It would be remiss, this being WrestleMania week and all, to talk about The Shield without talking about WrestleMania 31 main eventer Roman Reigns.

While The Shield was certainly designed as a vehicle for him to build him up and hide his weaknesses, he was clearly the standout out member of the group. His timing, presence, facials and overall performance were nearly always note perfect. He looked like the next big star in WWE, it would’ve been absurd not to at least give it a go with him. Of course, since The Shield split, it hasn’t gone so well for him. After WWE spent eighteen months protecting Reigns, he was thrown into positions outside of him comfort zone and he was exposed. He was no longer being protected but rather being made to act more and more like everybody else (both in terms of how he’s wrestled and of course the need to do long monologue promos that are so blatantly not in his wheelhouse).

And as a result, fans rejected him. Instead of what at one stage seemed like a natural, fluid transition to the top, the journey felt forced and it’s never going to work once that happens. You could make the argument that WWE broke up The Shield a year too early. This level of backlash against Reigns likely wouldn’t have happened if the unit remained protected. Plus, Ambrose and Rollins aren’t really better off than they were a year ago. Rollins is certainly more prominent, but not really any better off (he spends most of the time being a cowardly lackey who gets beaten up a lot).

After watching fifty Shield matches in one week, it’s abundantly clear why The Shield worked so well. Above all else, they were different. Different in just about every way. Unlike everybody else, they came to the ring through the crowd instead of down the ramp. Unlike everybody else, they wore riot gear instead of regular trunks. They were a three man group that operated primarily as a unit, something fairly uncommon for the time. They were unlike anything else in the company, so they stood out. They were novel. They were unique.

Of course the other major factor that helped The Shield along was just how smartly constructed the group was. They complemented each other extremely well, each covering for the others weaknesses. Ambrose was there for the promos, Rollins to carry the work, and Reigns to be the star the whole vehicle was really designed to launch. But that is an oversimplification. Ambrose carried a surprising amount of the heavy lifting, especially in the early days of the group, and at times it seemed he was the focal point of the team (of The Shield’s first 16 six man tag matches Ambrose scored the winning fall 9 times). Reigns more than held up his end of the matches and Rollins’ promos improved steadily.

Another factor in their success that can’t be underlined enough is the fact that they always won clean. Obviously they went seven months without losing as a unit but much more importantly, they beat everybody fair and square, right in the middle of the ring. Whether it was Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Chris Jericho or even The Undertaker, when put in a six man tag team match, The Shield could beat them. The Shield were the better team. And so The Shield got over.

And The Shield wasn’t just good for Reigns, Ambrose and Rollins; it was good for everybody they faced, as well. Ryback never looked moredynamic than when he was in the ring with The Shield, all three of them bumped huge for him. Matches with The Shield served as the launching pad for The Usos to go from lower card hell to tag team champions, same with The Rhodes Brothers who’s red hot period in 2013 not so coincidentally coincided with plenty of Shield matches. Kane and Big Show were a far cry from their dreadful 2015 incarnations when working those six man tags. The likes of Kofi Kingston and Big E looked like stars of the future, now look at them.

Even Bryan, who was obviously extremely popular before he wrestled The Shield, was really put over the top by some of his absolutely stellar performances against The Shield. His babyface comebacks were on a whole different level during that period, with every crowd coming unglued in a way that WWE would kill for every Monday night these days. They were some of the most engaging performances in WWE in recent memory.

You’d think watching 50 matches of the same type would get tedious but for the most part it didn’t. Yes the beats were familiar (to the degree that I noticed this neat little thing The Shield did when they were wrestling a team and an individual, say they were wrestling Bryan and The Usos in a six man, when the time came for say Jimmy to make the hot tag The Shield would knock Jey off the apron to explain why Jimmy would tag in Bryan rather than his regular partner, I thought that was nifty), all the matches were mostly heat, comeback, flurry, finish, but diversity of opponent was varied enough to keep things interesting. Sixteen of the matches featured Daniel Bryan and thirteen for The Usos but you’d occasionally get Rey Mysterio or Kofi or RVD or Los Matadores to keep things fresh.

