Dean Ambrose: Mid-Carder or Main Eventer?

When the Shield debuted in late 2012 everyone knew that Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose would eventually go their own ways and forge impressive singles careers.
However many felt early on that Ambrose would be the biggest star of the three. After all, he started as the mouthpiece for the group. His promo skills had him exuding more confidence in his work than both Rollins and Reigns.

Being the chosen one of the group for a singles match with The Undertaker in early 2013 only helped the thought that he was the main event player in waiting. When the Shield claimed their first titles in WWE it was Ambrose who held singles gold. He would claiming the United States championship, a title he would hold for nearly a year.

As the end of the Shield’s run came closer, the dynamic of the group began to change slightly, with Rollins being showcased as more than just the worker of the group and Reigns being positioned as the leader of the group more so than Ambrose. This was particularly evident in the group’s feuds with The Wyatt Family and Evolution.

When the Shield finally imploded at the hands of Seth Rollins’ betrayal of the group the three men went their own ways. Roman Reigns went straight into the main event title picture, whilst Ambrose and Rollins entered into a lengthy upper mid-card feud culminating in a main event match at Hell in a Cell 2014.

Since the match at Hell in a Cell, Rollins has more or less stayed in the main event picture along with Reigns, whereas Ambrose’s place on the card has shifted several times. Going from the highs of main eventing PPV’s for the WWE title to the lows of finding himself relegated to the pre-show of this year’s Wrestlemania.

So where is Ambrose’s place on the card? Will he continue to shift between spots on the card or will he find himself a permanent place as either a headliner or a mid-carder? There are plenty of reasons to point to either position for Ambrose. His versatility is probably the key reason he does alternate as much as he has.

When in the mid-card, Ambrose can pretty much walk into contention for either of the secondary belts. Along with his US title run that was mentioned earlier, he has had two runs with the Intercontinental title. And with both runs with the IC title, he won the belt almost as soon as he decides to challenge the current title holder. However, a big problem whenever he has held a mid-card title is a seeming lack of title defenses due to him being involved in bigger storylines.

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He rarely defended the US title and during both his runs with the IC title. He also, found himself involved in the WWE title picture more often than not. His second run with the Intercontinental title was slightly better than the first. In reality though, taking the title from The Miz only for him to win it back a few months later was of no real benefit to anyone involved.

Some of Ambrose’s antics are better suited to the middle of the card. There are times he can come across as too comical. A prime example of this was his Ambrose Asylum talk show during his feud with Chris Jericho. That potted plant would not have worked in a main event title program. Or some of his interactions with The Miz in the last few weeks worked much better than his similar showings with AJ Styles when they battled for the WWE title last year.

As the main eventer, Ambrose works best when he is in chase mode. Some of his best work in the main event picture was when he chased Rollins for the title in 2015. Another solid run was when he was filling in for Roman Reigns, challenging Triple H at Roadblock 2016. It is at these times where Ambrose is at his most passionate and determined, getting the right balance with his unhinged character and anti-authority attitude. It’s when Ambrose finally reaches the top of the mountain or has to carry a program when issues start.

His feud with Brock Lesnar last year was one of the bigger disappointments of the road to Wrestlemania 32. Even beyond the build up, the match failed to live up to any of the expectations had. Also, his run as WWE champion on Smackdown Live seemed to fall flat at times. Part of this was down to fans wanting AJ Styles to be crowned champion. The feud they had over the belt had some very good moments and matches. Ultimately, their program relied too much on silliness with the inclusion of James Ellsworth.

Since the program with Styles ended, Ambrose has more or less stayed in the mid-card. He has moved to Raw where there is even more competition for main event spots. The likes of Reigns, Rollins, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe are much higher priorities on the red brand right now. Expect Ambrose to stay in the mid-card for the foreseeable future, feuding with the Miz and Elias Samson. He may find his way into the Universal Title picture somewhere down the line but probably not until after Wrestlemania 34.

Ultimately I do believe Ambrose has all the skills to stay in the main event. The circumstances and timing just need to be right. Perhaps a slight character change could help (heel turn anyone?!). But for now, he will have to bide his time in the IC title picture on Monday nights. Maybe he can even move into the tag team division with one of his ex-Shield brethren for a short period. Either way, hope is not completely lost on the Lunatic Fringe.

Writing credit goes to Jake O’Reilly

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