The other day, I put my daughter down for her nap and decided to spend some time on the good old WWE Network, intending to watch random matches and moments.
My first stop was 2014's Extreme Rules event, where The Shield battled Evolution in a wild six-man tag match. As I was watching, I was very entertained, but I couldn't help but think about everything that had happened with the members of The Shield since they made their main roster debuts. I kept thinking about it, even after the match was over, and it led me to Money In The Bank 2016. That was the night where Seth Rollins defeated Roman Reigns to win the WWE Title, only to drop the title moments later to Dean Ambrose, who was cashing in his Money In The Bank opportunity.
Fast forward a bit more, and I found that I had been watching Dean Ambrose matches for quite the extended stretch of time. I watched him in just about every "form" of his WWE tenure, from heel to face to challenger to champion to stablemate to tag wrestler to singles wrestler. After watching it, I came to a bit of a realization...
His WWE run was a tremendous disappointment, especially during the last few years.
It's weird to even say that about someone who won the WWE Title, Intercontinental Title (three times), Tag Team Titles (twice), United States Title, and Money In The Bank, but... here we are.
First and foremost, he was clearly third on the proverbial totem pole as far as how WWE Management viewed the Shield members. Roman is Roman, and Rollins has also been viewed as a star from the beginning. Ambrose was kind of always there in the background, even while winning titles. You have to look deeper, though, and think about a few moments that could've/should've/would've been major for Ambrose, only to end up as duds.
WrestleMania 32 was set to be the biggest night of Dean's career to that point. He was in a high-profile No Holds Barred Street Fight against Brock Lesnar, and the build to it featured hardcore icons Mick Foley and Terry Funk showing up to give Ambrose weapons, with the thought process being that it was going to take an otherworldly, violent effort to stop "The Beast" at Mania. Fans were excited, only to receive a match that never really left second gear because Ambrose and Lesnar didn't "click" at all.
After Ambrose won the WWE Title, it was announced that he would be the guest on an episode of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's WWE Network podcast. It was sure to be quite the show, based on Austin's history of no-nonsense questioning mixed with Ambrose's intense style and interesting backstory. What we got was a dumpster fire of epic proportions. Ambrose came across as aloof, uncooperative, and lacking any real chemistry with Austin. It was awkward to watch, and Austin seemed to give up on it before the episode was over. Now, it could be a coincidence, but Ambrose dropped the WWE Title a month later, and there was never another episode of Austin's podcast on the Network.
A year or so later, we started seeing signs that a potential Shield reunion was going to take place. Seth Rollins had turned face, and was in need of some help in a feud with Sheamus and Cesaro. Enter Dean Ambrose. Once they were on the same page, it was time for Reigns to join them. When he did, and the reunion match was set to take place, Reigns would get taken off the road in that viral meningitis scare that affected other members of the Raw roster. Alright, well, Reigns returned from that, didn't he? He sure did, but what happened a month after Roman's return? Ambrose tore his triceps and then dealt with a staph infection while he was on the shelf.
Upon return from his injury, of course it would make sense to have Ambrose align himself with Rollins once again. Rollins needed assistance against another duo (this time Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre), so why wouldn't his Shield brother have his back? The week after, Rollins and Ambrose would save Roman Reigns from a Money In The Bank cash-in by Braun Strowman. After all the start-stop-start-stop nonsense, we were FINALLY having a Shield reunion with all three members, and they lived happily ever after.
Wait... what's that?
They didn't live happily ever after? They lasted a whole two months before Reigns announced that he was battling leukemia, followed by a heel turn for Ambrose that didn't make sense and nobody was asking for, only for Ambrose's plans to leave WWE going public, and a face turn for Dean out-of-nowhere once Reigns returned from his hiatus, and this sentence isn't anywhere near as rambling and confusing as what we were given on WWE programming.
While all of that was going on... every little bump in the road that I've just mentioned... the WWE Universe was squarely behind Ambrose. He wasn't the "chosen one" like Reigns or the in-ring daredevil like Rollins. He was the guy that only needed to storm out to the ring and brawl his way to the top. Fans kept wanting more, but everything was working against it, from injuries to diseases to incompetence and everything in between.
It really wasn't supposed to be this way.
When Ambrose first signed with WWE, visions of greatness appeared in the heads of many a fan. He wasn't ever going to impress you with his technical wrestling ability, but very few in the entire industry could touch him when it came to promos and how he carried himself as a character, as well as the lengths he would go to get the job done during his matches. As Jon Moxley, his name was ringing bells all over the wrestling world.
His run with Florida Championship Wrestling was really entertaining. He had a good feud with Seth Rollins, an epic war with William Regal, a very good match against CM Punk, and he showed plenty of why he was signed to a contract in the first place. The people that were excited about his signing were only salivating even more.
While I will fully admit to being a huge fan of The Shield and their original run, I will also be the first to admit that Ambrose didn't ever seem to fully fit in. WWE was more interested in making Ambrose out to be craaaaazy... a Lunatic, if you will... than letting him be the guy he had been in his career to that point.
It's a shame.
Now, here we are at the near midpoint of 2019, and things have changed yet again. Unless you're a conspiracy theorist that feels this is all a work, Ambrose is now gone from WWE. After a very slick "allow me to reintroduce myself" vignette video hit the internet, it would appear that Jon Moxley is back. There is plenty to be excited about again. It has been eight years since Moxley has been outside of the WWE umbrella. That's a long time. That means there are new promotions for him to wrestle for. That means there are new wrestlers for him to battle. That means there are fans all over the world that only know him as Dean Ambrose and have yet to be introduced to anything else.
I'm looking forward to what the future holds. He won't be in the booking shadow of Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins anymore, nor will he be handcuffed by WWE's inability to do pretty much anything right. He will probably go back to a far more hardcore style of wrestling, which is going to blow the minds of the aforementioned fans who only know him as Dean Ambrose and the "WWE style" of in-ring work. I want to see what happens when he's in control of his own destiny as one of the biggest names in the business. He doesn't seem to care all that much about money, which would hopefully mean that all of his moves will make sense and will make him happy. He deserves that.
It's crazy to look back at the "second half" of his WWE run. I wouldn't say he and his Shield brethren were cursed, but I'll be damned if it wasn't something close. It's a shame that things didn't work out, but his next chapter is something I'm really looking forward to seeing.