Dean Ambrose is just a little over a year into his run on the main WWE roster, but it already feels as if he's been in a plum spot for ages. As one-third of S.W.A.T gear aficionados/hired goons/massive hypocrites The Shield, the former Jon Moxley has regularly received solid amounts of promo time, choice allies (Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Triple H), choice enemies (Dolph Ziggler, RVD, Daniel Bryan), and good omen after good omen. There are almost too many of these to count, but for starters there has been The Shield debuting during a main-event match on a big show, Ambrose holding onto the U.S. Championship since May 2013, and a returning Jake “The Snake” Roberts draping him in a snake to close a recent Raw. Ambrose has yet to deliver the huge solo match or star-making promo that will define his WWE career separately from Rollins and Reigns, but it seems increasingly clear that he is being groomed for this inevitability. We spoke to the candid, mumbly Cincinnati native about a mess of topics.
You poured so much into the Jon Moxley character over the years. What's different about Jon Moxley compared to Dean Ambrose? Can you tell me about the relationship between those guys?
Eh, I mean, a name's just a name. I don't think that's all that big of a deal. You could call me an autobiographical kind of wrestler because if you went through my career, looking at me character-wise or by what I was doing at the time, you can kind of see that [my place in] real life would reflect in what I was doing in wrestling. To me, it's very important that everything I do is real; it always has been to me. Everything I do is real or it's really a reflection of me. I've never been a completely 100 percent fictional character.
That works for some people—and there have been some great ones—but I've almost always just been an exaggerated mirror image of what you get when I roll out of bed in the morning. If I'm in a good mood, if I'm feeling arrogant, happy, sad, funny, angry, whatever it is, you're going to get some sort of reflection of that in the performance. I mean, the guy I was four or five years ago—I'm not really in the same place then as I am now. Giving that same image off wouldn't be authentic.
You've got the background with CZW, which is very different from WWE. When coming to the main WWE locker room—or even FCW or NXT—have you ever encountered any feedback on that from anybody? Has that affected the way people look at you at all?
No. For the most part, I don't think anybody in WWE knew very much about me [when I was signed]. I pretty much got a call out of the blue [around] early 2011. 'There are a couple of people that are jumping,' I guess. I don't really know. Somebody made the decision to reach out to me and hire me, I guess. I just got a call completely out of the blue when I was living in Philadelphia. They were just like, 'Come to WWE,' and I was just like, 'Um, okay, cool. I'm in.' I don't think a lot of people were familiar with me, really. I just kind of slipped in the backdoor kind of casually and then made my name for most of the people in the company, office-wise and stuff, in developmental.
Every once in a while, somebody comes to me and is like, 'I saw this match on the Internet or something where you were doing this or doing that or something crazy, and I was like, 'What are you doing? That was the craziest thing I've ever seen!'' I'll just be like, 'Yeah, that's how I used to be, man. That's how I used to have to earn a dollar.' I used to push it to the extreme, too. By that point on the indies, I'd just get bored.
As far as danger and violence goes, I'd push it way too far to entertain myself as much as to entertain the audience, to see what would happen or how far I was going to go with this and see if I'll get hurt or not. It's not smart, but that's how I ended up doing a lot of death matches and stuff: just out of sheer boredom. 'You know what? I want to kick up the intensity of what I'm doing a little bit and see where that takes me.' Again, I said I'm kind of autobiographical. You can tell where I'm at by the stuff that I'm doing and the risks I'm taking or how far I'm pushing the violence. Everything kind of ties in together.
Take me back to when The Shield was pitched to you and when you were preparing for Survivor Series in late 2012. What was the concept like? Was it different from how it is now? Was anybody else part of the group? What was that whole period like for you?
