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  1. #1

    Button Up: AEW Needs a Villain, not Dean Ambrose

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    AEW Needs a Villain, Not Dean Ambrose




    It’s May 25th. You’re in your Big Show T-shirt and watching Double or Nothing. With a long night of matches, you’re excited for segues to surprises. You pray to the wrestling god of TNA and WWE for Dean Ambrose to shock the world! Maybe, he’ll move down the aisle, looking all blocky, like he’s in an old WWE video game’s story mode. Then, he’ll— can I stop and admire your salivating tongue! It’s more profound than my Golden Retriever’s! — Yes, he’ll declare he wants a Title shot or declare to be anti AEW or WWE! To make a statement, he’ll do Dirty Deeds on Cody Rhodes! You pray nothing more than see this; and may I say—god, you are praying to a fucked up, goddamn god. Gawd! You would, too, goddammit. After all, you’re wearing a Big Show T-shirt.


    You see, AEW serves a god that shuts its nose to the days of shock value and done to death clichés. They serve a less sophisticated, old Greek god that builds story-arcs specific to their shows and gives payoffs to them. It’s not the god of the formula, the god of holy shit, or the god of selling out for one moment. This god has no need for Dean Ambrose. This god needs a villain. And that villain, sorry to say, isn’t, even, John Moxley.


    This needed villain, rather, sports an umbrella and a mask with a beak. This `villain hates Cody’s success, the Young Buck success, Omega’s success. And it’s not a shoot. It’s even better—a good old fashion storyline. A good storyline, after all, is a pleasing aroma to this god’s sense of smell. AEW doesn’t need Dean Ambrose; they need that murderous Cain, Marty Scurll. Notwithstanding, you, with your Big Show T-Shirt, say, “Marty who,” and “Kain is a great idea.”


    But what about all our maybes from paragraph one, you say? Maybe, Dean will come out like he’s in a generic video game story and want a Title shot. Who the hell doesn’t want one, but what chemistry does he have with Cody, Omega, or Hangman? Let me help you with that, you who loves Big Show’s heel and face turns. Putting Ambrose against the Elite is like fucking a stranger without having alcohol in your system. Now, pull your pants up and look at this contrast: how does Marty measure against that lot? Marty has been their friend for a long, long time, but there’s always been a dark side to him; hasn’t there? Could it really be held in forever?


    But--but, maybe, Dean could feign being anti-AEW
    . Hasn’t this been done to death in other promotions? It’s been done by the NWO, and you may think well, shit, Ben, that worked! But did it work when they did it in TNA? It’s not enough to rehash old angles, anymore. We’ve seen it fail; we’ve learned better. But with Marty, it’s been presented in the opening act that he has no love for this AEW endeavor. When Marty comes in anti-AEW, we believe it, because there’s reason for his character to feel that way.


    Still, how about that “maybe” that Ambrose will attack Cody? You ask. I say, why would Ambrose attack Cody? The fan who loves Big Show booking says to make a statement, of course. I say, a lot of fine reasoning there! When Cody gets through with a clinic with Dustin, and he needs to segue into something new, why not let it be what’s been built week in and week out? Why not have him get his ribs busted with an umbrella? And keep that umbrella popped open; because it will hail money out there.


    Money? Benjamin Button, you don’t und-a-stand! to make money, AEW needs star power! AEW needs proven commodities! AEW needs brand names!


    How about this, lover of Big Show being mid-carder one month and main eventer the next, TNA had Hogan, Nash, Hall, Flair, Sting, Angle, Jeff Jarret (don’t worry, I’m yanking your chain on that one), Mick Foley, Booker T, Team 3D, Bobby Lashley, and more. And they never sold out a 10,000-seat arena! But without Jericho’s name on the program and with Marty's in a high- profile match, AEW did it at All In. It could be said that as the WWE brand gets bigger, their wrestlers get smaller. It’s Saved By the Bell the New Class, and the new class can change. Because, we’re alright with that when the formula stays the same. WWE names don’t matter; especially when there’s a movement apart from the stale formula that they're part of. The names that matter are the ones in the movement, and Marty’s name is in there. Keep him off Being the Elite; don’t let him answer the damn phone. And at Double or Nothing; show that phone ring from his dead friend, Cody, show him walk away from it, and show him walk down that aisle to do some rising action! Bring back a goddamn, strong villain ready to make his dead friends deader!


