The Devil and Dean Ambrose: How The Lunatic Fringe became WWE's most dangerous man

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July 10, 2014

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Oh look, there’s Dean Ambrose, right in the middle of a bombed-out wrestling ring set up in some nondescript Northeastern field. Could be Pennsylvania, but who knows: Civilization is nowhere to be found in any sense of the word. Glass, barbed wire, a cheeseburger deluxe and spots of red pepper the scene — the remnants of a 15-minute bar fight posing as a wrestling match, while a sparse but energetic crowd foams at the mouth for the carnage to continue. You half expect Caesar to appear and give the thumbs-down at any given moment.

The Lunatic Fringe himself — his face already looking like he went bobbing for apples in a can of red paint — is currently experiencing the most uniquely traumatic of head injuries following an assault by electric saw. The crowd goes nuts as it happens, and Ambrose jolts to his feet when the deed is done, limbs flailing like he’s been struck by lightning. A few moments later, a dazed Ambrose will be forced to his knees and suffer a second attack from the saw. He’ll win in a few minutes with a roll-up that seems incredibly underwhelming given all that preceded it and he’ll stumble through the grass in search of an ambulance or makeshift triage unit, whichever he finds first, leaving a trail of crimson in his ungainly wake. And it’s only his first match of the day. And, it’s not even the worst thing that’s happened to him.

Photos: Ambrose's down and dirty career | Superstars get extreme

“[There was one match] where I literally started doing the mathematical equation of like, ‘I’m bleeding way too fast and I have another 15 minutes or so left in this match, and at this rate I will probably pass out and I might die, so I better hurry up and get this match over with,” said Ambrose to WWE.com.

I was a little bored of regular old wrestling.Only three years before he’d appear on the scene in WWE, matches like this were a typical day at the office for The Lunatic Fringe. One of the last — and, potentially, most notorious — deathmatch veterans still standing, Ambrose came to WWE by way of a path of destruction usually reserved for Biblical plagues or one-man wrecking crews.

There are, to be perfectly honest, a lot of genuinely unsettling things about this part of the Dean Ambrose story. But perhaps the most disquieting aspect is that Ambrose — trained at the reputable Heartland Wrestling Association in Cincinnati — didn’t need to do any of it. He had the tools, he had the skills, and if he wanted to, had the opportunity to avoid rolling around in barbed wire for $20 a night — a practice he refers to in conversation as “that” or “all that” — a free hot dog and a piece of the merch stand.

So why, Dean Ambrose, did you do it?

“I was a little bored of regular old wrestling,” said Ambrose. “I started dabbling my foot in that because I was bored.”

What followed plunged the Cincinnati native into a self-made bed of in-ring depravity and near-death experiences, but also forged him into the competitor the WWE Universe sees today. Yet despite all he has to say about his time in the hardcore scene — and he has plenty to say — there is one thing Ambrose maintains from the start:

“I never had any intention of taking things as far as I did.”

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