It wasn't ever pitched to us. It was very out of nowhere. It was a secret kind of idea. I have an idea—I'll save that for another time—[of] what the original, original idea was. It's just been ever-evolving. One day, it was just like, 'All right, you three are going to wear black turtlenecks and run in and beat up Ryback,' and we're just like, 'Uh, okay.' At the time, you're like, 'I don't even care.' I [had been] in developmental for over a year at that point and was just ready to pull my eyes out, so [with] any tiny, little bit of opening they'll give me, I was like, 'Yup, let's do it.' I'll kick in that door if you crack it open, and I think we all felt that way. But doing Survivor Series and interfering in a WWE Championship match on one of the bigger pay-per-views that the company does, that's like, 'Holy crap.' If you know what the deal is or not, you can't ask for a better spotlight than [that].
We didn't really know what the deal was, and they didn't really know what the deal was with it. We were kind of making it up as we were going along. The name—it's just a natural thing. A lot of times, we're defenders. We're defending what we perceive to be justice, or the good of the business, or somebody who paid us off. We can act as a shield, so we were The Shield.
The attire came naturally. The entrance came naturally because why would we be in the locker room with everybody when we're acting as mercenaries? I remember being like, 'Why would we ever come through the Gorilla position? Who would let us in the locker room after the stuff we pulled?' so we came through the crowd. Then, that's like a thing, too. That's like a statement for us, separating ourselves from the locker room as far as we want to outwork everybody and outperform everybody. We're not your typical WWE wrestlers and we're going to make ourselves into more. It's like a statement that we're taking over this business and we don't care.
How about the similarities to the Big Boss Man? These might be total coincidences, but when he re-debuted in 1998, he had similar attire to what you guys have. He was working for a corporation, which you guys are now. There's a similar kind of storyline. Was any of that intentional? Did any of the guys notice that?
Yeah, I get Big Boss Man jokes every day, but I don't think that was ever intentional or any of this stuff is related in any way. We definitely weren't the first to do the attack vest attire, [but] we took it in a much more marketable direction.
Are you familiar with the phenomenon of “Nope” online?
I've seen some of those, like the picture with the—Yeah, I got you. I know what you're talking about.
Any thoughts or feelings on that?
[Relatively long pause and a couple instances of “Um”] You know, you gotta make everything you say count, so you know, I'll probably, hopefully have a lot more of those.
[Note: It would have been glorious if he had just answered, “Nope.”]
Last things to ask: Who do you travel with? Who do you want to feud with in the future?
I travel with The Shield. We keep it very tight and travel together. I'll travel with Claudio [Castagnoli] sometimes—Antonio Cesaro. I get along with pretty much everybody. I'm really easy to get along with. I can be pretty quiet and keep to myself. I'm a guy who just kind of sits in the back of a room [to] watch and learn and see what everybody's doing. I'm a super laid-back, easy-to-get-along-with kind of guy.
As far as who I'd like to feud with in the future, there's so many [people] it's hard to count. I'm sure eventually, it's going to happen one day where either any of the three of us in The Shield are going to be looking across the ring from each other. You know, when that happens, that'll be a good day because hopefully, it's in a position where we're doing it in a high-profile scenario for a lot of money.
Randy [Orton] is a guy. I'm on the same side of the fence as Randy right now, but Randy's a guy that I love watching work. He's a guy [where] I'll always stop and watch his matches.
[Voice rises enthusiastically] Christian is just so unbelievably good. I mean, I always knew Christian was really good. Working with Christian, he's been here for so long and has so much experience, you realize his brain is a super-evolved version of my brain [with] the way he sees matches play out, the way he comes up with things, especially in tag matches and stuff like that. Christian's a guy who I've only had a small sampling of working with. Christian's a guy I want to spend a lot more time in the ring with.
It's awesome working with RVD, too. I'm a big ECW fan, so I got to work with him on a loop in California, and he's cool. He's friggin' RVD. He's got all the RVD spots and he's ageless and stuff. There's just countless guys that you want to work with for one reason or the other. I'm looking forward to diving headfirst into all of them.