RondaRousey.com’s Classic Match series takes a closer look at significant and super cool matches from wrestling history.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling that comes with WWE capturing lightning in a bottle. You know the one, where everything just comes together at the right time, and you get the sense that you’re witnessing something special. At this year’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, Kofi Kingston captured that feeling, as he nearly snagged his first-ever WWE Championship within the structure. Those moments—of being fully overcome by a match or a Superstar’s performance—are what wrestling fans live for, and the 2014 Elimination Chamber features one of the best examples of that special feeling.
The match is The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family. Two teams who’d been running roughshod over the entire WWE roster at the time. We all know now what Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan are capable of, but back in
The fans at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota knew that too. Before the two teams even touched each other—in a match with no titles on the line but rather the claim to being the most dominant team in WWE—the crowd was losing their minds. “This is awesome!” chants rained down from the rafters as the six men stared at each other, talking trash. It would only be so long before the talk led to action, and sure enough, it was “The Lunatic Fringe” that got things started, going right after Wyatt before the bell even rings. The six men brawl in the ring as the crowd goes wild, with The Shield clearing out the squared circle and standing tall early. The image of the “Hounds of Justice” owning the ring was more than familiar.
The early part of the match is near-perfect tag team wrestling, giving you a look at why both The Wyatt Family and The Shield would become such dominant factions. Each team tries to keep their opponent isolated in the corner. The Shield keep the big man Rowan in their corner for a while, using quick tags and a lot of fists and boots to keep him grounded. When he fights back and makes a tag, it’s Rollins who then gets stuck in the opposite corner. It’s clear very early on that we’re watching two extremely versatile, smart, dynamic, evenly-matched teams square off.
Then, the powerhouses get in the ring. Roman Reigns—before he became the polarizing Superstar he is today—tags
Ambrose gets beat down again and again until he tags in his buddy Seth Rollins. This is when the match really gets going, when it shifts from a slugfest to something faster and more desperate, as each team tries to find just enough space to get the win. Rollins is on fire. When he heads to the top rope for a move, Harper stops him, climbs the ropes, and then goes for a nasty belly-to-back suplex. Rollins is too agile though, and he does a full backflip out of the suplex and lands on his feet. The crowd is in awe and cheering wildly for Rollins, and he uses that energy to throw Harper to the outside, hit him with a suicide dive, and then turn around and knock him down with a springboard knee. Rollins is in full control now, showing signs of “The Architect” that would emerge in the coming years. Rollins has a way of picking apart his opponents, staying a few steps ahead of them and using his scary combination of speed and strength to dodge
The thing is, The Wyatt Family thrive on changing things in the blink of an eye. Rollins’ attack is stopped in an instant with a devastating swinging side slam from Harper, and suddenly the match is back to being even. Rollins gets trapped in the corner, as Wyatt and Rowan club him with forearms. Wyatt shouts out instructions for tags and moves—the clear leader—and keeps Rollins grounded with a headlock. Ambrose tries to come in and help Rollins, but Harper lays him out with a huge boot. It’s a statement from Harper, one that says this is their match now, and there’s nothing The Shield can do about it.
The match builds and builds to its big moment: the Roman Reigns hot tag. As Rollins hits Harper with an enzuigiri and crawls towards his corner, the crowd comes unglued. This is what they’ve been waiting for. No matter what you think of him now, Roman Reigns was beloved in 2014. He was a charismatic, vicious performer (and still is) who lit up the ring when he entered through the ropes. The crowd in Minneapolis is itching for him to get his hands on The Wyatt Family after a lengthy spell on the apron, and they get their wish.
Harper tags in Rowan, and Rollins gets to Reigns. “The Big Dog” comes in with force and fury, laying out Rowan with a flying clothesline before knocking Wyatt off the apron. He’s running on adrenaline, feeding off the crowd, and he lays out Rowan with a big Samoan Drop. Everything starts to break down. Wyatt and Ambrose are fighting in the ring, Harper is delivering suicide dives to the outside like he’s a cruiserweight, and the bodies are piling up inside and outside the ring. It’s pure chaos, and it’s beautiful.
When Rollins comes flying over the top rope, it looks like The Shield finally have their opening, as Roman Reigns is alone in the ring with Rowan. He rolls him up for a near fall, and then the two collide with matching clotheslines. They’re prone in the middle of the ring, so Seth Rollins heads for the announce table to do some dirty work. Ambrose and Wyatt fight into the crowd because of course the hatred can’t be contained to the ring. Fights like this know no boundaries. In the ring, Rowan and Reigns trade fists. Reigns
Outside the ring, the chaos continues, the audience itching for those announce tables to become weapons. Wyatt emerges from the crowd, and Ambrose is nowhere to be found. That’s bad news for Rollins. Harper and Wyatt work him over and then clear a second announce table. Rowan sends Reigns rolling to the outside with a fallaway slam, and Wyatt signals to his followers that now’s the time for a brutal attack. As Wyatt watches, with nothing but an intense look on his face, Harper and Rowan drive Rollins through the table with a double chokeslam. After Reigns’ hot tag, it feels like momentum has shifted back. Ambrose is incapacitated somewhere, and there’s no way Rollins is recovering.
The three men surround Reigns in the middle of the ring, echoing the pack mentality that The Shield used to dominant WWE for a year at that time.
He throws Harper out of the ring and then lays out Rowan with a Superman Punch. He delivers another to Wyatt, and it looks like Reigns is about to win after another dominant performance, like the ones he delivered at Survivor Series in 2013 and the Royal Rumble in 2014. When he goes for the spear though, Harper steps in front of his leader and sacrifices himself. Reigns can’t recover and attack Wyatt. Instead, Wyatt runs right at him and lays him out with a crossbody splash, and then quickly picks him up to deliver the final blow, Sister Abigail. The ref counts the 1, 2, 3, and that’s it. The crowd can take a breath and marvel at the match, one that cemented the legacy of two factions in an instant, setting them on a course for stardom in WWE.
You can watch this match (and the entirety of Elimination Chamber 2014) on the WWE Network.