Hello everyone and thanks for coming back to Planet Kayfabe I'm K.C. of NoDQ and I'm glad you could join me again. The long-awaited Dean Ambrose turn happened this past Monday on Raw. It's crazy how something we all were expecting still came as such a shock to fans everywhere. There have been mixed feelings about the turn and I'm going to give you my take on while this may be exploitative, WWE did not cross the threshold of poor taste... Yet anyway.
Raw began Monday in Providence, Rhode Island with a sound we are quite used to by now. Roman Reigns' music hits. The boos rain down. Just another day, right? Roman hit the stage in street clothes. Right there I had a few thoughts cross my mind. There were rumors about him possibly being injured after missing a few dates over the weekend. So, that crossed my mind since we always see Roman in his usual ring gear. Another thought I had was simply... Not a bad look! For a couple years I thought the presentation of Roman Reigns retaining his tactical vest long after the Shield disbanded was a mistake. Do something fresh. Why cover up a physique like his, too? Of all the thoughts that crossed my mind, the last thing was that Roman would announce in the ring that he would have to vacate the Universal Championship because he was recently diagnosed with cancer.
The Dunkin' Donuts Center fell silent whole Roman, speaking as Joe Anoa'i, delivered a speech to the WWE fans opening up about his battle with leukemia 11 years ago and now it is back. I promised to beat it again and that this was not a retirement and exited the ring for what is hopefully not his last time but never knowing when he will ever enter one again. He was greeted at the stage by by his emotional Shield brothers and an especially teary-eyed Seth Rollins while they shared a hug and one last post for the camera -- for now.
It was as heavy a segment on a wrestling show that you're going to see. We've seen guys forced into retirement and it's sad, but we also celebrate their career and know we will see them again down the road. This was different. Though Roman delivered his speech with a tone of optimism, none of us know for sure if he will ever wrestle again or that he will even survive this second battle with leukemia. The fans in attendance showered Roman in support. While many clearly weren't fans of his, the wrestling character took a back seat. He's Joe now. A husband and father in the battle for his life and he was shown the proper support by wrestling fans who all were reminded of some things when put into perspective are much bigger than a few bad wrestling promos and their favorite Superstars not getting pushed. We don't know when or if he will be back, but the wrestling world is pulling for Roman Reigns to recover. I'm not going to pretend I was a huge fan. If you read me regularly or follow my Twitter, you know how I felt about his push most of the time, but this isn't about that. It would turn into a great story if he beat this disease again and came back to re-capture the world championship. All the best to you, Roman. Even those who were not your biggest fans had a hell of a lot of fun booing you and want you to come back even though when you do I'm sure you'll be in for a much different reaction than what you're used to ;)
During the show they announced the Universal Championship match at a show on November 2 will now just be a singles match between Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar. Paul Heyman came out to cut a promo. At first I was a bit worried that they would have him use Roman's recent diagnosis for cheap wrestling heat. It didn't happen. Paul put over Roman and Braun came out back in full babyface mode. The fans seemed willing to forget his quick heel run. I hope future towns are as kind. He cut a typical promo about how Brock is going to 'get these hands' and the crowd cheered. Drew McIntyre who was going "monster hunting" blindsided him with a Claymore kick to close. With Roman Reigns out for the foreseeable future Braun Strowman is pretty much the most likely choice for a top babyface right now. They might build someone else for long-term but Strowman is going to have to be the guy right now. I'm assuming he beats Brock on November 2 and Drew McIntyre will be his first challenger.