    “But, Ben, you think this will arouse a holy shit chant the way Ambrose would?”


    Holy Shit isn’t holy water. Matter of fact, holy water may just be water; and holy shit, just shit. Sure, Dean may pop a holy shit chant. Nevertheless, when the live crowd exhale all their breath, they’ll squeeze their nose to not inhale the whiff from his old WWE baggage. How much did Ambrose give up for the Shield; how much did he lose for the WWE formula? It’s been years and years since he’s been that edgy, son of a whore. It’s been years and years since he’s been that never satisfied, warped mind that worked it in the psychology of his matches. Sure, the Shield battled in the best six-man tags in recent history, but how much did Ambrose give to become the one in the group who does awkward clotheslines and makes funny, animated facial expressions? He went from being the Dark Knight’s joker to the Addams Family’s Uncle Fester. While Rollins was the best athlete in the group, what personality did he have to give up? Reigns, sure as hell, only took from the unit that Ambrose gave himself for. After all, what’d they tell CM Punk way back then? “You have to make Roman look strong.” Who was looking after Dean? Ambrose has the baggage of a failed Title reign. He never fully made it back as a singles competitor. On the other hand, Marty’s a man who’s been on the verge of the next level: challenging Okada, Lethal, and now Aldis. Marty’s push-button ready to be the villain that the god of alternative wrestling has called. As for Ambrose, I say send him back to the drawing board, give him vignettes, and help him find who he is in this new environment. And if he can’t find that, I’m satisfied with my villain.
    Last edited by Benjamin Button; 04-25-2019 at 03:07 AM.

  2. #2
    LOP's part time glass ceiling DynamiteBillington's Avatar
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    What's wrong with fucking strangers when you're sober? Means you get to remember how much fun you had, and the nerves and anticipation can actually add to it.

    Also, TNA have sold out 10,000 seat arenas - I know they did Wembley a couple of times and that holds at least that many.

    But the overall column I agree with. AEW needs their own identity and characters, it shouldn't rely solely on names built elsewhere. I suspect though that both they and Dean realise that and if that's where he ends up he will do something new.

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  3. #3
    The Brain
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    Dyna, my friend, TNA may have run in Wembley but they maxed out at around 8,000 and left plenty of seats empty. In the US I think they hit their ceiling at about 7,000, never really even got close to the big 10.

    Benny, I was crying PREACH more than once for this one! Some of my favorite lines:

    How about this, lover of Big Show being mid-carder one month and main eventer the next, TNA had Hogan, Nash, Hall, Flair, Sting, Angle, Jeff Jarret (don’t worry, I’m yanking your chain on that one), Mick Foley, Booker T, Team 3D, Bobby Lashley, and more. And they never sold out a 10,000-seat arena! But without Jericho’s name on the program and with Marty's in a high- profile match, AEW did it at All In.
    So TRUE right here! There have been many attempts to prove why All In was actually not an impressive accomplishment since it happened, but this is attempted retcon of the worst kind.

    Holy Shit isn’t holy water. Matter of fact, holy water may just be water; and holy shit, just shit.
    The desire to shock in the moment superseding the desire to tell a compelling story is so often a tiresome trope. Beautifully phrased, by the by.

    How much did Ambrose give up for the Shield; how much did he lose for the WWE formula? It’s been years and years since he’s been that edgy, son of a whore. It’s been years and years since he’s been that never satisfied, warped mind that worked it in the psychology of his matches. Sure, the Shield battled in the best six-man tags in recent history, but how much did Ambrose give to become the one in the group who does awkward clotheslines and makes funny, animated facial expressions? He went from being the Dark Knight’s joker to the Addams Family’s Uncle Fester.
    This has long been my feeling on Ambrose, somebody who has lost what made them hungry and dangerous in the first place. I know he still has some very strong supporters out there and I don't begrudge them that one bit, but the Ambrose I found most compelling is years gone.

    The question is, then, can that Jon Moxley possibly return to us? I truly don't know. I'm not categorically opposed to Moxley coming to AEW. There's something to be said for the dangerous stranger making his way into new waters. But the last thing I would ever want to see is Moxley-as-Ambrose entering the company to declare himself to be an invading force, or worse, to "shoot" against his former employer. If he's ready to be hungry again, let him tell a story, but not the story of how he was mistreated elsewhere. The story is in the moment, which reminds me of another favorite line, maybe my favorite of all:

    And it’s not a shoot. It’s even better—a good old fashion storyline.
    This line could almost be holy to me, and if I had my way it'd be stamped on the door and the eyelids of every booker in 2019.

