Earlier this week, rumors swirled online that former WWE champion, Dean Ambrose opted not to renew his contract when it expires in April. Surprisingly, WWE confirmed the news so Ambrose is definitely going to exit the company in just a few months. PWInsider reported that Ambrose turned down a long term seven-figure deal. His run as Jon Moxley on the independent circuit is well-documented and considering all the talent he brings to the table, after eight years in the WWE system, his run there is almost underwhelming, which isn’t a jab against him.
Perhaps, the most intriguing part of this story is that Ambrose turned down millions of dollars not to continue to work for the WWE.
Unfortunately, similar to many others, Ambrose seemed to get lost in the shuffle of the Roman Reigns super push and there was a glass ceiling for his progress within the organization. Even when Dean had more of a featured role, management never truly gave him the chance to run with it, and recycled angles, including a pair of Shield reunions to help get Reigns a better reaction from the audience last year, more or less put Ambrose in the same spot throughout his career.
After the Shield’s debut in late-2012, Ambrose was the US champion, but rarely defended the belt and the title was more of a prop for him to take to the ring than anything that was emphasized as important. By the time the trio split in 2014, Ambrose moved to the IC title picture, a championship that could’ve been used to solidify his status as a competitor that moved up the card, but ultimately became a consolation prize when the writing team kept him in the mid-card.
In some ways, Dean was always kept at the status quo type position because even when it appeared he was given something of importance, he would eventually find himself back down the ladder, which made him a name, but again, he never got a full-fledged run as a top guy. For example, when he was booked for a match at WM with an unmotivated Brock Lesnar in 2016, the bout was known as the contest that Lesnar mailed in because he wanted something more important to do on the show. The match with Brock on the biggest stage of the year wasn’t designed to do anything to showcase the skills of Dean Ambrose. The following year at WM, he worked a preshow bout against Baron Corbin, which got completely lost in the shuffle of the six-hour event. The point being, when has Ambrose truly been showcased as a top-tier star at a marquee event? Sure, Ambrose had a brief, but forgettable run with the WWE title in 2016 through a MITB cash-in, but again, that eventually landed him on the preshow of WM in 2017 so what progress did that title win accomplish for Ambrose?
A triceps injury in late-2017 put him on the sidelines for most of the year, but his return a few months ago found him in another Shield reunion. As unfortunate as the injury was, it was a chance for Dean to return with a fresh start and the opportunity to rejuvenate his career. However, when Roman finally won the title, the Shield was reformed again so that he got a decent crowd reaction. Granted, Reigns was more of a priority for management, considering the amount of TV time they’ve invested in him, but for Ambrose’s individual career, it put him in the recurring role of a secondary member of a stable.
Ambrose’s heel turn that used Roman’s illness to attempt to get heat was a questionable decision, as those type of angles can sometimes get “change the channel” heat if it’s simply something the audience doesn’t want to watch. Aside from that, the Ambrose/Rollins feud was basically a retread of the original Shield split with the roles reversed so it was another angle that didn’t really progress his career. Now, despite another run with the IC title, Dean is still in the mid-card, which is essentially the same spot he was before the injury.
Aside from the repetitive booking, what hindered Ambrose’s WWE career?
Ultimately, WWE management didn’t know how to use Dean Ambrose to his full potential, and the sum total of his run probably makes him one of the most underutilized talents of the modern era. Former WCW announcer, Mark Madden phrased it right when he said that WWE books Dean Ambrose to be “sitcom crazy,” and that presentation took the edge away from him. Prior to his arrival in the company, Ambrose was compared to the legendary Brian Pillman for his ability to appear legitimately unstable. That persona was never given an opportunity on WWE TV. In fact, Ambrose has tremendous mic skills, but he was rarely given the chance to truly showcase it. The bottom line is, Dean has solid technical skills and great promos, which is a combination that should’ve allowed him to become a much bigger star than he was the past few years. Instead of believable promos that presented him as dangerous, the writing team put Ambrose in segments with slime and a talk show with Mitch the plant. More than anything, the career of Dean Ambrose was mismanaged for the majority of his run on the roster.
One of the key aspects of Ambrose’s exit is that it makes quite a statement about the organization when a talent turns down such a major contract because of the structure of the product. Quite simply, Dean Ambrose is too talented to flounder in the sports entertainment shuffle and he’s already made good money there. That being said, I don’t think Ambrose jumps to All Elite when it launches or wrestles for another group for at least several months after his contract expires in April. Ambrose is known as someone that lives a rather simple lifestyle so it’s a possibility that he decides to retire early. Hopefully, the exit of Ambrose and then Kenta, who asked for his release this week, will be something that gives management the initiative fully utilize the roster.
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Until next week
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