That's Tag-Team Champion, Drew McIntyre, by the way. He and Dolph would defend their titles in the main event of Raw against Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose who dedicated the match to their boy Roman Reigns. Towards the end of the match Braun Strowman would return seeking revenge on Drew McIntyre who brawled into the crowd which took him out of the match all while the referee was out selling on the floor. Dolph tried to take advantage by using the belt as a weapon but Dean took it away from Dolph and ate a Curb Stomp by Rollins. Dean pulled the ref into the ring and one... two... three! Your winners, and new WWE Tag Team Champions Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. The crowd popped huge. Dean and Seth hugged after being presented with the belts. After a short celebration Ambrose kicked Seth in the gut and hit him with the Dirty Deeds. The crowd was shocked and went from celebrating to putting their hands on their heads wondering what just happened. Like I said in the open, most of you and the fans here were expecting Dean to turn on Seth when he returned and it didn't happen. Some were suspecting maybe at Survivor Series next month since they had planted little seeds of a turn here and there. Dean's reaction was unique as well. After he hit the move he almost looked upset with himself and punched the ring on his knees in frustration. Dean got to his feet, looked down at a struggling Seth Rollins and continued his assault now devoid of any sympathetic emotion. This is how the show ended. After a the announcement of a real-life tragedy which resulted in the Universal Champion dropping the title, the fans got to celebrate the remaining Shield boys winning in Roman's honor. Then we got a 5 minute beat down in and outside the ring to Seth Rollins by Dean Ambrose. The crowd stayed stunned throughout. No pop. No "one more time" chants. No "YES!" chants. Just shock. A nice classic heel turn that got a nice classic reaction when done right.
But... if I was so concerned about WWE exploiting Roman's leukemia why would I be okay with this? If you think I'm too negative sometimes, remember this moment. I easily could have stayed headstrong and shit on WWE for doing this turn just for fun but you're getting my honest feelings here. They took a real-life situation, used it for heat, but it wasn't forced. WWE usually lacks the subtle flare that makes these delicate angles work. What I was expecting was for WWE to have Heyman go out there and say something dumb like "ROMAN IS WEAK AND A FAILURE AND GON DIE LOLZ" you know... Like "Eddie's in Hell" or "I wish you died in the whom". The kind of bold shit that no one says in real life but on WWE you get the kind of dialogue you'd likely hear a 9 year old say to his little brother. If this turn was as random as it may have looked, I probably would have buried it because it would have come off like Dean turned just for the sake of capitalizing on Roman's cancer diagnosis. While that clearly had something to do with WWE's decision the seeds for a turn had already been planted long before Monday. Dean had felt that Seth didn't take him seriously and on the previous Raw he walked out on the team. The rumor has it that Dean was supposed to turn anyway at Survivor Series and due to the news with Roman Reigns they pushed it up to that show. So, yes WWE exploited a real life-or-death situation to get heat on someone. I'm not denying that. I even put it in the title of this piece just so it is clear.
With this turn, Dean Ambrose is a heel for the first time in 4 years. Many would say it was a much needed turn, too. Since returning he has adopted a more serious gimmick, however before his injury he was more a comedic mid-card babyface who was fine but comedy mid-card wrestlers usually stay there. There are some people who suggest that maybe Dean could have turned next week and I could not disagree more with that. There is no next week. You were not going to get that reaction next week with a different crowd. Next week will likely be business as usual and what do you get when people turn these days? You get a pop and "YES!" chants because things are so formulaic and predictable now that when fans feel like they are seeing something out of the norm they pop for it. There was none of that when Dean turned. The fans were shocked and some were heartbroken. That's what you want. At the end of Raw when the show was over I felt like I had just seen one of the biggest heel turns in WWE history. Yes, it was exploitative. Yes it could look very bad if things take a turn for the worse for Roman Reigns. However, on this night it was a well-done segment on a wrestling show that fans baught into.
