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Dean Ambrose Spotlight #1: Bray Wyatt (2013 – 2014)

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The Wyatts gave The Shield the first feud to solidify them as fan favorites. They no longer toed a grey line with the WWE Universe. They were faces, they were good guys, and we wanted to see them win. After the separation of the Wyatt family, Bray Wyatt continued to hunt members of the Shield. At the very least, you cannot review the history of the Shield or the landscape of WWE in the year before and year after Wrestlemania XXX without placing the Wyatts as a figurehead.

But how did this impact the performance, character, and audience connection in regards to Dean Ambrose in particular?

“Are you their errand boy? Look at how they treat you! You’re a child!” – Bray Wyatt to Dean Ambrose

It can be inferred that Bray Wyatt initially wanted Roman Reigns. The Big Dog is who he baited first, is who took the first steps towards him. But it was in his interactions that he became infatuated with Dean Ambrose and began to groom him specifically. However, the Wyatts first tangle with the Shield happens when it seems Dean Ambrose may be about to tap to CM Punk (who may or may not have initially paid the Shield to protect him, though they chose to protect the title).

“I advise y’all to be careful, inviting the devil in your backyard. Cause… he may just like it. And decide to stay.” – Bray Wyatt

It provided us our first glimpses of Dean being barely able to control himself. Tiny steps forward, almost out pacing the rest of the Shield. His body pulled forward even when his feet were firmly planted on the ground. Grit teeth, nearly shaking.

One of the most memorable matches between the Wyatts and the Shield happens at Elimination Chamber in 2014. It is also a match that highlights the reckless loyalty and tangled chivalry that would keep fans hooked on Ambrose in the wake of the Shield split that summer.

“If the Wyatts want a new world, we’ll give ‘em a new world.” – Dean Ambrose, collecting himself after a near bout with Roman Reigns

The family’s tactic for the first half of the match is to keep Dean Ambrose separated from his Shield brothers, which works largely because Ambrose will suffer, brawl in any moment he can, rinse, repeat. Dean Ambrose does not ask for help. If Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins cannot tag themselves in, Ambrose won’t fight to get to the corner. He will fight to survive, an entity unto himself, with a high pain tolerance and perhaps too much heart. Roman Reigns has to yell him back to reality for Ambrose to take a moment to escape.

As Seth Rollins is taken out of the ring and brutalized, Dean Ambrose loses control and tries to bait the entire Wyatt family into fighting him, forgetting the match, letting Seth go. He abandons that angle, leans into the ring repeatedly, “Come on, Seth.” Bray Wyatt doesn’t bite… It doesn’t work in that regard but it does work to mark himself as prey.

Ambrose starts going after Bray Wyatt in particular. They fight through the crowd, disappear. Bray Wyatt comes back.

Dean Ambrose does not.

The first obvious signs of a possible Shield split come, not from the audience’s distrust of Seth Rollins or from the fraternal tension that ebbed and flowed between Ambrose and Reigns, but from a worry about the unhinged nature and possible grooming of Dean Ambrose.

The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield (Elimination Chamber 2014)

But on his own, a man of a self-imposed asylum in the wake of Triple H’s orchestrated ruin, in the collapse of his family at the hands of Seth Rollins, who he deeply protective off, Dean Ambrose continues to be chased, taunted, and courted by the Eater of Worlds.

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