“The Best in the World is just a gimmick, I’m better than the best. I actually am as good as everyone pretends to be. It’s scary.”
Those were the words that Dean Ambrose uttered in his first promo in FCW, after the WWE signed him and sent him to their training grounds. It turns out that those words may truly be prophetic, as Ambrose has shot out of the Shield’s demise like a cannon ball.
While most of the WWE Universe has been focused on both Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt as the (with all due respect to Brock Lesnar) “Next Big Things,” Dean Ambrose has proven time-and-time again that saying you’re
the ‘Best in the World’ is far less meaningful than actually showcasing it.
On June 9th, 2014, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns cut a promo a week after Seth Rollins put a chair to his fellow Shield members, effectively ending the Shield’s 18 month run. The Rollins-turn seemed like a head-scratcher to many, since Ambrose-turning-heel rumors had been blossoming for weeks.
It turned out to be a brilliant move, as Ambrose absolutely stole the show with a blistering promo that literally left Reigns scrambling in his wake. Reigns regained form, and at the end of their four minutes, both had launched their solo WWE careers in fine fashion, but my bet is the WWE would love to go back and rearrange who went first.
What does Ambrose bring to the table?
Let’s start with his promo style, which is truly unlike anything that the WWE has ever seen. Well…that’s not totally true, but I’ll get to that in a second. Ambrose can “talk,” and in my opinion, is one of the best on the mic in the WWE right now. No, he’s not purposefully witty, like Jericho can be, but he has a sardonic sense of humor that seems to often come out without losing his edge.
Think back to when Steve Austin gave Vince McMahon and the Corporation a beer bath prior to Wrestlemania 15. Think back to when Austin threw the Rock’s Intercontinental Title belt into the Oyster River. It was edgy, but it was funny.
That’s Dean Ambrose.
What makes him special on the mic is the cadence. While there is a rhythm to everything that he says, it’s very off-balance…very off-beat…almost chaotic. It fits his character extremely well, and even more importantly, allows him to stand out. While I know that some of his promos are scripted, he can easily work with nothing, and he can make the scripted stuff sound purely Ambrose.
I have yet to see him cut a promo that wasn’t good.
His promos are nothing like Stone Cold Steve Austin’s, except for having a distinct cadence that draws in the listener, as well as smacking you in the face. While Austin delivered his promos with a much more deliberate rhythm that ultimately allowed the crowd to fit in their “What” chants, Ambrose’s offbeat take works in the same manner. He draws you in…then smacks you around.
It’s fairly brilliant.
While the similarities to Austin on the mic are there if you look hard enough, the mentality is less Austin, and more like one of Austin’s former tag team partners and good friend, Brian Pillman. Pillman began to develop his “Loose Cannon” gimmick in 1994 and 1995, and you honestly never knew what you were going to get in the ring. Was he a face? Was he a heel? Was it a shoot, or was it staged?
Ambrose has that type of charisma, which is a grand compliment, as Brian Pillman was truly one of innovators of “off-balance,” shoot promos. Ambrose doesn’t go nearly as far as Pillman did just prior to the WWE’s attitude era, but you know that he’s only a PG-rating away from just tearing it up on the mic on a nightly basis.
When you combine his mic work with his facial expressions, a lost art in today’s professional wrestling, you have something incredibly special, and I can say that without one ounce of hyperbole.
At 28-years old, I feel safe in saying that Ambrose is already one of the top five or ten mic-workers in the WWE. I may not be giving him enough credit.
While he is impressive with the mic, where he really stands out from a raw wrestler like Roman Reigns is with his in-ring work. While Reigns clearly needs time to develop the ability to carry matches longer than five or ten minutes long by himself, Ambrose is already doing just that. He doesn’t need the protection of a team to stand out, which is likely why he received the push with the U.S. Title, while Rollins protected Reigns with the tag team belts.
This is no knock on Reigns, to say the least. He’s physically gifted and fluid, and figuring things out quickly. He’s just not as polished as Ambrose, who has wrestled a lot longer than his bigger and more publicized pal. While Reigns is a year older and from the famous Anoia’i family (he’s the son of Sika, of the Wild Samoans, and cousin of “The Rock,” Yokozuna, Rikishi, Umaga and the Usos, to name a few), he didn’t start wrestling until 2010.
The 28-year old Ambrose has been wrestling for ten years already, and has polished his skills in the independent ranks prior to signing his deal with the WWE. He’s a no frills wrestler who can really do whatever you ask of him.
Ambrose, like many others, was an obsessed wrestling fan, but different in many ways to wrestlers in his cohort. While he’s one of the younger stars in the WWE, Ambrose grew up buying wrestling magazines and watching the T.V. shows like kids in the 70’s and 80’s, as opposed to the smarks of the internet generation. A case in point is his twitter account, @TheDeanAmbrose. His tagline: “They made me get a twitter…..Fine….Enjoy.” He has three tweets, and 158,000 followers.
