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Posted in: Just Business
Just Business: An Iconic Refrain: The Brand Switch Nobody’s Talking About
By Samuel 'Plan
Apr 24, 2017 - 9:16:12 PM

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Just Business: An Iconic Refrain: The Brand Switch Nobody’s Talking About

Ok, so I’m going to level with you: trying to muster up the energy to write about wrestling when you’re just not that excited by it is really difficult.

When I say I’m not that excited by it, I don’t necessarily mean that I’m disliking the general direction in WWE right now. Quite the opposite, actually; the direction seems sensible enough, at least on the brand I choose to watch every Monday. It’s just that sensible isn’t exactly evocative. If things were terrible right about now, then at least I’d have an opinion. If things were incredible right about now, writing a column would be easy! Instead, I’m confronted with the usual post-‘Mania downturn of a functional product that looks to get by getting by.

That’s swell, and certainly I’m not complaining because lord knows things could be much worse. I guess my only real problem when the product watches this way is that a certain sense of distraction begins to drift through fan circles, and in the absence of high drama on television the fan base instead turns to creating high drama of its own. Headlines on dirt sheets begin to overshadow what’s actually happening on the shows because, frankly, the real world can be so much more dramatic. Whether it be the controversial fast track push of Jinder Mahal towards a WWE Championship match on Smackdown Live, or whether it be the sensitive and evocative topic of Mauro’s departure from the company due to the alleged bullying of his colleague, JBL, fans right now are animated not by creative but by everything but.

I write that not as a statement of damnation, merely as a dispassionate observation. If fans are beginning to talk more about what’s not happening on television than they are what is happening on television, it might be time to disrupt the established status quo a little.

I was pondering this malaise earlier today, wondering just what it might take to shake me and others from it, when I stumbled across a fairly throw-away tweet from WWE’s Twitter account regarding double suicide dives. In a revelatory moment, my imagination was sparked and I realised that, hidden in the depths of the product right now, there sits a potential summer feud that could light up Monday Night Raw and WWE with it all over again; and not for the first time, either.

You see, every generation has a certain conflict that proves its iconic refrain; a feud that gets revisited time upon time and creates a certain magic that elevates both involved without fail, along with the wider show around them. These aren’t the poster feuds that many consider the major blockbuster attractions of an age; I’m not talking Hogan vs. Warrior or Austin vs. Rock here. No, these are feuds that provide a pillar that holds the product about it aloft. Such feuds are like familiar old friends offering a warm embrace, comforting when they appear because you know you’ll witness something spectacular. I’m talking not about the faces of generations, but rather the hearts of them; their lifeblood; feuds like Bret Hart vs. Diesel, or The Rock vs. Triple H; feuds that offer a playlist of instant classics, and that never fail to entertain. Just like every Era before it, WWE’s emergent Renaissance already has its own to offer: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose.

These two men have fates so tightly interwoven you might be forgiven for thinking they really were family. If you’ve never seen any of their work together during their time in FCW, do yourself the favour of checking it out; a lot of it is superior to the main roster work of the time, and certainly the foundation upon which NXT was built. From that earliest time during their tenure under a WWE banner, Rollins and Ambrose have been unable to escape one another’s paths.

Together, as two thirds of The Shield, they altered the fabric of WWE’s future irrevocably, and redefined the locker room in the process. Opposing each other on the back of Rollins’ fratricide, they solidified one another’s star power as being as bright alone as it was as part of the Hounds of Justice, to a point where Rollins quickly became the most reviled man in WWE and Ambrose the most beloved; they even took the liberty of reinventing a genre or two along the way. Then they did it again, guaranteeing their status as certifiable, permanent main attraction mainstays in 2015 as they jousted over Rollins’ WWE World Heavyweight Championship in a feud that saw Rollins emerge all the more convincing as the undeserving champ, and Ambrose the deserving uncrowned.

Even last year, fate continued to add fresh layers to their story when their paths crossed once again. Ambrose cashed in his Money in the Bank contract moments after Rollins regained the title he never lost in a moment of poetry that just wrote itself, and their resultant clashes on television were, frankly, of WrestleMania main event quality; especially when combined into one long double-feature. So too were Rollins and Ambrose the very first picks of WWE’s two brands in the company’s second Brand Extension. Sure, it may have been a conspiracy of circumstance that ensured such status, but that fact, I believe, only goes to reinforce how fated their feud is to stand as this Era’s iconic refrain. Finally, of course, if all this is just one coincidence too few for you, Rollins and Ambrose even kicked off last year’s epic Survivor Series Match opposite one another too.

