To turn The Shield's catchphrase around: Can you believe that?
According to a report in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingINC.com) WWE officials are not yet convinced that Dean Ambrose is ready to enter the main-event picture. Could've fooled me after seeing him hold the Raw audience in the palm of his hand for the final half hour of Monday night's show.
This isn't an argument over which member of The Shield is the best. This isn't a question of whether Roman Reigns has the makings of the WWE's next big mainstream star (because he absolutely does). This is a conversation about WWE and its inability to recognize a talent's connection with the fanbase.
Ambrose does not look like he was cut from stone or unpacked from a box for a superhero action figure. He looks like the guy who's been sitting at the end of the bar drinking since 11 a.m. and is ready to snap and punch the first guy who looks at him cross-eyed square in the jaw.
Ambrose doesn't hit 450 splashes or do standing Sliced Bread finishers. If his opponent is lying on the mat, he's far more likely to stomp on his hand and try to snap fingers than go up top for a smooth, beautiful moonsault.
Even when he revs up for a dive between the ropes to the outside, he looks more focused on the damage he's going to do than the fluidity of his form.
And it's these exact characteristics that help him connect with the "every man" in the audience. While Vince McMahon is preoccupied with creating the next Superman, he has John McClane, Steve McQueen, heck, Peter Quill firing up crowds on a nightly basis.
The thing that makes the latter trio stand up and connect with fans is their gritty nature and flaws. Fans can see themselves, their faults and their potential in these men. The three aren't gifted with some superhuman skill that elevates them above and beyond all their peers. They just worked harder and fought tougher than the rest to come out ahead.
Stone Cold Steve Austin was hired and presented as the Ringmaster upon his debut in the WWE. He was a "good hand" in the ring who could deliver technically sound matches to fill out the show. Maybe one day he'd achieve a midcard championship.
But in an era of Sid, Mabel, Lex Luger and Ahmed Johnson, that daggone Steve Austin guy just kept getting the crowd wound up. They were drawn in my the intensity in his eyes, the crispness of his hard-hitting but straightforward move set. Then when he opened his mouth and said what all of them had always wanted to say, he was made.
Right now, WWE has its second chance in the last decade to create an Austin-like character. I don't say that lightly because Austin is on the Mount Rushmore of biggest stars and greatest performers in the history of the industry.
The last time was CM Punk. While he sold tons of shirts, main evented pay-per-views and had a historically long title reign, any fan with perspective and an understanding of talent will say that WWE never fully realized the crossover potential of Punk.
After squashing his mega push with a loss to Kevin Nash of all people, scaling back his character and then turning him heel just as he was beginning to take off as the potential babyface leader of the company, Punk settled into his spot as the No. 2 guy in the WWE without much competition—but also without a chance to go further.
Ambrose isn't the No. 2 guy in the company, but he could pretty easily be. And with the right creative direction and left to his own devices, he could be the face of the business by this time next year.
Once Ambrose's music hits upon his return to the show after filming the latest WWE Studios project, he's going to get the biggest pop you've heard in quite some time. He's going to enter into one of the most interesting storylines in the company as he seeks revenge on Rollins.
If that isn't enough to say "main event," I don't know what is.
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