As was made clear on last week’s SummerSlam go-home show for Monday Night Raw, Dean Ambrose is back, he’s jacked, and to steal a line from Eric Bischoff, he very well might be “better than ever.”
In December 2017, Dean Ambrose underwent surgery to repair a torn triceps tendon, an injury that occurred on the December 18th episode of RAW in a match with Seth Rollins, and Jason Jordan against The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus) and Samoa Joe. Rollins hit a suicide dive to the outside taking out Cesaro, Joe and Ambrose, who based on his immediate reaction, seemed to take the brunt of the move. Following the match, WWE ran the classic injury angle to write Ambrose off TV as Samoa Joe and the Bar continued their attack on the Shield brothers, shoving a heavy road case into Ambrose’s already injured arm (you can watch both points of injury below).
That was eight months ago, and since then, the landscape has changed somewhat drastically. Joe, the man who took credit for Ambrose’s injury, is now on the blue brand, along with the Miz, Jeff Hardy and the Bar. Bobby Roode, Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Dolph Ziggler were moved to RAW, along with Drew McIntyre, who was called up from NXT. Both brands received minor face lifts in the time that Ambrose was shelved but they weren’t the only ones. It was noted by his appearance and demeanor on Monday, that the more comedic aspects of Ambrose’s character could be gone, and replaced with an intensity and ferocity fans aren’t used to seeing. Unlike in the past, Ambrose, from his brief return, seems to be no-nonsense and going forward, this character change could be exactly what he needs to reinvent himself as a big time player on RAW’s crowded roster.
Whether its as a babyface or a newly turned heel, a return to Smackdown Live or staying with RAW, WWE has options as to how to fit Dean Ambrose back into the fold (and what his upcoming feuds might be) after eight months away.
Returning to RAW and Turning Heel
While it may seem like the most obvious move at this point, that doesn’t mean that having Dean Ambrose make a quick heel turn is a bad idea, especially given his new look and attitude. Not to mention at least one built-in feud that he has waiting for him, against Seth Rollins.
On Seth Rollins…Let’s go back to December 18th. Samoa Joe may have been the one who took credit for Dean Ambrose’s injury, but if anything he just exacerbated it. It was the suicide dive by Seth Rollins that sent Ambrose to wrestling’s version of the DL (disabled list in MLB) or PUP (physically unable to perform in NFL) list. If anyone would hold a grudge over that, it would be Dean Ambrose.
While it was pretty obvious that Ambrose wasn’t Rollins’ target, a newly-returning Lunatic doesn’t have to see it that way. He could blame Rollins for shelving him and then worst yet, replacing him with Jason Jordan and winning the tag titles. Dean Ambrose could feel like Seth Rollins cast him aside and only when he needed a favor, did he bring his old pal back to help even the odds. But what if Ambrose has no plans of evening the odds and what if Monday’s performance was just that, a performance? The rumors seem to suggest that Ambrose will turn on Rollins at SummerSlam or shortly after, leading to a rehash of their 2014 feud, only this time, with the roles reversed: Seth Rollins as the babyface and Dean Ambrose, the heel.
On Roman Reigns…Aside from a feud with Seth Rollins, there is always the chance Dean Ambrose feuds with his other brother and likely new Universal Champion, Roman Reigns. During the Rollins/Ambrose reunion tour, Reigns didn’t really factor into things as he was doing then what he’s still doing now, chasing down Brock Lesnar and the title. It wouldn’t be that much of a stretch for Ambrose to return with a grudge against both of his brothers, especially if at the end of SummerSlam, Reigns and Rollins each held top singles gold while Ambrose is made to be the supportive sidekick. This doesn’t seem like something the new-Dean Ambrose would tolerate. As SummerSlam goes off the air, WWE could tease a Shield reunion only for Ambrose to attack both of his championship-winning brothers, leave with both titles, and come out on RAW to declare his shot at the belts.
