ladder with no signs of slowing down. With a co-operative mission statement to simply bring their unique brand of justice to WWE, no one could stop The Shield when they proved to be a cohesive stable. Their quick rise to the top as a unit is one of the reasons why all three men have managed to retain relevancy as WWE’s three current top singles stars.
Surely, everyone knows about The Shield by now as far as their on-screen presence is concerned. We all know the presence they served together in front of the camera—Ambrose was the essential mouthpiece, Rollins the technical in-ring craftsman and brains of the operation, while Reigns was the brawn of the group—but not many people know about the people behind the characters. Each of these three men have a fascinating background from before they even stepped foot on WWE soil. These shocking facts that you are about to read about are a testament to the lives that these superstars live outside of WWE that you may not even be aware of.
15. They all Recorded The Intro Together
As previously stated, that intro was a stable of The Shield’s theme and overall presence on the main roster. As a theme intro, that battle cry sent chills down the spines of fans and gave them all chills in the same regard as Stone Cold Steve Austin’s glass shattering intro to his theme. For Austin, everybody knew exactly who was gonna come out and what was gonna happen before the theme kicked into high gear. As the saying went, “When you hear that glass, that’s your ass.” When you heard “Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima. Delta. SHIELD,” you knew justice was going to be served in the ring at a moment’s notice. Because the intro voice is so distorted, not many people know that it was the Shield trio themselves who recorded that bit in the studio.
14. A Hulk Hogan Match Started Rollins’ Love For Wrestling
In an interview with Peter Rosenberg during a Wrestlemania XXX Spectacular, Rollins briefly mentioned that when he was three years old (so around 1989-90), his father and grandfather took him to his very first wrestling show. According to Rollins, they went to some arena called the Warrenfield house in Davenport, Iowa and Hulk Hogan was wrestling. For Rollins, seeing Hulk Hogan wrestle was the moment he fell in love with professional wrestling. Rollins was quick to brush passed the moment so he didn’t provide any more detail other than that, but it doesn’t take too much analysis or context to understand just how significant of a moment this was for the young Rollins.
13. Roman’s Half-Italian
Everyone knows Roman Reigns’ ties to the famous Anoa’i family. WWE loves to rave about The Big Dog’s familial connections to guys like The Rock, The Wild Samoans, and Rikishi. WWE talk about Reigns’ Samoan heritage so much that it would be easy to assume that The Guy is a full blooded Samoan, but that isn’t completely the case. Reigns is only half-Samoan while his other half is drenched in Italian blood. While his father, Sika of the Wild Samoans, provides Reigns with his Samoan blood, it is Reigns’ Italian mother, Sika’s wife Patricia Anoa’i, he gives Reigns his Italian heritage. While WWE has never mentioned Reigns’ Italian roots and probably never will in favor of promoting his Samoan background, it is a biological fact that Reigns is half-Italian.
12. ECW and Bret Hart Inspired Ambrose to Wrestle
As noted in his now infamous interview on Stone Cold’s podcast, much of Ambrose’s upbringing saw him often shoplifting WWE VHS tapes from video stores. Since the New Generation Era was in full effect, Ambrose grew up watching Bret Hart as the focal point of this era. Ambrose was particularly drawn to the positive morals which Hart promoted in his work. To Ambrose, Hart made it look cool to be a good guy. This was one of the earliest things that inspired Ambrose to become a wrestler. As he pointed out in a much earlier interview from “Stories From The Street: The Jon Moxley Story,” Ambrose was also inspired by the raw tenacity of early ECW. While watching Sycho Sid on WWE TV at a friend’s house, his friend’s dad came in and told them “Hey, yo you guys gotta watch this thing called ECW, man. People jump out of ceilings and it’s real.” Intrigued by the idea of “real wrestling,” Ambrose checked out ECW and instantly fell in love with the hardcore, intense nature of the spectacle. Ironically, Ambrose would find his own hardcore calling thanks to wrestling primarily for CZW in his early indie days.
11. Seth Rollins’ Name Origins
Back when he was still wielding his Money in the Bank briefcase, Seth Rollins was a guest on Chris Jericho’s podcast, Talk is Jericho. The two discussed many things, one of which being how Rollins came up with his WWE name. After making a name for himself on the indies as Tyler Black, WWE obviously wanted to trademark his new WWE character with a brand new name. So he started to brainstorm some names. For a last name, Rollins was a lock for him because it was inspired by punk rocker and spoken word performer Henry Rollins, who Seth Rollins is a big fan of. As he started to think up some first names to go along with his surname, one name that he happened to come up with was Seth. Dusty Rhodes loved the name Seth, even if his lisp prevented him from saying it. Put the two together and we got ourselves Seth freakin’ Rollins!
