A year of The Shield: 365 days on the trail of The Hounds of Justice

No one knew the names of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns one year ago. Now, just uttering “Sierra, Hotel, India, Echo, Lima, Delta” — the NATO phonetic alphabet spelling of The Shield — can make any Superstar cower in fear.

While fighting to promote their depraved version of justice, The Shield achieved what few, if any, competitors experience in their careers — let alone their rookie campaigns in WWE. Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns seized the US and WWE Tag Team Titles. They decimated legends of the squared circle, including many active and former WWE Champions. And they show no signs of stopping.

One year after their controversial debut at Survivor Series 2012, The Shield’s results proved far more effective than anyone in the WWE Universe ever imagined. From influencing the historical course of the WWE Championship to the epic dismantling of a phenomenal Superstar, take a look at 10 moments from a debut year in WWE that successfully transformed three NXT upstarts into The Hounds of Justice.

Nov. 18, 2012: The hunt begins for The Hounds of Justice

The Shield immediately cause chaos during their debut in the Survivor Series 2012 main event.

Ryback’s impressive rookie campaign put the rampaging brute mere moments away from winning his first WWE Title in a Triple Threat Match at Survivor Series. With champion CM Punk knocked out on the ring apron, Ryback only needed to pin a Shell Shocked John Cena to clinch the extraordinary achievement just seven months after his WWE debut.

Revisit The Shield's shocking debut |  Survivor Series 2012 photos

Unfortunately, three invaders quickly outnumbered the young challenger. The trio — recognized by Michael Cole as NXT competitors Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins — ended Ryback’s championship aspirations by putting him through the announce table with a bone-jarring three-man powerbomb. Their actions granted Punk enough time to regain his composure and pin Cena, thus ensuring The Straight Edge Superstar would remain WWE Champion.

The last word
 “We are a ‘Shield’ from injustice in WWE.” — Seth Rollins, explaining what motivated Ambrose, Rollins & himself to start their onslaught at Survivor Series ( Raw, Nov. 26, 2012

Dec. 16, 2012: The Shield faces its first extreme challenge

Tormented by the same renegades who cost Ryback the WWE Championship at Survivor Series, WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No forged a powerful alliance with the freshman Superstar. In hopes of humbling the upstarts at WWE TLC 2012, Ryback, Kane & Daniel Bryan summoned The Shield to make its competitive debut in a formidable bout: a six-man Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match.

Watch The Shield dole out justice |  WWE TLC 2012 photos

Instead of trying to equal the sheer power of Ryback & Team Hell No at the pay-per-view, The Hounds of Justice employed a divide-and-conquer strategy that worked to perfection. Ambrose & Rollins knocked Bryan out with a superplex off a table. Reigns plowed Kane through a ringside barricade. Then, they finished the job by crushing Ryback with a three-man powerbomb, thus sealing a victorious debut WWE match for The Shield.

The last word
“We warned you. We warned everybody. We shined a big, bright, glaring light on the injustice in WWE.” — Dean Ambrose, expressing disbelief pertaining to doubts in the WWE Universe about The Shield’s fanatical devotion to justice ( SmackDown, Dec. 28, 2012)

Jan. 7, 2013: Justice is served on the WWE Champion’s behalf

Ryback and WWE Champion CM Punk finally compete in an action packed Tables, Ladders & Chairs WWE Title Match.

Due to an injury that forced him to miss WWE TLC 2012, CM Punk begrudgingly accepted WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon’s direct order to defend the WWE Title against Ryback in a Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match on the first Raw of 2013. Punk then proceeded to fail at finding a way to curtail his challenger’s relentless efforts and sheer power, leaving The Straight Edge Superstar’s historic 414-day reign as WWE Champion in dire jeopardy.

Revisit the year of WWE Champion CM Punk |  WWE Championship TLC Match photos

Regrettably for Ryback, the lights went out at the Tampa Bay Times Forum right as he put his fingertips on the championship gold hanging over the ring. When the arena became illuminated again, The Shield materialized on the ladder and promptly mauled the brute. The WWE Champion, coming to his senses after Ryback had slammed through a ringside table, managed to retrieve his title following the efforts of The Shield, who was later revealed to be conspiring with Paul Heyman on Punk’s behalf.

