As phenomenal a job as WWE has done telling the biggest stories in its (and wrestling's) history, they tend to focus less on current events, unless they're about "gotta have it" type stars, as seen in the recent Daniel Bryan and CM Punk documentaries.
That's why the WWE Network special Journey To SummerSlam: The Destruction Of The Shield is such a welcome change. The world wasn't necessarily clamoring for the backstory of a faction that really ended their collective run a few months ago. Yet the story speaks volumes about WWE's future prospects and it's exactly the type of thing that could help to draw new viewers to the Network on a regular basis.
Set against a backdrop of preparing for their individual SummerSlam matches (Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton), the documentary looks at who The Shield are/were, how they got to WWE and why they were selected to have a bigger-than-expected impact on the company that others in their position did.
Off the top, we get great archive footage of all three Shield members competing in NXT and its predecessor FCW, with comments from each member on what the experience was like. But what's most interesting is that they use footage from CZW and Dragon Gate USA - not entirely expected in a WWE production. Sure, they've managed to pull the Ring of Honor card when needed (and do so again here, particularly with Rollins), but they also go into detail of what each independent stop taught them.
In addition, you have the likes of Gabe Sapolsky, Les Thatcher, Sami Zayn, Daniel Bryan and Cesaro - each of which crossed paths with the then-rookies on the independent scene, discussing their time there. I have to say, it shows a real maturity on WWE's part to not only acknowledge other wresting organizations but to really embrace them.
Interestingly -- and this is one of the benefits of these type of documentaries -- I learned for the first time that Seth Rollins had encountered a number of problems while in developmental. He clashed with Terry Taylor, in particular, on a daily basis over how his character should present himself. This eventually put him in front of Triple H, who apparently gave him one last chance to clean up his act before being future-endeavored. It's amazing to hear that, given he ended up being the inaugural NXT Champion and has been pushed so hard over the last year.
Of course, there are also "origin stories" for Reigns and Ambrose. While Reigns (the son of WWE Hall of Famer Sika) has the Rock-like blue-chipper story as a can't miss product, one that WWE has been telling since he arrived, Ambrose's story is quite different. He literally scratched and clawed his way through the independents, using his unique Heath-Ledger-as-The-Joker look, personality and mannerisms to perfection until WWE was more or less forced to take a look at him.
In addition to the aforementioned names, Triple H, John Cena, Paul Heyman, The Usos, William Regal, Joey Mercury, Bill DeMott and others talk about the three wrestlers evolved from developmental to the main roster and wreaked havoc on the WWE. Ambrose noted that the original gimmick was for them to be guardians/protectors of the WWE Championship but went "far beyond that". As Heyman notes, you don't debut in the main event of Survivor Series unless the company is quite high on you.
Honestly, the only hole in this documentary was they really skimmed over The Shield's rise within WWE. They talked about their first match (the main event of TLC 2012 versus Ryback, Daniel Bryan and Kane) but beyond that never delved into their feuds with Team Hell No, The Brotherhood, The Wyatts or Evolution. I certainly appreciate the documentary was only an hour long, but still, I would have loved to have seen more.
From there, we go to the group's breakup in June. As Rollins says, he didn't want to be one of the best wrestlers in the world - he wanted to be the best, and could no longer accomplish that as part of a faction. I didn't see it back then, but between a depleted roster and the fact that all three members had the potential to become break-out stars, the time was right to split them up.
The documentary closes with The Shield members going their separate ways - Reigns as a future WWE Champion, Rollins as a top heel in the company and Ambrose as the unknown factor that's poised to become a top star himself. All three are shown training for their respective SummerSlam matches, and recaps are shown of each. The title "Journey To SummerSlam" certainly delivers as advertised.
Overall, this was just a phenomenal special. As I mentioned earlier, WWE could easily hook people on the fence about buying the Network with informative, interesting and timely specials like these. Believe that.