This week saw a celebration of The Shield and the WWE Universe was treated to one last hurrah as all three members (Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose) had one final match that of course, ended in victory. The match marked the end of the road (for now, at least) for Dean Ambrose who hasn’t signed a new contract with WWE and this past Sunday was his last match.
Ambrose didn’t give a solid answer as to why he didn’t want to re-sign, but I think there isn’t one sole reason why he wants to take a break from wrestling for the foreseeable future, more a combination of reasons. In December 2017, he suffered a torn triceps injury that saw him on the sidelines for over eight months. Ambrose also had an infection during his recovery where he almost died, so that’s obviously going to have an effect on somebody. Perhaps that time away allowed him to reflect on his life and career and decide what steps he wanted to take next. Maybe a break is what he wants right now, and he’s lucky enough to be able to make that decision himself at 33 years of age.
This week also saw an official announcement from Dustin Rhodes, aka Goldust, and his decision to formally part ways with WWE and join his brother, Cody Rhodes at AEW. Again, he’s left on his terms and made it his decision. Goldust was a special character in WWE and had a huge impact on the business. He was part of the Attitude Era and beyond and pushed boundaries whenever he could. Equally popular as a heel or face, he definitely made his mark, just like his late father did. Goldust always reminded me of Adrian Street, a flamboyant character that graced the UK wrestling scene in the 1970’s and 80’s. Back then audiences and fans weren’t as ‘accepting’ of his persona as perhaps they are now, so he was often referred to as controversial. Check out this picture of Adrian Street to see the resemblance.
Of course not every professional wrestler gets to make that choice, sometimes it’s made for them if they like it or not. To look back over the last few decades, we can see some examples of that. In April 2011, right after Wrestlemania, Edge surprised us all by announcing he was retiring from active competition (while he was the World Heavyweight Champion) with immediate effect. At 38 years old, perhaps he was thinking about winding down his career, but multiple issues with his neck meant that there was a high possibility him continuing to be active in WWE could’ve left him paralyzed. Some say Edge was lucky that in one respect he got to literally walk away from the business, whereas others say he had his career taken from him at a point when he was flying high in the company. I’m sure Edge, or Adam Copeland, would agree with the former rather than the latter.
Ric Flair is possibly the most well-known professional wrestler in the world, if not the most respected, and yet he continued to wrestle well into his 60s. It’s fair to say that Flair and others made huge money back in their prime, and if they were starting out in this era, they likely would’ve made a ton more money, but sometimes fame and longevity doesn’t always guarantee happiness. To date Ric has been married five times and divorced four times. I’m no legal expert, but I can imagine that each divorce cost him a fair few dollars, so perhaps Flair’s continuation of his professional wrestling career was more out of necessity than love for the business – and we know that Flair loves the business. Hopefully, as he celebrates his 70th year on Earth, he can finally enjoy retirement and not have to don the trunks for another payday.
It goes without saying that some professional wrestlers who never got to leave on their own terms involved tragedy in one form or another. Too many wrestlers, in my opinion. Be it accidents while performing like Darren Drozdov, who was diagnosed as a quadriplegic following an accident in the ring (although he has since regained some use of his arms and upper body), Paige, who had to call time on her in-ring career at just 25 years old and Sting who after finally arriving in WWE in the twilight of his professional career, had to retire after a bad injury to his neck. With perhaps the exception of Sting, who had a stellar career and achieved a lot in pro wrestling, the others could certainly have gone far and a quick search of wrestling injuries online will show some equally tragic tales. Not to mention those poor souls who stepped into the ring one night but never stepped out.
When I think of the term ‘leaving on your own terms’, it brings to mind an athlete in sports who just knows that their time is up and they’ve nothing left to give. They step aside to allow the next generation to take their place and create their own history, while the veteran will take the plaudits, smile and walk off into the sunset, leaving nothing but their legacy behind. Usain Bolt comes to mind for me. The greatest sprinter the world had ever seen ended his final race on his back nursing an injury after collapsing. He’d given all he had over his career and nature told him that it was time to leave the arena and close that chapter of his life. It must be so hard for these professionals when the reality dawns on them that ‘this is it’, there will be no more. Check out a video on YouTube of David Beckham’s final professional football/soccer match for PSG. As the end of the game draws near, the camera focuses on him and you can see how upset he is that those are his final moments as a professional footballer and he breaks down as he’s substituted to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Whether Dean Ambrose’s future lies in spending time away from wrestling for now, or a return to the ring at another date, be it WWE or elsewhere, at least that decision is in his hands and is his to take. The younger generation of this world are lambasted in many quarters by others for not taking responsibility or working hard enough. I disagree, as I believe the younger generation are very aware of what has gone before them and are learning lessons at a young age. Many young athletes, not just in wrestling, but in many professional sports, choose X-Boxes and PlayStation over alcohol and drugs. They spend time resting and recovering rather than partying or dancing. They’ve seen those who have walked the path before them fall by the wayside and don’t wish to repeat those mistakes. They appreciate what they have and will do all in their power to not jeopardize it. Long may it continue, as it can only lead to longer, more successful careers that they and only they will decide to call time on when they see fit.
So what does the future hold for Dean Ambrose? Will he return to WWE one day? What about other young athletes around the world? Are they overpaid, over-hyped upstarts or are they well aware of the pitfalls of fame and fortune and dedicated to their respective crafts? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.