Reflecting on Dean Ambrose's WWE Heavyweight Championship win



Ambrose is the champ. Seth pinned Reigns clean in his return match. Reigns got suspended for a wellness violation.


You really want to have a discussion on this?

Apparently so. I will be honest, my thoughts on the matter have gone through lot of chances since the main event at Money in the Bank. And as always, this not meant as a statement of objective truth, rather musings on the matter and pondering on why WWE made the decisions they did.

You think you can actually say anything new about this? The amount of takes has been staggering.

Probably not, but I am not really even trying. Since I am not an insider, the only thing I can look at what has been stories that have told with the limited amount of knowledge available.

And I already felt the number of people read drop drastically. Double-checking that you are certain about this. I mean Rusev is there and he is awesome to talk about.

Nope, we are doing this.

Le sigh, fine. Where do we start?

Excellent question and I guess the only place we can start is the title change, well, title changes at MitB.

You mean that now tainted moment of glory when Ambrose raised his title to the crowds and was embraced in a way that hasn't been seen in ages?

Wait, why would it be tainted?

Because it only happened because Reigns popped a Wellness violation? It's not because of Ambrose that that moment took place, but rather because of getting separating Reigns from the belt.

I would disagree that it is that simple.

How could it not be? They had clearly build the story for Reigns to continue his reign.


Did you notice the pun?

I keep repeating myself, that is not how puns work.

I disagree.

...Okay, we are not repeating that discussion. My first disagreement here is that the story they told leading to the PPV was consistent because it really wasn't.

What do you mean, they were clearly the Guy as the hero there?

Initially yes. The first two weeks Rollins clearly was positioned as the villain there, actively going after the crowd and being an irritating ass.

Man, I loved Rollins's return promo and how he got the crowd to turn on him.

And the ring runner segment the very next week?

Ugh, why did you have to remind me of that?

Because they both had the same narrative function. Make Reigns seem like the big bad-ass facing down the arrogant heel. Which was awkward considering the only thing it seemed to achieve was that the crowd booed both of them.

But the video packages? It doesn't fit in to them.

No, it didn't, which is really interesting in retrospect. During that time it was largely mocked how WWE wasn't really doing a good job with their alignments-

Which they weren't.

But afterward, I wonder if that was the first sign that there was a large creative shift on Rollins's character behind the scenes. Consider, he stopped after the crowds, even now, even if he is a greyish heel, he is not actively antagonizing the audience.

...So you think they were planning for a Rollins win?

Heavens no, Reigns was still the top guy, but this felt the first time there was any sign of hesitation on the company front concerning that. That they were thinking about Rollins about something other than Reigns's foil to be toppled, but Reigns was obviously still going to beat him.

Why would they have second thoughts? The much spoken house show numbers? Merchandise?

How would I know. Maybe all of them, although something else happened at this point.

The campaign for the Brexit vote?

… I am not even going to ask why that would be relevant.

Just trying to keep things topical. Maybe Vince and Roman had a vocal argument on the global effects of Britain's exit from the EU and the impact of populism on such votes.

Anyway, the brand split which suddenly raised huge questions about who were the top guys on the different brands and what would functions there. It might have also made Reigns experiment to come under more scrutiny as the two brands would create a very strong test for.

The Reigns experiment? Are you going to slam Reigns now?

No, I don't mean that in a negative sense. It is simply a reference that what they were trying to do with Reigns is almost unique within professional wrestling as they basically made building the new face of the company in record time a priority and basically showing willingness to sacrifice other members of the roster to do so. While doing this, they also started a two year negotiation with the audiences about what their reactions really meant, what they should do and how their reactions were weighed.

Still sounds negative.

It isn't meant as such. This isn't a comment on Reigns the performer, but rather what the company trying to do. If that was a success to someone, it doesn't change that it was an experiment, but this is going a little off-rails. What was central was that the brand split suddenly removed the disposable nature of Reigns's opponents. Another factor was that the brand split suddenly made the Shield Triple Threat a larger priority than previously thought.

