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Posted in: Oliver's Twist
Oliver's Twist: Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose - A History [Part 3 and Conclusions]
By Oliver
Jun 30, 2014 - 11:15:00 AM

Welcome back, or indeed for the first time, to Oliver’s Twist! Right, if you’ve been following the series so far you’ll know where we sit – after two no scoring time limit draws, Seth Rollins finally bested his nemesis in overtime of their third match for the FCW 15 Championship in what can only be described as a cracker. But where do the two go next? FCW had caught lightening in a bottle, and it was inevitable that the two would clash in the not too distant future for a prize bigger than the second title. So, with both men set for a tilt at the FCW Championship, who would come out on top?

The fourth meeting of the future Shield members would be in the first round of the Super Eight Tournament. Now, this always seemed like a slightly odd competition to me – the winners of the first four matches went into a Fatal Four way decider for the vacant FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship. I appreciate that they probably didn’t want to draw out the competition any more than necessary, but it still seems like an odd way to end what is a fairly simple tournament structure. Regardless, less than a month after their last meeting these two were coming to blows yet again in the first round of the competition. Let’s check it out!

The first, and certainly very notable, difference in this match is that one of the two enters with a target for the other. Rollins has his bicep and shoulder heavily strapped entering the ring and, ever the opportunist, Ambrose certainly takes advantage of the weakness when given the chance. The opening stages continue to build on the foundations that have been set across the early matches – whilst Rollins wins the mat exchanges, Ambrose has clearly worked on this in order to take him on face to face and is easily the equal of his rival throughout those opening stages now, and they are executed perfectly. Each man avoids the others finisher, knowing that at this early stage they can’t afford to be hit by those big moves but also wanting to end the match quickly, yet it’s out of one of these counters that Rollins finds himself in trouble and Ambrose exploits the injury – he slams the arm to the mat and then rips the strapping off the bicep, exposing an enormous contusion on the left arm. It’s an enormous target and one that, strapping or not, would have been visible to his opponent.

With this weakness established, Ambrose works the arm constantly for the rest of the match. However, it’s not all simple holds – he’s got an armbar on for the most part, but continues to inflict pain on his rival by scratching the bruising or driving his elbow and fist into it. It’s really interesting that they chose this match to have an injury exploited – whilst one can see that they had no choice but to have Rollins enter wounded, it really continues the story of the two being equals that has already been established. Ambrose only manages to gain a serious advantage over Rollins when he is short on match fitness. Remember, of course, that even though Rollins did run out as the winner of their epic previous encounter they were even for most of the match, Dean only being put away by Seth as a result of the speed of his moves in overtime – were they really still equals even though one lost and one won? And, as equals, does it not make sense that one would fall victim to the other if they were not at one hundred percent?

It’s a credit to Rollins’ selling ability and his intelligence as a performer that the illusion of injury is never dropped – of course, as previously referenced, this is a very real weakness but one he could probably just power through if he chose to. There are moments here where disbelief can be entirely suspended - Rollins hits a back body drop using only his good arm, for example. It’s only a small touch, but it’s important in the way the match works and the story it’s telling. It need only be subtle to really get over what’s happening and where he’s hurting, but his left arm remains limp at his side throughout. Rollins, however, chooses to put his own body on the line at one point, and that probably costs him the deciding pinfall. He delivers a Tope Suicida to his rival, second guessing himself initially before going through with the move, and the pain is etched on his face for all to say. When it then comes to the end of the match, he is unable to put Ambrose away with first a sunset flip powerbomb and then a buckle bomb that would have surely led to a winning Avada Kedavra. That opens the window for Ambrose, who drives the arm to the mat and then into the turnbuckle to allow for a Midnight Special that gives him the three count while he, cleverly, hooks the uninjured arm to make it even harder for Rollins to kick out.

