One of the very fortunate things about writing about wrestling at this point in its history is that I'm being treated to a front-row seat overlooking what will define the next era in wrestling. Never before in my time of watching this sport have so many new faces appeared so quickly, and with the added bonus of the WWE finally believing that they need to turn the corner and allow some new characters to shine. This has led to a re-energizing of match quality, and improved the weekly shows notably in my view. You certainly don't need me to tell you that Dean Ambrose is one of those individuals, pegged for greatness before he even wrestled his first WWE match. It certainly doesn't hurt that he is participating in the hottest angle in the promotion right now, that of The Shield. More importantly than that, however, are his recent comments in the Poughkeepsie Journal. They signify the development of something truly special.
Before we get to the comments, a bit of background. Ambrose has been wrestling for nearly ten years, so he's no stranger to the ring, and certainly no rookie. He appeared for various promotions over the course of that time, notably Combat Zone Wrestling and Dragon Gate USA. My first experience watching him, though, was in Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE's feeder promotion, and to say he made an impression would be an understatement. Several notable angles occurred during this time period, including Ambrose's first activity with Seth Rollins. Rollins and Ambrose had a series of dynamite matches for the FCW 15 Title, and their feud carried over until the point where they made their surprising debut together as Shield members. Ambrose also made headlines when he lost to CM Punk on an FCW house show card where he was making a guest appearance. As you might imagine, that tells you all you need to know about the perceived direction Ambrose was taking to the big time.
Ambrose's next big feud was actually with a veteran in FCW announcer (and one of my favorites) William Regal, and as you might expect from a guy with Regal's background, it was a doozy. Their match on the final episode of FCW TV is one of the best examples of ring psychology I've ever seen. Ambrose drew blood on Regal in a stiff, hard-fought affair, causing a no contest. What followed was the quintessential Regal moment: applauding Ambrose's effort and offering himself up as a sacrifice to let the new blood take over. There is no question that these battles with wrestlers the caliber of Punk and Regal helped with the transformation of a guy who already had achieved accolades in the business into a whole new persona.
That persona was further developed with a war of words (mainly on Twitter) between Ambrose and extreme legend Mick Foley. While rumors flew that this shoot-style angle would lead to a match between the two, potentially serving as the long-awaited springboard for Ambrose to make the leap from the defunct FCW to the WWE, it was in the end not to be. Recently, Foley himself explained why it didn't happen, and it completely made sense. Ever the ambassador for the sport, Mick wanted an opportunity to help put over someone he knew to be a future star in the business. Unfortunately, physical limitations prevented it, and a different direction was chosen. That different direction was The Shield, ironically reuniting Ambrose with his sworn enemy in Rollins and also throwing Roman Reigns into the mix, who had scuffled with both on the title scene in FCW as well.
Interestingly, the Shield's early storyline fed off the Foley/Ambrose war of words anyway, with the trio taking out a bevy of big stars on the roster and promising even larger changes to come. From the first promo, it became clear that it would be Ambrose who would be doing most of the talking. That in large part fed into the natural desire to label him the next breakout star, but in reality it's exactly the opposite that makes him special. Where many newcomers would jump at the chance to break away from the fold and chart their own course, Ambrose understands that this angle and its slow and effective build is paving the way for a tremendous outcome. There is no need to present himself as the leader, thereby placing all the pressure on his shoulders before it's necessary to do so. Better to present himself as an effective cog in a violent machine, an equal conspirator and contributor.
The WWE, though, clearly knows what it has with Ambrose, and that is a very effective talker. It's difficult to define his style on the microphone, and that's a big reason why I think he's going to end up on the top of the heap. Far too many of the WWE's talking heads sound identical, and it's rare that you encounter someone who can make you stop in your tracks and pay attention, whether you agree with the comments or not. One that springs to mind immediately is Jake "The Snake" Roberts, who had an interview style unlike anything before or since. There was no question you were not only listening to a bad man, but a dangerous and intellectual one. The delivery was remarkable, and it's one of the big reasons why a guy with a very strange gimmick and a physical look not in vogue at the time compared to his contemporaries was so effective. High praise indeed, but Ambrose definitely strikes me as that kind of guy.
Roberts, as we know, never really had a run as champion in the WWE, and that cements his legacy in my mind. The man was so effective at playing his character that he didn't even need a title to give him credibility. In that way, having Ambrose defeat Kofi Kingston for the United States Champion marks a bit of a departure. Once again, though, the thought process of presenting the unit of The Shield as unbeatable trumps all else. As a singles competitor, which he will be eventually, Ambrose may turn out to be a throwback to that very rare breed in the business: the type of legend that you remember so fondly that you don't even remember whether they held gold or not. That is the hallmark of something truly special, no matter the era.
Readers of this space know well my fondness for the wrestlers of today that get "it," it being the business and their role in shaping it and making it better. One very recent example is the injured Dolph Ziggler, whose comments about wanting to be the best match on any card and the feeling he had toward part-time wrestlers getting the headlines for Wrestlemania, were explored very thoroughly in a previous column. That brings me to the aforementioned comments of Ambrose, who discussed both the development of the Shield angle and his thoughts on promo work in the ring. Not only were these comments insightful, they brought a level of understanding that I don't often expect to hear from someone who cracked the main roster for under one year.
