The WWE anti-hero lineage continues with Dean Ambrose.
In the company's history there have been numerous examples of clean-cut, righteous and traditional hero characters. Ambrose is not one of them. He instead shares kinship with men like Roddy Piper, Steve Austin and CM Punk, departures from good-guy norms.
WWE is still home to straight-laced heroes, John Cena being the most obvious example, but its recent history has seen a number of edgier men with looser moral codes.
Ambrose follows the tradition that Punk most recently carried: You root for him, you cheer for him, but he's not to be trusted.
He's more Han Solo than Luke Skywalker, more Roddy Piper than Ricky Steamboat.
The similarities between Ambrose and Piper are plentiful, and with good reason. Men as wild-eyed and unpredictable as those two are rarities.
Like Piper, Ambrose's rage overtakes him. Once a foe has wronged him, he transforms into a rabid dog.
In 1991, Ted DiBiase inspired that kind of transformation when he injured Piper's knee. When they met in the ring, Piper fired off right hands at a dizzying pace.
Today's fans have seen a parallel sight with Ambrose several times over. During his feud with Seth Rollins, he has often exhibited that same frenzied energy.
One could also easily imagine Ambrose letting his fury lead him to ignoring rules and resorting to tactics normally reserved for heels. In the above video, Piper kisses DiBiase's manager Sherri Martel and then later flips her onto the mat. During a round of crutch-swinging, he even nails the referee.
Ambrose has yet to toss a woman around or clobber a referee with a piece of medical equipment, but imagining him doing so requires no effort.
He's shown himself to be as unstable and unpredictable as Hot Rod.
Listening to him rant about the Money in the Bank briefcase and Triple H, one can't help but flash back to Piper. He cackles and rambles, and his volume shoots up and down.
Those were among Piper's trademarks. Ambrose hasn't been as loud and feverish as Piper, but the two share a similar unhinged quality.
The parallels stretch back to Ambrose's WWE career. In an interview (NSFW note: link contains brief profanity) from his days as Jon Moxley, Ambrose called himself a "sick guy" with blood stuck to his face. That clip is eerily similar to when Piper smashed a bottle over his own head and finished his interview with blood oozing from his forehead.
As Ambrose is allowed to further explore his character, to add moments of insanity to his resume, the likeness to Piper will only get stronger.
Austin wasn't one to wait around for an opportunity for vengeance. Most babyfaces would limit their pursuit of foes to the ring, following the rules. Not Austin.
His feuds often saw him go far beyond the ropes, just as we've seen from Ambrose.
To pay back Booker T for preventing him from becoming unified champ in 2001, Austin started hunting for him in a variety of places. Booker T wasn't safe in church or the supermarket.
That's what Rollins has experienced in the last few months, with Ambrose popping out of a car trunk, black box or birthday present.
It's hard to picture Cena lying in wait inside a present or Aisle 5. Ambrose and Austin, though, are harder to control. Anger them and expect to become prey anywhere, anytime.
There's a fearlessness that bonds these two men as well. Some wrestlers may hesitate to act on their impulses to attack if they know it will put their jobs at risk. The threat of being fired can keep the sane man away, but not the one who feels as if he has nothing to lose.
Austin operated that way throughout much of his career. Ambrose is following suit.
The Texas Rattlesnake went as far as to knock the boss on his back. With security, police and the head of WWE, Vince McMahon, telling him to go one way, Austin would go the other, regardless of the consequences. Getting arrested was not a big enough deterrent to stop him.
Ambrose is capable of the same behavior, as we saw when he ambushed Rollins right in front of CEO Triple H.
If that storyline progresses in the direction of Triple H, there are bound to be more parallels between Ambrose and Austin. Triple H would be playing the part of Mr. McMahon, and Ambrose would be the take-no-prisoners anti-authority figure.
Sanity and destruction separate the two anti-heroes, though.
Austin wasn't insane like Ambrose is, just an ass-kicker who disregarded the rules. He comes off as more in control, more calculating. Ambrose is more of a Tasmanian devil tossed into an enclosed space.
Opportunities are sure to come, but Ambrose hasn't yet destroyed or hijacked property like Austin did. A car filled with cement and a stolen Zamboni are among the things on Austin's wrap sheet. Ambrose's criminal resume is still in the works.
But if anyone is a safe bet to follow Austin's lead in vehicle vandalism, it's Ambrose.
Both Ambrose and Punk brought most of their gimmicks with them from the indies. Punk's early days saw him developing the edgy, defiant persona that he eventually displayed on WWE programming.
That was true for Ambrose as well. He didn't have to learn to do promos at WWE developmental; he'd been sharpening his talking skills years before signing.
The result is that they both entered the WWE loaded with experience but also with a ready-made fanbase. That helped them get over with fans as babyfaces even when they borrowed the aggression and attitude more associated with heels.
Ambrose and Punk may not have connected with fans in a different era. There is something about their irreverence, belligerence and disregard for authority that appeals to today's fans, that fits a less black-and-white wrestling landscape.
Punk drew his own comparisons to Austin and others, but he was something else entirely, a deviation from the status quo.
Fans hadn't seen the muay thai-infused in-ring style he employed. They hadn't seen a wrestler look so different either, more like a bassist for a punk band than the high-flyers, musclebound brutes and giants around him.
Ambrose is similarly unique. Sure, he reminds folks of Piper and Brian Pillman, but he's darker than Piper and more of a street fighter than the latter.
Like Punk, Ambrose is going to have WWE walk outside its comfort zone. The company can't just follow the booking handbook to present him. Creativity will be required.
That was Punk's story as well. He had to be a part of stories that suited him, fresh, innovative angles where he demanded ice cream bars in his contract or ranted against the company with a live mic in hand.
Ambrose has been too busy chasing down Rollins to do much in the way of making demands, but WWE is going to have to follow the approach it had with Punk. That means finding a section of the stage for him to stand that best showcases him, even if it means building that section from scratch.
To best use him, officials would be wise to both look backward and forward. Seeing what worked for Punk, Piper and Austin would be beneficial for Ambrose.
In the end, though, WWE has to cut away a new path for him. Ambrose is his own man, a new species cobbled together from pre-existing ones.