I said previously that these two additional matches fit in with the narrative established from the more lauded trilogy, and to an extent that’s true here – those opening exchanges certainly play off of what we saw before, Ambrose the brawler and Rollins the technician. What changes the story, and makes this stick out against what came before it, is Rollins’ injury – Ambrose exploits it to the fullest, not necessarily with the neatest of submission holds but with the dirtiest of moves. Legal though it may be it shows that he really is a wicked man, but also one that is willing to exploit his opponents weaknesses. Given that he hadn’t been able to beat a fully fit Seth Rollins clean - remember, his two falls in their 15 Championship match came after a low blow – it makes sense that he’d capitalise on any chink in the armour Rollins had. To his credit, Rollins sells fantastically throughout, hardly using the arm for anything, but he becomes a risk taker – he has to hit big moves in order to swing the advantage, and ultimately they are his downfall. After the Tope Suicida, there is simply no way back for him given the extra pain he inflicts on himself and he can’t then hit the flurry that would win him the match when the time comes for it. It leaves us with a curious match in the series, but one that soon comes to make sense in their final singles outing under the FCW banner.

So it is that we come to our final one on one match between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Between their last match and now, Rollins has captures the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship, and this title seems to have given birth to a fresh confidence in the man – in fact, it was he who called out Ambrose approaching this match, initially interrupting a promo he was cutting on William Regal to lay down the challenge. Ambrose, on the flipside, is obsessed with Regal at this point – having been defeated by the Lord previously, he’s playing a psychological game and trying to get him in the ring again.

As such, it’s no question who is more focussed in this match. And yet, it’s a very different form in the opening stages – Ambrose’s mat work has seemingly become scrappier but more successful, with him dominating proceedings and working on the arm. The fact that it is the same one that was previously injured gives away Dean’s plan – why change a winning strategy? Ambrose knows he can beat Rollins when he only has one functional arm, so he focuses on damaging the limb to the point where it’s no longer usable. Unarguably, this is the most technical of the bouts the three had, with a lot of time spent on the mat, and both have upped their game in the months between match four and five, twisting and turning slickly between moves. When it does descend into anarchy, it’s with a chopfest, but more notable is that Seth Rollins resorts to the sort of devious tactics we’d previously seen from the Lunatic Fringe – he claws at the jaw of Ambrose when he has an arm locked up. We’ve previously discussed here how it seemed like one man was turning into the other, and the opening ten minutes or so of this match demonstrate that plot point most clearly. Even outside of that moment from Rollins, we see him trying to turn this into a scrappier fight, throwing the first chop, while Ambrose opposite him is more reliant on the technical work that we originally saw from Rollins. It’s a curious evolution from where these men started, as they have obviously rubbed off on one another through their in ring actions and adopted elements of the others play book.

Rollins does, however, rely on one aspect that we’ve seen throughout this series of matches – his speed. Inevitably enough, when he ups it he prospers and when it’s slow he struggles. Unfortunately, we find that outside forces effect Ambrose – whether through over exuberance or calculated risk, he connects with a superplex that exacerbates and injury he’s carried from his original match with William Regal. Despite it being six months since their first match, the Lunatic Fringe is still troubled by the dislocated shoulder he sustained, and after the high impact move he finds it separated again. Ambrose, of course, is a maniac so decides to pop it back in against the ring apron so he can carry on fighting for the championship, but Rollins has spotted his opening and takes full advantage for a moment, again upping the pace and running wild. The flipside of this, of course, is that Ambrose isn’t going to give up. A one armed man in a fistfight he might be, but he’s got dirty deeds that can even the score – he ties Rollins in the ropes and decides to instead work the leg of his rival. It’s a masterful tactical shift from Ambrose, suggesting he’s got far more upstairs than has previously been suggested. Slowing Rollins down, even if he is functioning with only one arm, is a tactic he clearly needs to take, but in doing so he also slows the pace to something more methodical which in turn allows him to protect the injured arm. Rollins, though, is undeterred and uses every opportunity to expose the limb, whether it be breaking holds or just inflicting damage. We now have a complete inversion of the match before, and suddenly that comes to take on new significance – not only have we had Ambrose try to extend his previous winning tactics into this match, but Rollins now has the distinct advantage that his opponent had before.