The last word
“When we pay The Shield to do a job, they don’t keep coming back for more and coming back for more. They wait for us to come to them, and we say, ‘We need help.’” — Paul Heyman, confirming on a hidden camera that The Shield is amenable to being paid for helping self-proclaimed victims of injustice ( Raw, Jan. 28, 2013)

Jan. 21, 2013: The People’s Champion gets hounded

The Shield make The Rock their next target in their battle against "injustice" as WWE Champion CM Punk watches from inside his skybox.

Just days before his long-awaited WWE Championship Match against CM Punk at Royal Rumble 2013, The Rock stood inside the ring on Raw and promised that he would defeat The Straight Edge Superstar. The Brahma Bull spoke sincerely about his 10-year wait for this WWE Title opportunity and that, without a shadow of a doubt, his patience would pay off in the end.

Watch The Rock's WWE Title victories |  Photos of The Shield's attack on The Rock

When The Rock concluded his comments, Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns stepped forward to make their own statement. The Hounds of Justice arrived at ringside under cover of darkness and swarmed The People’s Champion. They completed the hit-and-run attack by adding Rock’s name to their growing list of triple powerbomb victims, leaving the seven-time WWE Champion battered and broken in the middle of the squared circle.

The last word
“You got me tonight.” — The Rock, conceding after the attack that The Shield had indeed “brought it” ( WWE.com Exclusive, Raw, Jan. 21, 2013

April 7, 2013: The Shield makes its ‘Grandest’ statement

A mutual loathing of The Shield made unlikely allies of longtime rivals Randy Orton, Sheamus and Big Show. The three Superstars agreed to temporarily bury the hatchet in order to achieve their common goal of defeating The Hounds of Justice at WrestleMania 29. Their partnership appeared successful at first, with their combined experience and strength nearly proving to be too much for therookie opponents making their first appearance on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

Photos of The Shield's WrestleMania debut |  Hear The Shield's "Grandest" reaction

That momentum quickly crumbled against the united front of Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns. When Orton prevented Big Show from entering the match by stealing a tag, The World’s Largest Athlete responded petulantly by standing idle as their greenhorn foes got the numbers on their side in the ring. Reigns then drove The Viper to the ring apron with a spear, leaving Orton as easy prey for a pinfall by Ambrose, and sealing a victory for The Shield members in their WrestleMania debut.

The last word
“Do you believe in The Shield now? If not, you should.” — JBL, commenting at WrestleMania 29 on the impressive performance given by Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns against their veteran adversaries (WrestleMania 29)

April 26, 2013: Dean Ambrose battles The Deadman

The Shield send a painful message to The Undertaker.

One night after The Undertaker extended his undefeated record at WrestleMania to 21 consecutive wins, The Shield arrived to introduce its brand of justice to The Phenom. Team Hell No showed up to even the odds, which led to a tag team altercation two weeks later in London that saw The Hounds of Justice score a major upset victory over Daniel Bryan & The Brothers of Destruction. Unsatisfied with that result, The Undertaker agreed to go one-on-one with Dean Ambrose a few days later on SmackDown.

Who are The Undertaker's greatest rivals? |  Photos of The Undertaker's bout with Dean Ambrose

The Deadman’s unparalleled expertise in the ring ultimately outmatched Ambrose, who eventually fell in defeat by tapping out to Hell’s Gate. That result didn’t end the battle, however, as Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins launched a post-match assault on the seven-time World Champion. Reigns throttled The Undertaker with a spear through a ringside barricade, then led the charge as The Shield doled out justice by putting The Phenom through the announce table with a three-man powerbomb.

The last word
“I’m going to beat The Undertaker tonight, and justice, not you, will be immortal.” — Dean Ambrose, predicting the outcome of his duel with The Deadman ( SmackDown, April 26, 2013

May 13, 2013: The Shield suffers its first defeat … or do they?

WWE Champion John Cena joins with WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No to face The Shield in an Elimination Six-Man Tag Team Match.

WWE Champion John Cena joined forces with WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No in hopes of achieving what no one in WWE had been able to accomplish up to that point: defeat all three members of The Shield in a Six-Man Tag Team Match. To do so, the Cenation leader and his partners would need to eliminate all three members of The Hounds of Justice one-by-one.