10. Big E Almost Had Reigns’ Shield Spot
According to Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter columnist, Wade Keller, as he explained in a podcast interview with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Big E was originally slotted to play the powerhouse of The Shield. Apparently, Vince McMahon had high expectations and plans for Big E, but Triple H saw a brighter future in Roman Reigns after Sean Waltman (X-Pac) told his DX buddy that it would make more sense to build the company around Roman Reigns. McMahon originally wanted to make Big E his pet project for the new face of the company, but after getting a new perspective from Triple H, McMahon used Reigns instead for both The Shield and his big project. Things worked out for the best in this regard. With McMahon shifting his focus on Reigns, Big E was allowed to show more personality opposed to the standard powerhouse role that McMahon wanted him to fill. This allowed Big E to become one-third of the longest reigning Tag Team Champions in WWE history, The New Day. If he remained McMahon’s pet project, fans could’ve turned on Big E in the same way that they badly turned on Reigns.
9. Dean Ambrose Almost Feuded With Mick Foley
Before he was slotted for a spot in The Shield and set to debut at Survivor Series 2012, original plans called for Ambrose to be called up to the main roster earlier in the year for a feud with hardcore legend Mick Foley. The feud was supposed to culminate in a match at Summerslam 2012 and began at a local hotel during the weekend of Wrestlemania 28 when Ambrose confronted Foley in a public worked shoot. Back when he still used Twitter, Ambrose said his motivation for hassling Foley was because he believes that the Hall of Famer needs to answer for inspiring a generation of new wrestlers to repeat the dangerous hardcore stunts which Foley became famous for. Ambrose’s disparaging remarks led to a Twitter war between the two that ended when the former insulted the latter’s wife and children; Ambrose vowing to turn Foley’s kids into homeless orphans. Foley becoming uncomfortable with his children being mentioned for the feud and the fact that Foley wasn’t cleared to compete is what put a screeching halt to the feud. This stalled Ambrose’s main roster call up until November.
8. Seth Rollins Has His Own Wrestling School
Working as one of the top stars of WWE, it’s easy to understand why Seth Rollins’ schedule may look a bit busy and hectic. That’s why it is so surprising that the man finds time to squeeze in time to run his own wrestling school. In 2014, Rollins founded the Black and Brave Academy alongside Marek Brave, who Rollins frequently tagged with on the independent scene. The two run the Black and Brave Academy out of Moline, Illinois with independent veteran, Matt Mayday, working there as an assistant trainer and the school itself is partnered with Crossfit. Reviews for the school have been stellar for the most part, although the school gathered some unwanted press in September 2016 after a student named Jonah Snyder died after going into cardiac arrest following a training session. Other than that, Black and Brave has received some glowing reviews as this past summer, their 6th class graduated from the school. The 7th class is still going as we speak, but anyone interested in training with the school for one of their upcoming semesters can enroll on their website.
7. The Shield Originally Was Supposed to Wear Riot Gear
It’s cringey enough looking back at The Shield’s debut when they used to wear those gawdy turtleneck sweaters. Believe it or not, their get-up could’ve looked much worse had WWE went with their original plans. As all of the former Shield members have expressed before in their respective interviews, they were originally supposed to debut while carrying legitimate SWAT tactical riot shields. As if the look wouldn’t have looked cheesy enough, these shields were supposed to have word “SHIELD” written on them in giant red letters. This was the least flattering thing that the trio were enthusiastic about for their debut. They even went as far as to head down to the ring before the show started for a test run and were having trouble getting those massive shields through the ring ropes. Thankfully, right before showtime, Vince McMahon saw the three young upstarts carrying their shields backstage and decided to nix it at the last minute. They still had those dreadful turtlenecks, but thank God McMahon was in the right mind to chuck the shields away. Now, these shields are currently hidden away somewhere in WWE storage where they belong.
6. Original Triple Threat Happened in FCW
One of the most hotly anticipated contests in recent memory was the Triple Threat match between Ambrose, Reigns, and Rollins. Although many fans were disappointed that it occurred at Battleground instead of a big pay-per-view like Wrestlemania, but what many of those same fans don’t know is that the trio had a Triple Threat match against each other long before they made their way to the main roster. In February 2012, for the developmental brand of FCW, the trio squared off in a #1 Contenders Match for the FCW Championship against Leo Kruger (aka Adam Rose). Leakee pinned Ambrose to win the match and went on to wrestled Leo Kruger for the title, but failed to win it. Ambrose would get his own brand of payback four years later when he pinned Roman Reigns to retain the WWE Championship.
