For those of you who were following along all of last week, thanks so much! I will be attempting to apply all of the stuff I talked about regarding re-learning to watch wrestling during tonight’s episode of RAW. If you don’t follow me on twitter, you should – if for no other reason than to watch me inevitably come unglued. Tonight’s show is packed with old heroes – aka plenty for J to get angry and rage about.
In preparation for Sunday’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view(PPV), I decided to re-watch the show from last year in Dallas, TX. Wait, that’s weird. Isn’t tonight’s RAW coming to us live from…well, never mind. Anyway, I’m not going to talk about the entire thing right now, because there’s a lot of important points and I want to save some of it for later in the week (also to use as examples for what TO or NOT TO do after tonight’s RAW is over.)
When someone says Hell in a Cell, most of us conjure up that image of Mankind coming off the top of the structure during his match with Undertaker at King of the Ring in 1998. Times have changed a great deal and there’s a lot of things the wrestlers aren’t allowed to do anymore – namely attempt to turn themselves into a slimy puddle of innards as Mick was apparently trying to do that night. But watching the 2014 main event of Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins showed that sometimes a great story can be beautifully seated inside a brutal and unforgiving backdrop.
In my opinion, the story involved in this match and previous PPV matches was what made it the match it was. For those who have since forgotten, a Rollins/Ambrose primer: Seth Rollins turned on his Shield brethren in June of 2014 after their successful defeat of Evolution at Payback. The following PPV, Money in the Bank, saw Ambrose and Rollins both participating in the Money in the Bank ladder match for the MITB briefcase, which Rollins won only after Ambrose was intercepted by Kane. It was only natural to put Rollins and Ambrose head-to-head in a singles match at Battleground, though we were forced to wait for it as Ambrose was ejected from the arena before the match could begin. Delayed gratification can be well worth the wait, though, as Ambrose and Rollins finally faced off in one of the greatest Lumberjack matches I have ever seen at SummerSlam, with the entire match managing to make the stipulation seem not only important but the right match for the participants. The next time we saw these ex-brothers together was at Night of Champions, when Ambrose emerged after third Shield member Roman Reigns was forced to forfeit (IRL – Roman suffered from a hernia that required immediate medical attention and could not participate in his planned match. Wonder where that story was supposed to go…) Which lead us to HIAC.
There was real pain in this match, and not just from leaping off the side of the structure. Before that it’s fun (though maybe not for the guys involved. Well, possibly for them too) and trick-heavy. It’s definitely entertaining, but it’s sort of a “how can we out-do what has come before us” sort of thing. Ambrose sets the bar high – very high – by climbing to the top of the structure and forcing Rollins, along with Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury, to come and get him. By the time the bell is actually rung, we’ve already had our violence quota met. But it gets better.
After throwing Rollins off a stretcher and into the side of the cell, Ambrose gets himself and Rollins inside and screams for the refs to lock the door. Once Rollins is actually in the ring, Ambrose gets his moment. He picks up a chair, unfolds it and sits down, watching Rollins struggling to get up. And at this very moment, there is beauty in the breakdown. He’s screaming at Rollins, spit flying from his mouth, his hair matted with sweat.
“Now you pay for it, Seth, now you pay for it. You stabbed me in the back you son of a bitch.”
He stands quickly, folds the chair up, and hits his one-time comrade right in the back. Rollins falls, screaming and flailing, and as Ambrose readies himself for another hit, there is such a conflicted look on his face. This is his right – this is his catharsis. But in a way, it doesn’t seem cathartic at all. In this moment, you get the feeling that Dean Ambrose would have been much happier riding the mid-card with his buddies if that’s what they were destined for, than main-eventing to exact revenge against his best friend.
Now that is good story telling. The match that comes after is excellent – they work so well together it’s more like dancing than wrestling. The finish manages to leave a very sour taste in the audience’s mouth, sure. But in between the mayhem and the drudgery, there is a story that is incredible.
And there is nothing like that on the card for Hell in a Cell 2015.
These kinds of stories don’t write themselves. Not only do you need to plan it for a long time before you can have something that epic play out in a match, you also need two performers who clearly have a deep-rooted connection to make every moment, every motion, as real and as palpable as possible. We root for Dean Ambrose because we’ve all been hurt by our friends – been let down and disappointed. We’ve all had a moment where someone we love chooses their best interests over ours. It’s painful, but it’s more painful to lose the friendship, and that’s what we saw last year.
Saying that I understand how hard it is to craft something like this is not a pass for the creative team at WWE. What I expect from them is to rise to the occasion and create as many stories like this as possible. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of creative minds, and a deep understanding of the wrestlers and their abilities and connections. Never overlook two people who have chemistry, even if you think no one will buy them in a feud. You never know. People latch on to what they can feel – and a year later, we’re all still feeling Ambrose vs Rollins.
The Lady J’s “To Watch” List:
Ambrose vs. Rollins (Lumberjack Match) – SummerSlam 2014
Ambrose vs. Rollins (Main Event) – Hell in a Cell 2014
Ambrose vs. Rollins (Championship Match) – Elimination Chamber 2015