Since Daniel Bryan vacated the Intercontinental Championship in the middle of 2015, WWE’s most “organic” character has been Dean Ambrose. He’s earned that title with little time on the microphone to exhibit his charisma and unique delivery.
So just how has Ambrose become possibly the most popular performer in WWE? Well, he’s different, but his path as a character has also led him to becoming a major player.
Over the past couple years, we’ve seen Ambrose betrayed by Seth Rollins, come up short against his former Shield brother. He was then thrown in all sorts of matches with Bray Wyatt before wrestling for the Intercontinental Championship at last year’s WrestleMania, beating up Luke Harper (most notably all over Chicago in a black SUV), losing to Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship multiple times, and then continuing his trajectory upward by becoming the Intercontinental Champion after falling short for the big prize against Roman Reigns.
Based on the results in the ring before his Intercontinental Championship run, there wasn’t much reason to believe in Ambrose. He came up short, consistently, in big matches. That’s not necessarily the easiest guy to get behind.
Those of us who follow wrestling more than usual know Ambrose’s past, though. He’s been hit with about any foreign object ever used in wrestling at CZW, and proved himself to be a wrestler in the infancy of Gabe Sapolsky’s Dragon Gate USA. We know he’s not a normal, cookie cut wrestler the company usually pushes to the top.
Now at the highest level, Ambrose has fallen down more than he’s climbed to grab the “brass ring.” But he continues to get back up. His falls are rough to watch, but his reaction is impressive. He hasn’t been injured yet, only missing significant time to film a movie where I’m sure he played a badass cop. (Like most of you, I haven’t gone out of my way to buy the DVD of whatever that film was called yet.)
Like the average Joe, Ambrose is thrown down a lot by his superiors and peers. He’s beaten up and shot down more than most of us would be able to handle. Yet here he is, the Intercontinental champion heading into a match against Reigns and Brock Lesnar. If victorious, the resident “lunatic fringe” (his ascension is even more impressive considering we’re suppose to believe a guy we rarely hear talk is actually insane, according to commentary, every week) will take on the company guy, who is in charge of his career path, in the main event of WrestleMania.
Is he going to win? Probably not. In fact, I’d be downright shocked. But he’ll get back up from that. Hopefully, for the first time, Ambrose gets a one-on-one matchup at WrestleMania for his Intercontinental Championship and he’s rewarded for a year of hard hits. With or without the title, there’s a story being told with Ambrose. It’s going to take something spectacular to keep him down. I doubt even the combination of Lesnar and Reigns will be able to do it.
As long as he’s physically able, Ambrose will always be able to get back up and will always entertain. Hopefully, one day, he’ll get a moment atop the WWE.
Nakamura’s impact already felt on NXT: I am going to be in Dallas for WrestleMania weekend and was considering going to the NXT show on Friday night. On Tuesday night, the least expensive tickets were $90 on StubHub. After Wednesday night’s NXT tapings, they went north in price. It will now cost you $220 to get in the door.
The one difference is Shinsuke Nakamura, who will take on Sami Zayn at the TakeOver show on Friday, April 1 in Dallas. NXT’s key audience is obviously the more “hardcore” wrestling fan that knows very well who Nakamura is, but the increase in ticket price and interest from across the world has already been felt.
The former IWGP Intercontinental Champion is on his way to the United States, and he’s bringing the endorsements of an impressive locker room and an impressive fanbase with him. The match against Zayn is likely to be one of few in NXT before Nakamura is on WWE television. It makes sense for him to start in NXT. He’s moving across the world and is going to need to adjust to his new, crazy life with the world’s biggest wrestling company before being pushed to the high heavens (that’s how it’s going to work, right?).
A confident farewell to New Japan: On Saturday, Nakamura wrestled his final match for New Japan alongside Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata. His team was victorious, with Ishii pinning Shibata.
The six have been involved in better tag team matches over the past couple years on shows at Korakuen Hall, but it was more of a celebration. The crowd was electric, and so was Nakamura.
Afterward, he told reporters he wouldn’t have made the decision to leave New Japan if it wasn’t for guys like Okada, who have become stars that will lead the company into what is hopefully a bright future. It’s quite the endorsement from the man who was IWGP Heavyweight Champion at the age of 23, and who made the IWGP Intercontinental Championship mean something.
Nakamura left stardom and massive popularity in Japan for a chance to prove himself in America. It’s a ballsy move, but as he said it’s one that doesn’t massively hurt New Japan moving forward. While losing Nakamura, A.J. Styles, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows will hurt, the company has plenty of capable performers and stars for the future.
I doubt we’ve seen the last of Nakamura in New Japan. He seems destined to return one day, hopefully as an even bigger star than when he left. Hopefully he returns to matches against guys who, like him, are bigger names than they are today.
A.J. Styles’ entrance music: I saw some people complaining about Styles’ new music in WWE last week after it was released on YouTube and iTunes. I have no idea what those people are hearing.
The music fits Styles very well. While at this point he doesn’t have much of a character in WWE except for having a very impressive track record across the world, it is similar to his Ring of Honor and New Japan entrance songs, both of which I’m a fan of.
As the kids would say, Styles’ new entrance song is “lit.”
Match of the week: Now that we’re on the road to WrestleMania, I’m going to try to keep these topical. I thought back to fun matches at the grand daddy of them all in the past, and I thought back to WrestleMania 21, which was one of the better shows in its history.
The show was opened with tag team champions Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio wrestling for what must have been the 1,000th time. It wasn’t their best encounter, but it got the show going in the best way possible: with a lot of fun. (As usual, for optimal viewing head to the WWE Network, which I once again assume the majority of you reading this have access to.)