From the moment the group known as The Shield stepped into WWE it was clear that all three men comprising the unit were huge stars. Roman Reigns has veered from the path a little, as the fans have revolted against their least favorite Shield member becoming a bigger star than the others. Seth Rollins plays a dirty, cocky antagonist but the audience loves him no matter what. Dean Ambrose is easily the fan favorite of the trio if crowd reactions are any indication, and he has ironically had the toughest route to the top of WWE.
The Shield found monstrous success on its own. As a faction, they tore through WWE initially as villains but were so beloved WWE flipped the script and presented them as the heroes. No matter which role they played, The Shield was dominating every card they wrestled on and were easily the best part of the show. Once the group went their separate ways, their successes were less consistent but no less impressive in the big picture.
Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns commanded such admiration that theirs is a story that the WWE keeps elaborating on. It’s become one of the longest-running WWE storylines in a decade which might just culminate at the upcoming WWE Battleground pay-per-view when all three men do battle in a triple threat match for the WWE Championship.
Before The Shield is potentially split up for good in the WWE draft, let’s take a look at the many ups and downs of trio’s most popular star, Dean Ambrose.
15. Up: The Shield Debuts
It was at Survivor Series 2012 when the first chapter began in a book still being written about three WWE Superstars who would come to define an era. In the middle of a WWE Championship match between CM Punk, John Cena, and Ryback, the lights went dark and three men in all black showed up to destroy Ryback. History was made as the most popular wrestling faction perhaps since the nWo and D-Generation X had broken ground in what would become their yard for the foreseeable future.
Dean Ambrose and his partners Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins had arrived, and WWE put enough faith in them that on their first night they were raising hell in the main event of one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year. It spoke volumes of the company’s investment in the trio and made a statement that these guys deserved the attention of the WWE Universe. The fans took notice and the collective known as The Shield were an overnight success story.
14. Down: The Shield Breaks Up
There was a time when professional wrestling stables dominated for years before being split up, but now that day is behind us. One fateful night in 2014 WWE decided a year and a half was long enough for The Shield to reign supreme and the plug was pulled on the beloved group. Seth Rollins was the one to fire the first shot in a three-way war between the Shield members which rages on even today, as Triple H recruited him in his quest to dismantle the faction that had been terrorizing him.
Rollins blasted both Reigns and Ambrose with a steel chair to take The Shield out at its knees much too early in the eyes of many. It might have been the beginning of a path that leads to greater things for all three men two years later, but for Dean Ambrose, it signified a large amount of time in the shadows as Rollins and Reigns took the lead in the main event scene.
13. Up: The Shield’s First WrestleMania
Every WWE Superstar works for what’s called a “WrestleMania moment,” that experience of having been part of something special at the biggest wrestling show of the year. The members of The Shield got their moment just months after debuting when they battled three former World Champions in the opening match at WrestleMania 29.
The match between The Shield and the team of Sheamus, Randy Orton, and Big Show opened the show, which confused a lot of fans who were looking forward to a more high-profile spot for the match. But the WrestleMania moment wasn’t so much the match itself as what it meant. The Shield picked up a decisive victory over three big stars to kick off WrestleMania. It was a statement by Ambrose, Rollins, Reigns, and WWE itself that the three rising stars were a force to be reckoned with and set the tone for the complete dominance to come.
12. Down: The Match That Didn’t Happen
On July 20, 2014, Dean Ambrose was set to do battle with his former Shield-brother Seth Rollins at WWE Battleground. Though Ambrose and Rollins have gone to war many times as of today, on this particular night the feud was fresh and the WWE Universe was clamoring to see these two tear into one another. The hype was there and the crowd investment was there; the only things not there were the competitors themselves.
A sizeable portion of the viewers at home paid for Battleground specifically for this match, not to mention the fans that had paid even more to see it live. WWE thought it would be fun, however, to dupe the fanbase by using cheap tactics to throw the match out and save it for another day. Dean got thrown out of the arena for attacking Seth and he returned, but only to also chase Seth away from the arena. The match never took place and what should have been an awesome moment (which had already been paid for) was squashed at last minute.
11. Up: Winning The United States Championship
One month after making their WrestleMania debut, the members of The Shield were all set for Championship matches at the subsequent pay-per-view Extreme Rules. Dean Ambrose was scheduled to face Kofi Kingston for the United States Championship while his partners Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns were to challenge Kane and Daniel Bryan for the WWE Tag Team Championship.
