#ThankYouAmbrose: Looking Back on the WWE Career and Legacy of Dean Ambrose

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Dean Ambrose WWE
Credit: WWE

It’s a fact of life that we’ve known for a while now: Dean Ambrose is leaving WWE. And while we’ve had months to prepare for that eventuality, time likely didn’t make it any easier, when prior to his match against Bobby Lashley on the Raw After ‘Mania, WWE announced that it was Ambrose’s his last with the company.

The match wasn’t much of a match at all as it never got started and ended with Dean Ambrose being sent through the announce table. However, that wasn’t his swansong as after the show went off the air, Dean Ambrose joined Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns in the ring for one final Shield moment as well as to give a proper goodbye to both the fans who have supported him for the past seven years, and the men who had been his brothers in arms for the better parts of their WWE careers together.

Dean Ambrose leaves WWE with a strong resume. One of the faces of the company for the past several years, Ambrose was the first member of the Shield to complete his career grand slam (just the 16th person to do so all-time and just eighth under the modern format). In all, his accolades include winning Money in the Bank, three reigns with the Intercontinental Championship, two with the Raw Tag Team Championships and one each with the United States and WWE World Championships. He was twice named as Pro Wrestling Illustrated‘s Most Popular Wrestler of the Year (2014, 2015), and has won five Slammy Awards including twice as Breakout Star of the Year (2013 with the Shield; 2014 by himself). He’s done all of this and to think, he’s only been in WWE for seven years.

His legacy and that of the Shield is no doubt going to be long-lasting as he accomplished in a short time, what some wrestlers could only dream of doing.

Early Days in FCW

After a successful career on the indies (which you can read about here), the artist formerly known as Jon Moxley came to Florida Championship Wrestling in 2011, under his new ring name, Dean Ambrose. Debuting against Hunico (Sin Cara), the trouble-making Ambrose quickly caught the eye of then-FCW 15 Champion, Seth Rollins, calling him out in his first promo with the company. Ambrose challenged for title in just his fifth official match with FCW, as he and Rollins wrestled to a 15-minute no falls time-limit draw. In his rematch, the same occurred, only this time it was a 20-minute draw. Ambrose and Rollins concluded their feud in historic fashion. Since 15 minutes wasn’t enough and neither were 20, the two fought in the first-ever FCW 30-minute iron man match, which was won by Rollins, three falls to two.

From there, Dean Ambrose entered into the FCW World Championship picture before entering an intense feud with William Regal, who put Ambrose over and endorsed him with high praise ever since the moment he walked into FCW. The two only had two matches, but the content of the feud went far beyond the ring as Regal’s commentary during Ambrose’s matches and the promos between the two, totally delivered. A star was being born and WWE certainly took notice.

“It breaks my heart. I get it, you know, I understand…I wish him luck obviously in whatever he wants to do, and we’re still going to be friends and brothers and I’ll love him for as long as we can…I never imagined the three of us working anywhere else, or not being here at the same time, unless – we’ve all been hurt or sick or whatever it is and had to take some time off. But I never imagined, you know, me and Roman here, or me and Ambrose here and Roman somewhere else, or Ambrose, or me, you know I just never saw it that way. So it’s gonna be weird to come into a locker room and he’s not there and knowing he’s not coming back anytime soon. So it certainly tugs on my heartstings a little bit, but I support him in whatever decision he’s gonna make.”

Seth Rollins on Dean Ambrose leaving WWE

Dean Ambrose would re-enter the world title picture and re-ignite his feud with then-champion Rollins, but not before a precursor to the Shield triple threat as Ambrose battled Leakee (Roman Reigns) and Rollins in a #1 contender’s match won by Reigns. Dean Ambrose concluded his FCW career with a match against Richie Steamboat in June 2012. In the ensuing months, he was moved to the house show circuit and also wrestled dark matches on both Raw, Smackdown and the new NXT, though he never appeared on TV for the brand.¬†While initially it was thought he’d come up to the main roster to feud with Mick Foley, who he had called out and the two had gone back-and-forth on Twitter since April, Ambrose’s debut was saved for something more memorable.

Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima. Delta. SHIELD (2012-14; Oct-Dec. 2017; Aug-Oct. 2018; Mar. 2019)

During Survivor Series in November 2012, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, who would later receive the name, “The Shield,” debuted in shocking fashion, helping CM Punk retain his championship in a triple threat against Ryback and John Cena. The trio unleashed their signature triple powerbomb and the rest was history. After denying allegiance to Punk and simply claiming a motive of fighting injustice, the Shield made their in-ring debut the following month at TLC, defeating Ryback and Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan and Kane) in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. For the next few months, the Shield remained undefeated (on television) and continued to deny working for Punk even though they mainly attacked only his opponents, including the Rock at Royal Rumble. It was during this time that Ambrose became the de facto leader of the group, the mouthpiece of the Shield.

Shortly after the Royal Rumble it was revealed that the Shield had in fact been paid by Paul Heyman to serve as Punk’s mercenaries, though the association began to weaken as the trio forged ahead to title pursuits.

On April 26 at Smackdown, Dean Ambrose made his televised singles debut against the Undertaker. He lost, but shortly after entered into a program with United States Champion Kofi Kingston, who Dean Ambrose defeated at Extreme Rules to win his first title with WWE. At the same event, Rollins and Reigns, who had primarily worked as a tag team while Ambrose was the singles star, also won the tag titles, giving the Shield all the gold. It was clear these three were seen as rising stars as all three were young, fresh and had quickly gotten over with the fans.

Dean Ambrose held the US title for a record 351 days, successfully defending against Kingston, Kane, Neville, Rob Van Dam, Dolph Ziggler, Big E, Mark Henry, Alberto Del Rio, Curtis Axel and Ryback. During his almost one-year reign, the Shield had gone from Punk’s mercenaries to Triple H‘s enforcers, attacking opponents of the Authority‘s crown jewel, Randy Orton, and anyone who spoke out against the new regime. It was also during this time that cracks in the Shield began to show, as Dean Ambrose boasted about being the only member of the faction who still had his title after Rollins and Reigns lost the tag team championships to Cody Rhodes and Goldust. From that point on, Dean Ambrose took most of the pins in their Shield matches, allowing himself to be perceived as the group’s “weak link.” As the Shield continued to help Ambrose retain his title all the while Reigns was defeating the same opponents without help which caused even more tension, Rollins decided he was done with the infighting and being the glue that kept the Shield together.

“I want him to stay. Dean, if you’re listening, stay. Do not go…I think at the end of the day, the selfishness in us wants him in our locker room, but you know, as a friend and as a brother, I just want Jon to be happy. I want him – if he asks to recharge his batteries, but ultimately, I want my friend to be where he wants to be and to have the proper placement for his life…But I’m not gonna lie, we are – we’re selifsh being. That’s just how we are, and I want my friends with me. And not only that, but Ambrose is a workhorse, man. And I don’t throw that term around lightly…So regardless if he’s coming or going, somebody is going to be able to work with a brilliant superstar, someone who truly believes in what he’s doing, has a great passion to get better and an amazing work ethic.”

Roman Reigns on Dean Ambrose leaving WWE

Following the Shield summit, the trio did stay together, however, if only briefly. Freshly turned babyfaces, the Shield began feuding with the Authority, which eventually led to an Evolution reunion (Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton). It was during this feud that Dean Ambrose lost his United States Championship as he was forced to defend it in a 20-man battle royal with Reigns and Rollins not able to get involved. The Shield won both their PPV matches against Evolution, first at Extreme Rules and again at Payback in a no holds barred elimination match in which no member of the Shield was eliminated. The following night, however, it all came crashing down as Rollins turned on the Shield and re-aligned with the Authority.

Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns briefly remained a duo after that and continued to support each other, even though they were no longer aligned as the Shield. With the faction disbanded, the two went on their separate ways. Reigns focused on the world title picture whereas the slightly unhinged Ambrose focused on revenge. And while iterations of the Shield reunited over the years, namely Ambrose and Reigns and Ambrose and Rollins, the trio wrestled less than 10 times as a team following the 2014 break-up.

Feuding with Seth Rollins (2014-15; June-July 2016; Nov. 2018 – Jan. 2019)

Perhaps the biggest singles feud of Dean Ambrose’s career was the one between himself and “wrestling soulmate” Seth Rollins. Unable to move on from Rollins’ betrayal, Dean Ambrose set out to make his former best friend’s life a living hell. The feeling was mutual however as Rollins hid behind Kane and the Authority to stop Ambrose at every turn. Aided by the Authority, Rollins won Money in the Bank in 2014 as well as several other matches. At Hell in a Cell that year, the two faced off in a classic which was won by Rollins due to interference from Bray Wyatt.

Dean Ambrose went on to feud with Wyatt for a bit, entered the Royal Rumble, challenged for the Intercontinental Championship twice, and at Extreme Rules in April, won his first PPV singles match since the Shield split nearly a year prior. With the Wyatt Family in his rearview mirror, Dean Ambrose returned to feud with newly crowned WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Seth Rollins, who had won the title after cashing in his briefcase at WrestleMania 31. This also put Ambrose back in the path of Reigns for the first time in a long time, as both were involved in the title picture. Rollins retained his title against Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton at Payback and again against Ambrose at Extreme Rules by DQ. After the match, Dean Ambrose stole the belt, only returning it at Money in the Bank, where he challenged Rollins to a ladder match. The near 36-minute encounter filled with crazy ladder spots, ended when both Rollins and Ambrose grabbed the title and fell to the mat, with Rollins hanging on, just barely edging out his former faction mate.

Following the loss, Dean Ambrose briefly teamed back up with Reigns, resuming his feud with the Wyatt Family in the process. The two also continued to feud with Rollins up until his injury in November 2015. Rollins was set to be out an extended period of time, forcing him to vacate the title. Both Ambrose and Reigns took part in a tournament to crown the new champion, with Reigns defeating Ambrose in the championship final. When Rollins returned to action in June 2016, he immediately set his sights on regaining the title he never lost, which was still held by Reigns. But as Rollins focused on Reigns, Dean Ambrose focused on winning the Money in the Bank match, telling both of his former brothers that it didn’t matter which one of them was champion at the end of the night, because he was going to climb the ladder, secure the briefcase and cash-in his opportunity without hesitation.

In his first PPV match back, Rollins won the title from Reigns but held it only mere seconds as Dean Ambrose stayed true to his word. With briefcase in hand, he clocked Rollins from behind, cashed in and eight seconds later, on a night where all three members of the Shield had held the title, became world champion for the first time in his career. Confident Rollins would regain the title, he was chosen as the first overall pick in the brand extension draft on July 18th for Raw. Dean Ambrose was Smackdown’s first choice. That night, Rollins received his rematch but couldn’t regain the title as the finish ended in a double pin, leaving uncertainty as to who the real champion was. The next night, Dean Ambrose successfully defended the belt and did so again a few weeks later at Battleground in the first Shield triple threat since the FCW days.

With Reigns and Rollins on Raw and Dean Ambrose on Smackdown, the three met as opponents just one more time, in the Raw vs Smackdown Survivor Series match. Although, Ambrose, who was in the midst of a feud with AJ Styles, turned on Smackdown to help Reigns and Rollins triple powerbomb and eliminate Styles from the match. The next time Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were in the same ring, it was as a team. In 2017, with Ambrose now on Raw, Rollins looked to make overdue amends with him, but the Lunatic initially rebuffed the idea. It wasn’t until the two were reluctantly booked in a tag team championship match against The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro) and won, that Ambrose and Rollins reunited as a team for the first time in nearly three years. Unfortunately for the new team, in December of that year, Dean Ambrose sustained an injury that kept him on the shelf until August 2018.