On the Rest of the Locker Room…If WWE opts to keep the Shield intact with the three teaming together on occasion, that doesn’t mean that all three have to be babyfaces. Dean Ambrose could still turn heel, just not on his brothers. Perhaps he starts cheating to win matches or utilizes other classic heel tactics like pre-match attacks or continuing to beat up opponents after the bell rings. WWE could establish a new mean streak for Ambrose, having him show an edge in his matches as well. They could start off by feeding him local enhancement talent as a way to get the rust off. Maybe one of these talents has a connection to a main roster talent who comes out to help his friend. This could transition Dean Ambrose into a feud with any number of RAW faces including Zack Ryder, Bobby Roode, No Way Jose, or Jason Jordan once he returns.
On Finn Balor…There is also the possibility for a great feud with one of RAW’s top babyfaces in Finn Bálor. When Rollins, Reigns and Jordan feuded with the reunited Bálor Club (Finn Bálor, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) there was just one piece missing from the Club/Shield feud that fans had been waiting to see. Dean Ambrose. That’s what would make a one-on-one feud between Bálor and Ambrose all the more interesting. Not to mention, the two have only shared the ring twice, once at a house show and the other in this past Monday night’s dark match. As far as opponents, not only have they not faced each other one-on-one but they’ve never faced each other period. With Gallows and Anderson on Smackdown, Finn Bálor is once again a bit lost in terms of direction. A feud with Dean Ambrose could be just what both men need to re-establish themselves at the top of the card.
Returning to RAW as a Babyface
When the Shield disbanded, at the time, the expectation had been that Dean Ambrose, not Seth Rollins, would have been the one to break away from the group and turn on his brothers. Instead it was Rollins who turned heel and Ambrose who emerged as one of the crowd-popping babyfaces, a role he has played ever since 2014. While some will argue it’s time for a change and they want to see Ambrose try his hand at being a singles heel for the first time in WWE, there could be value to keeping him face, especially as far as a Shield reunion goes.
Teaming with Seth Rollins (Feuding with Dolph Ziggler/Drew McIntyre and Re-Entering the RAW tag team division)…The biggest reason for keeping Dean Ambrose a babyface would be to resume his team with Seth Rollins, which was barely getting started at the time of his injury. By associating with Rollins, Ambrose has already been thrown into a pre-built feud upon his return, that being against Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre. Ultimately, the feud is between Rollins and Ziggler over the Intercontinental Championship with McIntyre and now Ambrose, playing the roles of supporting actors. Rollins has been the victim of the numbers game so with Ambrose back, the sides are even.
Rollins/Ambrose and Ziggler/McIntyre could feud into the fall with one or both teams entering the tag team division either during or after. The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson) finally seem to be getting a push, Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) should enter the division soon enough, and the B-Team (Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas) are holding down the fort as champions, but there really is no starpower, especially with Matt Hardy needing to take time off due to lingering injuries. The division is a bit bare so Rollins and Ambrose could be poised to pick back up where they left off, as Raw tag team champions.
Reuniting the Shield…When WWE made the decision to reunite the Shield in 2017, fans were immediately behind the return of the Hounds of Justice. But then Roman Reigns got injured, leading to a much too brief reunion. Fast forward a few months to Reigns returning only for Dean Ambrose to go out with a sustained injury. The perfect situation for the trio was just not there. Maybe in 2018-19, it will be. Rollins is healthy, Reigns is healthy and Ambrose looks to be in the best shape of his career. WWE could opt to reunite the trio once more, at least on a part-time basis.
If in fact Reigns does win the Universal Championship, don’t expect him to be a constant fixture in the faction save for the occasional 6-man tags. And right now, there are no other built-in three man groups for the Shield to feud against. Perhaps AOP teams with Bobby Lashley, who could challenge Reigns for the title. Or, when Sami Zayn returns from injury he rejoins Kevin Owens and maybe Owens’ current rival and another possible opponent for Reigns, Braun Strowman. Or, in dram scenario, 2019 sees the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) come to WWE and they work heel with Finn Bálor or even Kenny Omega should he come stateside as well. That would give WWE another permutation of a Shield/Bullet Club feud. Either way, a Shield reunion is money and it won’t hurt in the campaign to get Reigns cheered, meaning if WWE doesn’t turn Dean Ambrose heel, this is probably the route they’ll take.