Wait, what? Why would it matter? And wouldn't Wrestlemania be that moment?

Because it was extremely unlikely that three of them would work on the same brand, which requires them to rethink their time schedules. Especially since the real money was in the Shield reunion after their clash which could only happen either after they ended up on the same brand or after the brand split was eliminated. Thus the timing of their Triple Threat had to be rethought which also required creative to re-examine the roles of the three men in that feud. Add to that Rollins wasn't successful enough in drawing heat to make people to cheer Roman.

So they were already planning for Ambrose to win the Money in the Bank match? But Kevin Owens?

Was probably the original plan to be the winner as he is the prototypical MitB winner.

… I hope because he is awesome?

It's bonus, but no. If you think about it, the briefcase has almost always been won by a mid-tier, upper mid-tier heel who has no connection to the current championship feuds. Notice how all of that applies to KO. It's logical because the briefcase is essentially a tool to take advantage of the champion at a moment of weakness, hence being ultimately a heel tool to draw heat and to give cause to righteous vengeance. For example, as much as was made about Sheamus winning the briefcase, he was the most fitting to those criteria that year.

But Cena? Punk? Bryan?

Cena is the exception and also was cheated of his win, kind of a reverse briefcase, but for both Punk and Bryan cashing in the briefcase was the start of their heel turn.

I- So you are arguing the Ambrose winning the briefcase wasn't because of Reigns popping?

It would certainly would have caused it, but I would bet that they were intending to do it before the MitB weekend. Just look at the last week of the build towards the PPV and that Monday segment. Before that, Ambrose was a non-entity when discussing the dissolution of the Shield and Rollins's betrayal, but then that segment was made which naturally made Ambrose a part of the story. And even after that, Ambrose's victory was discussed as a part of the story. It was a huge narrative change to how they were promoting the match that only happened in the last week. And then there was the Thrice video package for the Money in the Bank match.

That video package was so cool. I've watched it so many times.

It was sublime. They are so good with those. However, an important feature in it was that almost always when they ran through the participants, which they do a lot in that package, Ambrose is either first or last wrestler shown. Misdirection is common in these things, just look at Reigns last year, but it didn't fit they had told the weeks before where they didn't really focus on anyone specifically.

… Wait, didn't they know beforehand that Reigns had given a positive result? Wasn't that the reason they took the title from him? So maybe they had already known a week ago?

Could be, but remember that the betting lines, which are usually good indicators of WWE's plans, for the Roman/Rollins match massively changed on the match day itself. Based on that it I deeply suspect that they found about Reigns's misdeed on that very day and naturally booked him to lose the title then.

Okay, even if I were admit that makes sense, and I'm not, it doesn't change the fact that Ambrose only got the title because they had to take it away from Roman.

Sure, but so what?

It tarnishes his great moment?

How? Punk won the title from Cena in Chicago because Cena made an ultimatum to McMahon. Bryan got his Wrestlemania moment because Punk left the company that January. Stone Cold got his push because Triple H angered people backstage. If you look at lot of the really great historic moments in WWE, shocking number of them are because something happened that forced creative to scramble and trust someone they didn't expect to. That is what makes those moments so surprising and memorable.

But even there they didn't get their opportunity because of their hard work, just like Dean Ambrose.

No, the exact reason they were given that opportunity was because of their hard work. When things go wrong as bad as they with Reigns and you are forced to scramble, you don't pick a random performer, you go with the person who has proven themselves most. Here, that person was Dean Ambrose because he had earned that moment with his hard work. And even if there are many opinions about him as a performer, you can't deny that the crowd embraced that moment.

But it still wouldn't have happened if Reigns hadn't screwed up. Without Reigns's failure, there wouldn't be any reward for Ambrose.

The only answer I can give for that a question. What matters more: That Dean Ambrose won the title because he worked so hard to earn that opportunity when it was presented or that Roman Reigns lost the title because creative backstage lost faith in him as their top guy?