5. The Shield Did Double Duty On NXT and Main Roster
When The Shield got called up to WWE for Survivor Series 2012, Seth Rollins was still the NXT Champion. Given he was the inaugural champion, it would’ve been bittersweet for his reign to be vacated. Instead, he continued his reign as a member of The Shield and the trio pulled double duty for both main roster shows and NXT tapings. Given how much of an underseen small scale that NXT was under for 2012-13, WWE treated their NXT antics as non-canon to the main roster, as if they were two separate universes. Their extra time in NXT was never mentioned during their main roster run. That said, it’s understandable for some audiences to have never known about anything they did in NXT after they had been called up. The Shield briefly pulled double duty until Rollins lost the NXT Championship to Big E. In related news, Big E had to do double duty himself during his title reign given how he worked as a face with a 5-gimmick on NXT, but the standard heel muscle when paired with Dolph Ziggler on the main roster in 2013.
4. Roman Reigns Was A Heel In NXT
Given the increasingly negative response he has been getting as a babyface singles star since The Shield’s breakup, a lot of viewers are intrigued at the prospect of seeing Roman Reigns work as a heel. Not many people know that he actually did wrestle briefly as a heel singles competitor. His singles run in NXT is easy to forget as he only spent less than a month in NXT (though 2 years in developmental as a whole) before being called up as part of The Shield. On October 31st, 2012, the former resident FCW star Leakee re-debuted as a repackaged Roman Reigns, but this was far from the Roman Reigns that we’re all familiar with today. Going by the moniker of “The Thoroughbred” which saw Reigns wearing the gimmick of an entitled, egotistical, pompous, and overly confident snob. To put it simply, he was a d*ckhead, and he was great at playing a d*ckhead. Before he had time to perfect that role, he was called up to play The Shield’s powerhouse at Survivor Series following his first NXT tapings. Anyone familiar with his NXT run would certainly love to see him revive the character for the main roster today if he ever did turn heel again.
3. Ambrose Was Almost in WWE in 2006
Back when he was still wrestling hardcore matches on the indie scene as Jon Moxley, Dean Ambrose was impressing onlookers as early as 2006. One of the guys he impressed was Mike Bucci (aka Hollywood Nova and Simon Dean). Which considering that Nova was running talent relations in 2006, it was a big deal. In an interview with Smart Mark Video called “Stories From The Street: The Jon Moxley Story,” Ambrose explains that he got a call from Nova saying he was impressed enough with Ambrose’s work that he was willing to offer him a WWE developmental contract. All Nova had to do was get the O-K from John Laurinaitis and then get Ambrose in front of Laurinaitis to sign a contract. Ambrose was excited at the opportunity, but just a few days later, WWE was struck with a major drug bust that saw several wrestlers get suspended and released. Nova happened to be one of the released superstars. Worst part is that Nova hadn’t had a chance yet to speak to Laurinaitis about Ambrose and so this prolonged Ambrose’s WWE arrival. He eventually got to WWE 5 years later, but the prospect of Ambrose in WWE in 2006 is a fascinating one to consider. Oh, how different his career may have been if he arrived a little earlier.
2. Evan Bourne Convinced Seth Rollins to Go to WWE
Anybody who has been watching wrestling for at least the last 5 years should remember who Evan Bourne is. Nowadays, he’s best known on the indie scene as Matt Sydal, but a few years ago, he was electrifying the WWE Universe by going Air Bourne every week. He also brought to the WWE Universe the gift of Seth Rollins. At a time when Rollins was a big name on the indie scene (then as Tyler Black), he was weighing out all of his options for his future in wrestling. He was offered a deal with WWE the same time he was offered a contract with TNA, all while he was still contemplating whether or not he wanted to renew his ROH contract. With so much to consider, he went to his friend Evan Bourne for advice and Bourne told him that a risk with WWE was worth taking. Considering all of the success Rollins has chalked up over the last few years, Bourne was right.
1. Kassius Ohno Almost Had Reigns’ Shield Spot
As CM Punk explained in his controversial Art of Wrestling interview with Colt Cabana following his departure from WWE, Punk himself pitched WWE the idea of The Shield. When he was the WWE Champion, WWE wanted Punk to be the focal point of a heel stable alongside Daniel Bryan and Big Show. He didn’t want to be paired with Show and Bryan, but he did like the idea of a heel champion hiring a bunch of goons to watch his back. So instead, Punk pitched for a group of three young rookies down in NXT to get called up and essentially be his bodyguards. The men he pitched in to play the trio were Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and not Roman Reigns, but Kassius Ohno. Since Punk had known Ohno ever since they mingled on the independent circuit when he was still Chris Hero, Punk probably wanted to give his buddy a nice rub. Although WWE liked Punk’s idea, they didn’t want Ohno in the role. Since they already had big plans in place for Roman Reigns, he was called up to play the powerhouse of The Shield while Ohno remained down in developmental. While we all know that The Shield would become a huge success, Ohno could not say the same as he would be released from NXT in November 2013, almost a full year after The Shield debuted. Ohno has recently returned to NXT and, hopefully, he has a better run this time.
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