It was Money in the Bank 2016, and in the main event, Roman Reigns would walk in as WWE Champion, then in his third reign. He had been freshly coronated at WrestleMania 32, one that Vince McMahon was very eager to get over with, no matter how much fans protested against it.
By the time the night was over, not only did Seth Rollins win the WWE Championship, but Dean Ambrose walked out at the end with the title, winning it for the first time ever. It was truly the night of The Shield, and in retrospect, it’s even more bizarre to think that all of it happened in the span of one hour.
That’s right, in just one hour, all three Shield members would hold the WWE Championship. There’s a low-quality photo shot of them embracing in the back after the night was over, and one can only imagine the emotions that ran through their head, knowing that they were truly ruling the yard in WWE, and there was nobody that was going to stop them.
It was a brotherhood. Not one connected by blood, but one formed over years on the road, training together, eating together, and doing everything as one cohesive unit. However, in 2016 by that point in time, two years had already passed since they had split up. WWE felt that it was best and the right time to break them up in 2014, because all three of them had massive singles potential, and Vince McMahon always had his eye on pushing Reigns as the next franchise player of the company.
With the focus being on Reigns, Seth Rollins did get a push of his own, while Dean Ambrose clearly took a backseat as the superstar who was almost on that level, but never really got the corporate backing off-screen that Reigns did, nor the corporate backing that Rollins did on-screen. However, 2014-2016 was a tremendous couple of years for all three Shield members, especially from a character progression standpoint.
Fans were continually booing Reigns, and every time he would get pushed again, he would get booed again. It felt like John Cena’s push all over again, but the difference was that when Cena did receive his coronation, he was already a fan favorite. When Reigns did so at WrestleMania 32, it was in front of the biggest crowd in WWE history. It’s safe to say, he wasn’t really cheered.
Either way, WrestleMania 32 suffered a lot because of a plague of injuries that hit many WWE superstars. The biggest name affected by this was not Randy Orton at the time, but Seth Rollins, who was the reigning WWE Champion for over six months. He was by far the best part of WWE programming then, and it was a big loss when he blew his knee out at a live event.
He was forced to watch WrestleMania 32 from the sidelines, and as seen in the WWE Network documentary Redesign, Rebuild, Reclaim which documented his injury and return, it was clear that he was beyond frustrated and upset about missing out at the show of shows.
However, he bided his time, and post-WrestleMania 32 saw one of the most interesting stretches of WWE programming in years, with young, new and exciting superstars getting pushed. Even Roman Reigns’ WWE title reign had a lot of promise after he displaced a worthy challenger in AJ Styles. It was immediately after this where Seth Rollins made his return and would make a statement right away by attacking Reigns.
Given that Rollins was already heavily cheered pre-injury and was missed, it was a bizarre decision by WWE to keep him as a heel, which was made further confusing by the fact that they released the WWE 24 documentary, portraying him as the biggest babyface ever. So a WWE title main event was set between him and Reigns for MITB, where the theme was the fact that Rollins had never lost the title in the first place.
Where did Dean Ambrose fit into all this? Well, he didn’t have too much momentum, because by 2016 pre-WrestleMania, he was the hottest star on the roster. Fans wanted to see him succeed, but WWE chose Reigns instead. He didn’t have a bad match on paper at WrestleMania, as he took on Brock Lesnar.
However, the match turned out to be an utter disappointment and did a lot of damage to Ambrose. Despite this, he was well protected and pushed, and after winning a feud against Chris Jericho, he set his sights on the Money in the Bank briefcase. On the night, he would win one of the most enthralling ladder matches in WWE history and lift the briefcase, certainly guaranteeing a world title shot.
In the main event, Seth Rollins would hand Roman Reigns the first clean defeat of his singles career, shocking the world and picking up his second WWE title win. People were surprised, because the assumption was that Reigns would have a long title reign. Rollins’ joy wouldn’t last long, as Dean Ambrose’s music hit, and he got unexpectedly smacked from behind with the Money in the Bank briefcase.
The Lunatic Fringe wasted no time in cashing in his briefcase, ending Rollins’ second title reign in minutes. Ambrose would win his first title, and in the span of one hour, all three Shield members were WWE champion. It just goes to show how big an impact they had on the business, both as a faction and on an individual level. There won’t be anyone like them ever again.