… Hold on there, didn't you already state that they had decided on the Shield Triple Threat? So wouldn't that also be a reason why Ambrose won?

Of course, there are always several reasons for any win, but it doesn't remove the fact that Ambrose won. Furthermore, Ambrose's victory in itself is already a risk for the company, not just because that different energy and questions he brings about, but also how it affects Reigns and his future. If they really wanted to protect Reigns, they would have put the briefcase on KO, have him savagely beat down the victorious Roman and hold the title until the Big Dog comes for his righteous vengeance, with hopes that the crowd would now rally behind the wronged man. You know, pretty much what they tried with Sheamus.

But that wouldn't make the Triple Threat happen, if that was their plan already, would it? Try to spin that one then and how this isn't just Roman winning the title back there.

Sure, the ending of the Reigns/Rollins was most likely influenced by the Triple Threat and it should be. That match is money for the company which has a duty for its shareholders to make money. It still doesn't change, though, that Ambrose won the title, Rollins was made to look strong and they didn't protect Reigns at all. Roman is being taken off television after a clean and no injury angle. There is no furious return, no setting up a redemption angle, nothing to make Roman look good. Outside the two great matches of course.

So you think Ambrose is going to retain? That Reigns isn't going reign again? Pun master hits again.

First, I am going to buy you a dictionary. Second, at least don't repeat yourself. Third, it is a Triple Threat, so Rollins is an option as well. Fourth, I don't know. However, I also argue that no one knows yet how they are going to play it out at Battleground. When they did that switch, and based on reports it was Vince McMahon himself who insisted that it happened that way, they probably had an initial plan, but they also took a huge step in to a world where Ambrose and Rollins were presented as equals to Reigns. If the ratings suddenly rocket up or they see changes in the house show numbers, they might come to other conclusions. And then there is the Vince McMahon factor.

You mean the deciding guy who has thrown everything behind Reigns?

Exactly, the man who bet all on Reigns for two years despite varying degrees of response and was determined to make Reigns the face of the company no matter what. And then Reigns gets caught on a Wellness violation. We don't know what Vince's reaction to this is.

Wait, you think Vince would hold that against Reigns and prevent him from reigning again?

I am begging you to stop with the reign. The answer is probably not, especially since they love money and the Shield reunion will allow them to build a house made of gold. But it does cast doubt, at this point, what does the near future hold for Reigns. And that doubt is something we should embrace.

Huh? So we should just accept things if Reigns wins?

I didn't say that, but that would be up for every individual fan. My point is that I can't recall the last time the top feud in the company was this chaotic and unpredictable. There are arguments to be made for all three men to win from both the story point of view, but also from the metalevel where we falsely assume that we know what is going to happen.

There have been surprising results before, it isn't that unique.

But before those surprising results were such because we didn't see them due to the story being told and who we assumed were being pushed. Here, there is no real assumption about what even is the expected outcome of that match. We have rumors, but those are always just rumors and even those with truth of them are subject to change this far out. There are only two things we really know. At Battleground, in the main event, three guys who are really good at what they do are go in to the ring for the main event and give their all to put on one hell of a show. And when we move to the end stretch, every time we start seeing those pin attempts, we don't know if it's going to hit three or not. At this level, that is something we should be excited for.

That does actually sound pretty great. So what is the second thing we know?

Win or lose, with the coming brand split and this title victory, Dean Ambrose now has a chance to be the top guy at one of the brands. Maybe he can make, maybe he fails, maybe he shows himself the bigger draw. But now at least the company has given him that final push and given him his chance to shine at the top.

… I guess there's not much to say beyond that, is there?

Not that I can think of. And again, to anyone reading this far, I am grateful for attention and hope that this discussion didn't cause too much boredom and eye-rolling.

And to Reigns fans, never fear, Roman will probably reign again someday.

I hate you so much.

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