    I think Scurll has his downsides, but he seems like the right man for this time and place. He's got the history and the depth to possibly be part of something special. I've been hoping for someone to appear after Cody embraces his vanquished brother at Double or Nothing and take both men to task, and Marty could be the perfect man for the job.

    Really good stuff here Benny, loving this.

  4. #4
    LOP's part time glass ceiling DynamiteBillington's Avatar
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    Fair enough - I only knew they'd been there ��

    Edit: Should have known the thumbs up emoji wouldn't translate from my phone!
    Last edited by DynamiteBillington; 04-25-2019 at 12:31 PM.

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  5. #5
    Good column. I can't comment on Marty because I've never seen him. But I've seen Dean give promos as Jon Moxley and he's great. I think if Dean goes to AEW, it would be smart to give him a good push. He usually got the best crowd reactions of the Shield members after they split, and AEW could be the brand that "gives it's fans what they really want".

    But I agree, just having former WWE wrestlers is not enough to get the promotion off the ground. They need to create their own stars.

  6. #6
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    Is there a category for “Line of the Year” during The End of Year CF Awards? If so, “Holy shit isn’t holy water” needs to take it in a landslide.

    Good stuff, Benjamin. Now go write a haiku.

  7. #7
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    If AEW wants to succeed they need to forget about rehashing previous WWE employees and the baggage that they bring with them. I'm never seen Marty so I can't comment on that. However, I think Jon Moxley could still make it work. Vignettes like he had back in the day showing his warped mind can build Dean's edginess back up and I'm sure he'd be great in that role if he would be able to recapture that old persona he had.

    Great column Benny.

  8. #8
    Member #25 SirSam's Avatar
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    This is another column close to my heart Benny but in a much less personal way than your Fatherhood one which I just read.

    I am a big Ambrose fan, he is probably my favourite wrestler of all time and while I would love to see him wrestle everywhere I do share some of your concerns if he was to show up in AEW even if I don't share your concerns about his ability to get the job done.

    First of all The Villian absolutely should turn up in AEW and truly throw a spanner in The Elite's works. I think Mizfan said on his podcast that the last thing he wants to see on AEW is The Elite being 'best friends beating everyone'. I want to see conflict between them, true conflict not just silly things like 'who is gona be the librarian gimmick' and I think Marty is the key to exploding The Elite and breaking the unit up. His role in AEW should be significant weather or not Ambrose shows up.

    On to Ambrose though.

    Obviously I still think he has it, he has certainly changed since his Moxley days and a lot of that could have been because of The Shield. As a character as Moxley & early Ambrose he was unsatisfied with his position in life and wanted to tear people down as a response to his own broken world however in The Shield he found something that made his life no longer feel broken so as a character changed. To immediately undo all of that would be galling for me as a fan who loves his long term character arc. The absolute last thing I want to see from him is a guy who has never cared about status and prestige one bit suddenly cutting 'big league' promos on the 'pissant company'.

    I do think that the most compelling position for him is as a bit of a broken down man who is at the end of his tether, a man ground up after years of being in 'the machine'. It gives him an immediate story and motive for acting in an antagonistic way and plays off his real life story that everyone already knows about. However that position is somewhat already taken by Jericho, assuming they continue Jericho's character over from NJPW.

    I honestly don't think Ambrose will be showing up in AEW, his best friends and wife are all in WWE and if rumour has it he has a lucrative offer on the table if he wants it. If he truly is burnt out and over wrestling then even if he is my favourite character of all time if he isn't motivated I don't want to see him.

    If he does though I have no doubt it will be good. He is a true in ring technician who did make his name as a brawler but has evolved into a real old school story teller. I also think he has a great creative mind and someone who would only show up if he had a clear vision for where he was headed as he certainly won't be going to AEW for the money. His work opposite Rollins is some of the most creative and emotive long term storytelling the WWE has ever pulled off and he has a fantastic way of bringing the audience into his matches, particularly as a face.

    Long story short.

    Big yes to Marty.

    Still not sure about Dean, I don't think he will but if he does I'm excited.

