Sunday 8 November 2015


The last week of WWE TV made it fairly clear that Dean Ambrose is being shunted in the direction of Kevin Owens. They were presumably  pencilled in to wrestle for KO's Intercontinental gold at Survivor Series before Seth Rollins got injured and a tournament was announced They still may face off but it's less clear now that WWE has an emergency booking solution to conjure up. If Owens v Ambrose does happen I'm sure they'll do something fun. But that's not what I'm interested in here. What I'm interested in is what WWE originally seemed to be setting up for Survivor Series.

That's a Dean Ambrose heel turn.

The night after Hell in a Cell Ambrose told Reigns that he was almost within reach of achieving his dream of becoming WWE world champion. This was the same night Roman defeated Kofi Kingston to qualify for a number one contenders match in which he beat Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio and big Kev Owens. The message of those matches was clear: Reigns was earning a world title match by winning, and winning good matches to boot.

The timing of Ambrose's words of inspiration and affirmation would have raised eyebrows with anyone familiar with the standard tropes of WWE's interpretation of wrestling (sports entertainment). 'The Lunatic Fringe' was suppressing jealousy over Reigns' spot. Reigns, the trusting good guy, couldn't bring himself to see this.

The lads.
It's a story that WWE viewers have seen before and although it seems to have been dropped for now it's one we we'll almost certainly see Reigns and Ambrose go through a split at some point. And that will be both a shame and one of the best takes on the plot ever. Because not only do Reigns and Ambrose have years of on-screen friendship to play off but they've also done a stellar job of making it far more genuine and affectionate than the vast majority of on-screen friendships ever seen in wrestling.

The standard play, especially in WWE, is to present guys aligned on the same sides of the heel-face divide as mates no matter what. Which is problematic because it leads to situations where guys are tagging with people they've had intense feuds with months earlier or who have beaten the for championships (y'know, those things we're supposed to believe every wrestler wants to win and keep hold of?). When this is how it's presented the concept of friendship really doesn't mean much, which limits possibilities when it comes to storytelling and lessens any "friend turns on friend" spots we're meant to care about.

The Ambrose and Reigns relationship is different. It's easy to believe they're mates, quite possibly because they really are. We've had jokes about how Dean knows what beer Roman likes. We've had Roman supporting Dean in his quest to take the world title from Rollins earlier this year. We've seen Dean come to Roman's aid in his battle with the Wyatt Family. Perhaps best of all, dating all the way back to their time in The Shield, we've seen Dean consistently display the ability to make Roman break character and laugh during promos. Those genuine moments not only helped to humanise an all too wooden Reigns, they showed that the pair do genuinely get on and have a rapport.

They will come to blows at some point. Friendships in wrestling sadly only tend to exist either in tag team divisions or to set up rivalries. It would be nice if the Reigns and Ambrose friendship could be exempt from this and be a wrestling relationship that transcends the trope. But it won't be. At least we can take solace in the fact that, because they're so believable together, the inevitable Ambrose versus Reigns feud should be near impossible to mess up.

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