Mark For War: Main Event Fringe
One of my favorite reader comments regarding my rant on CM Punk last week came from someone calling himself “NeilFallonsBeard” (who I actually hope is Neil Fallon), who said, “OUT WITH THE PUNK, IN WITH THE AMBROSE.” Many of you seemed to like this comment as well. It doesn’t surprise me that Dean Ambrose is becoming a huge fan favorite in CM Punk’s absence. Often times when a beloved character leaves — in this case CM Punk — the crowd jumps on a the back of another character with similar qualities. The prime example I always give is how Mr. Kennedy got as big as he did in 2006, after everyone realized The Rock wasn’t coming back. The fans were looking for a loud-mouthed, pompous ass that yelled his gimmick in to the mic at the end of every promo, and they found one in Kennedy. Like Punk, Ambrose is a baby face, anti-establishment anti-hero. He was on seemingly every other segment on last night’s Monday Night Raw. The “anti-establishment” Brooklyn crowd couldn’t get enough of him.
When a guy becomes this popular, he usually enters the waiting room for a main event push. However, at this point, I really don’t see Ambrose as having what it takes to be a true main-eventer, possibly ever. Don’t get me wrong, he has amazing qualities that will allow his character to flourish, but probably not to a main event capacity… unless he makes some corrections over time.
First off, I have to define what I mean when I say “main-eventer.” I look at a character and ask myself if they can headline Wrestlemania for the belt without it looking awkward or out of place. Basically, “The Miz Test” (see Wrestlemania 2011). Currently, there are three legit main-eventers on the roster: Cena, Lesnar, and Bryan. There are two, as I call them, lame duck main-eventers (legit main eventers that can no longer be viable sells as main eventers at this point in their careers): Jericho and Orton. And two that I am certain, baring and unforeseen incident, are future main-eventers: Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns.
Let’s talk about the latter two: not only do I see them both main-eventing Wrestlemanias in their future, I see them headlining multiple times. Ambrose probably has the ability to be a main-eventer in selective situations. He can work a three-way or some type of gimmick match (sort of like this month’s Hell in a Hell scenario) with two legit main-eventers, or headline a Backlash in a one-on-one, but at the end of the day he might not have the chops to main event the big show. This is not a big deal, because several Hall of Famers were stuck in this same main event purgatory. Mick Foley is the prime example of this phenomenon: his career flourished during the Attitude era, he held the title for a long time, had amazing feuds, became a household name, headlined several pay-per-view events, but was only in one Wrestlemania main event (a four way match with Triple H, The Rock, and another superstar who’s always been in main event purgatory, The Big Show). Foley as the viable “Guy” just didn’t work. Flaws, if you will, are what kept him there.
I think Ambrose has some flaws, wheres as Wyatt and Reigns have none. That’s what separates them at this point. But as I said, there is no doubt that Ambrose’s pros totally outweigh his cons.
Ambrose is outstanding on the mic. He reminds me of a combination of Jake Roberts, Cactus Jack, and Bryan Pillman. He’s basically a slick loon with a cold edge and baby face looks. A great combo. He also holds the mic in an original way, almost like he’s holding a bouquet or flowers or “orbing.” This will sound weird, but he has a GREAT wrestling voice. Many of the greats have a distinct voice you can pick out of a crowd. When you hear Steve Austin, Randy Savage, or Ric Flair speak, you know it’s them without even seeing or knowing what you’re watching. Same thing can be said for Ambrose. He should lay into that nasally drawl as much as possible. He’s also arguably the best bump-taker in WWE right now. This is probably because he’s the only current WWE guy that was a legit hardcore wrestler in the indies, which is like going to bump-taking reform school.
Now, I know “hardcore” is a loaded term these days. But I can’t remember anyone on the WWE roster working light tubes and barb wire and shit like Ambrose did in the indies. Here’s footage of Ambrose in CZW frickin’ killing himself for a crowd of ten people :
This type of hardcore wrestling is fucking terrible. It’s unhinged violence that looks like shit. The viewer, whether they realize it or not, becomes desensitized to said violence in the first three minutes. However, when hardcore wrestlers come to the tame WWE, they are often able to sprinkle said style into a traditional wrestling match. That’s when you get gold. This is how Mick Foley rose to greatness during his WWE run. Check out these highlights of his match with Shawn Michaels from In Your House: Mind Games, 1996 (with horrible background music). A traditional match mixed with Foley’s hardcore style.The result is arguably one of the best matches of the Attitude era.
On the superficial end, Ambrose also has, seriously, the best nickname in Wrestling. I’m surprised how many people I’ve talked to aren’t aware that “Lunatic Fringe” was a song. Like, a HUGE song from the 80s by a band called Red Rider. If the WWE had the common sense to obtain the song from these dudes and replace Ambrose’s currently horribly stock entrance theme (much like they did with CM Punk and his Living Colour anthem), it would be awesome. Listen to this song and imagine the crowd humming the “Ohh Ohh Ohh Ohh” Chorus during his entrance.
Now the bad:
Let’s start with some superficial stuff: first off, I hate the name. Ambrose’s legal name is Jonathan Good. Am I crazy, or is that the perfect ring name for this guy? It’s ironically creepy. Possible gimmicks include, “Good for you!” and a finisher called “Good Riddance.” But we know Vince McMahon and company don’t like not owning their entertainers’ names. Still, Ambrose is a horrible name. No marketability whatsoever. Yes, I know the wrestling world is running out of names, but Ambrose really got the worst of it on this one. Especially since the other members of the crew with whom he broke into the WWE, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, were both blessed with great names.
But who cares about names? Let’s talk ring attire. I’m cool with Ambrose’s get-up for now, but no one is going to take the jeans and wife beater look serious on a main-eventer. Yes, I know Cena wears jean shorts, but Ambrose looks like he just walked out of a bar. His look is too indie for someone who has so much potential. Wife beaters are the international “I REALLY don’t give a fuck shirt,” so I get why it fits Ambrose. But come on.
Finally — and, frankly, this is the only one of his shortcomings that actually matters — he’s sort of mediocre, move-wise, in the ring. I hate his finisher. It’s basically a DDT, but for some reason, he’s backwards. I don’t remember seeing it before Ambrose used it, which makes it original, but it just pales in comparison to the plethora of current finishers from the WWE newbies (Sister Abigail, Superman Punch, and Accolade, to name a few).
All I’m trying to say is that I’m sold, but I’m not “all in” on Ambrose. Modifications should be made to his character and skills, sooner rather than later, if they really want to take advantage of this momentum he has. I know — if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. But let’s remember, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was pretty successful before he became Triple H. A personal evolution, seemingly one I’d advocate for Ambrose, can turn Blue Bloods in to Games.
Match of the Week
Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind: In Your House: Mind Games. Sept 22, 1996
Watching a 1996 Shawn Michaels is like drinking a fine wine at its peak age. He KILLED it in ’96. Shawn in ’96 working Foley, a driven wrestler who spent his whole career being told he wasn’t WWE material, was a recipe for magic. Interesting fact about this match: It was held at the CoreStates Center in Philadelphia, mere miles away from The ECW arena. This was Foley’s tip of the hat to the bubbling ECW Hardcore fanbase he left behind mere months before this match, many of whom we can assume were in attendance. Mick Foley: a fan’s wrestler if there ever was one.