If you came here looking for a recap of my experience at the SmackDown taping last night, you’re two days early. I don’t believe in spoiling things for people for no good reason, so that post will go up on Friday.
I will tell you that I got to see a decent number of matches – some that were even longer than I thought they might be. The group I was with was extremely satisfied with the main event of the evening, which feature (among others) current Intercontinental champion Dean Ambrose. It brought about a lot of feelings for me, as I have been a huge Dean Ambrose fan since The Shield was still together but have lately been unhappy with where his character has gone.
When The Shield broke up and Ambrose became a singles competitor, his character was clearly on the verge of becoming The Joker. (If you’ve never heard me expound on this concept, I suggest you check out this piece I did for Cageside Seats a year and a half ago.) He was wild, unpredictable, and single-minded. He was out to destroy his ex-brother, Seth Rollins, and he didn’t appear to care what else happened on his way to achieving that goal. With no regard for his own well-being, The Lunatic Fringe would go to great lengths to ensure Rollins’ received his comeuppance for betraying his teammates.
This hungry, man-driven-mad character got Ambrose over in a big way. There are definite points between June of 2014 and June of 2015 where it is clear that he was more over than his Shield-mates. His propensity for killer promos and a devil-may-care attitude struck a chord with fans. More and more chants could be heard each week for him on episodes of RAW and SmackDown. By the time he “won” the WWE World Heavyweight championship from Rollins in the main event of 2015’s Elimination Chamber PPV, it had reached a fever-pitch. After that, we started getting Ambrose as the hot-tag man in all the main event tag matches that WWE could create, and was certainly the start of the path he walked to becoming Intercontinental champion.
What we see now on TV isn’t even a shadow of that character. I think even before Rollins’ injury led to Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight championship at Survivor Series last month, we had started to see The Lunatic Fringe become some version of a douchey dude-bro who cares about nothing except a killer party and his brothers. While he’s old single-mindedness was appealing to me as a fan, his lack of caring about ANYTHING now, coupled with interviews in which he seems to be trying to convince us he cares about titles (why, I do not know) makes him hard to take. He’s doing interviews that make him sound like everyone else. If his voice wasn’t as distinct as it is, it would be easy to close your eyes and assume his promos belonged to Dolph Ziggler or any other babyface on the roster.
For me, the absolute rock-bottom of this descent into obscurity came when Ambrose won his current championship title off of Kevin Owens at TLC earlier this month. His celebration afterwards included crossing himself (?!) and thanking the ceiling. His last “title celebration” at Elimination Chamber was wilder and far more in character – a look of shock, and then a great deal of laughter. In that case, his win was short-lived but there was purpose behind it. What he really wanted was to take something from Seth Rollins. Why wouldn’t they use a similar premise for his win over Owens? Kevin Owens is a prize-fighter, who has gone around the bend since losing his title to Ambrose. Why is Ambrose not baiting Owens with the title, making it clear he doesn’t care about it at all and just doesn’t want Owens to have it?
Here’s what makes me angry: Ambrose is a fan favorite. He was over as a crazy babyface with the fans. Why did the powers that be look at that and feel the need to alter him in any way? It’s as if they said “well, the fans love him as a babyface, so let’s change his character to be our version of a babyface.” How does that make any sense? If someone’s character is already über-over with your fanbase, the LAST thing you should do is change that character in any way! Plus, it’s completely unbelievable at this point that Dean Ambrose is beating Kevin Owens clean. If Kevin Owens is beating John Cena clean, he’s certainly not losing a traditional wrestling match to Dean Ambrose, who throws the most ridiculous punches possibly in all of WWE at this moment. Why not walk that line we all love to see messed with and have him behave like the insane pseudo-heel he really is. He can outthink Owens, for sure, as Owens anger gets the better of him. Why would Ambrose ever put himself into a situation he couldn’t win? He loves a fight, but he loves messing with his opponent more. Win the belt by whatever means necessary – you’ll get all the fighting you could dream of.
It’s hard for me to wear my Explicit Ambrose Violence hoodie now, though of course I still do. I’m hopeful the more Moxley side of Ambrose will return one day. Until then, Champbrose is barely recognizable as my Joker dream.