I know we cry out for multi-dimensional characters in wrestling all the time, but I’ll just say it – Dean Ambrose is too complicated right now.
None of this is his fault, of course. Ambrose the performer is one of WWE’s most consistent Superstars on the microphone, able to do good material justice, and sometimes transform bad material into passable stuff.
With each passing week, however, his character’s motivations have become more and more convoluted. Why does he suddenly hate germs so much? Why is he sometimes a classic ’80s heel, trashing hometowns and telling fans they smell bad? Moreover, what was the deal with that syringe video?
In an attempt to get to the bottom of this, we’re going to chart the history of a Dean Ambrose’s heel persona – a history that, although brief, has already taken many different forms.
Heel Ambrose is evolving faster than a Pokemon on steroids. I’ve broken it down into four distinct stages:
- Shield-Hating Ambrose
- Old School Heel Ambrose
- Plague Doctor Ambrose
- Bane Ambrose
You might think that with each evolution, his power becomes even more unstoppable – but there’s no real evidence to suggest that yet. In each form, he’s precisely strong enough to best Seth Rollins in a brawl and hit him with two Dirty Deeds. Always two.
We don’t yet know the reasons behind Ambrose’s confusing character, but hopefully it all ties together at TLC. At the moment he’s like a jigsaw in a hall of mirrors. It almost seems as though his storyline is being written by too many people…
Anyway, in preparation for his PPV showdown with Seth Rollins, let’s take a look at each of Dean’s heel forms so far.
When Ambrose first turned heel, he initially refused to give Seth Rollins an explanation for his betrayal. That’s where the alarm bells started to ring, in my head at least.
Why was Rollins suddenly coming out on Raw and cutting emotional promos, wondering why his best pal had attacked him? Worse still, why didn’t Ambrose simply turn up and say “Do you not remember breaking up The Shield four years ago? You got a title reign out of it and everything!”
When Dean eventually did reveal his reasons for turning on Rollins, they were far more unnecessary and convoluted than we could have imagined. If we’re correct, he felt as though each member of The Shield deserved punishment for their prior misdeeds. Seth’s punishment was to face Ambrose; Ambrose’s punishment was never entirely clear, but he gave himself more of a judge, jury, and executioner role. A hound of justice, you might say.
Roman Reigns’ punishment, by the way, was the real-life fact that he has leukaemia. That didn’t go down too well, so we can understand why it’s since been dropped from Dean’s promos.
But Ambrose shouldn’t hate The Shield. He should hate Seth Rollins. Is this not obvious?
(Also, what did The Shield do back in their original run that was so unforgivable? They interfered in CM Punk’s matches and put various people through tables. Kane electrocuted Shane McMahon’s testicles and set JR on fire! He’s an actual mayor these days!)
Old School Heel Ambrose
For whatever reason, a short while after burning his old Shield vest and declaring war on Rollins, Ambrose started acting like it was 1983.
By which I mean he widened the scope of his hatred, and completely went back to basics – insulting the fans in whichever town Raw happened to be in that night. This is one of the more inexplicable developments of Ambrose’s recent persona. When Bobby Lashley calls the fans beta males, or Drew McIntyre mocks us for never doing anything with our lives, that makes sense. They’re gigantic men in tremendous shape, and could crush us like smarky little grapes. When Dean Ambrose tells us our hometown stinks, that doesn’t really work as well.
I’m not saying that Ambrose isn’t in great shape, but he’s always been more of a rough-and-ready type, regardless of his alignment. As a babyface, Dean was the closest thing we had to an everyman on the modern day roster – wrestling in a vest and jeans, offsetting the heels’ arrogant promos with his casual confidence.
In his Shield days, heel Ambrose again didn’t really turn his ire on the fans. He and his stablemates were all about enforcing their misplaced sense of justice – until it emerged that they were being paid off by Paul Heyman to help CM Punk. Even then, with their motive exposed, Dean was always more psychotic than bullying. The twisted aspects of his character were all focused inward, rather than taken out on the audience in traditional heelish fashion.
Also, I don’t want to suggest that Ambrose smells bad in his day-to-day life – but the onscreen character of Dean Ambrose does kind of look like he smells bad. Talk about hypocrisy.
Plague Doctor Ambrose
Somewhere along the line – and it didn’t take very long – Ambrose’s hatred of foul-smelling wrestling fans morphed into a hatred of germs altogether. Yes, before we knew it, we were witnessing Dean Ambrose: hypochondriac edition.
Suddenly, on last week’s Raw, Dean was in a doctor’s surgery getting vaccinated for various reasons. Some were to protect him from ailments carried by those stinking wrestling fans – which at least proves that Ambrose carries some traits from one stage to another. It’s less a complete shedding of his previous skin, more a confusing mish-mash. That’s better, right?
Now, I don’t mean to get all paranoid, but does this germaphobic language remind everybody of when the nWo invaded WWE in the early-2000s? We had Vince McMahon talking about injecting his own company with “a lethal dose of poison”, and so on.
Does this stage signify the moment McMahon took a more controlling role in the direction of Ambrose’s heel persona?
Finally, we get to the most recent flavour of the week: Bane Ambrose.
I’m not just drawing a physical comparison, even though yes, Dean had the mask and the lovely jacket. Similarities can also be drawn between certain aspects of their characters.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises, but I do remember Bane thinking of himself as an anti-hero – much like Ambrose appeared to on this week’s Raw. Both spoke about making a change, and while Bane’s motives may have been more universal in nature, this newest version of Ambrose seems to believe himself to be the hero of the story.
That doesn’t explain everything, of course. I’ve got no idea where all the gas mask henchmen came from, or why Michael Cole was so adamant that they were a ‘SWAT team’. Or why WWE.com took Cole’s words as gospel and branded the group ‘Ambrose’s personal SWAT team’.
On the other hand, maybe this latest development is for the best. Yes, Dean will still take a swipe at the fans for smelling bad, or the city he’s in for being a dump, or liken Rollins to flu for some reason. But at least now Ambrose seems to have a purpose. I liked the whole ‘moral compass’ aspect of the promo, with Dean essentially branding himself Raw’s last remaining babyface. That was cool, and harks back to the psychotic stuff we know Ambrose can do so well.
The most frustrating thing, though, is that he never needed to be such a complicated, fragmented figure. Rollins did a very bad thing back in 2014, and just because he got over it doesn’t mean Dean should be expected to. Seth still owes a huge debt to karma, and that could easily be manifested in Ambrose’s rage. Instead, we’ve got him talking about rabies and buying gas masks in bulk, and I’m not really sure how we got to this stage.
Then again, it’s only been one episode. Who knows what Ambrose will do next week?
Just don’t ask Renee Young, because despite presumably living and travelling with her husband between shows, how can we expect her to know why he’s acting this way?