Dean Ambrose finally did it, in what must rank as one of the most heart wrenching betrayals in WWE history, yesterday Dean Ambrose turned on his brother Seth Rollins, attacking him and leaving him laying as he walked away from their brotherhood.
Dean turning on Seth has been a trigger that WWE creative’s finger has been hovering over for probably over a year now but it is a chamber with only one bullet in it so when they pulled it they needed to hit the mark, and boy did they pull this turn off well. So before we get into the why and what next for Rollins and Ambrose let’s just appreciate some of the finer points of how this was all pulled off so flawlessly.
The first bit they got right was the timing, oh the utterly barbaric timing of it. Ever since Dean Ambrose came back in August everyone who knows anything about wrestling has been waiting for this to happen. Whether you thought it would happen in the first night’s of Dean’s return or like me thought it would be a slow burn, we were all waiting for that moment. However after Roman Reigns relinquished the title and embraced an openly weeping Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose on the stage, we were lulled into a false sense of security. It simply couldn’t be this night, not after that speech, that embrace, not after their brother departed, no one wanted to see that. But that is what has made this plot twist all the more sweetly excruciating, the WWE was able to claim back the element of surprise that would have been missing on any other night involving these two.
While it has looked like the Dean Ambrose heel turn was being set up for a long burn, seizing this awful set of circumstances and taking the audience on an emotional roller coaster of sadness, to jubilation as The Hounds finally won the tag team titles and then rocketting them down to anger and confusion, will only benefit the story and give it more weight historically. One of the things that made the original Shield spit so good was that it came at the peak of the stable’s power and popularity, the WWE seized the story when it was hottest and while I doubt this turn was set to originally go down this way, seizing this emotionally charged night could not have been better. As Michael Cole said on commentary, “Not tonight, not THIS night”. You can believe that will be in a thousand promo videos to come.
The second piece of the puzzle was the acting and production of it. I firmly believe that when it comes to pure wrestling storytelling Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins are numbers 1 and 2 in the world. While they could probably moonsault and suplex with the best of them, these two set themselves apart in sculpting fully fleshed out characters and creating emotionally engaging character arcs, both men brought their absolute ‘A’ game tonight.
Righteous fury and anger bristled out of every single pour of Dean Ambrose body as he attacked Seth Rollins. His eyes burned with purpose, his body shook with rage and his voice cut through even as he rained fists down on his brother, hit Dirty Deeds on the concrete, before throwing his Shield shirt at Rollins and exiting through the crowd. His internal dialogue spilled out after the initial attack giving the audience a glimpse into a man not entirely certain of his own feelings.
While Dean’s electric performance no doubt drew the eye, it was the vulnerability of Seth Rollins that really tore my heart out in the segment. As Ambrose rained down punches Rollins pleaded with his brother to remember their bond and tried to touch Dean’s face, something he does often after matches to show affection. Rollins put his hands up to stop the attack and not once tried to do anything back. In the macho world of wrestling the normal response to unprovoked assault is to immediately fire back but not Rollins tonight. His character has experienced the dark path his brother is going down so instead of pushing his brother further along that road, his reaction was to plead with Ambrose to stop.
The contrast between the two was only enhanced by the perfect framing of the pair by WWE’s cameramen and production crew that intercut Dean’s made his exit with sadness beyond belief flooding Rollins face. On all fronts the performers and production smashed this out of the park.
Lastly while the finer story details and symbolism these two sprinkled throughout this performance were not front and centre, they add so much narrative depth to this story and it would be a shame to not at least recognise them:
– The callback to the look of shock on Dean’s face when Seth hit Roman in the back in 2014 as Dean made his final decision to attack Rollins.
– Dean saying “Not such a party now,” points back to happier times when the brothers first won the Raw Tag Championships last year and Seth said it felt like a party in the ring the night after.
– Dean claiming “You told me this was going to happen”. no doubt references the times in 2014 and 2015 that Rollins claimed The Shield would sooner or later fracture anyway and he just swung the first punch.
– Lastly I am convinced Dean throwing in his Shield combat vest and walking up the steps The Shield normally walk down is powerfully symbolic of him leaving The Shield behind him for good. When he has previously walked away from Roman and Seth he has just gone to the back but now he has gone out the way he came in, becoming an outsider once more.
As far as I’m concerned that final segment is as good as it gets storytelling wise but as good as it was, the question on everyone’s lips now is why?
While I won’t delve too deeply into the character of Dean Ambrose here (I covered that alongside Samuel ‘Plan here if you are interested) what this seems to come down to is Dean Ambrose own view of the world and how that clashes with Rollins’.
Contrary to what WWE commentator or other wrestlers might say, Dean Ambrose is not a lunatic, in fact in his mind he may be the only sane person in the room. Dean looks at the materialistic world we live in, a world full of people seeking fame and fortune at all cost, understands the fleeting nature of all those things and despises it. Instead he values the bonds he has forged alongside others and experiences with them. It is why he has always valued The Shield brotherhood so highly, often more than the other two members who don’t share his extreme outlook.
So when people call him a lunatic it grates on him and that irritation with the commentators, the audience, other performers and even his brothers only grew as he took time off to heal and they moved on from him. He has been a raw nerve of emotion since returning in August and when Seth called him a lunatic last week it was meant in jest but gave an already edgy Ambrose a glimpse of how his ‘brother’ may view him.
On this night of already heightened emotion, when this visibly distraught man who values the bonds with his two brothers above all, was put into a match for trinkets, status and chasing glory, everything inevitably boiled over. Seth’s jubilation at winning cemented in his mind a thought that has been growing for weeks now. It showed him that Seth Rollins does not value him and the bond they have as brothers as he does. In Ambrose mind, Rollins was chasing this material item over being with his brother, the exact thing Ambrose despises. It was what Seth Rollins originally betrayed him for years ago and in his mind it was what Rollins called him a lunatic for last week.
Ambrose incoherent internal monologue as he punched the canvas after the first Dirty Deeds and look of devastation as he exited showed just how much it hurt him to betray the very bond he values so highly and hinted at how unstable he may be in the weeks to come.
As for Seth Rollins, earning his brother’s forgiveness was the final thing Rollins needed as he put himself back together in 2017. That positive world he built for himself, that world that has led to so much success this year has been utterly shattered by this betrayal. The look of sadness and confusion on his face show a man who does not understand why his world has come crashing down. In his mind his performance to win the tag titles was not a betrayal of his brother Roman but a tribute to him, how could he have ever seen this coming?
So what’s next? This fundamental difference between Ambrose and Rollins has been exposed and it seems like they are headed for war again. Given Seth’s approach towards Ambrose last year and his refusal to fight Dean tonight I can’t seem him engaging in it readily, but given the unstable nature of this iteration of Dean Ambrose, it may become a matter of self defence. Unlike years ago Rollins doesn’t have anything to be sorry for either, he may want his brother back but if Ambrose provokes him too much he may just take the excuse to get on the front foot.
Whenever Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins have clashed they have created greatness. The ongoing story of these two characters has lasted for years and is perhaps the greatest long term story the WWE has ever written. Sadly I can’t see them drawing this one particular arc all the way out to Wrestlemania (although if anyone could do that it is these two) however the great thing is that even once these boys are done with each other, when they face off in a tag match, or when one of the comes down the aisle at a Royal Rumble, all that history will only add weight to the fight. Right now after such a great start, I only expect them to continue that trajectory of greatness.
Bring on next week!
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