  9. #9
    The Brain
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    I do think that the most compelling position for him is as a bit of a broken down man who is at the end of his tether, a man ground up after years of being in 'the machine'. It gives him an immediate story and motive for acting in an antagonistic way and plays off his real life story that everyone already knows about. However that position is somewhat already taken by Jericho, assuming they continue Jericho's character over from NJPW.
    This actually makes me think that Jericho and Ambrose could take really different tracks here. Jericho may be broken down in practice but the key to his character so far is the fact that he doesn't let on that he's broken down, and is maybe too deluded by his own visions of self-appointed mega-stardom to even realize it. The idea of Ambrose as a bitter, dangerous man who was driven away from his friends and family by the machine does hold some appeal to me and would be a way to mix his original edge with the character's he's evolved into since that time, and would very different than Jericho.

    Also please... don't put Ambrose and Jericho against each other. Still have nightmares about their feud in WWE!

  10. #10
    Dyna: It is vulgar to fuck a stranger, sober; to commit acts like that with someone you don't know. Unless it's a hooker. That is pretty standard.

    Mizfan- tired trope is right. The company with momentum need not ride any wave but their own. I'd like to see good episodic storylines from them that build each week. You don't need major surprises when you do that. You've built the characters with such realism and wants and desires that to merely see them try to achieve or do an action should be the pay off.


    RIP Bossman, It's really hard to say if those days have passed Dean by. It's been a long time. But I was a John Moxley fan. When Dean was in FCW I wrote a column titled, "Dean Ambrose will be the next huge star." Boy have I been wrong, thus far. Hopefully, he's kissing the wife beater and jeggings goodbye. Like to see the leather jacket and black trunks back, but wouldn't be apposed to something new.


    Meandi- Catholics are big on the Holy Water but could just be good ol' recycled H2O, for all I know. But I'd rather be drinking water with people trying to get to heaven, than standing in a wrestling arena shitting out the mouth and it turn out as unblessed as it sounds.

    Don Franc- I agree stay as far from what WWE is doing and has done, and make your own thing matter. They have a hell of an idea, a hell of a roster, and a hell of a presentation, if All In is any indication. I agree on the vignettes for Dean. He, in the past, has been effective with that approach and it would not be the standard come in and do some pipe bomb promo that never really fits in the story-line. Reset him and let him build to something that matters. Buildup is key in wrestling' always has been. Always will be.


    Sam- We do have a different outlook on Ambrose WWE run. I will give to you that his stuff with Rollins has probably been his best. And I'm glad you found something psotive in that body of work. As that's why we watch, to be entertained. And I stayed in and hoped for a long time he'd do something that made me like him in the first place. First, I hoped when he went single, we'd see that side of him. Then, when he turned heel. But I gave up a long time before he actually turned heel. I'm glad I did, for I'd of been disappointed. His good guy on good guy Dirty deeds on Cena. His promo calling Cena a part timer. Even, his best fued with Bray Wyatt. I'd give it all back for him to have been in something episodic. You don't need pipe bombs and shooty promos if the characters make you care about the story that's on the tube for your weekly entertainment.

    The shield were fine. I guess other than winning big matches and being unbeatable, I didn't get what more the Shield represented. I'm not saying that alone wasn't effective, as it was. But bringing heels in and making them the "hounds of justice?" I get that they may have been deluded into thinking they were doing the right things, but that didn't really play out that well either. They had some fine stuff with Ryback and friends. They had a nice little heel run, but having Dean Ambrose find peace when he never really got started with anarchy doesn't give him the opportunity to represent his best work, in my opinion.

    I do like your idea of bringing him in broken down, as it's something new, and I don't know if we can turn back time and get Moxley back.

    Thanks, again, everyone for the read and feed!
    Last edited by Benjamin Button; 04-29-2019 at 03:55 AM.

  11. #11
    LOP's part time glass ceiling DynamiteBillington's Avatar
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  12. #12
    Beautiful Fandom Mystic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Benjamin Button View Post
    having Dean Ambrose find peace when he never really got started with anarchy doesn't give him the opportunity to represent his best work, in my opinion.
    This is about the best articulated reason ever for why I can't watch WWE. Even in their best efforts, they fall so short of the mark for me. That doesn't mean they do for others, and I'm not making claims that this is objective reality, but this does capture how I feel. It's also why I feel a little sick (only a little, as we are born into this sinful world as storytelling animals) when mizfan and I make clear the deep and horrible levels of suffering we want to see for folks we like, including Darby Allin.
    Last edited by Mystic; 04-29-2019 at 09:11 AM.

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