WWE is Using House Show Platform to Tell Dean Ambrose/Seth Rollins Story

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Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose
Credit: WWE

There’s heel heat and then there’s “turning on your brother/tag team partner moments after you captured the tag team championships on the same night that your other brother, who you had dedicated your victory to, found out he had to relinquish his own title because his leukemia returned” heat. The latter, of course, is what Dean Ambrose has gotten, courtesy of his recent betrayal of Seth Rollins. While the heel turn had been expected ever since Ambrose returned from a lengthy injury absence at SummerSlam, no one would have predicted the timing or that WWE would have opted to pull the trigger on the night they did.

But emotions were high and the stakes were higher. WWE wanted to ensure one of their most popular babyfaces of the past several years received less than a hero’s welcome for his turn so they needed something big and playing off Roman Reigns‘ devastating announcement did the trick. WWE picked their spot perfectly because Seth Rollins looks every bit the sympathetic character now and Dean Ambrose, who is refusing to answer the age-old wrestling question, “Why (insert wrestler name here), why?” is getting booed when he’s on TV.

Mission accomplished.

What’s interesting though, is that WWE has added another layer to this story and its one that hasn’t played out on TV but rather at their live events. On two occasions now, WWE has preempted Monday Night Raw by crafting parts of the Rollins/Ambrose narrative first though their house show platform. Typically, live events aren’t meant to be seen as “canon” but in this case, it seems WWE is intentionally utilizing their live events to tell parts of the Ambrose/Rollins story before they tell them on TV.

Take for example, the Saturday night house show in Corbin, Kentucky, which took place the same week as Ambrose’s betrayal. Seth Rollins came to the ring demanding answers, doing so two days before he officially called Dean Ambrose out during the following week’s RAW.

At least when I put the knife in your back, I had the guts to tell you why, Ambrose. What kind of a coward are you? What kind of a friend are you? What kind of a competitor are you?

With his back turned to his would-be assailant, Ambrose emerged from the other side of the ring and hit Rollins with a Dirty Deeds before leaving.

That following Monday, Seth Rollins cut a slightly longer, more in-depth, more understanding version of the same promo in which he questioned if Dean Ambrose ever really got over his own betrayal back in 2014. Ambrose came out, stood at the top of the stands where the Shield would normally enter and that’s when Rollins became aggressive, accusing the man of mocking their trio and everything the group stood for. Ambrose feigned giving Rollins the answers he wanted but never said a word. Unlike the house show, however, the two were kept apart for their segment as Dean Ambrose simply walked away, proving Seth Rollins right in calling him a coward.

The fact that the first piece of this story happened at a house show is important to note. As RAW went off the air the prior week, fans were left wondering how WWE was going to explain Ambrose’s heel turn. Was it a momentary lapse of judgment? Was Reigns’ condition just too much for Ambrose to handle? Did Rollins saying “it’s okay” when they embraced after winning the tag titles lead to Ambrose snapping? Given that the pair were tag team champions, there were any number of ways that WWE could have played this out. But before they even had their next TV to do so, the company seemingly answered those questions through the Kentucky live event interaction. Because if Ambrose was just having a momentary lapse of judgment that Monday night, he certainly wouldn’t have hit Rollins with another Dirty Deeds on Saturday. Then again, if he was having a momentary lapse he probably wouldn’t have gone as far as to tear up the protective mat by the ring in order to send Rollins face first into the concrete either.

The following week on RAW, after WWE returned from Crown Jewel where surprisingly, there was no Ambrose interference in Rollins’ World Cup match as many expected, the Kingslayer once again came to the ring for a promo. With three belts in tow, the Intercontinental Championship around his waist and the tag titles on both shoulders, Seth Rollins told the audience there was no way he could defend both titles as a fighting champion, especially without a partner. Just when it seemed Rollins was about to vacate the tag titles, interim GM Baron Corbin stepped in and said that wouldn’t be happening and that Rollins would be defending the titles right then and there against AOP (Akam and Rezar).

To Rollins’ credit, he looked a lot better than anyone could have expected him to given the insurmountable odds. Lately, Rollins has been booked as WWE’s iron man, something that was best noted when he had an exceptional performance in a gauntlet match a few months back. Seth Rollins also had to defend the tag team titles essentially on his own once before when Jason Jordan got injured minutes into their match at Royal Rumble. Much like then, despite Rollins never giving up the fight, outlasting AOP was just too much. RAW crowned new tag team championships that night but that wasn’t the worst of it for Seth Rollins as after the match, Dean Ambrose stalked the ring and attacked his former partner and best friend when he was down. It was yet another sickening display from WWE’s newest and perhaps best heel.

