Maybe Dean Ambrose is sticking around after all.
It sure didn't seem like it a few months back. Ambrose was stuck in a silly feud with Seth Rollins that could have been great. Instead of the quiet lunatic character most seemed to expect based on his return from injury, Ambrose was the goofy villain putting on boring matches.
Speculation about his leaving the company coincided with the perceived burial, which included getting dropped at the hands of Nix Jax.
Then Roman Reigns returned.
WWE clearly used the big return as a way to soft-reboot the Ambrose character. The silly encounters with Alexa Bliss and Jax, not to mention taking losses to EC3, went out the window.
In its place was a conflicted Ambrose who didn't want to help his former brothers but couldn't resist.
It sure feels like Ambrose could be back for the long haul.
After all, Reigns' leukemia and stepping-away announcement was the breaking point for Ambrose—from a storyline perspective. That his character went off the rails in a botched feud seemed to fit nicely alongside the idea he had one foot out the door.
But with Reigns back, Ambrose has a direction again. And that direction, if he's committed to staying around, could create a springboard to new things.
For now, WrestleMania 35 is in the immediate plans after a solid Shield showing at Fastlane. Reigns seems destined for a match with Drew McIntyre, though that's a little bit of a lose-lose for those guys. Reigns can't lose his first big match back, so there's a need to avoid the predictable, boring outcome that would lose the goodwill of fans who were against Reigns before his announcement. But McIntyre looks like he could be the company's next big heel, so having to take a loss doesn't do his status any favors.
Where that leaves Ambrose is hard to say, though he got his face kicked off by McIntyre just the same on Monday's Raw. WWE doesn't have a ton of time to tell an interesting story with him here, so maybe it will just throw him into a tag match with Reigns. Maybe there will be another Triple Threat, tossing in Braun Strowman as a "member of the Shield" because he shares the same grievances with McIntyre and friends.
But consider this—if the folks backstage know Ambrose is leaving, having him face Reigns at WrestleMania could be the best possible development. It doesn't have to involve bad blood, either, because most people are tired of the trio breaking up and fighting, especially since WWE has shown recently it simply can't handle it right.
No, this could be something as simple as Ambrose asking for the match. Think Batista and Triple H from the latest Raw, but far less corny.
Reigns, of course, would accept and solemnly take the predictable win. Or maybe WWE would make it interesting, with Ambrose walking out and Reigns letting him go, giving off a nice bit of storytelling as Ambrose departs the company.
Work with this sort of idea for one more moment—that idea works too even if Ambrose isn't leaving the company. This is what happens when WWE blurs the lines between fiction and reality in its stories. The promotion could sell Ambrose's last match at 'Mania as the goodbye before having him return at some point down the road.
Given's Ambrose's erratic character lately, he could use the help, even if it's coming back the Monday night after 'Mania to one of the hottest crowds of the year.
If Ambrose wanted to leave because of WWE Creative or the rigors of the job, the company has ways to handle both of those and convince him to stay aboard. A reduced work rate in the Randy Orton-ish area isn't impossible. Neither is giving him more creative freedom to do what he wants to do with the character.
Either way, WWE blessing Ambrose with another Rollins-Reigns-Ambrose angle during WrestleMania season is sending mixed signals to onlookers—and that's just how it wants it.
But with Reigns back, Ambrose slowly creeping back into respectable-character territory and the simple power of the WWE machine, it is starting to become easier to think the former WWE champion isn't going anywhere.
Call it one of the biggest mysteries of this 'Mania season, if not the most entertaining too.