Dean Ambrose got the chance to shine. And he took it. Not that it actually mattered because he still lost in a rather unfortunate fashion. But there was enough to enjoy. So, I did write about Dean Ambrose vs Triple H at Roadblock. And a few other things about the Road to WrestleMania. Enjoy.
Prologue: Dirty Deeds for the boss – one belt for the kingdom
It might take away from the illusion, the magic of kayfabe, when I talk about those hidden signs before a Pay-Per-View that indicate one certain outcome. It’s the fault of my profession, being a historian, searching for those artifacts and sources to create this image I think is being certain for coming occasions and happenings. Sometimes you don’t even have to look into your personal crystal ball to tell the future. Sometimes it’s quite obvious what will happen.
Like with this match between Dean Ambrose and Triple H. Of course, Dean Ambrose was just there as placeholder to fill the gap until our main hero comes back. Everyone knew it and didn’t really believe that Dean Ambrose was gonna win against Triple H to get the title. The pop and cheers for Dean Ambrose are still huge. But just imagine the reaction he would get if there really was a chance to win the big match. Right now, fans enjoy his matches and his promos but they aren’t fully behind him because they know that he’s just a supportive act who only becomes protagonist when the main guy isn’t around for several reasons. And even in the main event at a Pay-Per-View most fans don’t waste their energy on someone who’s just there to play mind-games with them to the order of the WWE.
Now, the main storyline for the build-up to Roadblock was that Dean Ambrose wanted to be taken seriously by Triple H. He wanted to earn some respect from the man. There were two showdowns on the previous two editions of RAW. First, the one from 29 February 2016 when Dean Ambrose connected with a good right fist but then got beaten down on the announcers table. And second, the week later when Dean Ambrose connected with Dirty Deeds on Triple H, having the last laugh before Roadblock with the WWE Championship belt in hand. As you all know, having the last laugh is always a bad sign for the actual important match. And there was no difference at Roadblock.
The Match: Dean Ambrose had some fun with mocking Triple H
I was looking forward to this match for various reasons:
- Would there be enough time for Dean Ambrose to show that he very much is a main eventer?
- Would Dean Ambrose actually get the chance to tell a story / show off a match plan?
- Would Dean Ambrose just be that literal roadblock for Triple H to run over easily?
- Would Dean Ambrose have to work to this unstable / lunatic fringe gimmick where one of his own faults would cost him the win?
And for all those questions I come up with some straight answers right here:
- Dean Ambrose did get enough time to shine: almost 25 minutes.
- Dean Ambrose had a great match plan. JBL was kind of shocked about it but JBL never knows what he’s talking about.
- Dean Ambrose was presented like a huge roadblock and Triple H only had luck and the referee to thank for winning this match.
- Maybe he worked his crazy gimmick, and actually there were even two spots he did that cost him the match, but Dean Ambrose does this his whole career already, also as Jon Moxley, so I’m fine with it this time (and it would have been great, if it wasn’t for JBL who’s always taking a huge amount of joy away from my watching experience).
Now the match started off with Triple H obviously not taking Dean Ambrose seriously. There was a bit of mat wrestling but Triple H was only doing it halfheartedly – arrogant heel champion who was already thinking about WrestleMania, taking Dean Ambrose as sparring competition at best. It took almost four minutes until Dean Ambrose got an upper hand with two hip tosses and him mocking Triple H for the first time. Dean Ambrose tapped him on the head like Dana Brooke and right after took a little rest on the ring ropes. This behaviour told two things: if you’re not taking me seriously, then I’m not taking you seriously; and: if you’re not showing me the respect I deserve, then I’m not showing any respect to you until you change your mind.
And after this action, Triple H seemed to reconsider his own behaviour. The only thing that really sucked at this stage were the “CM Punk” chants from the Toronto audience. I mean, in which century do you live? CM Punk doesn’t care for WWE or their fans any more, and you chanting for him during a match between Dean Ambrose and Triple H of all people? Well, Toronto crowd, I’m seriously lost for words. And even better, you chanted “This Is Awesome” just minutes after you disrespected both competitors with those stupid “CM Punk” chants. How double-faced can you be?
Then Dean Ambrose was mocking Triple H further with grabbing the man’s huge nose a couple of times not just to make the man finally take him seriously but also to make him angry. Because when you’re angry, chances are that you lose focus and don’t pay attention to all things going on around the ring.