To make matters even worse, before yet another unprovoked attack, Ambrose took a mic and teased giving Rollins the answers he’s been so desperate for, saying, “You want to know why I did what I did?”

Seth Rollins did and so did the fans but Dean Ambrose just shook his head, hit the Dirty Deeds and kept his silence.

Then, just one day later a live event in Manchester, Ambrose cut a promo prior to the start of his Intercontinental Championship match against Rollins, which served to somewhat clue fans in as to the “Why Ambrose, why?” question.

“Congratulations Seth on losing our WWE tag team championships last night. And maybe if you had just asked nicely, if you had just asked me nicely, I might have came out there to help you, but no, you’re too stupid and you’re too selfish and you wanted to do it all by yourself. How did that work out for ya?

Lucky for you, tonight isn’t gonna be like last night, because I don’t care, I don’t give two cents about your stupid little championship. All I care about tonight is beating your ass!”

While still not quite the answer as to why he turned on Seth Rollins on the night he did, the fact that Dean Ambrose said anything at all, especially to mock his former partner for losing their titles and blaming him, seems to suggest the Lunatic is going to take the position that he was in the right to do what he did. Calling Rollins “stupid and selfish” only adds to that as Ambrose is seeming to indicate that while he was the one who committed the first deed as it were, Rollins had started this ball in motion long before.

Over the past several months, ever since Ambrose returned, WWE had been planting that very seed of a Shield break-up and Dean Ambrose heel turn. Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman and Dolph Ziggler all fed into Ambrose’s insecurities and Seth Rollins himself made matters worse when he referred to his best friend as a lunatic, something that the man took exception to despite it being a nickname he used to wear proudly. Ambrose seemed to put an end to the rumors when he cut a fantastic promo about how the Shield is more than just a group, it’s a brotherhood, it’s family, and he wasn’t going to blow it all up over the fact that Reigns and Rollins had titles and he didn’t.

That falls in line with Ambrose saying he doesn’t “give two cents about [Rollins] stupid little championship.”

WWE’s choice to keep Dean Ambrose silent on his actions these past few weeks was one that was working phenomenally well as it kept the suspense building and made sure people had to tune in to see what would happen next. But now that Ambrose has broken his silence, even if just for a live event, WWE isn’t stupid. They know cell phone videos pop up on the internet, they know that by the time people tune in to RAW on Monday, November 12, that many of them will have seen the very promo referenced above. It’s likely then that this week, much as it did before, Rollins/Ambrose’s segment will mirror that of the house show. Dean Ambrose came so close to giving Seth Rollins the answers the man now is promising to “beat out of him,” but stopped short. Now that this promo is out there however, don’t be surprised if Ambrose cuts a longer form version on this week’s RAW.

The use of live events to advance stories in such a way where new information is coming out to the house show audience before the TV audience is interesting. Sure the company has done live event title changes in the past but most of these have been for shock value or for the purposes of filming footage for a DVD (Cough, AJ Styles in Madison Square Garden, cough). Much like when Triple H teamed with the Shield, something that is never referenced on WWE TV because last time we saw Triple H and Seth Rollins together they wanted to destroy each other, house show antics tend to just be that. But what WWE is doing here is different as they are using that platform for a storyline that is very much canon and is one of their most compelling TV stories as well.

Just a few weeks ago, PW Insider reported that WWE was starting to film select house shows, seemingly as part of the much-discussed tiered plan to the WWE Network. House shows, such as the upcoming Starrcade, are expected to be filmed and added to the new $14.99 tier which reportedly will also include select independent wrestling promotions.

The idea of WWE filming house shows would suggest that more storylines could be incorporated into these events such as what the company is doing now with Ambrose/Rollins. And perhaps that is in part why they are doing it. While there is no word if either the Kentucky or Manchester show was recorded, the fact that WWE is using live shows to advance this narrative is certainly not something they are doing for no reason.

Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins have recently begun a program on the house show circuit that will see them fight for Rollins’ Intercontinental Championship, which is no doubt the direction things will be headed on RAW post Survivor Series. So while the next chapter of this feud logically would happen on Monday night, the way things are going, don’t be surprised if WWE continues to weave things into their house show feud as well. And if they do, you won’t have to look hard or far to find video of promos and matches on the internet.

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