Dean Ambrose as a member of The Shield was watered down for sure, but still entertaining and engaging.
The Shield was one of the better things in recent WWE memory and Dean Ambrose was a major component of its success. Ambrose’s slightly unhinged personality mixed with unquestionable loyalty to his brothers made for a character you could root for and against depending on the situation and what was being presented. I was a fan of Dean Ambrose in The Shield. Not familiar with his work outside of WWE (please don’t kill me) this was an adequate first taste of a man I had heard so much about and was getting to watch deliver in front of my eyes. I became a Dean Ambrose girl.
Dean Ambrose, the singles wrestler was a falling flat joke.
A cartoon character fizzling and fading in the cartoonish world of WWE. You can argue most of wrestling is a violent cartoon, but WWE at times can be a specific level of low budget, low thought, low effort animation where you begin to notice how much shit is overused to save what little creative brainpower there actually is being put into it. Dean Ambrose was a victim of this. Wacky comedy, corny lines, middling matches, and promo material that was far below what the man was capable of. Dean Ambrose was a joke, but not even a sterile laugh track could muster a pity bit of laughter for him.
I remember when he started his final heel run in WWE. I let myself have the foolish notion it would mean something, go somewhere, finally allow the post-shield solo Ambrose I’ve been waiting for to emerge and wreak havoc and chaos upon the WWE landscape. Yes, at this point I still clung to fleeting hopes and prayers that WWE would let my favorites shine, let them grow and strengthen into the phenomena of their and my dreams. Oh, what I fool I was. A fool that has learned, but a fool nonetheless. Dean Ambrose stock kept falling harder and faster as if it was Wall Street in 1929. I became bored, disinterested, and then for a while, the name Dean Ambrose meant nothing to me. I allowed myself to realize Dean Ambrose was nothing more than a cog in a massive machine of quantity programming that would continue to turn and turn and turn but get nowhere. The smaller cog allows the bigger cogs to function and serve a purpose.
Then Dean Ambrose said nuts to all of that and gave notice and left WWE.
One act, one spark, one moment brought me to life with my fandom. But it was a different fandom. This wasn’t a fandom for Dean Ambrose. Dean Ambrose was soon to be dead, and from the ashes of mediocrity and disappointment, a force to be reckoned with would emerge. Dean Ambrose’s story had come to an end. The bloody, barbed wire-covered hand of Jon Moxley now had a tale to tell. A story that was on pause, on hold, that felt like it would never have another chapter written. Jon Moxley erupted unto AEW’s first Double or Nothing and instantly an impact was made that left a crater size hole in the industry. You could feel it and experience it whether you were there live or whether you were watching at home.
We were about to get the wrestler we knew existed but had been covered in bullshit for years. The bullshit had been washed off, and in its place was the filthy, messy, chaotic image of Jon Moxley, one of the best damn things in pro wrestling right now.
This wild thing of pro wrestling, tethering on obscurity is now perhaps the hottest wrestler on the planet. Making hearts sing and bodies bleed. He’s not perfect, he’s not poised, he doesn’t need to be. He has a raw and real feel to him. A sense of danger, unpredictability, instability, and he attracts your attention. This beast that we all allowed ourselves to believe was tamed in WWE. He wasn’t tamed, he was biding his time. Slowly gnawing at his leash until he was loose and then he exploded on all who stood in his way. Jon fucking Moxley is must-watch wrestling. Whether it be him cutting one of his promos, whether it’s him attacking another wrestling, and of course the actual matches. If Jon Moxley is on the television you watch. I’d argue he’s meant more as a signing for AEW than Jericho. That’s not a knock on Jericho. Jericho was the big-name signing AEW needed in the initial start. Moxley was that signing, but more important that journey and success that screams to other wrestlers that could be in his position “This could be you if you let your notion WWE is the only game in town die”. That’s important, that’s significant.
Moxley isn’t only AEW though. Where Moxley decides to go, eyes follow. He has done work for NJPW where he is their current NJPW champion and has had beautiful wars against Tomohiro Ishii and Minoru Suzuki (I absolutely recommend his Suzuki war by the way). He appears in GCW Bloodsport where he has an amazing war with Josh Barnett that still rings in my ears. He appears in GCW proper and attacks Nick Gage setting up major hype for a potential match that will be bloody, painful, and fucking lovely all the same.
Moxley is the shit, but his stench is the smell of success.
Now in AEW, he’s paired with Eddie Kingston, the down and dirty duo that has instantly become one of my favorite tandems. When the explosions in his match with Kenny Omega turned to sparkles, only Moxley could cut a real and honest promo after the fact at the end of the show (off-air) and get the crowd on his side as best he could. You could feel and understand his disappointment. He wanted his magnum opus. Truth is, the moment he left WWE and appeared in AEW his magnum opus in the long-form started. Sentence by bloody sentence he has written it. I hope it’s a long time before he finishes it. When he does finish it, it’ll be with exclamation points and not just a damn period.
Moxley’s bloody fingerprints are all over a blueprint other particular wrestlers, if they were smart, will be looking at. Sure, it won’t be for everyone, and that WWE money is great. But for wrestlers who want something more to their career, a bit more accomplishment, recognition, challenge this is something they will have to consider looking at. No, not everyone will succeed. The issue with betting on yourself, is sometimes you will bust. You got to look at Moxley, and a few others though. Success CAN happen and it can pay dividends. It can let shatter through ceilings that you thought were too high to reach and break. Moxley has opened a crack into a wall of what one can do in wrestling, it’s up to others who are watching to chip away at that click and create the hole to career redemption, retribution, respect that they aren’t going to ever get in WWE.
It’s simple. Moxley is everything we thought and begged Daniel Byran to be and he chose not to. That’s not a knock on Bryan, he did what he thought was right for him and his, that’s fine and dandy. It doesn’t change the fact Daniel Bryan always talked about doing and wanting, Moxley did and got it. That’s why I ho-hum when Daniel Bryan ever opens his mouth and I lean forward and pay attention when Moxley simply flinches. Moxley does what he says, says what he means, and is one of the best damn things going on in pro wrestling.
Whether AEW, NJPW, GCW, wherever he goes there will be blood, there will be pain, there will be a crowd, and there will be Jon Moxley living his best damn life. The cheap store-bought beer taste of Ambrose no longer upon our taste buds, now it’s the burning yet smooth sensation of some form of whiskey touching our tongues. Moxley is intoxicating, and I hope to be inebriated from him for a long time to come.