So I watched and ranked (out of 100 for the sake of flexibility and to better differentiate the matches from one another) all fifty matches that I watched. I’m going to talk in particular about the top eight and the full list in order with ratings is below. If you disagree, think a certain match should be higher or lower or just want to talk about a particular match hit me up on my Twitter machine and I’d be happy to talk about it.

8. The Shield vs. Kane, Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan – Smackdown June 14, 2013

The match where The Shield were finally beaten. There was a greater sense of electricity in the buildings for the last few matches before they were beaten, as if people knew instinctively that the streak was coming to an end soon. Or it could’ve been due to just how brilliant Bryan was in this match. Bryan brought an energy and sense of urgency that the current WWE product (and Bryan’s current character, for that matter) sorely lacks. And of course the moment where The Shield were beaten came off as a really big deal.

7. The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan, Kane and Kofi Kingston – Raw June 20, 2013

This match is kind of reflective of most Shield TV matches. No real big rigmarole. No real historical significance. Just a damn good TV match. And while this was on the higher end of these kinds of matches, matches 9-40 on the list below are straightforward examples of what made The Shield so much fun. The Shield were tremendous for filling 8-15 TV with really good ***+ matches.

6. The Shield vs. John Cena, Sheamus and Ryback – Elimination Chamber 2013

This matchwas notable for just how great Ryback looked. If Ryback would be the biggest star in the company if he had Reigns, Ambrose and Rollins bumping for him every night. This was only the second Shield six-man, so novelty still plays a factor here (obviously the second match you watch is going to seem a lot more unique than the 39th), but this is loads of fun with a really cool finish in which Ryback gets Speared while he has Ambrose up in the Shellshock.

5. The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan, Kane and Randy Orton – Raw June 3rd, 2013

This is the match before the match where The Shield were beaten and, honestly, I’d have preferred them to be beaten here. The crowd were going absolutely mental for everything; Bryan, like in the match where he beat The Shield, was on a whole different level than everybody else. Bryan was more dynamic and wrestling like a man possessed. This was tremendous. Bryan winning here would’ve really put this over the top.

4. The Shield vs. Evolution – Elimination Match, Payback 2014

The second and ever so slightly inferior Shield vs. Evolution match. Doing a rematch is always going to be trickier as you want to make it different enough from the original to stand out, but it’s admirable in that it tries to be different from its predecessor. Both matches feature Rollins jumping off of high things, but this one focuses on Evolution beating down The Shield for a long time while isolating each of them, only for The Shield to come back and beat them 3-0 at the end. Finally, Evolution must be commended for losing so comprehensively.

3. The Shield vs. Evolution – Extreme Rules 2014

The first and ever so slightly superior Shield vs. Evolution match. This felt like a legitimate dream match. A trio of the biggest stars of last generation vs. a trio of what should be the three biggest stars of this generation. A passing of the torch with The Shield coming out on top, plus the match was great aswell adding a couple of huge highspots (Rollins’ balcony dive and Ambrose running across announce tables) to the tried and tested Shield match formula.

2. The Shield vs. Kane, Daniel Bryan and Ryback – TLC 2012

The match that started it all. The match that introduced The Shield in the best way possible. And the match that established adynamic that would work for the next six months. The story was simply that, as a unit, The Shield couldn’t be beaten. They repeatedly isolated each wrestler over and over until they won. The match was great, the story worked brilliantly and after it was all over it was clear that The Shield had arrived and that they should be taken seriously.

1. The Shield vs. The Wyatts – Elimination Chamber 2014

This match was voted the third best match of the year in the 2014 Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year poll and for good reason. This was a clash of six young, hungry wrestlers looking to leave it all out there and make an impact. The fans saw this as a dream match, buzzing from the opening bell, and they were glued to every move. Stuffed full of intense action, loaded with memorable moments (Rollins landing on his feet from a top rope German in particular) and a lovely call back to early Shield matches influencing the result. The Wyatt’s isolated and took out each member of The Shield leaving Reigns by himself unable to overcome the odds, but he went down fighting. This whole thing was magical and easily the best match The Shield had.