I do realize I could end up eating every work I publish today. If Dean comes out next week and drags Roman Reigns through the mud and this whole angle is "think of Roman. What about Roman" and Dean is like "f*** ROMAN!" then I will instantly hate this angle. However, right now I love what they did. I think it was a great turn. Even though Roman Reigns will very much be battling for his life, I'm sure he doesn't mind seeing his buddies work a top program as singles. Yeah, they are technically the Tag-Team Champions of Raw right now, but every wrestler knows you don't get to WWE just to be a tag wrestler and expect to have a high profile and eventual main event a show like Wrestlemania. The happy babyfaces winning in the name of Roman Reigns every night is just as exploitative as a heel turn, it's just no one would have been complaining about it... at first anyway because in 2006 a lot of fans did start to resent Rey Mysterio getting such a big push while WWE milked the death of Eddie Guerrero for every last dime they could.
WWE used Paul Bearer's death in angle which his son later came out and said they went much further with it than he was told they would. This company used the drug related death of 24 year old Reid Fliehr for heat and he was never even an on-screen character. Jerry Lawler had a heart attack on Raw and they had CM Punk and Paul Heyman use it for heat. When Jim Ross had colon surgery, Vince McMahon did a mock comedy segment about it because butts are funny, I guess. At least, as J.R. put it, Vince checked to make sure he didn't have colon cancer first. What a guy. He must have been thrilled to find out he could do this shitty segment... oh and that Jim Ross was healthy. This company has exploited real-life deaths and drug and alcohol addictions all in the name of getting heat and every other time it has been low class and often times gross on the promotion's part. Like I said, I do realize and I'm fully prepared to eat my words for ever sticking up for WWE's decision to turn Dean here. I could very well eat those words in a few days on Raw. Look at the past examples I gave you. This company has a terrible track record when it comes to dealing with these types of stories. It's all how they handle it going forward. The angle needs to be a personal conflict between Seth and Dean. Last year on December 18, ironically enough in Providence, Rhode Island it was a dive by Seth that took out Dean getting caught in friendly fire which was their way of writing Dean off TV for a while. He could bring that up in a story. He could bring up how he never felt respected in recent years. When The Shield formed, any fan who was watching back then would tell you that Dean was the de facto leader. In recent years before he returned he was just wild and wacky Dean. When Dean felt that Seth was treating him like a clown there to make him laugh like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas he went nuts feeling a lack of respect from those closest to him. They got the turn on the right night at the right time. They don't need to exploit Roman's situation any further. Doing anymore could cause the fans to groan and rolls their eyes at the entire angle. You're not going to replicate the reaction you got this past Monday on Raw. From here you move on into a personal issue between Seth and Dean. They already hate Dean for turning on Seth on that night of all nights. Dragging Roman Reigns' name and health through the mud for heat going forward isn't going to make them hate him that much more. If anything it is just going to turn them off from WWE.
Thank you for reading this edition of Planet Kayfabe. You heard my thoughts now I want to hear yours so leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe and tell me what you thought of Dean's turn and WWE using a potentially terminal disease to capitalize on the heat they knew they'd get on that night. I will say they are taking a bit of a gamble. I'm not entirely sure if it will be worth it. I have my reservations given WWE's past when dealing with real-life tragedies in story lines but I'm willing to see how things play out this time. For all I know a month from now you could be reading a very different column about this topic and I guess that will teach me a lesson for giving this company the benefit of the doubt.
Get well soon, Joe Anoa'i. We're all hoping and praying you get better and even if you can never return to the ring your fans will still be thrilled to have you around and knowing that you'll be able to continue to be the family man you are. Its going to be a tough battle, but there's an entire mass of WWE fans pulling for you.
Thank you again, everyone. I'll be back next time with a review of WWE Evolution which airs this Sunday. NoDQ currently has two videos up previewing the event on the YouTube channel. The boys, Aaron Rift, Virtue, TJS and Big G all gave their thoughts and there's also an all-female panel with Simply Cindy G, Kaitlin and Erin. Both are great so I strongly suggest watching them, drop a 'like' and leave some feedback as well. There's some great contributors on this site and trust me a kind word goes a long way with them.
Enjoy your weekend, everyone. Enjoy Evolution. God bless. Take care. GO RED SOX!!!