Remarking on the difference between his group and everything else in the WWE, Ambrose essentially says that the ideas are generated on the fly. The example he gives is certainly one of the more notable things about The Shield, that being their descent to the ring from the fans. This is a concept that more wrestlers should embrace. Too often we see great, talented wrestlers who throw themselves on the mercy of the soap opera writers and expect to get over. We also see forced attempts to make things popular, and they backfire just as often (if not moreso) than they succeed. This ever-developing, symbiotic approach of throwing it out there and seeing what happens is refreshing and necessary. Different ideas will strike the zeitgeist at certain times; to prognosticate it is foolish. The Shield feeds off what works and doesn't go out with preconceived notions. That should serve as the first evidence that this doesn't just appear different, it IS different. The Wyatt Family vignettes are proving the same thing right now.
Ambrose's second comments are equally important, and to my mind the perfect illustration of a guy that gets it completely and is going to use that information to catapult to the top of the business in short order, much like Dolph. He admits that many guys come up through the developmental territories and are only comfortable spouting out the scripted lines that they are given to say, and in contrast, he is not comfortable with that approach at all. This is radically important, because we've all seen situations where over-writing and lack of continuity have killed angles before they even begin. Ambrose (like Ziggler) recognizes that his responsibility is to put asses in the seats and add to the overall storyline. He looks at every opportunity to use the microphone as a chance to add to his tale. Compare that to the usual tripe you get from over half of the roster in the WWE, reciting the same banal asides and corny jokes you heard last week, and you'll see why that matters so much. Speak like yourself and you won't sound like anyone else. It's actually the same advice we got as aspiring writers for TJR, and it's spot on.
It's that fearlessness that the crowd responds to, and it's that slight undercurrent of madness that has the potential to take what could be just another wrestler and turn him into something special. Ambrose has already paid his dues to some extent. He came up the right way, working his way through promotion after promotion, and he impressed ring legends with his work. He could show up in Stamford and wait for folks to make him great. But he recognizes that even with the hottest angle in sports entertainment in his midst, even with his first championship run, and even with the whispers of what could be, he still has to make it happen. And he has to do it his way, without regret or second-guessing or concern. It's that brazen attitude that marks the men that make the biggest impact in this business, and that's just what Dean Ambrose intends to do. I look forward to watching it come to fruition.
* I'm not sure how there's anyone left roaming this orb that doesn't think Daniel Bryan is fantastic, but this week's Raw should put those sad few souls on the right side of the coin. It was a tour-de-force for the bearded wonder, as he continued his implosion of Team Hell No (thank you, thank you!) and got Ryback to put on a better-than-decent match. My favorite thing about Bryan's ring work is how realistic it is. There's simply no way he could fairly fight a guy built like Ryback, but with his aggressive use of submission holds and flying attacks it works. The guy just makes everyone around him better, which is a talent to be revered in any sport. He is truly the MVP (no, not that one) of the roster right now.
* Speaking of Raw, that had to be one of the strangest openings I've ever seen. I'm not sure if Vince and Stephanie McMahon were trying way too hard to present themselves as heels, but it certainly worked. I love that Vince made a plea about how the WWE is "family" TV and chastised the crowd for wanting Kofi Kingston to be put through a table one more time, while the guy saying it stripped down Trish Stratus (no harm there) and made plenty of folks kiss his ass. Vince is essentially Donald Trump at this point; he doesn't even need to bother trying to generate heat to get it. It's also old ground for Stephanie, who made a very effective heel. This current storyline is just odd, though. If HHH returns and gets KOd by Axel, it's our fault? I will admit one thing, however; when the Shield's music hit, I was definitely hoping they'd put at least one McMahon through a table. Point proven, perhaps.
* TNA doesn't get mentioned much by yours truly, mainly because whenever I seem to tune in it's not very good. An exception was their Slammiversary, which I caught despite its really bad name. More specifically, Gail Kim (who I have always liked and was extremely poorly used overall in WWE) taking on Taryn/Tiffany/Terrell/T-Mobile in a "Last Knockout Standing" Match. I had zero thought that this match would steal the show, and it absolutely did for me. It certainly was far better than the usual overbooked Sting/Aces and Eights finishes that have been foisted on us for what seems like years now. These two ladies brought the house down with a violent, exciting, amazing match that showed what can happen when women's wrestling is actually given an opportunity to try something different. Thoroughly entertaining and worthy of a watch, whether you tune in to TNA or not. Oh, and ODB was the ref. So there's THAT.
That about wraps it up for me this week. I appreciate you reading, and exhort you to leave your thoughts in the space below. You can as always reach me on Twitter @coffeyfan77 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, this is Mike Holland saying have a great week, I can't wait for Punk/Jericho, and RIP Edith Bunker.