Last month at WWE’s Money in the Bank pay per view, Dean Ambrose starred in the main event of the evening, squaring off against his former stable mate, Seth Rollins in a vicious ladder match for the WWE World Heavyweight championship. This wasn’t Deans first time headlining a WWE special event, yet it was arguably his biggest match as a singles competitor since joining the company, and though he hasn’t been booked as well as some would have liked in the months following the break up of The Shield, it was a clear sign that WWE still value him.
At the previous PPV, Dean was indeed booked to look strong and he appeared to once again be a credible challenger to Rollins throne. Though not winning the title from Rollins that night, he did come out of the match at Elimination Chamber as a man capable of defeating the WWE champion; and the reaction he got from the crowd in Corpus Christ suggested that the fans are firmly behind the Lunatic Fringe. The image of Dean holding the WWE championship aloft, despite only winning by disqualification, was a sight that many fans wanted to see. Many tuned into Money in the Bank two weeks later to see if this idea of Ambrose becoming Heavyweight champion would become a reality.
One thing is for sure, is that the WWE universe is pulling for Dean Ambrose.
The Dean Ambrose we see today on WWE television has come a long way since joining Heartland Wrestling as a teenager. The young Dean Ambrose, real name Jonathon Good, grew up having watched professional wrestling as an escape. Good was fortunate to live locally to HWA, a developmental territory used by WWE.
HWA was known for nurturing many of wrestling’s brightest young talents, such as The Haas Brothers, Nigel McGuinness and Matt and Jeff Hardy. Good started from the bottom, selling popcorn at arenas and assembling the ring before matches, before training under Les Thatcher and Cody Hawk. Both of these men had a hand in moulding some of the aforementioned wrestlers, so Good was in experienced hands from the get go.
In HWA, He made his debut as Jon Moxley and soon he would become a hit, forming many successful tag teams in the six years he spent there, with Ric Byrne, Jimmy Turner and even his former trainer Cody Hawk. He would also be successful in the singles division, becoming the promotions Heavyweight champ on three occasions. But he wasn’t excusive to the promotion, as he would continue to learn his trade in Insanity Pro Wrestling, Dragon Gate USA, as well as most notably Combat Zone Wrestling, where we would see him make a name for himself in gruesome death matches.
While Moxley’s gruelling hardcore battle in CZW got him noticed, it was his swagger that kept you interested.
He looked young, fresh and oozed a kind of cockiness reminiscent of the likes of an early version of Stone Cold Steve Austin or Roddy Piper of the mid-eighties. But it was far much easier to compare him to Austin’s former tag team partner, The Loose Cannon, Brian Pillman, also a native of Cincinnati.
While his wrestling style was closer to that of Austin and Piper, and not the high Octane technique Flyin’ Brian, it was easy to see shades of Pillman’s psychotic character in Moxley. Whether Moxley was influenced by Pillman directly or not I can not say for sure, but his unpredictable unhinged character brought back memories of the man who turned ECW upside down.
Moxley’s vocal talent is the key to getting his unstable character across and he has the power to make everything he said seem important, and in turn have you hanging on every word that would come out of his mouth. In the same vein as Jake Roberts, whether it was a promo in the ring or a video shot on a street in the dead of night, Moxley has the power to deliver his message in captivating, yet edgy fashion.
It wasn’t long before he was noticed by World Wrestling Entertainment and in 2011 he signed with WWE, and in turn Jon would bring his brand of wrestling to WWE’s developmental promotion, Florida Championship Wrestling. Moxley, renamed Dean Ambrose, would learn the WWE way of wrestling and continue to advance his clever minded, unhinged persona.
FCW was full of potential talent from the independent scene with the Ring of Honor’s Tyler Black being paired with Ambrose in his first real feud. Black, who would now be known as Seth Rollins, battled with Dean over the coming months in some highly acclaimed matches, with many tipping these two for future stardom. Ambrose got further praise when he locked horns with CM Punk, who was already a made man in WWE’s main roster, in a thrilling 30 minute contest. But it was probably Ambrose’s next feud with a cagey veteran that really put the spotlight on him.
Not long after his match with Punk, Ambrose would engage in a well received feud with then FCW commentator William Regal. Regal, a man very well-respected throughout wrestling and known for putting younger talent over, brought out the best in Dean Ambrose from a character point of view. From this feud, Ambrose not only showed he had the charismatic and speech skills to make it on the main roster, but he developed a mean streak in which he received wide-spread acclaim.
It was clear that Dean Ambrose was ready for the WWE main roster and he was the kind of character the WWE cried out for.
