On October 22nd, 2018, Roman Reigns shocked the world, announcing he had leukemia and forfeiting his Universal Title.
Online, there was an outpouring of support from viewers who, though they didn’t care for the Roman Reigns character, still wished the man well.
It was the most touching thing since Burt Reynolds’s eulogy the previous month. (“First of all, I found Burt’s character in Deliverance to be hot-headed and irresponsible. That said…”)
That night, Reigns’s Shield brothers, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, teamed up in his honor to challenge for — and win — the tag team titles.
The celebration was short-lived, as Dean planted Seth with Dirty Deeds and delivered an excessively long beatdown on his partner.
Why Dean, why? I mean, logically, why win titles with a guy you’re going to betray immediately?
But more pressingly, why did Dean turn on his Shield brother Seth Rollins?
We’d have to wait a week to find out.
And another week.
And another week.
And another week.
In fact, Dean would never explain why he attacked Seth. Even Renee Young didn’t know, and she’s married to the guy.
But we did learn from Dean that The Shield had secretly done terrible things, and that — don’t shoot the messenger here — that’s why God gave Roman Reigns leukemia.
As the feud dragged on, Charly Caruso asked Dean how Roman would react if he, and I quote, “were aware what’s going on between you and Seth”. What, did Reigns not have cable?
“Roman?” asked Dean. “Who cares?” How could Renee stay married to this awful, awful man?
In the absence of any motivation for Dean’s character, he needed another way to get heat from the fans. Namely, by telling them they stink — each and every week!
In LA, Ambrose shielded his nose with a handkerchief as he asked, “What is that smell!?”
In Milwaukee, Dean didn’t even show up. Instead, he went to the doctor to protect himself from the diseased fans in the next town, which was Houston. For the first time ever, a wrestler tried to get cheap heat by insulting fans in the wrong city.
Dean Ambrose appeared on the Titantron, mid-way through a series of inoculations for a litany of diseases — some for humans, some for dogs. And he had the un-bandaged, markered-on needle marks to prove it.
Dean was so serious about the diseased fans that he even took a needle in the butt, another wrestling first (on camera, at least).
Given Jon Moxley’s current reputation for gritty, instense promos…
…it’s jarring now to hear him act borderline prissy, recite someone else’s jokes, or use the same “put you out of your misery” verbiage we’ve heard from a dozen other Superstars (including Seth Rollins).
The next week, Raw was in Houston. Just in case the locals had forgotten Dean implying they had rabies a week earlier, Ambrose showed up in a gas mask with a similarly-equipped security team.
Despite the masked Dean Ambrose’s heavy, Darth Vader-like breathing, the fans couldn’t care less about his “E. Boli” remarks. Instead, as they had done for weeks, they chanted, “You sold out!”
To whom he’d sold out, no one was quite sure, but this was the best the fans could muster given the source material. Unless they were chanting, “You smell bad!”
WWE was certain fans wanted to see Dean get his comeuppance for all his germophobic abuse at TLC. Surely, this was the greatest build since WrestleMania III (where Andre The Giant insulted each city’s sports teams).
Yet at the PPV, fans sat in total silence as Dean walked out with Seth’s Intercontinental title (instead of dysentery).
The next night, Dean’s gas-masked goon squad was back. Among them was a young Will “Powerhouse” Hobbs (himself no stranger to the gas)…
…and Seth Rollins, who’d snuck into the stench-proof SWAT team to ambush Dean Ambrose.
Ultimately, the winner of this feud was Bobby Lashley, who won the IC title in a Triple Threat match.
This feud was so bad, it changed the course of wrestling history. With the tasteless cheap shots about Roman’s cancer, and Dean’s struggle to remove the phrase, “pooper scooper” from a script, it was the angle that drove Ambrose out of WWE, maybe forever.
Ha, pooper scooper! They should have left that in!