In one fell swoop, they reached golden status in WWE, as they all won their respective matches. This was one of many nights of dominance for the crew and yet another step toward taking over the company in less than a year. The win that night signified the beginning of Dean’s first singles title run, and while Ambrose’s time spent as United States Champion would turn out to be a different story entirely, his winning the title that night indicated the immense support The Shield was receiving from the higher-ups in the company.
10. Down: Street Fight With Brock Lesnar At WrestleMania
2016’s WrestleMania 32 was the site of what should have been one of the more chaotic and beautifully tragic matches in the history of WWE’s annual Super Bowl equivalent. Dean Ambrose was scheduled to meet the unstoppable beast Brock Lesnar and given the rough brawler style of both men, a wrestling match just simply could not contain them. Therefore, it was billed as a No Holds Barred Street Fight and the expectations were instantly set high.
But what should have been a satisfying “slobber-knocker” turned out to be quite unfulfilling. It’s not that Ambrose and Lesnar didn’t try to make the most out of the legality of weapons or any of the other freedoms that come with a complete lack of rules in this type of contest, because they did. Somehow, though, nothing felt special or unique. There was a distinct lack of creativity and an apparent absence of passion for most of the match, but just as it was finally starting to find its footing it was all over. Short and semi-sweet is not what fans expect at WrestleMania.
9. Up: Hell In A Cell With Seth Rollins
After months of feuding, former Shield members Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were finally going to clash in a setting that seemed meant for a couple of guys like themselves. It was to happen at the Hell in a Cell event in 2014, in a match after which the show was named where the ringside area is completely surrounded by a steel cage topped off by a roof. We knew exactly what to expect, yet Ambrose and Rollins delivered more than we’d hoped.
It’s seen as one of the defining matches in the careers of both men, a moment in which they’d arrived at the main event level. The WWE Universe was captivated with what these two young innovators managed to accomplish with the aging Hell in a Cell match, a concept which has had the fans jaded from years of overuse. It was the rare occasion that actually called for such a match and it paid off, especially when Ambrose and Rollins took a tumble from high on the wall of the cage that will make highlight reels for years to come.
8. Down: The Build To The Brock Lesnar WrestleMania Match
If the match itself left a lot to be desired, then the build to Dean Ambrose’s No Holds Barred Street Fight with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania certainly holds a lot of the blame. As tends to be the case with nearly every Brock Lesnar rivalry, the Universe just couldn’t seem to grasp onto much interest with Lesnar being mostly absent in the weeks leading up to the event.
Lesnar has a special deal with WWE where he’s only on television for a handful of nights a year, so his opponents end up carrying the brunt of the load in terms of match hype. Since the story here was that Ambrose was constantly being beaten down by the beast and kept coming back for more, what was to be done for hype when Lesnar was barely on television?
With Dean Ambrose doing well over half the work on his own, fans found it nearly impossible to get behind this deflated rivalry that never caught air to begin with.
7. Up: Intercontinental Champion
The Intercontinental Championship has one of the most respected histories of any title in WWE. The title’s been held by a laundry list of WWE Hall of Famers and for decades was second in priority only to the WWE Championship, though at times was featured in main events ahead of that title. But the Intercontinental Champion became less valued as years went by and as of a few years ago had developed a reputation for being a shattered, empty version of what it once was.
But sometime in 2015 WWE seemed to start giving it more love, and by late that year the rising star Kevin Owens was carrying the gold and, with the help of a few others, had brought the title back to some form of prominence. At the TLC pay-per-view in December, Dean Ambrose would defeat Owens and become perhaps the highest-profile name to hold the Intercontinental Championship in a long, long time.
His time as Champion didn’t last too long, but Ambrose had become such a huge fan favorite that he instantly added due credibility to the title and in return Dean himself picked up steam heading into what would become the biggest year of his career.
6. Down: Asylum Match With Chris Jericho
While Dean Ambrose’s rivalry with Brock Lesnar saw a boring build to a lackluster match, he was later involved in a feud with Chris Jericho that would see a thrilling build to a painfully uneventful match. Ambrose and Jericho went at each other for two months and actually had a very good match at Payback one month after WrestleMania in 2016, but the entire program should probably have ended there.
It didn’t, obviously, and at the next pay-per-view, Extreme Rules, a unique match known as an “Asylum match” was announced between the two. In previews the match seemed sadistic enough; it was a steel cage with a huge variety of weapons hanging from the top which could be used throughout the match if a wrestler could reach up and snag them. The execution, however, was mostly child’s play.
