There is no Dean Ambrose with Seth Rollins. There is no Seth Rollins without Dean Ambrose. I’ve waxed poetic about the Shield so much already, but now it’s time to place the spotlight on the feud that defined two men, that solidified them as Superstars. Let us raise a glass (of champagne we stole from the Authority, preferably) to the gift the OG Shield split gave us.
Tale as old as time, one man stabs another man in the back. What makes this feud different, important, a classic? Heart.
Dean Ambrose wasn’t some folksy goof just to establish how lovable he could be. He was the same bruiser we came to know and love in the Shield, but hungrier, more driven. Still as ready to die, but now not for something. In pursuit of Seth Rollins.
Seth Rollins didn’t just break his trust or soil the honor of the Shield. Seth Rollins broke Dean Ambrose’s heart. And Ambrose never pretended he didn’t. The brand of male vulnerability that the Shield showed in their early days, absent of the unspoken no homos and tough guy stature of most wrestling relationships, spilled over.
“And that cancer’s name was Seth Rollins”.
The title became a surrogate for a broken heart. Seth Rollins’s facade, if not life in the context of the melodrama, was at risk. He gambled against himself. He became Plan B and now needed to be worth it for the Authority. Dean Ambrose refused to let him forget where he came from, who he was. Maybe more importantly, who he could be. It is an accident that Dean Ambrose evolved. He fully intended to put his life on pause to bring Seth back or end him.
“You more than anybody know the mile of crap that I have crawled through to get here, so let me ask you a question, brother… if I was willing to go through all that to get this, how far do you think I’d be willing to go to keep it?”
Things that easily could’ve been throw away gags or tired comedic relief to fill the very long three hours of Raw were deeply motivated actions. He’s pulling Seth Rollins’ pigtails. He’s making sure that even if the Authority gets rid of him, banning him permanently, tossing him in jail for extended periods of time, maybe even busting his skull open on cinder blocks, Seth Rollins will not forget Dean Ambrose. And so Seth Rollins will not forget the Shield, the promises he made, the vows he swore, the vessel of honor that he should’ve been.
In the age of gifs and inside jokes on wrestling Twitter, some forget that wrestling is live theatre before it is athleticism. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose never forgot. And so a slime filled briefcase, a bucket of ice, a budget effigy, are not eye roll worthy pranks but acts of desperation, but ways to keep Seth Rollins’ morality on life support.
Every interaction between these two is full, from cradle to grave, but particularly in the first entanglement of animosity. I’ve done my very best to select must see matches.
Monday Night Raw: Falls Count Anywhere, August 18th 2014
The Lumberjack match at Summerslam in 2014 was beautifully done and the first moment of Dean Ambrose making it clear that Seth Rollins would not escape him, but more harrowing, more emotional, was the Falls Count Anywhere match on the following Monday Night Raw. This introduced cinder blocks into the feud, a symbol that will crop up again and again. Seth Rollins is still the fledgling prince of the Authority and Kane steps in to assure Dean Ambrose’s destruction. The choices in performance by Kane, Rollins, and Ambrose are brilliant, even Charles Robinson gets in on that sweet, sweet heavy-handed storytelling.
Hell in a Cell, October 2014
This is a contender for the best match of either of their careers. It’s the first time we feel the emotional pulse of Dean Ambrose, his bravado stripped. The kendo stick becomes iconic in Dean Ambrose’s career, here he climbs the cell with it strapped to his back. It’s a beautiful example of Seth Rollins using his lackeys not just as physical barriers but as emotional protection. The cinder block is back and a special guest supernatural force gets in on the action. If you’ve never seen it, I recommend catching it on the WWE network in its entirety but you can watch Rollins and Ambrose watching it back.
Money in the Bank, June 2015
I could say so much about this match and the resulting “Technicality” promo but I’d rather let the match speak for itself. It is their souls laid bare. In that ring, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose become two former brothers, friends, comrades, wholly themselves, beating the hell out of one another. It was only about a week out from the anniversary of Rollins’ betrayal. Sadly, the promo, which was an homage to legend Dusty Rhodes (and who better to deliver it than Ambrose), did not make it to the Network, but it is available here.
Elimination Chamber, May 2015
If I had to choose a match to best highlight Rollins’ and Ambrose’s different but complementary in ring style, this would be it. J & J Security are allowed to be ringside and Roman Reigns has been banned but Ambrose is almost thrilled by the challenge. He’s all elbows, forearms, and clotheslines. This match places his moveset and his energy on a pedestal. The controversial ending after one of the BIGGEST pops added fuel to an already blazing fire and brings home the Shield’s flirtation with the line between chaotic and lawful good as Reigns shows to walk his brother home.
Here are some honorable mentions, which I’ll delve into in the latter half of this ode to our beloved lunatic undoubtedly:
Battleground, July 2014
Money in the Bank: Dean Ambrose cashes in, making each member of the Shield a title holder in one evening, June 2016
Battleground: Shield Triple Threat, July 2016
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