I owe the incredible readers of TJR Wrestling a bit of an apology at the top this week. I’ve been suffering from a particularly sinister case of the flu since Thursday morning, which includes the worst fever I’ve ever experienced. Being in a constant cycle of fever dreams, I haven’t been able to focus my mind on any single thought long enough to come up with an idea for a column. I also haven’t been able to bring myself to watch SmackDown! or NXT yet either. Then an especially odd fever dream gave me something I hope I can write about at least halfway coherently.
I found myself in an octagon with Brock Lesnar. Not Paul Heyman, Beast Incarnate Brock Lesnar. UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar. I couldn’t find my way out of this dream and I couldn’t find a way to defend myself within the dream. As scary as this situation would obviously be for a guy like myself, it turned out not to be THAT scary. All Brock ended up doing was taking me to Suplex City, which unfortunately seems to be all Lesnar does anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there was a time when I really enjoyed Suplex City, but I just feel like it has run it’s course. I really hit my breaking point when the “No Holds Barred Street Fight” against Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32 was just more of the same. It’s like schtick at this point. I wish the Suplex City thing was what I was most disappointed in, but it isn’t.
Dean Ambrose was red hot coming out of the Royal Rumble. He had won a great Last Man Standing match against Kevin Owens to retain his Intercontinental Championship. He finished as the runner up in the Royal Rumble match. His star grew further as he was put in a Triple Threat match with Roman Reigns and Lesnar for the right to fight in the main event at WrestleMania. It grew further still as he headlined Roadblock in a great match against Triple H. Yes he did lose in that bid for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but he proved he belonged in that spot. Then his build for WrestleMania began as he was endorsed by hardcore legends Mick Foley and Terry Funk. He got to actually talk and be entertaining. He even had a great segment where he never opened his mouth, as he filled a big red wagon with his favorite weapons. The only match I was anticipating even close to as much as the Women’s Championship match was Ambrose vs. Lesnar.
WWE managed to build the story between the two combatants. They were able to build Ambrose into the lunatic he is supposed to be. They actually set up a match that with a stipulation that wouldn’t hurt Lesnar to lose. I mentioned last week how being a Sasha Banks fan sometimes brings back the wrestling fan I was as a kid. The build and the idea for this match had my imagination running wild. I could only imagine what Lesnar would put Ambrose through, what Ambrose would put himself through in order to come out on top of The Beast. I thought Ambrose would come down to the ring with the wagon, but there was no wagon. I thought there would be blood, but there was no blood. I didn’t think anyone was going to take the barbed wire bat or the chainsaw obviously, but I thought some weapons would be used other than chairs, kendo sticks and a fire extinguisher. I thought it would go close to 20 minutes if not more, but we only got 13. I thought it would end up backstage at some point, or at least up the ramp. I thought Ambrose, the guy who said he thought the F5 was supposed to hurt, would kick out of the F5 on the chairs. He didn’t.
Somehow WWE managed to put Ambrose on the cusp of legitimately being a big star. Then in an instant it felt as if they had almost undone it. Basically they had Lesnar squash Ambrose, despite the fact that they invested all that storytelling in building him, despite the fact that Ambrose is a full time worker and we don’t even know when we will see Brock again. It might be just me, but I just fail to see the benefit in that result or in the way the match itself had played out. It looked like a match that could have been on Raw any week. Many fans, myself especially felt that Ambrose would win, but even if he lost, he would come out of it looking better than he did going in. The only logical explanation is that they were crunched for time knowing the final two matches would total just about an hour, but with the show going 4 hours and 51 minutes, why couldn’t they have gotten 5 more? With The Rock tooting his own horn for 30 minutes, why couldn’t one of the most anticipated matches on the card gotten an extra 8-10 minutes?
After the disappointment at WrestleMania, Ambrose wasn’t at Raw. It could have been a good story point had the match been especially brutal. From what I read in John Canton’s SmackDown! review, Ambrose came out and squashed Tyler Breeze. There was also presumably the start of a program with Chris Jericho. I remember thinking this feud was going to happen months ago, but it clearly fell on the back burner. I do think Ambrose and Jericho can put on a good match and put together a really fun and entertaining feud. Unfortunately going over Jericho won’t have the profound affect as going over Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania would have.
Perhaps most troubling is how much has been made about the rash of injuries across the roster as well as the popular theory that WWE has forgotten how to make stars. While these injuries were surely a blow to the company heading into WrestleMania season, it was also an opportunity to make some new stars. When Hulk Hogan took the business to a new level, it happened organically and people ate it up. The same thing happened with Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. A similar thing was happening with Dean Ambrose. He had himself right there, but WWE decided to settle for their typical lackluster storytelling. Another favorite, Dolph Ziggler has been on the precipice of superstardom as well, but has never gotten over that hump. I think it’s too late for Ziggler now.
While Ambrose isn’t as far into his WWE career as Dolph, I’m afraid this lunatic is the next “Superstar” destined for a career on the fringe.