Monday 4 May 2015

Where's the Hate?

Last Thursday's episode of SmackDown was headlined by a singles matches between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Obviously this is notable for being a rare singles match main event, SmackDown usually having some sort of tag match on last. But the more notable thing about the match was that it was the first singles clash between Rollins and Ambrose since their Hell in a Cell match last October.

That HIAC match was the blow off to the long-running feud the pair had been having since June, when Rollins betrayed his Shield teammate Ambrose (along with Roman Reigns) and "bought in" to The Authority. Rollins came out on top in every (televised) match during that rivalry and ultimately won it. But at the time that didn't matter. Ambrose had stated that he wasn't motivated by beating Rollins. Instead he was motivated by the opportunity to hurt Rollins during matches. He also made a point early on to state that he would do anything in his power to stop Rollins successfully cashing in his Money in the Bank contract and becoming the WWE champion.

What motivates this man? Besides Renee Young.
Both of those things are rare in WWE. Generally speaking we're left to assume that any given wrestler is motivated to win because winning is better than losing. Which is, generally speaking, true but it's not particularly inspiring or interesting. There's never any mention of winners being paid more or a string of victories earning a wrestler a title match or anything else that would explain why guys choose to compete. It's a big contributing factor to WWE programming being so dreary. Nobody has a motivation to wrestle beyond the fact that they are a wrestler.

So when Ambrose said he didn't want to win, he just wanted the chance to hurt Rollins, it made him stand out. As did his promise to stop Seth getting a WWE title shot. The trouble is that his promise to try and stop Seth becoming champion was never fulfilled.

In and of itself this wouldn't necessarily be a problem. Ambrose could have been written out of shows before Rollins tried his various cash-ins, explaining why he didn't come out to stop him. But he wasn't. Every time Rollins tried exchanging the briefcase for a title match, up to and including his final and successful attempt at WrestleMania 31, Ambrose was, in storyline terms, perfectly able to dash to the ring and stop him.

An argument could be made in favour of this being the right approach. Ambrose moved on to programmes with Bray Wyatt and Bad  News Barrett after he'd lost to Rollins at Hell in a Cell. Having him still targeting Rollins would have jarred with the way WWE sequences things. It would have been a needless booking wrinkle too, each time Rollins appeared to attempt a cash-in Ambrose would either have to follow and be eliminated or provided with a suitable reason to remain absent earlier in the show. The writing team has enough headaches to deal with, adding another was less than desirable.

I don't think these are strong enough reasons to explain Ambrose failing to follow through on his promise though. If he truly felt betrayed by Rollins, and everything he said and did indicates that he did, he would have stuck to his promise and done everything in his power to stop Seth winning the world title. Being involved in a dispute with someone else shouldn't have been enough to stop him. You can, after all, dislike more than one person at once. That it would have upset the natural order of things on WWE television would have been a good thing, things on RAW are far too predictable and stale. The WWE formula has needed refreshing for years and this would have been an ideal first step to making changes. By forgetting that promise Ambrose has been shown to be just like every other WWE babyface. That may be part of the reason he's cooled off considerably since last autumn.

There is a silver lining to all of this. The writing team still has the option to have Rollins and Ambrose reunite at some point in the future (and that's going to happen, a Shield reformation is too lucrative a thing for WWE to pass on) and reveal that after they finished their initial feud they reached a secret understanding that Ambrose would not interfere in any of S-Roll's future cash-in attempts. They could even initially reunite the pair by having Ambrose aid Rollins in a title defence, perhaps in a match where there's a stipulation in place stating that no Authority members can interfere. That would set up the revelation of their secret pact nicely and create a new dynamic between the currently-still-friendly Reigns and Ambrose.

Motives need to be mentioned far more in WWE. They got it right with Ambrose last summer. Let's hope they can get back to that again, and with more wrestlers.

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