And Triple H was indeed angry. He landed a few hard hits onto Dean Ambrose’s face but it was the younger man who made Triple H go over the top rope outside the ring. When both men were back inside the ring, Dean Ambrose further unfolded his game plan: he went for the left knee of Triple H. And even the referee seemed to be surprised about that fact. Because at one point, Dean Ambrose had to shove him aside, so he was able to do a move.
But, of course, Triple H came back. Both men were outside the ring again, when Triple H shoved Dean Ambrose into the steel steps and made him land on top of the barricades. Dean Ambrose just barely overcame the 10-count but this was when Triple H started taking Dean Ambrose really seriously with hitting him hard and bending his body in all directions. But, of course, Dean Ambrose isn’t someone for tapping out, so he overcame this attack as well. According to Michael Cole, we were at a critical moment in the match when both men were down after a flying elbow by Dean Ambrose. At this point we were 13 minutes into the match.
After both men made it back onto their feet, they went for a fist fight that Dean Ambrose clearly won. It also gave him some momentum to send Triple H down on the mat for a couple of times. Then it was time to tease both men’s finishing moves, but Dean Ambrose was able to avoid Triple H’s Pedigree as well as Triple H sensed Dean Ambrose’s Dirty Deeds. But Dean Ambrose was able to connect with the Pendulum Lariat – and both men were on the mat again. Then Triple H hit back with a lariat of his own, went for another Pedigree but Dean Ambrose was able to get Triple H over the top rope. He then wanted to send himself after him through the ropes for a suicide dive but Triple H stopped him.
Now Triple H cleared the announcers table because as champion he can always risk disqualification and would still keep the title. But he needed too much time; Dean Ambrose was able to recover and shoved Triple H into the steel steps. After a little set-back, Dean Ambrose was able to overcome a third attempt for the Pedigree with hitting a figure-four on Triple H – including mocking Triple H again with a face slap. Usually I find figure-fours quite boring if both competitors don’t sell it as something special. But this one right here was worth every second. Dean Ambrose came even up with a Sharp Shooter right after but, of course, also Triple H didn’t want to tap out and demonstrated his resilience.
An then, when Triple H came crawling back at Dean Ambrose, the man basically hit a Dirty Deeds out of nowhere. Dean Ambrose got the three-count from the referee but immediately after, the man took back his decision because apparently Dean Ambrose’s foot had slipped outside the ring. I kind of get this booking: it was done to demonstrate that Dean Ambrose is able to pin Triple H but because of a narrow decision it didn’t count – that’s a strong booking for Ambrose and doesn’t make him look weak at all.
But: because Ambrose’s foot basically wasn’t outside the ring, there should have been more controversy. But two days later, Dean Ambrose shortly explained that he accepts the decision, that he doesn’t want a re-match because he’s already focused on Brock Lesnar. Makes it even more obvious that Dean Ambrose was just used as a placeholder and definitely never considered of winning this match. At least, they could have booked this breaking of the rules a little more obvious, so the crowd wouldn’t have been left a little bewildered.
Right after the match was a little messy. Dean Ambrose, of course, had to discuss the decision with the referee and Triple H almost pinned him. And just seconds later, both men were lying on the floor at ringside after Dean Ambrose was finally able to do a successful suicide dive. Then Triple H was shoved into the barricades and finally Dean Ambrose hit Triple H with another flying elbow, this time outside the ring… and Dean Ambrose mocked Triple H again with the crotch gesture.
And Dean Ambrose went on to torture Triple H. What the older man had prepared before, Dean Ambrose was using now. He placed Triple H on the announcers table and went for just another flying elbow, this time from the barricades. But Triple H barely rolled off the table while Dean Ambrose slammed his arm right into the hard material. Maybe that’s why Dean Ambrose always wears elbow pads in live shows for a couple of weeks already because all those flying elbows paying their tribute.
For this match, the whole Dean Ambrose had to pay tribute for this missed elbow. He was almost counted out after Triple H had made it back inside the ring. And when Dean Ambrose made it barely inside the ring, too, Triple H simply and finally hit the Pedigree for the win. I wasn’t really satisfied with this very fast finish. But all around Dean Ambrose looked good, the match was entertaining and there is no chance in the world that Triple H vs Reigns at WrestleMania 32 could be better than this match.
