I know I am far from the minority of wrestling fans in stating my admiration for Dean Ambrose. The “Lunatic Fringe” has been as beloved as it gets over the last few years. Everyone seems to want to be a part of the Ambrose Asylum. But what I am getting at isn’t just an appreciation for Dean Ambrose, the guy that goes out there and entertains me every Monday. I find myself, for once, actually liking and agreeing with how WWE has decided to use him. Not many fans seem to want to give WWE credit for much of anything anymore, but there is no denying that they’ve made contact on almost every swing with Ambrose in 2016.
It’s understandable that many in the Ambrose camp were dissatisfied with his booking since The Shield was dismantled. While Seth Rollins was winning the Money In The Bank contract and cashing it in to win the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania and Roman Reigns was being positioned as the next John Cena, Dean Ambrose wasn’t being afforded the same attention. First, Seth and Roman seemed to move onward and upward from The Shield pretty quickly while Ambrose just couldn’t get over it. In a way it spoke to his character that he would hold such a grudge against Rollins, but being that he was clearly third in the pecking order, it made me feel like he was just the odd man out. What was really odd about this was that Dean was clearly the leader of the group. He was out front, talking more than anyone else, holding a singles title. Yet after Rollins left them behind, the picture was painted that Rollins was “The Architect” as Ambrose was becoming a bit of an afterthought. Weirder still, Dean was The Shield’s mouthpiece, yet on his own he was forced to stop talking.
Add to that the fact that every feud Dean was embroiled in, he came out on the losing end. Seth Rollins bested him. Bray Wyatt bested him. He came up short in his bid for the Intercontinental Championship. Seth Rollins bested him again. The guy was named the Most Popular Wrestler Of The Year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated, while being booked to do nothing but lose. There were times it seemed he was primed to break out but it never happened. He was always stuck putting someone else over. Even his gimmick as a lunatic was called into question by people such as Vince Russo on several wrestling podcasts. Basically the thought was that his craziness was cartoonish and never really backed up. What made this even more infuriating was having Ambrose be relegated to Roman Reigns’ sidekick. Dean played the little brother in arms getting great crowd reactions while Roman continued to get booed. The guy we all loved was being used as nothing more than an excuse for fans to cheer when Reigns was in the ring. At the very least, we hoped one of them would turn on the other in order to win the vacant title at Survivor Series, but instead Roman went over like he always did. Then things got interesting.
Ambrose finally won the Intercontinental Championship from Kevin Owens at TLC. He defended it against Owens in a great Last Man Standing match at the Royal Rumble. Later that same night he finished as the runner-up in the Royal Rumble Match. I found that decision curious at the time, but now I see it was laying the groundwork for things to come. On Raw the next night he was booked in the main event at Fastlane in a Triple Threat with Reigns and Brock Lesnar. Many fans assumed he was only in this match to take the fall for Roman. What ended up happening was something different. His character started to take shape. After being forced into Roman’s shadow for so long, he was finally making it a point to push his way out of it. After being crazy in name only, he showed how unstable he was by provoking The Beast Incarnate at every opportunity. He lost his Intercontinental Title and ultimately did take the pin to Roman, which felt like a step back. But he ultimately vaulted forward after entering the arena in an ambulance and challenging Lesnar to a Street Fight at WrestleMania.
During this time Ambrose was being afforded time on the microphone on almost every show. His promos were intense, funny and meaningful. His promos actually suited his character’s motivations and made you invest in his actions. He wasn’t going to be disrespected anymore. He wasn’t going to be overlooked anymore. He was going to push his way to the top without any thought of the consequences. He used this approach to secure a title shot at Roadblock with Triple H, vowing to become the face of the company. He came up short in his bid in yet another great match, but it was another losing effort that helped push his character forward. He showed he belonged in that match and his unhinged personality is what cost him the match. He then turned all his attention to his match with Lesnar.
While WWE can’t figure out how to get Reigns cheered, despite actually doing the right things with his character, Ambrose continues to flourish. He’s been afforded a rare opportunity to do vignettes on location, first in his hometown of Cincinnati, then last week in Philadelphia. He’s getting to showcase the personality that people are already gravitating to. He’s getting to do something different from everyone else. He’s been endorsed by hardcore legends Mick Foley and Terry Funk, being bequeathed with their signature weapons. Many times these types of builds are just to make us think someone has a chance of going over even though they are going to lose. In this instance I think they are building Ambrose up because he is the one that is going to unseat Brock. He has taken beating after beating, but continues to come back for more. He has himself booked in a match that, with any weapon being in play, won’t make Lesnar look weak for losing.
I can’t guarantee an Ambrose victory in Dallas, and I won’t pretend to. What I can guarantee is Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar is more highly anticipated and will far exceed the entertainment value we get from the Roman Reigns vs Triple H match. While Reigns is still struggling to find his way, Dean Ambrose is running away from the pack. If Roman Reigns had beaten Lesnar at WrestleMania last year, he would have been booed mercilessly. If his former sidekick does the same, he will get the loudest ovation of the night. Maybe it will finally force Vince McMahon to realize what he has in Dean Ambrose.