Dean Ambrose had one thing walking into WrestleMania 32.
He had his heart. He had his guts. He had his will to take the worst of beatings and still get up.
He didn't need to walk away from his WrestleMania street fight with Brock Lesnar with anything more than that. Ambrose could have won, sure, but even in defeat to the strongest entity in the company, Ambrose easily could have walked away with as much as he had walking in. He could have defiantly passed out in Lesnar's kimura, a la Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13. He could have taken more punishment than anyone thought humanly possible, a la torch-passer Mick Foley.
Ambrose could have been beaten, but not broken.
Well, Lesnar — and, to be sure, WWE — found a way to break him. At WrestleMania, a 6.5-hour slog of bad finishes, Ambrose's defeat was by far the worst, most disappointing one. Lesnar pinning him after one F5, albeit an F5 on a bed of steel chairs, was the sobering exclamation point on a by-the-numbers hardcore match whose only truly dangerous moment was Ambrose making out with his barbed wire baseball bat.
Ambrose may be the only WWE superstar who walked out of WrestleMania with less than he walked in with. In losing so summarily to Lesnar, he lost the only thing he had walking in. And so he walked out with nothing.
That's why, coming out of WrestleMania, it confuses me that wrestling fans are calling for Ambrose's buddy, Roman Reigns, to turn heel.
Compared to Ambrose, Reigns is fine. Sure, the reaction he gets appears to be on the opposite side of the heel-face spectrum from what WWE wants. But the intensity is there, and 20 minutes after Reigns makes an appearance, it remains there. His post-WrestleMania leaning into the backlash with "deal with it" swagger will only nudge the needle further.
Ambrose has no such momentum. No traction. No reason to care what happens to him. His Raw match against Braun Strowman got "boring" chants in Philadelphia, and that was before WrestleMania.
While WWE bears the brunt of the responsibility for Ambrose's trajectory, the man himself isn't blameless. He's just not proven to be a good babyface. Urgent selling and undeniable charisma are where his strengths as one end. His strikes and comeback offense lack impact, and his promos are annoyingly self-aware. (He's crazy — get it?)
It was fun for a while. Unstable face Ambrose, before it was a T-shirt slogan, was compelling TV through his Hell in a Cell program with Seth Rollins — which, if Ambrose's comments on Talk is Jericho are any indication, is when Vince McMahon really started micromanaging The Lunatic Fringe.
Regardless, it's now time to confront the reality that Ambrose, in his current form, isn't terribly good. Reigns' character may be just as, if not more unlikable, but his resume leaves Ambrose's in the dust. Who had better matches with Bray Wyatt? Reigns. Lesnar? Reigns. Triple H? It's close, but it's still Reigns.
In that comparison, and in general after WrestleMania, Ambrose has nothing. But reclaiming what he had is as simple as returning to who he was.
That's why he should wholly restructure his repertoire toward the methodical wrestling that made Jon Moxley and FCW Ambrose so good — less rebound lariats and more eye rakes.
That's why he should ditch the heavy-handed characterization and start talking like a desperate loner again.
That's why Dean Ambrose should turn heel.