Dean Ambrose is undeniably one of the most over wrestlers in the WWE. The crowd reactions he receives are positive and loud. He has been positioned as a top babyface on the WWE roster, even headlining an internet-only PPV against Triple H for the World Heavyweight title. Despite all this though, I would argue that Dean Ambrose is on the verge of irrelevance in the wrestling world.
Consider this – He lost his title match against Triple H. That, in and of itself, is not a big deal. But he hasn’t been anywhere near the top of the card since then. He was supposedly in a “high profile” match at WrestleMania 32 against Brock Lesnar, but that match fizzled quickly and wound up being an extended squash for Lesnar. The buildup to that match tried to make Ambrose look like the next in line of the death match specialists, including the passing of the torch from Mick Foley and Terry Funk. But in the end, he just wound up looking like a rag doll for Lesnar to destroy. The result of the match never appeared to be in question, even with the possibility of some crazy weaponry.
Since WrestleMania, Dean has been involved in a feud with Chris Jericho. So far, so good. Both men are money on the mic and can both go in the ring. The buildup has been pretty good, with just the right amount of physicality between the two men. The Ambrose Asylum interview segment replacing the Highlight Reel is a bit of a lame reason for a feud, but in WWE world, it works as good as any. Heck, Jericho made spilling coffee on Kane a reasonable excuse for a feud, so someone taking away his ego-stroking segment should be easy to believe.
Whether Jericho sticks around for a while after Payback, or if this is just a month-long affair doesn’t really matter. In fact, the result of the match itself doesn’t really matter. People are still going to cheer Ambrose. It would be nice for him to win a feud (finally), but it doesn’t really, truly matter. So, what are we doing here?
At this point, I should mention that I am not as big of an Ambrose fan as a lot of people. I think he is pretty decent in the ring, but he isn’t must-see TV for me. I think he is pretty decent on the mic, but I prefer when he comes across as dangerous and crazy more so than funny and crazy. I liked his earlier version of Dirty Deeds (the headlock driver version) much more than the double underhook version of Dirty Deeds. On any given week the WWE is trying to convince us that Ambrose is the next coming of Mick Foley or Roddy Piper or Steve Austin. He will probably be on my TV a lot more in the next year since his main squeeze is going to be on Total Divas. He’s good, but I don’t always get “great” when I watch Dean Ambrose.
Is it just me? Is this just me complaining for no real reason? I am open to that possibility. But Ambrose hasn’t won a feud or a big match in forever. If Ambrose is so amazing, why can’t he beat Bray Wyatt? Why can’t he beat Triple H? Why can’t he beat Brock Lesnar? And we will see if he beats Chris Jericho. Now, I am not saying he has to win every time he wrestles, but was there any doubt he would lose to Triple H or Brock Lesnar? The possibility, the hope, of victory just doesn’t enter into my mind in those cases. Which makes me wonder, why should I care?
Pat Metalhead put a piece up about Payback today where he makes a good point that Ambrose might be heading towards Ziggler territory. A talented worker who the crowd is behind until they wise up and realize that he never wins. And rooting for someone you know has no chance is no fun. Talk to Cleveland Browns fans about that. Now, Ziggler gets an initial pop, but the crowd doesn’t invest in him through his matches. Because they know there is no hope. It is even seeping into Ziggler’s work in the ring as he looks bored beyond belief. The same thing could definitely happen with Ambrose. Can you imagine anything uglier than Ambrose being bored in the ring?
Think back on The Shield. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose worked the team unity bit hard and made all three of them into forces to be feared. When The Shield split up, Seth Rollins took his career progression to another level and the WWE has pushed Roman Reigns down our throats as the next big thing. People worried Ambrose would be the odd man out. I read thinkpiece after thinkpiece about how Ambrose is going to get lost in the shuffle. But, to his credit, Ambrose fought and scratched and made a connection with the audience that didn’t allow Creative to drop him too far down the card. But now what?
I don’t think Ambrose is a lost cause. In fact, I think he can be pushed into a main event level fairly easily. I think he has enough fan support to get behind this idea and I think he could pull it off. He is good enough in the ring to go with some of the newer wrestlers on the roster and getting him to a main event level will only help things the more people go down with injuries (which will definitely continue to happen).
So how do you do it? How do you push Dean Ambrose over the top? How do you get him to that next level? Like I said, I am not as big of an Ambrose fan as other people are. And I think it would be cheap to have Renee Young start accompanying him to the ring or anything like that. But, upon reflection of Ambrose’s character, I realize one major thing is missing, for me at least.
