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Ode to Ambrose Part II: The Hounds of Justice

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Before the Cerberus

Visits from Ric Flair and a rejoining of D-Generation X marked WWE in 2012. The most refreshing part of the landscape was CM Punk, beloved for his improv skills and clear love of the art of wrestling itself, but even his most memorable moments were with the Rock and Chris Jericho. Jericho’s return was better accepted than that of even now thorn-in-the-side Brock Lesnar, another curse of 2012, but it’s still a testament to the times. 2012 was about recycling, reusing, not reducing though. There was plenty of John Cena to go around. Wrestling fans were weary. We hadn’t been given anything to care about in quite some time.

So the Shield comes in with ATTITUDE, a purpose, a drive… they were figures, commanding presences, in a world that had become a joke or an exhibitionist cruise. They created their own momentum in a WWE that had forgotten what momentum was.

Stylin’ & Profilin’

The Shield had the one-two punch of visual aesthetics and wrestling styles that complimented their gimmick and one another. Sure, these boys showed up in turtlenecks Sterling Archer would not have grimaced at but the shift from beatnik to militia was quick and effective. The gear is recognizable, tough, visceral, but it forces you to focus on THEM. Their words, their performance. From the very first the Shield is giving a masterclass in promo delivery and stage presence. There aren’t any cool t-shirts or interesting kick pads or weird masks to do it for them. They had to be cool and they had to take it seriously.

In ring there was Roman Reigns, a powerhouse, ground technician meets tank, moving with power even when he wasn’t throwing a punch. Seth Rollins as high flyer, sometimes strategist, using his speed and dexterity to take out two, three, four men at once with a jump or flip or kick. Dean Ambrose, the de facto mouthpiece, was brawler and tactician. A feral Bret Hart or Shakespearean Jericho. Their in ring chemistry was undeniable but they were each their own person. Even when the Shield had moments of disagreement, out right squabbles, it was clear that these men in a ring together was always a net gain for the audience.

“You beat us up, you leave us laying, you hit us with a sledgehammer in the head, we just don’t care.”

This is more than enough to draw the eye in a drought of the Jungian archetypes viewers are so thirsty for in an art form that combines theatrics with athletic feats. It’s almost overkill that these three were seemingly born actors. They could exist without a scripted bit, or in spite of it, because every interaction, every word spoken, built the mythos of the young Cerberus. Even bearing the weight of concepts like honor and justice, the delivery is sincere but unpretentious.

Die hards, smarks, casuals, any kind of “type” you might ascribe could find something in the Shield to love (or hate, which was the initial intention). Their backstage segments and actions ringside and post match solidified them as a family. This was not just a unifying of men for a common cause. These three wrestlers were dedicated to their morals and to one another.

And no one, not D-Generation X, not the Authority, not Evolution, not the straight edge savior CM Punk, could take the spotlight from them. They had our full, undivided attention. That level of star power is unfathomable.

And Dean Ambrose was particularly shiny. His mic skills didn’t end in the conviction of moral buzz words. He was adaptable, flexible. No audience participation, chant, or gimmick required. He matched (I’d say surpassed) CM Punk’s penchant for finding humor without losing his edge. And he never stops acting. Not when taking a breath, not when taking a bump, not as he walks up the ramp (or stadium stairs) after a match. You’ll find Academy Award winners who forget to think in character but his every moment of silence on camera is full. The Shield’s backstage segments were new, edgy, frankly a risk. He’s a large part of why it worked. The Lunatic Fringe brought stability and confidence to that new promo style. Dean Ambrose is such a phenomenal actor that even his moveset and in ring psychology adapt, evolve, or backslide, depending on who he’s facing, what he’s up against, and what might be on his mind.

No three others could have made the Shield what it was. Or perhaps anything at all.
And from where I’m standing it would’ve been easy for him to lean on what most fans and the company saw immediately, the next bad guy, the next anti-hero, the next Stone Cold or Punk.

But he didn’t.

He shone.

And the Shield shone with him.

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