The Shield—consisting of Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins—has been largely portrayed on WWE TV as a trio of equals.
But it’s quite clear that one member of the group is becoming bigger than the group itself: Dean Ambrose.
Since The Shield debuted at Survivor Series last November, the creative team has spent most of its time building up the trio as an unstoppable cohesive unit that works better than arguably any group in WWE history. That was until about a month ago.
Recently, the WWE has shifted gears, and while The Shield still thrives mostly as a unit rather than three separate individuals, it’s obvious that the WWE has bigger plans in store for Ambrose than it does for either Rollins or Reigns.
As The Shield reignited its feud with Team Hell No after WrestleMania 29, it looked like the trio would end up winning the WWE Tag Team Championship and defend the straps using the “Freebird rule,” where any two members could defend the titles at a given time.
Instead, Ambrose set his sights on the United States Championship and defeated Kofi Kingston at Extreme Rules to win the title. Meanwhile, Rollins and Reigns defeated Team Hell No to capture the WWE Tag Team Championship later that very same night.
The fact that Ambrose was the first member of The Shield to win singles gold may not seem like a big deal. But it’s a very telling sign of who the WWE views as the biggest star of the group.
Although the US title isn’t at anywhere near the level it was at five years ago and even though winning the tag team titles is far from a bad thing, it’s now quite apparent that Ambrose is to The Shield what Wade Barrett was to The Nexus.
When The Nexus debuted in 2010, the group of former NXT stars worked together to achieve a common goal, but it didn’t take long for Barrett to step up as the face of the group. The Shield is doing the same thing in 2012-2013, and though he’s taken a little longer than Barrett did, Ambrose is clearly stepping up as the top dog of the trio.
Not only did Ambrose become the first and only member of The Shield to win a singles title, but he’s also developed into the group’s go-to guy for singles matches.
After Extreme Rules, The Shield targeted The Undertaker, and this eventually (and shockingly) led to The Undertaker wrestling his first singles match on TV in nearly three years on an episode of SmackDown.
And who did he face? Oh yeah, it was Ambrose.
The following week, Kane, looking to avenge The Shield’s attack on his brother, would step up to take on a member of the group in singles action. Who did he wrestle in that match? Yep, Ambrose.
It’s been Ambrose who’s competed in all of The Shield’s big singles matches: The bouts against Undertaker and Kane, and then the US Championship match against Kingston at Extreme Rules.
If that’s not the WWE’s way of telling us that it views Ambrose as the standout star of the group, then we must be watching different WWEs.
Ambrose is the guy that the WWE is willing to put in these major singles matches because—while The Shield is having a ton of success as a group right now—the ultimate goal of the group is to create at least one new star.
The Shield could result in the creation of anywhere from zero to three legitimate mainstream superstars, but with the way things are shaping up so far, the WWE is putting the most faith in Ambrose—so much so that he’s slowly but surely developing into something that is bigger than The Shield itself.
After all, there’s a reason why Ambrose is usually the one who does most of the talking during The Shield’s promos. There’s a reason why he’s the one who has the most important lines, why he’s the one who says more than Reigns and Rollins combined and why he’s the one who’s having the most singles matches.
Like Barrett was with The Nexus, Ambrose is clearly viewed as someone who stands out more than his fellow stable mates, and as a result, will be given the opportunity to become bigger than the stable itself.
Whether or not Ambrose actually becomes the star that the WWE sees him as depends on a variety of factors, the vast majority of which we can’t even begin to even consider yet.
But right now, Ambrose is in the same position that one guy in almost every stable in history has been in: He’s the stud of the group and the one with the most lofty expectations on his shoulders.
The Shield is big, but if all goes as planned, Ambrose will be even bigger.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!