To hear him talk about watching wrestling as a kid…is certainly throwback. Growing up, he truly believed that there was “real” professional wrestling, and you can see that in the way that he’s developed over the past ten years. He walked into Les Thatcher’s wrestling school as a fan, knowing nothing, and Thatcher’s school was as basic as you get. He did the basics, mopping the floors and set up the ring for Thatcher’s wrestling shows, and learned the ropes from Cody Hawks, as well Matt Stryker, who met a 16-year old Ambrose at the door on his first day.
What did he learn how to do?
He learned how to sell.
That’s what Dean Ambrose does, and he does it at a high level.
Who talks about selling more than anyone else, and the lack of selling in today’s wrestling?
Find some interviews with Dean Ambrose on selling…then compare.
He’s a throwback.
When Ambrose grew through the independents, he was considered the best at that game. At one point, according to Ambrose, he held seven belts while in the Indys, wrestled everywhere he could, and really got noticed, not only for his promo work, but for his in ring physicality. When he hooked up with Gabe Sapolsky of DragonGateUSA and Evolve fame, it was a match that proved to be the final straw to Ambrose reaching the WWE pinnacle.
According to Sapolsky, talking about his first time working with Ambrose:
I eagerly awaited for Ambrose to arrive at the armory for the Peterson Cup. I wanted to see what he was all about face-to-face. Shortly after he arrived, I immediately seized the opportunity to work with him for the first time. I wasn’t sure what we had on our hands, but I was about to find out.
“Come on,” I said to Ambrose before he had time to prepare for anything, “time to cut a promo.”
We scurried into a back room, I think a janitor’s closet actually. He asked if there were any bullet points. I purposely told him to just run with whatever he thought the people should know about him. He then cut an amazing, unique and distinctive promo that floored me.
When he was done my gut instincts were screaming, “PUT THIS GUY IN SOMETHING NOW!”
There, Ambrose worked some incredible matches with many current top superstars, including CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, proving that his ring skills rivaled his mat skills. Remember, we’re talking about a 28-year old kid, who has 10 years of wrestling experience.
Ambrose, the performer, is something special. “I don’t want to go back to the same well, for my own creativity,” Ambrose said in a recent interview. “I want to keep doing new things…but once I’m kind of done with it, I want to move on to the next thing. I try and look at the landscape of everything…predict where it’s going go…and be prepared for who I want to work with and what story I want to be telling. I’m constantly looking ahead.”
Ambrose is a fairly simple guy.
“I don’t ask a lot of questions…because the answers you get are specifically spun to you, which might not be the case. You don’t learn from talking, you learn from listening. I like to scope it out. You have to look at things objectively…you get a realistic look of the land. I don’t give anyone any ammo to fault me with.”
He is who he is, which is a refreshing take in today’s wrestling game.
What is Dean Ambrose?
He’s a guy full of revenge. He’s a guy that’s a bit crazy. He’s a guy that is the new bad-ass on the block. He has the look of some sorta of messed-up hybrid of Steve Austin and Brian Pillman…with mic and wrestling skills that will put him at the top of the wrestling heap with today’s current crop of stars.
While Roman Reigns has been built by the WWE for four years to get the post-Cena run as a big, fan-favorite star, it’s Dean Ambrose that seems to have the skill, finesse and approach that could actually get the job done. He has a foundation of fans that he built winning multiple independent titles, and is respected by every promoter that he’s worked for.
He is the anti-authority right now, who is the exact same guy as a face in the post-shield era, as he was heel in the Shield era. Look, Stone Cold Steve Austin is arguably the top wrestler of all-time, so comping him to Austin, or Pillman, truly isn’t fair, but you can see it growing with every promo. You can feel it building in every match.
He’s methodical in the ring, and while he’s changed subtly between his Shield days with his first-time solo run, the style remains the same. It seemed as though his run with the U.S. Title was built on breaking an opponent down with thought and precision. He worked slow, dominated in most of the matches, and ultimately won most of his matches. Now, he works as though he’s losing control, as though Rollins has pushed him out of his precision…while Ambrose tries to wreak his revenge.
What does the WWE think? You don’t have to go any further than his theme song to figure that out.
It seems generic, but the similarities to this guitar/drums driven track is unmistakable:
Could Ambrose be on a Steve Austin track? Might the next great Rock vs. Austin feud turn out to be Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose? Could you pepper in some Seth Rollins, in the Heartbreak Kid role, than top it off with some Bray Wyatt in that Undertaker, supernatural role?
There’s nothing like setting up four 20-somethings up for comparisons with four of the greatest professional wrestlers of all-time, but it certainly could happen if the WWE plays it right.
And while all four of these wrestlers look to be something special because of their look, their development, their history and their skills, to me, Ambrose is the real, “Next Big Thing…”
…and in an era in which Professional Wrestling is losing fans at an alarming rate, is it possible that Ambrose, the most unique and non-construct wrestler of the bunch ends up being the best of his generation?
Believe in Dean Ambrose…he’s just getting started.