By Will Pruett
Full disclosure: To retain his sanity, Will Pruett watches the 90 minute edit of Raw on Hulu. He has no regrets.
“You deserve it… You deserve it… You deserve it…”
Fans were eager to chant “You deserve it” in the general direction of Dean Ambrose as he made his way to the ring for the first time as WWE Champion. Who could blame them? This is a character many fans attached themselves to prior to him even appearing on television. If you venture back through 2012, I’m sure you’ll find many Tweets asking where exactly Ambrose is and why. Now, he’s finally WWE World Heavyweight Champion and fans are eager to celebrate with him.
It’s definitely a cool moment to see a longtime favorite win a major championship. Emotionally investing in wrestlers in this manner is one of the reasons I remain a wrestling fan. It’s hard to walk away from something with amazing cathartic moments like the hug between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens after Zayn won the NXT Championship. Following wrestling at the level I do is about investing emotionally in wrestlers early and seeing where they go. It’s a neat thing. Wrestling fandom shouldn’t be different on the WWE level.
Sure, many fans didn’t watch Ambrose on the indie scene as Jon Moxley, but they have watched him for the last four years. They’ve seen him for a long time and have seen him work hard. Even on commentary on this episode of Raw, he mentioned the journey he’s been on.
Here is where I find my complaint about Ambrose’s journey: He hasn’t really been on one. Dean Ambrose is a rare wrestler in WWE. Fans are willing to emotionally invest in him without much effort. The general public wants to care about what Dean does. He’s a wrestler who draws in both the hardcore and casual audiences and can seem effortlessly cool doing so. Dean Ambrose is an insanely talented anomaly.
WWE didn’t let fans truly go on a journey to his first WWE Championship win with him. He’s the kind of wrestler they could have built a WrestleMania around. People want to care about him, so let them. Let fans get in on the ground floor of his journey and feel like they get to climb the mountain with him. Pave a road to the WWE Championship for him and make it feel inevitable.
Writing about Money in the Bank yesterday, I mentioned how many first time WWE Champions the briefcase creates and discussed how those stories don’t get fully told. Watching Raw on Monday night, I realized how depressing this is. Fans were so happy to see Dean Ambrose as champion, but his character hadn’t truly earned this moment. Imagine how happy fans would be if they went on a true journey with him.
Dean Ambrose is likable in a way very few WWE wrestlers are. He connects with fans in a way very few wrestlers can. Why was he given a lazy journey to the championship based more on a surprise moment instead of a real journey? I’m not complaining about him being champion, but I am critical of WWE for what they could have done here.
Fans told Dean Ambrose he deserves the title, and they’re right, but his fans deserved better.
– Color me surprised about The Shield Triple Threat people have been wanting since before The Shield broke up happening at Battleground instead of at SummerSlam. I wonder if this means there are different SummerSlam plans for Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns. The draft will obviously play a major role in this as well. WWE seems to be a land of mystery these days.
– Roman Reigns was interesting to watch on this show. His interactions with the crowd seemed a little more antagonistic. His “drink your beer” line could be seen as a great heel moment. The Roman character is one of the more fascinating in WWE right now and where he goes/what he does after the draft will be interesting.
– Seth Rollins did not show any indications of playing into the crowd support he is receiving, but he didn’t really actively insult the fans either. After all, if anyone has an argument for being robbed at Money in the Bank, it is Seth.
– Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens had a nice continuation of their feud without having kick anything into a high gear. The storytelling around them is well-paced for a major payoff in a month or two. Zayn winning didn’t bother me as it was more of a fluke than a major victory. The post-match fighting should escalate well into their next encounter.
– I might be alone here, but “Big Johnny” John Laurinaitis made me so happy.
– When did A.J. Styles become a very good heel promo? I felt like his work before the first match with John Cena was decent, but last night I was blown away. He seemed to naturally fall into his role. Cena played off of Styles rather well. This was one of my favorite segments on this fairly fun show.
– John Cena vs. Karl Anderson was just about what I expected it to be. Anderson and Gallows are henchmen for Styles and it doesn’t seem like WWE wants to make them into more. I would never advocate for Anderson defeating Cena, but it would be nice to see the henchmen get a small amount of credibility.
– The women’s division was given more of a focus on this show as the WWE Women’s Championship was defended. Paige vs. Charlotte was given a promo segment to build it up, a fair amount of ring time, and a disputed finish as well. Dana Brooke not getting Charlotte’s foot onto the rope was unfortunate, but such is life.
– The return of Sasha Banks was nice to see, but I still can’t help but imagine what would happen if WWE would have built her up instead of leaving her off of TV. What if Sasha happened to have ended a fun feud with Summer Rae at Money in the Bank, then appeared to challenge Charlotte? This would be a much more effective use of the resources available to WWE.
– I was under the impression The Wyatt Family were good guys when I last saw them. Of course, it was a sudden turn and WWE usually needs about five weeks of constant turning to cement most things. Bray Wyatt was insanely over as he came to the ring and it was honestly refreshing to see him. Injuries suck, but allowing a unique character like Wyatt some time out of the spotlight helps everyone,
– The New Day confronting The Wyatt Family indicates that Bray and his large man-sheep aren’t angling for the adoration of the crowd. This is going to be an awkward one month feud, isn’t it?
– The constant teases of Shane McMahon running both shows basically affirm that he won’t be.
– Rollins vs. Reigns was fun to see for a second evening in a row. The Raw match had a slightly better flow to it, but this could have been due to a lack of major spots the Money in the Bank match included. I wasn’t bothered by the double contour finish, as it was free television and WWE obviously was using it to tell a story.
– Dean Ambrose was acting far too cute for me for most of the evening. I wish serious Dean would be an actual thing.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren’t super annoying thoughts (and please don’t ignore this and post super annoying thoughts), hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email me at email@example.com.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Frank Zarrillo discussing his film "The Wrestler: A QT Marshall Story", which includes appearances by Matt Riddle, Damian Priest, Gerald Brisco, Kevin Kelly, Steve Corino, and many more, the involvement of Marshall's wife and mother, and much more. Stick around after the interview for Powell's audio review of Wednesday's AEW Dynamite television show...