Yet still, he didn’t come up to the WWE as Dean Ambrose: The Loose Cannon of 2012, rather he popped up on WWE television in a different manner all together. However, Dean Ambrose would still make a huge impact on WWEs main roster.
It was November 2012 and it was the main event of WWE’s lesser of the big four PPV’s, Survivor Series. The match was a triple threat match which involved Ryback, a well protected star who was slowly losing steam, versus WWE poster boy John Cena, versus the top heel, the ever unlikable CM Punk, in a three-way match for the WWE Heavyweight strap. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary through out, as all three men gave us a decent match to enjoy. Yet things would change as the match came to a close.
With Ryback, appearing to be on his way to victory after hitting his finisher on Cena, a trio of unknown men came from the crowd and out of nowhere, they physically dismantled Ryback and with it his title ambitions.
Wearing all black attire, resembling that of a local theatre drama group, these men signalled their vicious intent that night by power bombing on of WWEs top faces at the time, through an announce table. One man was Seth Rollins,and another was Roman Reigns, formerly known as Leakee in FCW and the last one was of course Dean Ambrose. Punk picked up the win over Cena and retained again, yet the really story who were these three men and why did they do what they did. That night, The Shield was born and Ambrose had indeed planted his feet firmly in WWE’s big league.
Without warning, Dean Ambrose and his two friends had stamped their intent on WWE’s main roster, in similar fashion to The Nexus had done in 2010. With The Nexus, a faction of “WWE rookies” from their NXT show, WWE didn’t follow up the initial huge buzz surrounding this stable after they had made their entrance, in which they attacked CM Punk and John Cena on an episode of RAW. Many fans assumed that WWE would slowly drop the ball with The Shield, yet they did anything but.
In the weeks and months following their debut, The Shield would become probably the most protected and dominant trio in WWE in resent times. Now wearing ring attire that resembled that of a CIA SWAT team, The Shield were three of the most highly rated young stars in WWE. Ambrose and company were full of pluck, guile and hunger, some threats missing from WWE at the time.
While Seth Rollins was an exceptional wrestler and Roman Reigns being the obvious muscle of the group, nether had the vocal skills yet to make the team look competent. Both appeared very green when addressing the live crowds, and much to WWEs credit they hide these weaknesses as well as possible by having Dean as their leader and main mouth piece. The impressive speaking skills of Ambrose shined in the factions early days and only got stronger as the team gelled over the coming months.
Ambrose did most of the talking, while Reigns and Rollins slowly cut their teeth on the mic as the weeks progressed, both getting more comfortable speaking from show to show. Positioned at the upper mid card from the get go, the three seemed to all complement each other perfectly and as mentioned above, WWE made them into a big deal very fast, attacking and besting the likes of Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton and John Cena over the coming weeks and months, with Ambrose showing that he could go in the ring, as well as on the microphone.
The Shield would attack at random, like a swarm of aggressive locust, picking off WWEs roster at will. They would appear from the crowd, and beat down whom ever they wanted in impressive style, all in the name of injustice. These three got over in no time.
Wrestling has always had great triple acts in the past, from the legendary Fabulous Freebirds to the campy yet dominant trio of Demolition, but none had debuted in such impactful circumstances.
The trio consistently had exciting matches, and the fans enjoyed seeing this new team plough through some of WWEs current stale acts. With Rollins being the high-flying, risk taking member of the group, Reigns being the raw power, constantly displaying his strength, and Ambrose being a jack of all trades with mat wrestling and brawling, all three complemented each other well. The team was always must see no matter what they were doing and as time went on the team progressed.
Seeing three original and brand new wrestler destroying everything in their path was a joy to behold. It could have been very easy for WWE to protect their established stars, which they have done in the past, but they backed the three young stars and the fans lapped it up. Every time their theme song hit, you knew business would pick up.
2013 was truly the year of The Shield and Dean Ambrose had played a vital part in that and he and his 2 team mates found much success. While Roman and Seth became Tag Team Champions, Dean got his own singles title when he defeated Kofi Kingston in timely and efficient fashion to become the new United States Champion, a title he would hold for nearly a year, the longest anyone had held that title since Rick Rude held the gold for 523 days.
In the later half of the year, Ambrose and his stable mates would align with Triple H and engage in feuds with Dolph Ziggler, The Rhodes brothers and CM Punk and while it was teased at the end of 2013, and in early 2014 that they might be splitting the team up, WWE thankfully didn’t pull the trigger on the ending the team. With multiple exciting matches against The Wyatt Family, The Authority and a newly reformed Evolution, The Shield reaffirmed that they could hang with the best and headline pay-per-views.