Below is the full list (including date, show and ranking out of 100) ranked from worst to best:

5006/04/2014Shield vs. Kane and New Age OutlawsWrestleMania 3030
4905/08/2013Shield vs. Bryan, Cena and OrtonRaw40
4816/08/2013Shield vs. RVD, Henry and ShowSmackdown45
4719/06/2013Shield vs. Gabriel and The UsosMain Event50
4628/12/2013Shield vs. Mysterio and The UsosTribute TTT50
4520/12/2013Shield vs. Cena, Punk and BryanSmackdown52
4401/07/2013Shield vs. Christian and The UsosRaw53
4328/06/2013Shield vs. Christian and The UsosSmackdown55
4207/08/2013Shield vs. Usos and HenryMain Event58
4103/02/2014Shield vs. Mysterio, Langston and KofiRaw59
4025/04/2014Shield vs. Smackdown Roster – 5 vs. 3Smackdown60
3914/02/2014Shield vs. Bryan, Sheamus and ChristianSmackdown61
3815/08/2013Shield vs. Graves, Neville and WoodsNXT62
3703/01/2014Shield vs. Punk and The UsosSmackdown62
3606/05/2013Shield vs. Usos and KofiRaw63
3529/07/2013Shield vs. Usos and HenryRaw63
3427/09/2013Shield vs. Kofi, RVD and ZigglerSmackdown63
3325/11/2013Shield vs. Rhodes, Goldust and MysterioRaw63
3210/01/2014Shield vs. Punk and New Age OutlawsSmackdown63
3121/08/2013Shield vs. Usos and KofiMain Event64
3016/12/2013Shield vs. Punk and The UsosRaw64
2920/01/2014Shield vs. Langston, Rhodes and GoldustRaw64
2830/09/2013Shield vs. Usos and ZigglerRaw65
2715/12/2013Shield vs. CM PunkTLC65
2607/10/2013Shield vs. Rhodes, Goldust and BryanRaw66
2523/12/2013Shield vs. Punk, Cena and LangstonRaw66
2431/01/2014Shield vs. Sheamus, Bryan and MysterioSmackdown68
2307/04/2013Shield vs. Show, Orton and SheamusWrestleMania 2969
2213/05/2013Shield vs. Cena, Bryan and Kane – ElimRaw70
2124/05/2013Shield vs. Sheamus, Kofi and OrtonSmackdown70
2019/02/2014Shield vs. Sin Cara and Los MatadoresMain Event70
1908/04/2014Shield vs. The WyattsMain Event70
1820/09/2013Shield vs. Usos and BryanSmackdown71
1727/01/2014Shield vs. Cena, Sheamus and BryanRaw72
1605/05/2014Shield vs. The WyattsRaw72
1529/04/2013Shield vs. Cena, Bryan and KaneRaw73
1423/09/2013Shield vs. Raw Roster – 11 vs. 3 ElimRaw73
1302/12/2013Shield vs. Show, Rhodes and GoldustRaw73
1203/03/2014Shield vs. The WyattsRaw73
1122/04/2013Shield vs. Undertaker, Kane and BryanRaw74
1018/10/2013Shield vs. Rhodes, Goldust and BryanSmackdown75
918/02/2013Shield vs. Jericho, Ryback and SheamusRaw77
814/06/2013Shield vs. Kane, Orton and BryanSmackdown79
720/05/2013Shield vs. Bryan, Kane and KofiRaw80
617/02/2013Shield vs. Cena, Sheamus and RybackElimination Chamber81
503/06/2013Shield vs. Orton, Bryan and KaneRaw82
401/06/2014Shield vs. EvolutionPayback83
304/05/2014Shield vs. EvolutionExtreme Rules85
216/12/2012Shield vs. Bryan, Kane and Ryback – TLCTLC86
123/02/2014Shield vs. The WyattsElimination Chamber90