No one saw it coming — least of all Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose — when Seth Rollins cracked a steel chair across the back of The Shield’s juggernaut on the June 9 edition of Raw. After witnessing one brother fall victim to a premeditated act of betrayal from another, The Lunatic Fringe soon suffered a similar fate as a succession of savage chair strikes from the flak-jacketed turncoat kept him grounded. The Hounds of Justice had been put down. Triple H’s “Plan B” had succeeded. The Architect of The Shield had become its arsonist.
Since that night in Indianapolis — incidentally in the same building where the trio made their WWE debut — the WWE Universe has struggled to put the pieces together. As we wait for Ambrose and Reigns to make their next move in the wake of Rollins’ treason, we wonder: If The Shield were to replace Rollins with a new third member of the group, who should they choose? WWE.com’s editors picked six hypothetical Hounds of Justice that we’d like to see join the ranks of the black-clad rebels.
1.) Adrian Neville
Seth Rollins was The Shield’s go-to high-flyer. If Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose are looking for a new aerial expert, there’s no one better to fill the spot than reigning NXT Champion Adrian Neville.
A world-traveled competitor, Neville’s arsenal of high-flying maneuvers is unlike anything the WWE Universe has ever seen. Seemingly able to defy the laws of physics, Neville’s moniker of “The Man That Gravity Forgot” is well-earned. He can flip out of any situation and land on his feet with deceptive ease. Every time he takes flight, Neville soars through the air with equal parts grace and reckless abandon, risking his well-being for the pursuit of victory.
A true daredevil, the most impressive move in Neville’s game plan is the Red Arrow, a jaw-dropping, gravity-defying Shooting Star Press with a few mid-air rotations thrown in, just because he can. While Seth Rollins is a formidable flier, Neville might be the best to ever do it. That would make him the perfect fit for The Shield, as long as the flak jacket and combat boots don’t weigh him down.
2.) Big E
Although it’s unlikely they make tactical vests large enough for the barrel-chested 290-pounder, Big E’s agility and superhuman strength would help ensure that The Hounds of Justice remain the big dogs in the yard for the foreseeable future. While in NXT, Big E waged war with The Shield as the group was just beginning its campaign of destruction, and even defeated Seth Rollins for the NXT Championship in early 2013. Why not replace The Architect with the man who ended his only solo title reign as a contracted WWE competitor?
It might seem like overkill to add a second powerhouse to The Shield — Roman Reigns fills that role just fine — but when has this ruthless faction ever been worried about using excessive force? Besides, if you thought the group’s original Triple Powerbomb was impressive, just imagine the types of three-man maneuvers The Shield could pull off with this hulking former Intercontinental Champion in their midst
3.) Dolph Ziggler
It’s hard to fathom the neon-clad Dolph Ziggler trading in his pinks and lime greens for The Shield’s paramilitary black, let alone downplaying his bombastic nature to fall in line with The Hounds of Justice’s serious, business-first approach. Those details aside, The Showoff would nonetheless fit in nicely with Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns should they ever want to bolster their ranks in a post-Seth Rollins era.
Much like The Architect, Ziggler is a versatile ring mechanic who’s more than capable of rousing the WWE Universe to its feet with crazily athletic moves. If Reigns packs the power and Ambrose brings the unpredictability, then The Showoff’s flash would balance the team dynamic.
More important, the outspoken former World Heavyweight Champion shares Ambrose and Reigns’ disdain for WWE COO Triple H and The Authority’s heavy-handed rule. Few Superstars have been as bold as Ziggler in criticizing WWE’s King of Kings, and though it’s unlikely anyone will ever replicate Rollins’ deep bond with Reigns and Ambrose, the hip-shaking rabble-rouser would provide a similar rebellious, show-stealing aura
4.) Cody Rhodes
If Triple H’s “Plan B” worked, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns are currently scrambling like ants that just had their hill kicked over. What they need right now is someone who will hold them together. Who they need is Cody Rhodes.
A natural leader who has spent too much of his career being led, the second-generation competitor has a veteran’s instinct in the body of a young gun — just like Seth Rollins. But he also has more polish than the onetime Architect of The Shield and his risks are more calculated.
It’s true that he’s been slumping as of late, but Rhodes is the type of athlete who thrives — almost exclusively — in dare-to-be-great situations. If he’s missed the mark recently, it’s because he’s not being challenged. And the challenge that lies ahead of Ambrose and Reigns is the exact kind of do-or-die moment that forces Cody to live up to his boundless potential.
The Cody Rhodes that squared off with The Shield in December 2013 was the best Cody Rhodes we’ve ever seen. Aligned with them he could be even better.
5.) John Morrison
Now, listen. If you lose a high-flyer, you’d better grab one to replace him and no WWE Superstar adheres as closely to the Seth Rollins blueprint as John Morrison. The WWE Universe went gaga for Rollins’ aerial tactics throughout The Shield’s dominant run, but The Prince of Parkour was scaling structures and confounding opponents long before The Architect threw on his Kevlar.
Granted, it’s hard to tell if the former Intercontinental Champion’s mindset — to say nothing of his sartorial tendencies — would exactly adhere to the aesthetic of The Shield (though we’d pay good money to see Roman Reigns in a chinchilla coat). But the in-ring transition would be smooth, and might even be an improvement in some places. Rollins was big on self-sacrifice — a younger, lither Mick Foley who swapped a button-down for bulletproof. Morrison, with his kicks that flowed like rubber but hit like rock, was efficient without taking too much out of himself. There’s no doubt that his inclusion in The Hounds of Justice could well make Rollins and The Authority eat their lunch, or at least their words.
What we’re trying to say is: Come back to us, JoMo. The Universe needs you, now more than ever.
6.) Daniel Bryan
If Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns were to take on a third Superstar to replace Seth Rollins, they would be wise to join forces with a competitor akin to the former Architect of The Shield. That means someone athletic and technical, fearless and versatile, possessing a strong connection with the WWE Universe and the “no quit” mentality of The Hounds of Justice.
And who better fits that description than WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan? Despite his legions of fans and unquestionable success in the squared circle, some (ahem, The Authority) continue to doubt The Beard. Joining forces with two similarly slighted Superstars — who he coincidentally battled in their very first WWE match at WWE TLC 2012 — would be a perfect way for Bryan to make the naysayers believe.
If the question is whether the WWE Universe would be interested in seeing an alliance between Bryan and what’s left of The Shield, the answer is surely a roaring, resounding, “Yes!”