Monday 25 August 2014

The Lunatic, The Architect and The Empire

“You’re over, Ambrose! You’re over!” screamed Seth Rollins to Dean Ambrose on the August 18 RAW. He wasn’t wrong.

Since The Shield split on June 2 Ambrose has become incredibly, massively, insanely popular. Stick as many hyperbolic adjectives in as you want, it won’t do it justice. Right now Ambrose is the most popular man on WWE television (or he was until he was written to go and make a movie). Which, despite his obvious talent, is something of a surprise.

When ‘The Hounds of Justice’ were together and working as antagonists Dean was the member most effective at getting a crowd to react. That’s part of why he was the member of the trio who got a singles championship. Ambrose could make people boo him. As such he seemed like the natural choice for the member who’d turn. He’d displayed the skills a WWE heel needs, Reigns was always going to move on to become the company’s Great New Hope, and Rollins’s ring style, reliant as it is on crowd pleasing dives and risk taking, made him a natural fit for the face routine.

The vest and taped shoulder look is in this season.
But since the split Ambrose has been a revelation. His work as the wronged babyface seeking retribution on the friend who betrayed him has been excellent. The promo work he’s done has been typically excellent. The aura of unpredictable anarchy he has cultivated with wild run-ins and brawls. The tics he’s consciously developed to let us know that he’s just that little bit too close to genuinely being unstable are effective. It’s all come together to make Ambrose the most captivating protagonist on WWE television. Not bad for a guy seemed destined for an upper mid-card at best slot once The Shield was broken up.

Not to be outdone, Rollins has also upped his game and been routinely enjoyable. He’s perfected an annoying smirk and understands that the key to being unpopular is to adopt a slower, calmer approach to promos. His on-screen link to The Authority has clearly helped, particularly the presentation of him as one of Triple H’s chosen ones, but the overall success is down to him knowing how to make himself dislikeable.

In fact it’s Roman Reigns who’s the doing the least well of the three Shield boys. Yes he’s in a prominent spot, has enjoyed a clean win over a heavily protected member of Club Main Event, and is very obviously being groomed for bigger and better things but that’s all down to the booking. The things he’s in control of haven’t been that impressive. He’s yet to have a standout singles match. His promo abilities have improved a lot since he first showed up , and the trend will likely continue, but he’s still not as good on the stick as Ambrose or even the more realistic target of Rollins. Audiences do react to him, but mostly for his entrance and signature moves and poses. For the most part he still struggles to draw people in beyond those points whilst people are reacting to Ambrose the moment he appears.

As I’ve written before I think Reigns will be sufficiently ready to main event next year’s WrestleMania, which seems to be the plan. But he’s a long way off ready now. Every aspect of his game needs improvement to a greater or lesser degree if he’s to become the star WWE wants (and needs).

As things stand right now it’s Dean Ambrose the “WWE Universe” (a wonderfully lolsome phrase) have warmed to and who is looking like the group’s breakout character. Good for him, and fans. If Reigns wants to succeed he’ll have plenty of chances, and he’ll probably manage it. But he’s going to have to up his game if he wants to outdo ‘The Lunatic Fringe’. Perhaps the competition will help drive him.

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