With Money in the bank taking place in Philadelphia, just a few miles away from CZW’s former home base, Ambrose took time out from his busy schedule to speak with Philly.com and share his thoughts on the city he once called home.
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Professional wrestler Dean Ambrose is a relative newcomer on to the big stage and bright lights of WWE.
But during his short stint in the big time, he, along with his running mates Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have made quite the impact. Collectively, they are known as The Shield and they spread justice around the WWE one beatdown at a time. During their time taking care of anything they find to be an injustice, they have collected a few accolades. Rollins and Reigns are currently the WWE Tag Team champions while Ambrose is the United States champion.
Ambrose (born Jonathan Good) will carry the U.S. title into Money in the Bank this Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center. He will take part in one of the two Money in the Bank ladder matches. At the top of the ladder is a briefcase. In that briefcase is a contract for a World Championship opportunity at any time over the next year. All but one of the Money in the Bank winners (John Cena) have won a world title after cashing in the opportunity. Standing in Ambrose’s way of retrieving the brief case will be six other men in what will make for a number of different variables as to what could happen during the match.
“I feel like I’m stepping into a very unpredictable situation with six other extremely capable, extremely talented, extremely smart and dangerous individuals,” Ambrose said during a phone interview with philly.com. “A lot can happen both bad and good. Unfortunately for them, none of them are as smart or as dangerous as me and I’m going to make sure that I’m going to be the one walking out with the Money in the Bank briefcase.”
Almost everyone knows by this point that professional wrestling has pre-determined outcomes. But the inherent possibility of real injuries is always present. They’re present when there are only two men in the ring.
Imagine the possibilities of six other men and four or five ladders. The danger only heightens. For Ambrose, this will be his first Money in the Bank match and only his second ladder match with the company. But walking into a dangerous match in the city of Philadelphia is nothing new for the Cincinnati, Ohio native.
Before starting his WWE career in 2011, Ambrose was a fixture on the independent circuit in the United States and in Japan.
One of his many stops included an eventful stint with the Philadelphia-based promotion Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW). CZW is a wrestling promotion that is not for the faint at heart and is sometimes uneasy on the eyes. CZW prides itself on pushing the boundaries of violence well past what you see on television and even goes further than a previous, more popular Philadelphia-based promotion — Extreme Championship Wrestling — ever did.
“I was in a lot of really crazy matches and a lot of stuff that you’ll never ever see on WWE television,” Ambrose said. “I put my body through a lot of abuse for very little money for a long time.”
During his time in CZW, Ambrose decided to live in Philadelphia as it made it easier for him to be able work for a number of different independent promotions in the northeastern United States.
He lived in the Manayunk section of the city and considers Philadelphia a second home.
“I really kind of fell in love with the city,” Ambrose said. “I liked the vibe. I liked going to South Street and hanging out and I liked going to Fat Tuesday and I liked being able to eat giant slices of pizza at four in the morning. I liked going Penn’s Landing and hanging out.”
As much as Ambrose loved Philadelphia, he didn’t want to stay here for the rest of his career and when the WWE offered him a contract for their developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) in 2011, he accepted it.
After spending years up and down the roads on the independent scene, which included a match for WWE on a show called Velocity back in 2006, Ambrose said he was more than ready for the opportunity WWE had afforded to him. He wealth of experience in the ring and learning various styles gave him a bit of leg up on the rest of his colleagues.
“I wasn’t intimidated when I got to WWE,” Ambrose said. “I kind of felt like that I had put myself through so much to get here that there isn’t anybody that’s going to take this away from me.”
“I knew what I was capable of,” he added. “I had the confidence in myself to just know that I’m going to be the guy here and that I am good as anybody else here.”
Although he had a great deal of in-ring experience, Ambrose was brand new to working in front of a worldwide television audience, which he said is a completely different animal from working in front a couple hundred people at the ECW Arena for CZW.
“There was a lot of adjustments and a lot to learn like learning how to work for cameras as oppose to just working for an audience,” he said. “I’ve wrestled in front big crowds for big shows before and I’ve wrestled on television and pay-per-view before, but until you get to Monday Night Raw where there’s 30 cameras, it’s a whole different ball game. Then I had no idea what I was doing.”
Ambrose didn’t see him having to learn a different style as a slap in the face to all of his prior experience. He took it as a chance to learn from all of the great wrestling minds that are teaching the various performers of the WWE.
“I feel like I’m 10 times better of a wrestler than I was when I first got here,” Ambrose said. “You have so many good brains to pick here in the dressing room with Hall-of-Fame guys. I can pick Arn Anderson’s brain or William Regal’s brain or Jamie Noble.”
“Joey Mercury is a guy that I learned so much from during my time in FCW,” he added. “He’s one of the smartest wrestling minds that you’ll ever find anywhere and me and him had a really good connection and I was able to really learn a lot and step up my game from working with him.”
It was in FCW where Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns began working with and against each other. Ambrose and Rollins actually had one of the more popular feuds in FCW. While they were feuding, they were building a chemistry that they use to their advantage today to become the most dominant three-man team in the WWE.
“It starts with attitude,” Ambrose said. “We all have the attitude that we want to take this place over and we want to out-work everybody and make everybody raise their game to our level of intensity. If they can’t keep up then they can’t keep up.”
Ambrose also attributes The Shield’s chemistry in the ring to that all three members are distinctly different and possess different skill sets. Reigns is the powerhouse of the group. He’s the brute so to speak. Reigns’ main purpose in the ring is to show off his strength. Seth Rollins is a bit of a high-flyer, who uses his athleticism in the ring. Then you have Ambrose, who works more of an old-school style. There aren’t a whole lot of bells and whistles to Ambrose’s style, but everything he does is meaningful and effective.
“We kind of just fit together like a good puzzle,” Ambrose said. “We travel together, we train together and we study together. We eat, sleep, breath wrestling 24/7 and we’re just constantly trying to get better.”
The trio has gotten so good that they all hold title belts. Ambrose, a noted student of the game of pro wrestling, knows what it means to hold the United States title.
The U.S. title was once held by Harley Race, Steve Austin, Bret Hart, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair — all of which are Hall-of-Famers.
Now that lineage includes Ambrose.
“It’s something you don’t fully appreciate until the moment happens and you grab that belt and hold it up and you feel the energy in the audience and it overtakes you,” Ambrose said.
Winning the title isn’t enough for Ambrose, however. He has aspirations to elevate the prestige of the title back to where it was when it was held by those Hall-of-Famers.
“I want everybody to step up their game to try to get me,” Ambrose said. “I want challengers and I want big fights. If I have to pick my own challengers I will. I don’t believe the championship makes the wrestler I think the wrestler makes the championship.”