Sunday night, Dean Ambrose lost the WWE Championship to AJ Styles at Backlash. On the surface, it appears like a title change similar to many others. Styles, a heel, has been putting on five-star matches as of late and has garnered large reactions from the WWE Universe. It makes the title changing hands honestly seem like a no-brainer.
That can be true while still wondering what the long-term ramifications can be for the former champion, Ambrose. After all, he didn’t exactly have a lengthy title run. Now, trotting about the SmackDown Live brand without the belt might prove troublesome for the former Shield member.
Outside the obligatory rematch that will likely happen as soon as this Tuesday or the next WWE Network Special — in which, Styles will presumably retain — what exactly awaits for Ambrose?
Unlike his former Shield partners, there are not a lot of characters on the brand in which has a lot of history competing against. There’s no obvious backup angle for his character now that he no longer holds the title. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, even something with The Authority, that’s not on the table for his character moving forward.
There are no safeguards.
With most of the SmackDown roster featuring wrestlers riddled with potential, but not yet proven, it is going to be incredibly interesting to see how the Lunatic Fringe is handled.
Will he quickly move into a role similar to that of Dolph Ziggler — a former world champion who has spent the majority of his non-main event run putting other guys over? Or will the WWE do everything in its power to keep him as near the main event scene as humanly possible?
If it is the latter, how exactly can the creative team do that? Obviously, the rematch(es) will help, but what about after that angle has run its course?
That’s where the issue comes in. Ambrose can’t, at least not yet, jump into the mid-card title scene. The Miz is embroiled in what seems to be a growing feud with Daniel Bryan. Plus, he’s doing the best work he has ever done. It would also be random, inserting Ambrose into that picture post-world title run just wouldn’t feel right.
Scarily, at least if you’re an Ambrose fan, there’s not much else going on in which he can sink his teeth into and it not end up being rather boring.
Nonsensical, illogical feuds rarely work. We can point to Wrestler-X and suggest he simply feuds with that person, but there isn’t exactly an already established (heel) wrestler on the roster who can help keep Ambrose relevant — especially in a non-title feud.
Still, that seems like the only option after Ambrose gets his presumed rematch. He will do figurative battle against a Baron Corbin or someone of that nature — in which he might lose, mind you — and the matches (themselves) and the feud (overall) can do more to hurt what can be argued is a stale Ambrose character at this point.
There’s obviously the idea of him turning heel. And while that would make some sense, it still won’t necessarily keep him near or around the main event scene. He would still need to feud with someone. Is there someone out there intriguing enough to help fans stay interested in Ambrose?
What is most likely to happen is a Ziggler situation. The WWE will attempt to see if Ambrose will sink or swim on his own without being helped by carrying a world title. Unfortunately, the company may do doing that while providing him unsuitable angles to be involved in.
Through no fault of his own, Ambrose is in dangerous territory. He is coming fresh off an at best ho-hum title run, and what is waiting for him on the other side are more questions than answers. If the Internet Wrestling Community notices this, given how it has given up on more polished talents than Ambrose before, we can be in a situation where we quickly see a main event talent’s star fall rather dramatically.
It has happened to Ziggler, Miz before that (though he has bounced back), R-Truth after a main event push and so many others. That is the company Ambrose — through WWE’s booking — is trying to avoid joining. The question is not if he’s good enough to do so, but if the WWE will have anything in its creative genius to help accomplish avoiding such a failure.
Simply put: Is Ambrose about to enter creative purgatory?