Dean Ambrose has quickly become one of WWE's most popular Superstars. The former loose cannon of The Shield has truly come into his own since that group split. And his spots on the card are some of the most highly anticipated by fans who appreciate what he brings to the table.
While Ambrose continues to impress both in the ring and on the mic, the fact is that his appeal is becoming more clearly defined. Ambrose is not just a babyface; he is a rebel who is raging against the establishment. There is no doubt that he will become WWE's next great antihero.
This was perhaps not the road many fans felt Ambrose would take after The Hounds of Justice met their demise. Ambrose had been so very good at being bad, and he seemed like a natural heel. For the man who reminded many fans of both Brian Pillman and Roddy Piper, the path to being WWE's top antagonist seemed to be in the cards.
But a funny thing happened on the way to wearing the black hat in WWE: Ambrose got over. And he got over in a big way.
When Seth Rollins turned on both Ambrose and Roman Reigns back on June 2, the truth is that anything could have happened. Fans could have backed Reigns only, completely ignoring Ambrose and leaving him to flounder in the middle of the card.
They could have taken one look at Ambrose and not cared about what happened to him at all.
After all, he seemed to have no redeeming qualities when he was with The Shield. Reigns was becoming more and more popular, while Rollins was becoming very likable. In contrast, Ambrose was a wild card. He was on the edge of the team and was so unpredictable that he seemed capable of anything.
In fact, Ambrose had widely been thought of as the one who would eventually betray The Shield. That's how uncontrollable he was and how predetermined his path appeared to be.
But when Ambrose and Reigns found themselves as a tag team instead of a six-man match, the crowd immediately sided with them. Most fans believed Reigns would be on his way to the main event, and they were right. Because of that, his pop remained intact and only grew stronger.
But for Ambrose, the crowd reaction was very impressive indeed. The WWE faithful seemed to gravitate toward his reckless style and fully embrace his wild-eyed unpredictability. They could not wait to see what he would do next, and every time he was on camera was a new moment of mayhem.
WWE presented Ambrose as The Lunatic Fringe, and the moniker fit perfectly.
But the war Ambrose is waging against Rollins involves much more than just the two of them. Since turning on his teammates, Rollins has been under the wing of The Authority. Triple H has taken Rollins in and is now backing him as the future of WWE.
And because of that, Hunter is the first one to step between his newest project and Ambrose. This has caused Ambrose to take on a role that perhaps was not fully realized before, the role of the antihero.
It's a spot that has been inhabited by some of the greats in WWE history: Piper, Jake "the Snake" Roberts, CM Punk and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Each man took a character that perhaps had no business being over as a protagonist and absolutely made it work. And they did it all with the roar of the crowd behind them.
The connection between those Superstars and the fans was visceral and deep on many levels. The crowd wanted to rebel, push the envelope and just be themselves. It's a desire many people have, and for fans in the adrenaline-charged environment of WWE, it's one that is highly amplified.
Perhaps that is why fans have so closely identified with the antihero; the character allows them to live out their anarchist fantasies more than any other on the program. Ambrose is now part of that exclusive group, and he is truly making the best of it.
The group is exclusive. Anyone can stand up to the boss and say no, but to say it with authority and relentlessly fight in a realistic way while taking the fans with him or her on the ride? Only the best can do that and pull it off successfully. Fans can be very impatient with those angles, and it takes a special Superstar to make it work.
Ambrose is one of those Superstars, and he is taking fans on the ride with him right now.
Whether Ambrose's current run will lead to a definite main event spot in the company as a top babyface is unknown right now. The temptation to turn him heel and really let him play the part to the fullest may be too much for WWE to ignore.
But what is not in question is the fact that Ambrose is having fun and so are the fans watching him.
What began as an epic betrayal has led to a new direction and a new role for Ambrose. He could have had a quick feud with Rollins and then went on his way to being just another babyface in WWE. Instead, he is on his way to becoming the company's newest antihero. And it's a role he would be crazy not to love.