I’ve talked a few times about how crazy can work in wrestling. Ambrose tries to ratchet up his crazy in the “Rowdy” Roddy Piper vein, instead of the bat-shit turnbuckle-eating crazy of George “The Animal” Steele. But, here’s the thing, Ambrose doesn’t really act crazy. He acts methodical. He acts driven. He acts like he always knows what he is doing. In short, he acts like he is acting crazy. Honestly, that could work on a very cool level – someone is psychotic enough to realize acting crazy will get him something he really wants. But commentary doesn’t lend itself to that. He isn’t playing mind games with his foes, he is just Ambrose being Ambrose (e.g. bringing out a plant to the Highlight Reel or coming to the ring to gather weapons for his battle with Lesnar).
I think the WWE tried address this with the WrestleMania build. Make it known that Ambrose will go after anyone, heel or face, if he wants to. Play up the fact that he will fight no matter the odds. Focus on the fact that he is his own personal Suicide Squad. All well and good, but then he gets destroyed at WrestleMania and his next action is doing a favor for Shane McMahon and going after Chris Jericho? That doesn’t really jive in my mind.
So what would do it for me? Quite simply it is one little tweak of the character. He’s established that he will go after anyone anywhere. He’s shown that he doesn’t mind putting himself in harm’s way. And the crowd is cheering him. They are behind him, no matter what he does. But while his character acknowledges the crowd’s love, he still does whatever HE wants. Let’s build a plan of attack here…
- Have Ambrose lose to Jericho at Payback. Jericho can cheat to win or just capitalize on an Ambrose mistake, it doesn’t really matter. The loss is what is important to jump start step 2…
- Ambrose comes out the next night on Raw and apologizes to the fans. His promo will be heartfelt and self-deprecating. He will acknowledge he hasn’t lived up to the fans’ cheers and will promise to do better by them, for them.
- That desire to please the fans will be the focus of Ambrose’s promos for the next few weeks. He can get involved in another mid-level feud to waste some time, all the while telling the crowds that he is dedicating his career to them.
- Ambrose can win or lose this new mid-level feud to a mid-level heel (Rusev or Alberto del Rio could work). For the following few weeks he can use his Ambrose Asylum to question things, to get into a deep philosophical funk.
- Then, one week, he comes out cheerful. He says he gets it now. He knows what the crowd wants. He will stop the distractions. He will stop the things that gets in his way. And he will be a true fighter for the people.
- With that said, he will bring out John Cena for an interview segment on the Ambrose Asylum. Cena will of course get booed and Ambrose will focus on that during the interview. He will hound Cena about it, asking him why the crowd hates him. He will push Cena in recognizing the boos and how he is disliked. Cena will go into his regular spiel, but Ambrose will really push him on it. Until, finally, Ambrose attacks Cena.
- Dean Ambrose will announce that he is the “Will of the People” and get into a lengthy feud with John Cena. He will dedicate the Ambrose Asylum to rants against Cena. He will taunt Cena and interfere in his matches. He will blindside Cena as well as attack him face-to-face. He will go so overboard in his quest to destroy John Cena that his actions may appear quite heelish at times, but the crowd will follow along with him and support him due to his charm and humor and constant reminders that he is doing what they want him to do. This also leaves enough grey area where Cena can keep claiming to be the top babyface and sell merchandise to the kiddos.
- His feud with Cena will end at SummerSlam and he will (shockingly) WIN, fulfilling his quest. At this point, Ambrose will be filled with confidence and the belief that he is truly the people’s hero. This will lead into …
- Going up against his former Shield partner and friend, Roman Reigns. Reigns will have remained champion this whole time (God help us all), but will still be booed mercilessly by every crowd. Ambrose will use the same rationale he did with Cena, that he is doing what the crowd wants.
- This feud SHOULD bring the World Heavyweight title to Ambrose and set up a whole new stream of challengers. It should also provide a new face at the top of the mountain, one that combines some crazy with some scary with some funny but always with a focus, a quest, a purpose.
So, yeah, the key to making Dean Ambrose a true superstar is John Cena. I don’t like it any more than you do, trust me. But, it would, I believe, cement Dean Ambrose as a main event star for years to come. It also sets up a way for him to turn heel, as his view of what the people want could become skewed. But that is how I would handle Dean Ambrose – no longer the Lunatic Fringe, but the embodiment of the People’s Will.
Thank you everyone for reading and commenting on the past couple Fantasy Book columns. I enjoy reading your comments and interacting with you about this stuff. And I appreciate knowing that someone out there in the cyber world is reading these thoughts I attempt to translate into words.
Until next time…
Tags: dean ambrose, John Cena, Mick Foley, Roddy Piper, Roman Reigns, terry funk