Epilogue: The Road to WrestleMania and beyond
People often say that WWE don’t think long term, that they don’t have plans thought out two weeks ahead. And there is some truth to it. Things sometimes change one hour before a show starts; whole shows are re-written just hours before a show. But there is one huge plan that WWE go at all costs. Triple H vs Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 32 was in the plans at least from October 2015. And there was nothing the fans or other wrestlers could do to change Vince McMahon’s mind. This match probably was in the plans since Reigns was booed out of the building at the Royal Rumble 2015. Triple H has the potential to be one of the greatest heels in this company, especially when he – as authority figure, who basically owns WWE – becomes WWE Champion.
Now, as funny as it is, Triple H indeed is booed against any opponent but the one WWE wants it most: Roman Reigns. At this point, you can send the so-called future Face of the WWE against anyone, and this certain someone is cheered – it doesn’t matter which reactions this very guy draw the night before. When Paul Heyman says that Reigns will get a beating from Brock Lesnar, the audience will love it. When Triple H says that he’ll destroy Reigns, then audiences will pray for it to become true. It’s actually worse than last year for Reigns.
“Making Reigns popular at all costs” is the sole planned storyline in WWE for the last two years. And everything around this storyline is there to help making this storyline work. And many talented guys have to suffer. At times the heat against Reigns doesn’t seem to be that huge. It’s times when other wrestlers get their chances to shine. But WWE misinterpret such times. They think, fans are beginning to like Reigns because they don’t boo him that much. And WWE will push the man again. And Reigns is booed again. They think, fans will like Reigns when the man pins and wins against Dean Ambrose. When Reigns wins against Ambrose, he must be better, and we like winners – so we can’t cheer Ambrose any more because he’ll never win and Reigns will be the winner and face of the company. Reigns also has the better hair. So, why are those people still hate Reigns?
Yes, indeed, WWE still have got this thinking process. At least, this is my interpretation from all the tag teaming, the Ambrose booking and the Reigns booking. Yes, WWE is like a soap opera, it’s scripted and the fans don’t write the storylines. But unlike all other soap opera in TV, WWE has got a live audience. They react immediately to the wrestlers. And WWE can manipulate the SmackDown reactions all they want, their is still a live audience that we get some reports from and everyone can read those reports on the internet.
And, yes, the bad internet where we can still watch Jon Moxley on the Indies and see what a huge amount of moves he is able to pull out of his left pocket when he isn’t limited by the WWE. The company obviously want for their Pay-Per-Views – and especially WrestleMania – as being something special. So, as a fan you have to go through a lot of generic three-minute matches between those special shows. And a lot of matches look all the same. But this strategy also helps Reigns who almost wrestles to his full potential in every single match. At the Pay-Per-Views he pulls out one more move and has got more time. But that’s it.
Now we’ve seen Dean Ambrose vs Triple H. This match was done to create heat against Triple H. And WWE seriously think that the WrestleMania 32 crowd will cheer Reigns now. We all know that Reigns will take the WWE Championship away from Triple H. The WWE still think that the fans will get behind the guy who actually has a chance for winning. But this isn’t just sports. Wrestling is some kind of sport but without real competition. We shouldn’t know who’s going to win an important match or a title. But it’s written all over the walls of the Earth that Reigns is in the plans of being the next two-digit-times WWE Champion. Despite him being limited. Despite him being boring. Despite him seeing wrestling just as business. Despite him talking shit about the fans.
The more Dean Ambrose is used to get Reigns over, the more Reigns is hated. It doesn’t work the other way around. And if WWE go on with this plan, there will be a point of no return. From there on, whatever Reigns might do in the future, he’ll always be booed. Also if he’s made to do it all by himself, isn’t tag teamed with Dean Ambrose or other poor guys who have to grant the hot tag for the guy. Reigns being well used would be turning him heel, get him a manager who speaks for him and placing him in mid-card. Anything else didn’t work in the past and it won’t work in the future.
The only good thing about those WrestleMania 32 plans is that I can go to bed early after my main event that truly is Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar. I was hoping for this match to happen as soon as in last October I basically knew Triple H vs Reigns would be the “main event”. What happened during Dean Ambrose vs Triple H, gives me some hope that Dean Ambrose might be given another opportunity to shine. I don’t want him to take 149 F5s because that would be boring. Hopefully, this match will be of similar quality as Brock Lesnar vs CM Punk in 2013 had been. Yes, Punk lost in the end, and Dean Ambrose will lose. But anything else in between the first and last whistle has got the potential of being epic. I can’t wait.