When the teasing of a break up first came up, it was always thought that Dean would be the one to turn heel and stab his friends in the back. He was the most natural bad guy of the bunch and fans had anticipated Dean being positioned as a top heel in the company. When WWE did decide to end the heel in June of 2014, it was Seth Rollins who would be the one to turn, leaving Roman and Ambrose to play the victims.
Since going solo, Ambrose has had the freedom to express himself more freely. Given “the lunatic fringe” moniker and being portrayed as unpredictable character, Ambrose’s persona has shown shades of Steve Austin’s character from his feud with Mr. McMahon. With Rollins in a small way playing the McMahon in this feud, Ambrose would channel his inner Stone Cold by attacking Rollins at every turn and in a variety of madcap ways.
From exploding briefcases to posing as a hot dog vendor, Ambrose’s character has been wackier and more comedic than any of his previous roles in other companies. Though these zany comedy segments have failed to hit the mark, thus not enhancing Dean as I would have liked, Ambrose’s ring and promo skills still shine through, making the best out of bad material.
Since his feud with Rollins fizzled out, WWE didn’t seem to be sure on how to use Ambrose to the best of his abilities. He was put into a program with WWE’s resident supernatural act, Bray Wyatt and even though their feud was decent with some good matches, you always got the sense that WWE could do more with this feud, given the skills of both Ambrose and Wyatt.
One of the problems with this feud was that both men needed to go over and a loss would damage either man as each one was desperate for a victory. In the end, it was Bray Wyatt that was triumphant and Ambrose would suffer. After loses to both multiple loses to Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt, though all good matches, it didn’t look like WWE had handled Ambrose’s character with the care it needed.
With him only being a single competitor since The Shield’s break up, Ambrose wasn’t looking like the potential main event act he could or should have been. Given the how his character put over both Rollins and Wyatt, it didn’t appear that WWE had big plans for him at all, despite him looking like a ready-made main event tier talent.
These feelings intensified as he was then placed in a throwaway feud with Wade Barrett further down the card, in a program for the Intercontinental Championship, a title which at seemed below him. With Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble and Seth Rollins leading the Authority into battle, it seemed as if Dean was the forgotten member of The Shield. Where at one time he was viewed as the only sure thing in the stable, he was now an after thought in some way with WWE creative, with both former faction members headlining Wrestlemania 31, while he opened the show in a match for the IC strap along with other under appreciated stars.
Since then, Dean has slowly raised to the upper end of the card and WWE showing the still value him by having him feud with newly-crowned champion Seth Rollins once again. Dean has been Seth’s main challenger since he won the gold, headlining the last three PPVs in matches for the WWE title.
In each of these matches, the WWE fans have gotten behind Dean, showing that he still is a marketable character for the main event and he looked strong in defeat, perhaps signaling that WWE may have some bigger plans for him in the future.
As a top-tier guy, Dean Ambrose certainly has potential to be champion some day, but at this current time it’s not in his near future. With that being said, it could all change in the coming weeks and months.
As of writing, he is not currently in a set feud with anyone and is in danger of being lost in the shuffle, in a slightly similar way after the end of his feud with Bray in 2014. He has battled Sheamus, Kane and Wyatt all in the last two weeks and if he does have a match at the next PPV, it sadly doesn’t look like it will be a meaningful one.
He needs a program with someone for WWE Battleground, which can be achieved with the right care. However, depending on whom he feuds with it could cause further damage to his character as well. He is need of entering into and winning the subsequent feud as another loss could see his character losing any creditability he earned in his last feud with Rollins.
In my opinion, WWE has mishandled Dean Ambrose to a degree since The Shield break up. Since the split, the character of Dean Ambrose has been one of huge potential that hasn’t been realized. With the right care, Ambrose could have been the next hell raiser on WWE programming and he could be the hottest ticket in wrestling.
Yet, as with most characters in WWE lately, he has been a missed opportunity and as a singles competitor he could have been so much more. Dean Ambrose is not a failure either, and with the right direction and attention, the former Jon Moxley can becoming a solid performer for WWE.
A heel turn would certainly liven up his character and if booked correctly he could be the best bad guy that WWE has seen in years. He has the potential to bring his dark, edgy heel character to the wider audience, leaving the wacky “unhinged” persona in the dust.
In the independent scene and in FCW, Dean Ambrose showed that he can be one of the best psychopathic characters in wrestling and if WWE let that guy loose on its universe, then they would be on to a winner. With shades of Mankind, The Loose Cannon Brian Pillman and even Heath Ledgers Joker from the Dark Knight movie, Ambrose could be huge.
Either way, Dean Ambrose is still a ball of mostly untapped potential and if he was given the faith, that The Shield were given in 2012, he could be the star WWE is looking for and not just a mid card afterthought.