When Dean Ambrose won the United States Championship at WWE Extreme Rules, it marked what appeared to be the beginning of a storied solo career.
But since his first singles title win, it’s been made pretty clear by the creative team that The Shield is still very much a group.
It seems Ambrose’s U.S. Championship victory was a way to test the waters to see if he is ready to venture out on his own as a singles performer or if he’s better off remaining with The Shield.
Ambrose, of course, had a ton of success with The Shield, but you could argue that the trio’s most successful days are behind them. That begs the question—If The Shield is no longer going to be a top act, is Ambrose ready to be a singles star?
The short answer: No.
Yes, Ambrose has shown a lot of potential as a performer, especially on the microphone. Yes, he has a huge Internet fanbase that thinks he is the greatest thing since sliced bread and should already be world champion.
But Ambrose’s impressive physical talents aren’t what you should really consider here. What’s more important than anything Ambrose himself possesses is whether the WWE will push him effectively as a singles star.
And it probably won’t.
Since WrestleMania 28 in 2012, we’ve seen a number of Superstars enter the WWE with a lot of publicity only to flounder due to some very questionable booking at the hands of the creative team.
Ryback debuted shortly after WrestleMania last year and demolished anyone in his path on his way to becoming one of the WWE’s most popular stars. More than a year later, he’s lost every major match he’s had and is now being saddled with a horrendous “whiner” gimmick as a heel.
Antonio Cesaro debuted right around the same time as Ryback, and it wasn’t all that long before he embarked upon a lengthy run as United States champion. However, his U.S. title reign featured virtually no notable feuds and is remembered more for Cesaro losing non-title match after non-title match than anything else.
Damien Sandow also debuted around WrestleMania time last spring. He also received what appeared to be a big push right out of the gate, but 15 months later, has this guy won any match that’s meant anything?
Similarly, you can look at someone like Curtis Axel. Despite already winning the Intercontinental Championship and main-eventing Raw twice, most of his wins have been controversial and/or weak, and—despite being paired with Paul Heyman—he is not catching on with fans the way that company officials probably hoped he would have.
Realistically speaking, though, Axel, Ryback, Cesaro and Sandow are just a few Superstars in a long line of WWE performers whose solo careers have suffered because of the creative team’s poor booking.
The common link between these four performers and countless others? They’re all heels.
For whatever reason, the WWE, for the most part, just refuses to book its heels—whether they are established or up-and-coming—to be as dominant as its faces. That’s resulted in a woefully unbalanced heel/face alignment that usually features more heels but features much more dominance on the face side.
What’s to make us think that things will be any different for Ambrose?
Ambrose is considered by many to be the shining star of The Shield, but that doesn’t guarantee him anything. The only thing that’s guaranteed him success so far is, well, The Shield.
Even though the recent booking of The Shield hasn’t been great, the overall booking of the group has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Never in the history of pro wrestling has a group been so dominant in such a short span. Never has a debuting faction beaten virtually every top star in the company. Never has a new stable made such a major splash despite being virtually unknown among mainstream wrestling fans.
That’s what The Shield has done, and the WWE shouldn’t ruin that until it has to. Not for the sake of an Ambrose singles push. Not for a feud between its members. Not for anything.
It’s rare that the WWE is able to book a newcomer to have so much success, but that’s what it’s done with The Shield. Even if Ambrose is deemed as someone who can have a ton of success as a solo star down the road, it’s going to be awfully hard for him to have as much success on his own as he’s having and will continue to have with The Shield.
Cesaro has struggled. Ryback has too. Same for Axel. Ditto for Sandow.
The WWE is a crowded place right now, especially for singles stars and especially for those who aren’t reliable veterans who’ve proved themselves over the long haul.
Ambrose is good with the potential to be great. But so are countless other stars, and their careers have been delayed and/or potentially ruined because their singles pushes were screwed up early on their careers.
Don’t let that happen to Ambrose, WWE.
Please, keep him as a member of The Shield until the group is holding him down rather than pushing him forward.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!