Dean Ambrose’s return from late 2017 surgery to repair his triceps took a bit longer than the expected three-to-six months. Rumors of setbacks lingered during his rehabilitation, and “return imminent” reports popped up frequently before his return was actually imminent in August of this year.
What happened? Ambrose told the tale to Greg Luca of McAllen, Texas’ The Monitor – and it’s remarkable, and scary, and has changed his perspective on his career:
“It was a long, long period of time. Much longer than would have been anticipated.
It was just one nightmare after another. It was a pretty challenging period of time to go through. I ended up having two different surgeries. I had this MRSA, Staph infection. I nearly died. I was in the hospital for a week plugged up to this antibiotic drip thing, and I was on all these antibiotics for months that make you puke and crap your pants.
So it was a pretty rough time. My arm wasn’t healing correctly, and my triceps. It’s kind of an indeterminate period where I initially hurt it. I thought it was, we call it Dusty elbows. It’s a pretty typical wrestler thing. You just get this bursa sac of fluid on your elbow from banging it on the mat or whatever. I’ve had that dozens of times on both elbows. It usually just goes away. It was kind of disguised. By the time I finally went and got the first surgery, my triceps was already starting to atrophy and look weird. I wasn’t able to flex my triceps for a really long time. And then the first surgery didn’t really, something went wrong in the process. Probably due to that infection. It’s kind of hard to say when that really even got in my body. This is a long answer to your question. But for a minute there, it was getting scary. By the time I got that second surgery, it was March, I think. My arm was so shrunken and skeletal that it was weird. I hadn’t been able to move it or flex it in so long that I was starting to get scared I wasn’t ever going to get it back.
It looked good [after the first surgery]. Before I went in for the first one, they were like, ‘OK, yeah, this is going to be a three- or four-month thing. You’ll jump right back.’ Once I woke up, they were like, ‘Oh man, this is going to be six months minimum. Because we went in there, and that thing was messed up. You beat it to death. It’s going to be a lot harder than you initially thought. But still, not so bad.’ They said they found traces of an infection during the first surgery, but they cleaned it out. I don’t know if it was in there previously, or if it came after. It could’ve been with me for years. I don’t know. But it was about six weeks or so after that I was like, this is not healing correctly. I didn’t have anything to compare it to, because I had never been hurt before. So I ended up going back for just a checkup. I thought I was just going to turn right back around and get on a plane and go home, and they were like, ‘No, you have to go in again for surgery like right now.’ I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ I had just kind of got through all of the stitches and all of that stuff. It was a giant mess. I just kept having to start back from square one. I ended up just moving to Birmingham just to play it safe and be with the doctor and best rehab guys. As soon as I got out of the second one, I was flying home, grabbing my dog, turned right back around, got in the truck and drove to Birmingham. I just stayed there for two and a half or three months until they felt like I was pretty good. Once the MRSA really got out of my system, I was working out twice a day. Rehabbing twice a day on top of that in Birmingham. Doing everything possible to try to get my arm working again, and once I started to come back, I started to make a lot of progress over the summer. So I’m feeling good now.”
The possibility of losing it all, plus being “entirely mentally checked out” of WWE and pro wrestling while he was injured due to “some stage-five-level burnout” he experienced working hurt prior to surgery, have led the already laid back Ambrose to alter his focus on the business even more now that he’s back. As he told Luca:
“At this point, money or any kind of quantifiable statistics, titles or whatever, or any kind of validation from anybody is not really important to me any more at this point. The most important thing, the thing that makes me the happiest, is just being happy with a piece of work. Like an artist makes a watercolor painting or whatever, and they sit back and go, ‘I’m really happy with that.’ The thing that I value most in my past and my career at this point, I realize they’re just the stories that I’m more proud of that were told, that still stand up. Just good pieces of work. I want to be happy with the finished product. Whether that’s one match, or a longer story, or if that’s one interview, or whatever. Whatever it is. That’s the most important thing to me at this point. Because I’ve had all the other things. Out of every thing that there is, that’s still the most rewarding thing and the only thing that drives me or gets me really excited other than just the live performance and being in front of the crowd, is that artistic, creative satisfaction.”
Go for it, Dean-o. Glad you’re back.
Check out Ambrose’s entire interview with The Monitor here.