Watch The Shield's most monstrous powerbombs |  The Shield's path through the WWE Universe

Technically, Cena — who was the last Superstar standing for his side — pulled it off, but only because the eliminated Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins struck while Ambrose was trapped in the WWE Champion’s STF. With the six-month undefeated streak at an end, The Shield lashed out by pummeling Cena.

It would take another month for anyone to defeat Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns without controversy, and two weeks after that for the threesome to lose via pinfall.

The last word
“Tell me again about who won what on Monday night.” — Seth Rollins, relishing the post-match attack they directed at Cena after their first loss as a unit ( via Twitter, May 15, 2013

May 19, 2013: Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns obtain championship credentials

The persistent aggravation of The Hounds of Justice led WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No and United States Champion Kofi Kingston to put up their titles against Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, respectively, at WWE Extreme Rules 2013. Though the titleholders seemingly had an edge against a divided Shield, the challengers showed up at St. Louis’ Scottrade Center ready to create chaos in the WWE Universe.

PHOTOS: Dean Ambrose wins the U.S. Title |  Rollins & Reigns defeat Team Hell No

Ambrose struck first, grounding the aerially-inclined Kingston to clinch the U.S. Title for the first time. Rollins & Reigns had a more daunting task in the form of a Tornado Tag Team Match against Kane & Daniel Bryan, which ultimately played to The Shield’s strength in numbers. In the end, Reigns stretched Bryan in a Torture Rack until Rollins hit the bearded grappler with a diving knee drop for a knockout blow, giving the nefarious trio simultaneous control of one-third of the active championships in WWE.

The last word
“The Hounds of Justice run this yard … and we carry the collars to back it up.” — Roman Reigns, boasting of The Shield’s track record following a remarkable showing at WWE Extreme Rules ( Raw, May 20, 2013

Aug. 19, 2013: The Authority solicits The Shield’s assistance

Daniel Bryan walks straight into a beating from The Shield and then Randy Orton's RKO to end Raw.

One day after personally intervening in the WWE Title picture at SummerSlam, WWE COO Triple H sought to quell the growing resentment toward WWE’s power brokers and the perceived poor treatment of Daniel Bryan. In the interests of what he deemed “best for business,” The Game decided to make an example of the most outspoken dissenters with “the gift of justice.”

Attacks on WWE authority figures |  Randy Orton's coronation photos

Big Show and Dolph Ziggler — The Authority’s two most vocal critics— found themselves outnumbered in impromptu, separate 3-on-1 Handicap Matches against The Shield. Their beatings paled in comparison to the one administered to Bryan. The reigning U.S. Champion and WWE Tag Team Champions simultaneously thrashed the bearded grappler for trying to break up Randy Orton’s WWE Championship coronation ceremony, the first of many strikes by The Shield that were executed at Triple H’s request.

The last word
“Do we still trust Triple H? Yeah, because has Triple H ever lied to us? No.” — Dean Ambrose, responding to criticism regarding the troubles they’ve experienced since aligning with The Authority ( WWE App Exclusive, Sept. 30, 2013)

Oct. 12, 2013: Rollins & Reigns experience WWE’s highs and lows

Cody Rhodes & Goldust compete against Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns for the WWE Tag Team Titles in the main event of Raw.

Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns joined some elite company in the WWE history books when they officially clinched the fifth longest WWE Tag Team Championship reign ever. They never got a chance to truly chase the fourth overall reign, however, as their tandem title run came to a crashing halt just two days later against the recently-rehired Cody Rhodes & Goldust on Raw.

Photos of the end of The Shield's reign |  Hall of WWE Tag Team Champions

After nearly a year of Shield domination, someone had managed to deal a direct blow to The Hounds of Justice. Yet, the vigilante unit rebounded quickly when Dean Ambrose subdued Dolph Ziggler’s challenge for the U.S. Title just two days later on WWE Main Event. Ambrose’s run as U.S. Champion continues, while his righteousness-seeking cohorts turn their attention to retribution against the Rhodes brothers, and to reinforcing the feared and revered status of The Hounds of Justice.

The last word
“One of the greatest impacts any team has ever made in the history of sports-entertainment is right here in front of us: The Shield.” — JBL, reacting to The Hounds of Justice continuing their dominating ways against Big E Langston & The Usos ( Raw, Oct. 28, 2013

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