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WWE Can Only Blame Itself for Dean Ambrose's Impending Exit

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 30, 2019

WWE

If Dean Ambrose is truly done with WWE, it will go down as one of the biggest whiffs in modern wrestling history. 

Let's start at the beginning for those who managed to miss the news. The internet lit ablaze Tuesday with speculation The Lunatic Fringe wasn't going to renew his contract with the company.

WWE then went out of its way to confirm it, releasing a statement saying the company is "grateful and appreciative" of Ambrose and it hopes "one day Dean will return to WWE."

And looking back on it now, it isn't hard to see why Ambrose himself might have a problem with the creative direction of his character. It is very hard to see how WWE botched the situation so badly. 

As we noted in December, WWE ruined a hot Ambrose-Seth Rollins feud in a hurry. The Lunatic had made a surprise return and said little while looking bulked up and healthy for the first time in a long time, as opposed to his skinny SmackDown days. 

It seemed ripe for a superb character change: Ambrose, the silent guy who beats people down and intimidates the whole roster. But he started talking again like usual, fine. 

Then Ambrose betrayed Rollins on the same October night Roman Reigns announced he had to leave the company to fight leukemia. It was brilliant for its sharp-cutting ways, both in real life and in WWE fantasy land. It was despicable and lit genuine bad-guy heat. Historic heat, really.

From there, the company could have crafted one of the most hated characters of all time and one of the best modern feuds. Those who have seen Ambrose's character work before WWE know quite well what he could have done with it. 

Instead, Ambrose started holding his nose, wearing a mask and added a siren to his entrance music, blabbering about the stench of the crowd. At one point, he shot a promo while prepping to take a needle in his butt. 

It was a jarring, inexplicable change of direction. Not only did it kill the feud, the low-anticipated match after the fact was a stinker. Ambrose acted like his usual self and Rollins did the hurt-my-knee thing again as he has for years and that was that. 

So no, it isn't hard to see why Ambrose might want to throw in the towel and, if he isn't checking in with other companies, retiring completely like CM Punk.

The 33-year-old almost died while recovering from his surgery, per Greg Luca of The Monitor. He fought back anyway and returned to the above dribble.

Just when it seemed like he could take center stage after mostly flying under the radar as the oddball in The Shield and just when he had the perfect reason to do his best type of character work, it all went out the window. 

As for those who want to rush this into "it's a work" territory, consider the following sequence of events:

  • On Raw, Ambrose asks for another match with Rollins and gets it
  • He throws down one of the worst sells of a curb stomp you'll ever see
  • Loses to Rollins one last time a night after getting eliminated in the Royal Rumble by up-and-comer Aleister Black
  • Tries to sit in the middle of the ring and, in a dramatic change of tone, says he wants to talk to fans
  • Gets interrupted by Nia Jax and then shoved out of the picture by her

That sure smells like a wrapping-up of events before yanking Ambrose from television completely, regardless of WrestleMania 35. 

To be fair to the "work" truthers, the statement is a bit unprecedented for WWE but so is a budding competitor like All Elite Wrestling. And so are crowds who can hijack shows, perhaps effectively creating a stew where a live WWE crowd is promoting a different promotion while Ambrose is in the ring.

If nothing else, this might be the new operating procedure with CM Punk chants still raining down on the company to this day. 

If Ambrose isn't ripped off television, maybe there is a scenario in which they try to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation by putting a talent like Black over The Lunatic Fringe on his way out the door. 

What's interesting about this whole ordeal is WWE still has time to mend whatever has spoiled this situation. Whether that is giving Ambrose creative freedom or something else, he isn't out of a contract until April. If the two sides can make it work, the company can easily alter course and act like this was all part of a storyline anyway.

In a way, that is part of the beauty of wrestling. But if someone even a month ago had suggested Ambrose got fed up and split, it would have been met with a "well, yeah."

And the ever-changing landscape of wrestling as a whole right now lends plenty of credibility to the idea guys who feel misused can go make arguably the same cash on possibly fewer dates while doing their preferred style of work. 

However, the fact WWE needs an out where a serious mending of relationships and correction of talent management makes them look like geniuses in hindsight is the problem. The fact a serious layup of a character and feud with seemingly unlimited potential thanks to serious real-life connections tripped the company up so significantly is a red flag. 

And in the end, it could cost WWE one of its bigger main event stars, a workhorse in the ring and unique character they can't simply snap their fingers and replace.

If it is the end of Ambrose in WWE, the promotion deserves every bit of backlash, chanting and possible boost a competitor receives when he walks out the door. 

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