He returned a new man, both in appearance and attitude, to his brothers both holding singles championships. Both Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre tried to bait Dean Ambrose into believing he was the “weak link” again and it almost worked, with tension especially high between Rollins and Ambrose. In the end, the duo stayed a strong unit up until the night they regained the tag titles, the night the world learned of Reigns’ real life leukemia returning. Following the emotional victory, Dean Ambrose turned on Seth Rollins and shortly after, the two began feuding over the Intercontinental Championship.

In his first PPV challenge for the belt, Ambrose defeated Rollins as he espoused ideas of how everything that was coming to the Shield was some sort of karmic justice for their sins. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins continued to feud over the title until January 14th on an episode of Raw, when Bobby Lashley defeated both of them in a triple threat to win the belt. Rollins and Ambrose had just one more match as enemies as their feud came to an end due to the announcement of Ambrose’s departure and later, Reigns’ return. The briefest of Shield reunions followed as Reigns, Ambrose and Rollins came together for one final match at Fastlane 2019.

Other Memorable Feuds

Kevin Owens

Following his loss to Roman Reigns at Survivor Series 2015 for the world title, Dean Ambrose immediately entered into a program with Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship. Ambrose defeated Owens to advance to the finals of the vacant world title tournament and the two had feuded during the live event circuit in Europe a few weeks prior. They feuded again on the Live Holiday Tour and had their first PPV match in December at TLC, where Dean Ambrose defeated Kevin Owens to capture his first IC title reign. The two continued to feud over the belt through March, including a memorable Last Man Standing bout at Royal Rumble 2016.

Chris Jericho

After a brief stint as the Shield’s ally in January 2016 and after his victory over AJ Styles at WrestleMania 32, Chris Jericho aligned with Kevin Owens and found himself right in Ambrose’s crosshairs. Featuring two different talk shows, a destroyed multi-thousand dollar jacket, the death of a beloved plant and the introduction of a match type (Ambrose Asylum) that will probably go in the Punjabi Prison category of likely to never be used again, Ambrose and Jericho’s feud was short but sweet. Dean Ambrose defeated the future Hall of Famer at Payback and Extreme Rules in May 2016. The two later made amends as Dean Ambrose replaced the jacket he had damaged (albeit with a much cheaper one) and even wrestled together against the Miz in a handicap match in April 2017.

AJ Styles

In June 2016, AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose wrestled their first singles match against each other, a match which Ambrose won. Three months later, at Backlash, they wrestled their second (not including live events or dark matches). This time Styles won and to the victor went the spoils of the WWE World Championship, which Ambrose had previously held for 84 days. Styles won with a low blow, thus beginning his official world title program with Ambrose. Unsuccessful in three more attempts at regaining his title, including in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match, Dean Ambrose continued to feud with AJ Styles through December. Notable moments of the feud included Ambrose turning on Styles at Survivor Series and the introduction of James Ellsworth, who Dean Ambrose helped to not one, not two, but three victories over the highly decorated Styles.

The Miz

In December 2016, with Dean Ambrose fresh off his world title feud with AJ Styles and Miz’s Intercontinental Championship feud with Dolph Ziggler in the rearview mirror, Miz and Ambrose were paired as rivals for the first time in their WWE careers. It all started on Miz TV when Miz gave Dean mbrose his Miz Participation Award, which was meant to be a dig. Ambrose got his first shot at Miz’ title that same night, losing when Maryse interfered. As the month continued, so too did Miz and Ambrose’s war of words. On January 3, 2017, Dean Ambrose defeated Miz to win his second IC title. Of the four titles defenses he had, Miz wrestled in all but one. While the Miz/Ambrose feud seemed to be canceled before it hit its fever pitch, the two picked up right where they had left off when both found their way to Raw during the 2017 Superstar Shakeup. In June 2017, at Extreme Rules, Miz regained the IC title. He successfully defended the championship at Great Balls of Fire, at which point Miz and Ambrose’s feud was mostly done, save for the live event circuit which continued through the summer.

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