"Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima. Delta... SHIELD!" As soon as The Shield's famous battle cry is declared, WWE fans will turn their heads simultaneously into one direction and wait for the so-called 'Hounds of Justice' to emerge. It is a sight that is now iconic in WWE's longstanding history, as the stable has left a lasting impression ever since their debut at Survivor Series in 2012.
It was a shockwave of horror when Seth Rollins turned on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns and systematically destroyed The Shield in 2014. But as the trio has said before, the stable is a 'brotherhood,' the wounds were eventually smothered over time and an even more dangerous Shield resurfaced. In their time apart, Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns have tasted individual success and have all captured the company's top prize of the WWE Championship.
The Shield's third reunion, which took place in August, looked like it would be an era of dominance not seen since the days of Evolution, with Rollins holding the Intercontinental Championship and Reigns having the Universal Championship to his name. The Raw Tag Team Championship would complete their utter supremacy over other factions and have them hold all of the belts on Monday Night Raw.
And then it happened...
In the same night that Rollins and Ambrose captured the Tag Team Championship, the Shield collapsed. Ambrose turned on Rollins after their victory, while a valiant Reigns came down to the ring, broke character and revealed that he had been living with leukaemia for 11 years -- and now it's back.
SPORTbible had the opportunity to speak with Rollins, whose real name is Colby Daniel Lopez, before any of this had happened. It was a shocking moment for any WWE fan, but not many people could have imagined how the Iowa-born superstar must have felt before he pulled up to record that fateful episode of Raw. Of course, one of the burning questions that the 32-year-old faced was the importance of The Shield in the WWE right now and how successful it has been in the period that it has been active.
"Yeah, I'm super proud to be part of it, man," he said. "When it first started six years ago, we didn't know; we didn't know what was going to happen. We were all familiar with each other and friends and stuff like that, but what it has become over the past, you know, five-six years is really just something else -- something I could never have imagined. Not even in my wildest dreams.
"We've got to share the ring and have a bunch of incredible memories together, enjoyed the spotlight, flown in helicopters, main-evented pay-per-views. Everything you could ever imagine and more. I'm super happy that I've been able to share it with those two guys. It's nice to have success on your own, but to be able to go out there and share it with two friends and two guys who you feel as your equal there is nothing better than that."
The Shield was only as strong as the sum of its parts. Reigns, whose real name is Leati Joseph AnoaʻI, was one of the most polarising figures in WWE. Before he vacated the Universal Championship, however, Rollins showered him with nothing but praise.
"The fact that he [had] the title every single night, to me, is the catch," he explained. "Roman's been at this for a long time now and he's one of the best in the game. He's one of the hardest working dudes in the game. And I think the fans may not give him the respect he deserves all the time when it comes to how much he sacrifices to be Roman Reigns."
While Rollins became known as 'The Architect' of The Shield, it has not come to define his career. Like Ambrose and Reigns, he has had a fruitful career on his own and his first Intercontinental Championship win at WrestleMania 34 this year was a special moment. After all, he became a Grand Slam Champion in WWE's history books. Sure, he might have lost that title and then retained it at a later stage, but Rollins recognises the prestigious nature of the Intercontinental Championship, to carry on its tradition as the 'workhorse' title and continue to build on its legacy.
"Yeah, it's certainly something that's always in the back of mind when it comes to being Intercontinental Champion," he said. "If you look back at the legacy of the title, you mentioned Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Mr Perfect and you can go all the way back to even Pat Patterson. There's been a legacy of hardworking guys who have held that title and made it as prestigious as it is.
"So, just for me to be part of that legacy now and to be able to be in the ring with the calibre of opponents that I've had thus far as Intercontinental Champion in my two reigns -- you know, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, Elias, Finn Bálor -- they've all given me fantastic contests and we've elevated the prestige of the Intercontinental Championship and I'm pretty proud of that, considering how prestigious it was before I even got it."
Rollins is looking ahead to Crown Jewel on Friday, despite the fierce criticism that the WWE has faced for holding the PPV in Saudi Arabia. He is part of the World Cup tournament along with seven superstars from both Raw and SmackDown, which includes the likes of John Cena and Kurt Angle. Speaking about the leader of C-Nation, the Kingslayer recalled his history with him and said that he "learned a lot" from his former rival.
"John is someone whose experience and friendship has guided me a lot over the last six years of my career here in WWE," he added. "He's a guy who, in a strange way, somehow became a mentor to me, and looking in from the outside [I] didn't really have a lot of respect for John [at first]. I think I saw him with a different perspective.
"And then once I got to know him and I understand what he did, how hard he worked and how dedicated he was to his craft, he became someone I came to immediately. There [are] a lot of guys, but I would credit John the most with teaching me to be a main-event superstar, teaching me how to understand the pace of a big-time match and make it feel like it's the most important match on the card no matter where it's at, so John definitely taught me a lot about being 'the guy' in WWE."
Outside of his time in the ring, Rollins doesn't mind setting himself up in another type of match: but this one is a football match. Yes, the former member of The Shield has a fond appreciation for playing FIFA. However, he revealed that he is not a fan of Italian teams in FIFA 19 for one important reason.
"No, I am anti-Italian teams because I've got to play against these people with Juventus all the time, and now that they've gotten [Cristiano] Ronaldo they're as about as unstoppable as it gets on the offensive side," he chuckled.
"So no. I do not support any Italian clubs. And I don't especially support Juve."
You can check out Seth Rollins in action at WWE Crown Jewel on Friday 2nd November, streaming live on the WWE Network at 4 p.m. GMT.
Featured Image Credit: WWE