Returning to Smackdown and Turning Heel
On Daniel Bryan…As great as the feud between the Miz and Daniel Bryan has been and will continue to be, maybe even until WrestleMania 35, there is perhaps no one better to make a huge impact in a heel turn against, than the leader of the Yes! Movement. Bryan’s return has been inspirational and emotional. His journey back to winning a world championship, now that would really be something else. So imagine at the end of the AJ Styles/Samoa Joe and Bryan/Miz feuds, that Dean Ambrose, makes his SD heel turn by taking that opportunity away from Bryan. Perhaps its in a #1 contender’s match. Perhaps its in the title match itself. Either way, using Bryan as the catalyst for a turn would no doubt get Ambrose incredible heat.
On AJ Styles…The next best thing to having Dean Ambrose turn on Daniel Bryan would be having him turn on WWE Champion, AJ Styles. There is some thought that Styles will still be champion by October, both to time with the release of WWE2K19, which he is the cover star, and to allow a huge title change to happen on Smackdown 1000, which takes place about a week later. Enter Dean Ambrose. Post-SummerSlam, Ambrose could show up as a face on SD and lie in wait for the opportunity to cheat Styles out of the belt. We’ve seen Ambrose as champ before as underwhelming as it may have been, but we haven’t seen him as a heel champion, a role that he could play perfectly.
On Jeff Hardy…Jeff Hardy seems likely to enter a feud with Randy Orton but he’ll need a new sparring partner when that one is over. Dean Ambrose has teamed up with the Hardy Boyz (Jeff and Matt Hardy), and faced them alongside Seth Rollins, but Hardy and Ambrose have never gone one-on-one. While turning on Hardy wouldn’t have the same kind of impact as the above two, unless of course Jeff wins the United States Championship at SummerSlam, the feud would make up for that. But, as mentioned, Hardy is about to engage in what could be a similar feud with Orton so this one is less probable. Speaking of Randy Orton though…
Teaming with Randy Orton (and joining the SD tag division)…Before Randy Orton was injured in 2015, he and Dean Ambrose seemed to be inching toward an unlikely pairing as the two became involved in Roman Reigns’ war with the Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Eric Rowan and Luke Harper). But then, before the pairing could really begin, Orton was injured and by the time he got back, the feud with the Wyatts was over and the angle was dropped. Now, with Orton freshly turned and Ambrose perhaps heading for a turn himself, it could be the perfect time for the two of them to properly join forces on Smackdown. And if that’s the case, the SD tag division, even the Bludgeon Brothers (Harper and Rowan) should be put on notice as that would be a dangerous duo.
Returning to Smackdown as a Babyface
Feuding with Samoa Joe…This one is pretty obvious. As mentioned above, Samoa Joe proudly took credit for the beating which left Dean Ambrose unable to wrestle for eight months. While technically it was at Rollins’ hands that the initial injury happened, eight months is a long time for people to harp over small details like that. WWE could just as easily sell that it was Joe’s attack that left Ambrose on the shelf and upon his return, he’d instantly want his revenge.
Feuding with Randy Orton…Aside from teaming with Randy Orton, another option for Dean Ambrose is to feud with him. The two have great chemistry with one another and have been great rivals in the past. Not to mention, with Orton’s new attitude of going after those superstars that the fans adore, Dean Ambrose would be the perfect target. He got a huge pop upon his return and could easily become one of SD’s top faces again, behind Bryan and Styles.
Feuding with the Locker Room…Having been gone for so long, there are tons of other options for Dean Ambrose, both with old and new opponents such as Rusev, Shelton Benjamin, and Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas.
Feuding with Shinsuke Nakamura…This would be another first-time ever. With Shinsuke Nakamura now a heel and currently the holder of the U.S. title, Dean Ambrose could return to Smackdown and immediately enter the championship picture, which is something he wouldn’t be able to do as a babyface on RAW if both his Shield brothers are holding the singles gold. So this makes sense. Plus, there is a lot to like about a potential feud for these two. Stylistically, they match up well. Nakamura’s technical ability versus Ambrose’s brawling. Going back to NXT, it was this type of matchup (see feud with Samoa Joe) that Nakamura did some of his best work in. Ambrose/Nakamura may not be the prototypical dream match but it’s never been done and it really could surprise some people.