Perhaps unreasonably, then, I believe the best is yet to come. Both Rollins and Ambrose could yet again work wonders for one another’s career, exhibit their perfectly natural, utterly unmatchable chemistry and provide a fresh litany of classics by the time 2017 comes to an end…because now, they’re both on the same show.

Rollins and Ambrose just fit together, like fish and chips or gin and tonic. This time, though, the timing would be perfect for them to switch what have so far been their natural roles. I don’t intend to get into fantasy booking territory here, that’s not my style. But I do want to discuss the fan discourse that has emerged surrounding both men over the course of the last eight or so months.

On the one hand, fans have largely come to a consensus among themselves that Dean Ambrose’s star post-2016 is one that is fading. From the hottest hero in the company heading into a Lesnar feud at WrestleMania 32 – with some even convinced he might slay the Beast – to a champion victimised by an unnecessary character assassination on a podcast in the summer, to a man ending the year holding the same championship he held beginning it, the average fan’s love affair with Ambrose seemed to be cooling by the time January rolled around. Though I am largely in disagreement with the idea Ambrose was a man on a descent as last year finished up, I am capable of accepting many fans felt such was the case.

Maybe it was another quirk of fate, then, that saw Seth Rollins subjected to a not all dissimilar fan-crafted conversation about his own failings as a hero on Monday nights at the very same time. Many questioned, in a rather selective display of criticism, why they should be sympathising with Seth Rollins, searching for a reason to cheer the man thrust into the limelight as a wronged victim of the political machinations of his one-time mentor, sponsor and borderline father figure Triple H. As the weeks wore on into the winter of 2016, and the pending Triple H feud continued to loom without ever arriving, fans became almost as disenchanted with the Architect as they had with the Lunatic Fringe.

Since WrestleMania Season, the situation for both men has warmed some. Their supposed failings (and I maintain that’s all they ever were – supposed) have been overshadowed by hot button issues like Mauro’s departure and Mahal’s push. Nonetheless, while fan cynicism has been somewhat assuaged by the sterling, consistent work of both these world class performers, it’s difficult to argue WWE couldn’t make larger strides towards reigniting about both men the same excitement that existed for them in 2015.

Of course, pitting one against the other in a purely competitive display as hero on hero, brothers once more, solely determined to find out who is better once and for all, would be enticing enough on its own, knowing what they’re capable of in the ring with one another. Hell, throw in a 60 Minute Iron Man stipulation and you have a classic before it’s happened. I cannot help but feel, though, that there is a tremendous opportunity in reversing the roles both men made their own two years ago: this time, Rollins the hero and Ambrose the villain.

Many fans have clamoured for the longest time for an Ambrose turn. While I hardly agree that such a move would fix a problem (because I hardly agree there even is a problem), it’s easy to understand the appeal of the prospect, especially if one is even only vaguely aware of Ambrose’s work away from the company as a villain. Further, for a fan base often so instantly reactive, so focussed on the here and now as the WWE fan base is, it would create instant excitement and recapture some of the buzz that has faded over the course of last year. And if you are of the camp that argues Ambrose’s star status has faded, imagine what fresh life he could breathe into it when matched against the intense crusading of the same vengeful Seth Rollins we saw in Orlando.

That’s the key. This isn’t so much me suggesting an Ambrose turn would create magic; more, an Ambrose turn specifically against Rollins would create the most magic. Similarly, if pitched right, it could create as much buzz about Rollins as it could around Ambrose. The reason for Ambrose turning writes itself, considering the storied history between the two, and the still only muddy manner in which it has been ‘resolved.’ Further, such a moment would make total sense as the opening stanza of Chapter Three in the history of The Shield. But most of all, it gives Ambrose and Rollins fresh opportunity to silence the naysayers and, for the benefit of those who think they require it, once more elevate one another’s status in the company.

If you need convincing of Seth Rollins as a top hero, Dean Ambrose would be the best man for the job. If you need convincing of Dean Ambrose as a continued main event talent, Seth Rollins is the best man for the job. And if you don’t need convincing of anything, but simply want to see this iconic refrain repeat once more, Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose won’t disappoint, in whatever guise we might get it.

Even at the most basic level of their roles of antagonist and protagonist being switched, you can spy the same dark poetry that has become the signature of their individual mythologies. Both men clashing once more, with roles reversed, is history before the happening. There’s more story to be told between them yet. Fate isn’t through with the tale of the Double Suicide Dive. They came all this way together, their paths never once straying too far from one another; let them go even further.

Bret Hart vs. Diesel; The Rock vs. Triple H; and now, Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose.

It just makes sense.

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