Moving into the finishing sequence, we see just how distracted Ambrose is – rather than focus on his own game, he’s playing at being Regal, connecting with a knee trembler to get the first real near fall of the contest. The arm still bothering him, he goes for another superplex but is clearly too weak to carry out the move and then we start to truly play into the plot points we saw in match four – Ambrose, the wounded man, tries desperately to cling to the ropes on a sunset flip but can’t, however the leg work he previously undertook means Rollins cannot hit the buckle bomb combination that gained him victory in the final 15 Championship match. We now have two men functioning on three limbs, both battling through the pain, and it’s Rollins who starts to drive the point home with (oddly, given the other rivalries at hand) a Regal Stretch on the injured shoulder. Ambrose bites his way out of it, but his arm is useless and he’s barely surviving, something that Seth takes full advantage of by using some of the tactics he previously had thrown at him by his rival – he kicks at the shoulder repeatedly, then slams it to the mat out of a wristlock. The echoes between Rollins’ offense here and that which Ambrose hit him with previously is almost eerie, and we finally see the end to that transition – most prevalent in Rollins, it must be said – where one has assimilated parts of the other. The Architect has watched and learned from his rival, taken elements of his offense throughout the series, and here uses them against him with devastating effect to come out on top with a debilitating curb stomp on his weakened pray.


What we see, not just throughout this match but the series, is largely in sync with those last two sentences – these are two people who didn’t just feud with each other but learned from each other as their series of matches went on. Rollins, who entered a proficient mat technician, incorporates elements of the maverick approach of Ambrose – he becomes a wild man at points, biting and scratching his way in and out of holds, thrashing at his opponent in the centre of the ring. In early matches, we’d have unlikely seen Rollins do something as nefarious as clawing at Ambrose’s face or biting his hand to break a hold as we do in the final two encounters. Similarly, Ambrose learns and evolves throughout this series of matches – he ups his mat game after being dominated in the first match so he can go toe to toe with Rollins in later matches. He develops this so much that he basically dominates the opening stanza of the fifth and final match between the two, and yet he never loses those roots and is more than willing to get dirty when he wants to. And so we flash forward two years – and just think about this for a moment. These are two members of The Shield who we already knew were malleable, could bend their talents to differing approaches in order to fight their opponent. We have seen them evolve into performers that could match each other at two hugely divergent techniques – brawling and mat wrestling – in order to battle their rivals. And what did we just see Triple H threaten them with?

Adapt or perish.

Rollins and Ambrose had already shown they weren’t going to perish a long time before they were thrown that challenge – they adapted two years before, and bought all that experience, that flexibility, into their current matches. Triple H was already fighting a losing battle.

So, what might we get when these two finally go one-on-one on the main roster? In a way, it’s an unknown quantity – with the roles reversed and Rollins the heel to Ambrose’s face, the fabric on which these matches was built is quite different now. Of course, what we have seen is that the two will evolve in order to defeat their opponent if needs be – both will look to turn their opposite numbers strengths into positives and expose their weaknesses. We have, of course, already seen a throwback to the fifth match above at Money in the Bank, and it seems like this is going to be a major point in any upcoming match – the shoulder of Ambrose took a pounding last night, and doubtless Rollins noticed this and will look to exploit it in order to take the win. That said, of course, we’ve seen that Ambrose is a battler, having come back from the dislocation of his shoulder later in the match, and he is clearly focused on inflicting as much harm on Rollins as possible, to the point where winning might be less of a concern than maiming his former partner. With that in mind, the lack of focus Ambrose will have on actually winning might swing the result in Rollins’ favour – he’s shown throughout these matches that he’s willing to get dirty when the situation requires it, and certainly won’t be averse to doing so when he’s in such a heated rivalry. The main take home point from this feud, though, is that we’re going to be watching two storytellers wrestling who will likely hark back to their previous matches and external happenings – whether it be their roles in The Shield or what has happened since the split. If they have a series of matches, they will doubtlessly tell a complete story arc rather than a one off chapter. And truly, that is something I am looking forward to greatly – not only great action, but a strong tale to be told across the series.

So, there it is, the competitive history of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, up until now. Having seen the two go at it in the MitB match with a furious aggression, and taking into account all that has come before it, I really think we are in for a treat when we do finally see them step into a ring on the main roster. Will Ambrose’s injury play a part in that result? Will Rollins’ pace be too much for the Lunatic Fringe to handle? Or will he fall to the battle hardened Ambrose? We should hopefully find out soon enough. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little series – there’s plenty of scope to do more of these in the future, so if you have any thoughts on just what series would be worth looking at in the future drop me a comment below, via email at the top of the page or on Twitter. Until next time, stay safe when crossing the road and drink more hot chocolate! Auf wiedersehen!

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