AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose
TLC match for the WWE championship
AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose have been locked up in a long feud. Coming out of SummerSlam, Dean Ambrose was the WWE champion, retaining his title against Dolph Ziggler. AJ Styles had an even bigger Slam accomplishment, defeating John Cena for the second pay-per-view (PPV) in a row. That put the men on a collision course at Backlash for the title.
AJ Styles won that match, with help to a swift kick to the Lunatic’s fringes (his balls... he kicked him in the balls) when the referee wasn’t looking.
They had another title match at No Mercy, but this time the former 15 time champion John Cena was involved as well. Despite tapping out to both the STF from Cena and the Calf Crusher from Ambrose at the same time, he went on to win the match.
But Ambrose wasn’t going to let this go. The next night, he wanted to fight AJ again but the champ wasn’t having it. He had another opponent in mind. And that’s where James Ellsworth came in and changed everything.
James Ellsworth was a local talent who found fame by getting squashed by Braun Strowman on the debut Raw post brand split. Despite having fans get behind him, he hasn’t showed any in ring success in WWE, making him the perfect choice for the sneaky Styles to fight. It turns out Styles made a huge mistake.
Daniel Bryan was OK with the match but added Dean Ambrose to it as special referee. That spelled disaster for the champ. Despite dishing out massive punishment to Ellsworth, including an ugly Styles Clash (don’t tuck that head, James!), the Lunatic Fringe wouldn’t let his adversary win. It took two Dirty Deeds from the official, but James Ellsworth defeated the WWE champion.
Once more for emphasis: James Ellsworth pinned AJ Styles.
Sure Ellsworth got no offense in and it was all Ambrose. But it was humiliating for Styles. And because he was pinned, he’d have to defend his title against the Chinless Wonder the next week.
During that next match, a match that saw AJ Styles foolishly try a chin lock on the chinless one, the champ once again beat Ellsworth pillar to post. Ambrose wasn’t referee this time, but he was ringside to distract and annoy Styles. In fact, he verbally mocked AJ to the point where the champ got frustrated and got himself disqualified.
While Dean was just having fun messing with Styles, James Ellsworth was ever grateful for Dean Ambrose helping him out. He wanted to do anything to thank Ambrose for what he had done for him. Because of that, when Dean had a one on one match against Styles to get a chance to become #1 contender, James just wanted to be ringside to cheer his friend on.
Unfortunately, the Man With Two Hands got too overzealous. He saw a chance to get a measure of revenge against Styles who had attacked Ellsworth earlier on the match with no cause and he took it. Outside the ring, he delivered No Chin Music to the champ. He soon realized his mistake - that got the man he just wanted to help DQ’d.
Ellsworth was beside himself. He owed everything to Dean Ambrose and he just cost him a title shot. The following week, he apologized profusely to Dean, who was kind enough not to rip his head off. Ambrose wasn’t happy with the little guy, but Daniel Bryan had given him a second shot at Styles for a chance to become number one contender. Bryan also told Ellsworth he needed to leave the building, a move Dean was perfectly fine with.
But Ellsworth is a persistent bugger. He sneaked back into the arena just to cheer Dean on. Security tried to remove him, given the fact he had been banned from the building, but the little guy was too slippery. They chased him through the crowd and back around the ring area. This all distract Styles, allow Ambrose to soon hit a Dirty Deeds for the win to become number one contender. For the Chinless Wonder, things were right in the world.
The feud between Styles and Ambrose took a bit of a pause as they teamed together for Survivor Series. Ellsworth stuck around as Dean’s little buddy and he was even the mascot for the SmackDown Survivor Series team at the PPV.
Since James helped his team eliminate Braun Strowman during the match (no, seriously), he was offered a contract by Shane McMahon. AJ Styles interrupted, saying that Ellsworth should have a ladder match with Styles to win his contract. Ellsworth, despite being massacred by Strowman two nights prior, agreed with the added stipulation that if he won, he’d get a WWE shot.
I think you can all guess how this one went. Due to Dean Ambrose (who was banned from the building much like Ellsworth was when he helped Dean), cost the champion the match.
Styles had enough. The following week, he got an opportunity to beat the holy hell out of James Ellsworth and he did. It ended with a Styles Clash from the ring steps to the floor, a move that even JBL thought went too far. He needed to be stretchered out of the building.
Dean Ambrose was beside himself that this happened. As Ellsworth was being loaded into the ambulance, Dean said "This is my fault. We'll fix it." and then got into the ambulance alongside him.
Without Dean even realizing it, James Ellsworth went from a joke Dean played on AJ Styles to his friend. Few have showed such loyalty to him. Ambrose doesn’t have many friend. He likely still has trust issues from when his Shield brother Seth Rollins stabbed him in the back. But after all this time, the Lunatic Fringe realized he actually cared about James Ellsworth and may actually have felt bad for his actions partially leading to AJ’s attack on him.
After seeing his buddy to the hospital, he made sure to come back to take out some of that fury on AJ Styles. Fun and games were over. This became personal.
This Sunday, Dean Ambrose will fight for the WWE title and the honor of his fallen friend. AJ Styles will look to remain the Champ the Runs the Camp. Will James Ellsworth be watching from a hospital bed or will he drag his beaten carcass to the arena to cheer on his friend?
Tune into TLC on the WWE Network at 8 EST to find out. And for all of your TLC coverage, keep it here at CagesideSeats.com.