The Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins feud hasn’t lived up to its high expectations so far. Is the feud missing the heel Ambrose and complex emotions the WWE Universe has been asking for? Let’s try to unpack everything and take a closer look.
On Aug.13, the WWE Universe finally saw the eagerly awaited return of the Lunatic Fringe Dean Ambrose, after his eight-month-long triceps injury. Ambrose returned donning a new look, having shaved his head and packed on the muscle, a breath of fresh air from his previous disheveled appearance. There was a new feeling of intensity and animosity coming from Ambrose and some thought this new look held a resemblance to Steve Austin, fueling speculation that this new demeanour could be a sign for what’s to come – a long-awaited Dean Ambrose heel turn.
Prior to his injury, it was thought that Ambrose and Seth Rollins were heading into a feud together, but this time, Ambrose would play the unfavoured heel. This was later confirmed by author Jon Robinson, who stated that the story would have concluded in a match between the two at WrestleMania 34. With Ambrose back on Raw only one question remained: when will he pick his moment?
It was only a matter of time as the seeds for an Ambrose heel turn had been sown; he was the only Shield member without a championship title, and with Rollins visibly hitting a nerve whenever he referred to Ambrose as a lunatic, the cracks in the Shield were beginning to grow.
Then the inevitable moment came on Oct. 22, on a Raw fans will never forget. And now, we’re finally getting to see the story play out with Ambrose as a fully established heel, something fans have been waiting years to see since he first debuted in WWE.
Ambrose’s babyface gimmick was well received by most. His goofy antics were loveable and laughable, and alongside his workhorse ethic, he quickly became one of the most popular Superstars on the roster. However, some felt over time, his zany character was getting tedious, and they longed for a real unhinged persona, one that warranted the name lunatic rather than a guy doing funny things and people calling him crazy. The plea for Ambrose to reincarnate his old indy character, Jon Moxley was being made.
If you turn your attention to the comment section of old Moxley YouTube videos ,you’ll see fans wishing to see Ambrose bring more Moxley edge to his WWE promos. Many fans have described the babyface Ambrose character as a ‘watered-down’ version of Moxley and wish WWE would ‘let him loose’ and be a real lunatic. Obviously, the full Moxley character could never step foot in a PG WWE ring, but that’s not to say Ambrose can’t embrace more of what made Moxley so popular.
Take away the swearing and explicit sexual reference, and you’ve still got a lot of the character to enjoy – such as the way he rambles and goes off on tangents or how the pitch of his voice changes suddenly and dramatically in his promos, making him feel like an actual dangerous guy with issues.
Fragments of these characteristics could be seen when Ambrose turned on Rollins. Ambrose was talking to himself as if he was struggling with the decision he’d just made, battling an internal trauma that was bubbling to the surface, causing him to writhe on the mat in agony.
It looked like he immediately regretted his attack, that he didn’t want to do it, but he didn’t know what else to do. Ambrose simply did “the only thing [he] knew how to do,” an idea that was then reinforced by Rollins’s reassuring words, “it’s okay.”
People deal with grief in different ways, and at that moment, Rollins understood this was how Ambrose was dealing with it, in anger and rage, and these subtle, nuanced displays of complex emotions, I feel, are largely missing from the feud.
After seeing his turn I believed we were finally getting the heel Ambrose we’ve been asking for. However, having watched his later promos, I could see that wasn’t the case. Instead, his characteristics have been more or less the same and what’s more disappointing is his reason for turning.
Ambrose stated that being in The Shield made him weak which could have been alluding to his injury (it was pretty ambiguous) and that was it. I feel that WWE missed out on a perfect opportunity to express a complex masculinity narrative of brotherhood, betrayal, love, hate and hurt.
The set up was there; Ambrose felt like he was being taken for granted and was still distrustful of Seth for his betrayal. Seth, still feeling the guilt, doesn’t believe he deserves another chance, but both feel lost without Roman. Because of the way Ambrose is dealing with his grief, he descends down a spiral of self-destruction, bringing about reckoning to anything that comes his way. Have him visibly struggle internally with himself in promos, like Moxley, because he knows what he’s doing is wrong, but he doesn’t know any other way.
Meanwhile, Seth can see this. Seth knows Ambrose doesn’t want it this way and feels an astronomical amount of guilt because of it. And so, Seth goes down his own path of darkness. I felt the moment where Seth lost control at TLC was the right move and would carry it on further. Keep having him lose control, losing matches by DQ after having lashed out on an innocent opponent.
But his path to redemption after the Shield turn was too important, he doesn’t want to be this person. He fought hard to change, so he slowly brings himself back after realizing he’s let the fans down because I also liked that promo after TLC.
This also represents Seth’s way of dealing with grief. It’s important to take time out so you don’t become harmful to yourself, and that’s what Seth’s doing. Then, eventually, he’ll turn his attention back to Dean, because I’d rather see the character development of Seth trying to save Dean than him moving onto something else. Deep down, all Dean wants is for Seth to admit he was right, that he did take him for granted, and the story goes on.
Or maybe that’s too much like the Ambrollins stuff you’d see on Tumblr…who knows? Either way, it’s not too late to save this feud, whether it’s done this way or not.