What’s left for The Shield to conquer?
Admit it, you’re glad The Shield is back. If nothing else, it’s a wild nostalgia trip to the days when the Hounds of Justice roamed the company and were not yet main event players in their own right. Their 2017 reconvening was one of circumstance; all three men on the same roster during the brand split playing a face role meant that it wasn’t a matter of if, but when.
The only issue with their return has been that they haven’t exactly had a huge nemesis in their path. Going after what many consider to be the company’s ace in the hole (with the ability to get Roman Reigns copious amounts of cheers) with a haphazard attitude could prove to be wasteful.
If you haven’t heard, Roman Reigns won’t be in the ring on Sunday night, having been replaced by Kurt Angle after a reported wave of illness has swept through the WWE locker room. That will change the landscape Sunday, but assuming Reigns is able to return to action relatively soon, won’t change the conundrum booking finds itself in.
A 3-on-3 showdown with The Miz, Sheamus, and Cesaro, with the Intercontinental Title and Tag Team Championships on the line would have been a battle within itself, but adding Braun Strowman and Kane to the mix makes for the feeling of packing as many insurmountable odds as possible into a small timeframe.
It’s not a shocker to come to the conclusion that this won’t be a permanent reunion. Eventually each of the three will return to chasing titles and will no longer need the numbers game, if they even need it now. But after TLC on Sunday night, there is Survivor Series and then no knowledge of the next Raw-branded PPV before the Royal Rumble.
Sunday night was set to be the return of The Shield, but it also is staring down the barrel of lasting much shorter than anticipated the second time around.
How will Kurt Angle get written into The Shield storyline?
Raw was already scrambling with all hands on deck prior to the announcement that Reigns and Bray Wyatt had been pulled from the TLC card due to a virus. Now, they have inserted their general manager into the main event alongside the Raw Tag Team Champions, a move that seemed to have been fast-tracked from Survivor Series, when an Angle return could have had weeks of build-up.
Since his return to the WWE as the Raw general manager, Angle’s in-ring return has been the hottest topic surrounding him. He has done an admirable job running the show on Monday nights, but everyone wanted to know when he was stepping back between the ropes. It appears the answer is Sunday, although how it gets explained that he is filling in for Reigns will take the best of WWE creativity.
Where does Samoa Joe fit in upon his return?
There’s never a good time for injuries, but Samoa Joe getting a break during the Fall isn’t a worst-case scenario for the Raw roster. He was quickly thrust directly into the main event scene with his match against Brock Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire, before becoming what some believed to be the odds-on favorite to walk out of SummerSlam with the strap.
Now on the sidelines, Joe has become the forgotten man. It’s tough to imagine that if he was ready to return to action, he wouldn’t have been the fifth member of Miz’s team on Sunday to take on The Shield; instead, he’ll bide his time and wait, but for whom is not yet clear.
It now seems unlikely that Lesnar drops the belt prior to WrestleMania, leaving Joe to find his place in the upper-mid card without actually touching the strap. Feuds with Finn Balor, The Shield, or even Braun Strowman all loom, as Joe looks to rediscover the momentum he had before being sidelined.
Who’s next in line to fight Kevin Owens + Sami Zayn?
In a video game world, Owens and Zayn vs. Shane-o-Mac and Daniel Bryan has already been booked for Survivor Series. There’s no question the match would steal the show on multiple levels, but there’s also no question Bryan is not getting cleared by a WWE medical staff.
With that said, it leaves creative in need of a partner for Shane, as Owens and Zayn continue to torment both the general manager and commissioner of SmackDown Live. After defeating both Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura this past week, Owens and Zayn got a leg up on Bryan; this upcoming week, Shane returns.
The most likely fit seems to be A.J. Styles. Despite his statement that he’s coming after Jinder Mahal following their brawl on Tuesday, Mahal is likely locked up with Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series, leaving Styles needing something to do at one of the Big 4 PPV events. (He’ll already be filling in at TLC to fight Balor as Wyatt has been pulled from the card due to the illness affecting the roster.)
It would be coming full circle in just over seven months after Styles and Shane fought one another in a classic WrestleMania showdown. They have been intertwined over the summer, with the Phenomenal One now serving as Shane’s best hope of taking down the biggest threat to SmackDown Live in his tenure.
What’s happened to Shinsuke Nakamura?
Make no mistake, Nakamura’s growth has not been stunted by his own doing. Since arriving on the SmackDown Live scene and immediately entering the main event picture, Nakamura has been swallowed whole by the choice to have Mahal get an extended run as champion.
The problem with Nakamura’s mounting losses aren’t that he’s losing; it’s that when he does once again come on the upswing, it’ll feel manufactured after months of putting everyone else over. At the current moment, he’s directionless, having been victimized by the Singh Brothers at Hell in a Cell, mocked by Mahal for months leading up to the match, and now being left without a heel to fight.
Survivor Series has been a beacon for multi-man matches in its history, which Nakamura will need in order to keep him in the spotlight. There are likely big things on the horizon for him in the coming months, but in the present, his character is crawling through quicksand.