The match became a horrifyingly lengthy game of fetch. Half the time was filled with one or both men slowly climbing the cage to retrieve a weapon just to use it for a brief moment before going back for another. Even though this match featured two men usually well revered by the WWE Universe, the live crowd was understandably dead. The only saving grace of the Asylum match was when Chris Jericho took a big slam into a pile of thumbtacks, and then mercifully this train wreck was over.
5. Up: The Shield Meets The Wyatt Family
Around the time The Shield was rising to prominence in the mainstream there was another three-man faction that had the majority of the crowd behind them, despite themselves being antagonists. Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan, and Luke Harper, known collectively as the Wyatt Family, could do no wrong in the eyes of the WWE Universe. Both teams burst onto the scene at nearly the same time and it didn’t take long for a potential throwdown between them to become a dream match.
When The Shield and the Wyatts finally came face-to-face for the first time on an episode of Monday Night Raw in 2013 the air was pure electric. An audience that has become known as being jaded was on their feet and the roof was off the building. What ensued was eventually a short series of pure gold matches between the beloved stables and, while short-lived, it was a rivalry for the ages.
4. Down: Reign As United States Champion
When Dean Ambrose won the United States Championship on the same night Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins became the WWE Tag Team Champions in 2013, Ambrose looked to have potential as one of the all-time greatest to ever hold that title. The Shield was absolutely on fire, so how could this not be the perfect platform to launch the title back into greatness?
Though winning the championship was a great moment in Dean Ambrose’s career the reign itself turned out to be little more than a nuisance for the WWE writers. For an entire year, Ambrose carried the belt around but only defended it a handful of times. When the title was up for grabs it seemed as if it was a necessity so that the belt wasn’t completely ignored. WWE didn’t seem to know what they wanted to do with the U.S. title and what resulted was the most uneventful title reign in recent WWE history.
3. Up: The Shield Vs Evolution
In 2014 The Shield had gained so much steam that they were running out of ways to wreak havoc on WWE, so the company saw fit to resurrect an old group from the early 2000s: Evolution.
Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista are three of the most decorated Superstars in all of the WWE and are all locked in for the WWE Hall of Fame, so to bring back their famed stable for the purposes of elevating The Shield spoke volumes of WWE’s faith in the newcomers. Fans were understandably concerned; all three of these legendary Superstars have been accused of burying younger talent by squashing their momentum. Fortunately for the WWE Universe and especially for The Shield, the guys in black couldn’t have benefitted more.
The rivalry culminated in a riveting No Holds Barred contest where Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins defeated Evolution and, in what would be their last hurrah together as a team, The Shield showed the world that the main event is exactly where they belong.
2. Down: Rivalry With Bray Wyatt
The Shield made history with their thrilling wars with the Wyatt Family, so by extension, it made sense that a potential feud between Dean Ambrose and the leader of the Wyatts, Bray, should recapture some of the magic left behind by the too-brief rivalry between their factions.
That was not to be the case. Though Bray Wyatt himself has suffered greatly from WWE’s misuse of him, the company gave him win after win in this rivalry. Dean Ambrose’s singles career was headed toward a downward spiral from which many thought he’d never recover. WWE showed great faith in The Shield as a unit, but it seemed they had little interest in the obvious star power of Dean Ambrose and had him repeatedly destroyed by Wyatt.
Dean Ambrose has certainly now been revitalized, but his rivalry with Bray Wyatt did nothing for him, and the one-sided nature of the feud did little for Bray as well.
1. Up: Money In The Bank 2016
After spending nearly four years on top of WWE it was beginning to look like Dean Ambrose might never be given the torch and allowed to run with it. Since the split of The Shield, Ambrose had racked up a horrendous amount of losses and was often left to hover in the shadows on a given week. No doubt, he had his occasional moments in the spotlight, including a brief but fun reign with the Intercontinental title, but it appeared that Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns were WWE’s crowned princes of the trio and Dean would wander the mid card for the rest of his career.
Just before Ambrose began to lose all steam, however, he was booked in the Money in the Bank ladder match, an annual contest where the winning prize is a WWE Championship match that the winner can claim at any time of their choosing over the course of the next year. His booking in the weeks leading into the event was impressive and people were beginning to wonder if he might actually take the prize home.
He did more than that. He won the Money in the Bank contract and almost immediately cashed it in. Later that night, his former Shield brethren did battle for the WWE Championship and when Seth Rollins came out victorious, Ambrose hit the ring to claim his title match.
In what was unquestionably the biggest night of his career, Dean Ambrose went home with the victory and had finally arrived to join his former brothers on top of the mountain as WWE Champion.
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